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Bleach: The First Fifteen

It isn't much of a secret that I have been somewhat of an anti-popularity person, I rarely give in to the hype of a series; and I usually have only two methods of appreciating some form of anime or manga. One is to let the hype run its course, and the other is to catch the train ahead of the mayhem.

Bleach is really no exception to that rule, which also falls somewhere in the personal category of "never start something you can't finish". Recently though, that has seemed to change.

For several years I've avoided such big names in the anime industry as Bleach, Naruto or One Piece simply from concern that the company that holds the license would fail to release all available episodes, and I as a devoted fan would be distraught and hate-filled. However, this past year I had a brush with the strands of fate, and ended up watching the first couple of episodes of Bleach and found myself thoroughly entertained.

At first, the idea of ever starting a series several hundred episodes in length and still going strong on Japanese television, wasn't something that I was all that keen on doing; and the fact that it was listed around the anime industry as one of "The Big Three" was even worse. It would mean that its fans would be more than the typical hellions that frequented the anime and manga message boards and blogs, and who often made the other fans of anime, regret that they shared a common bond of interest in the world of anime.

Fortunately for me however, I did take a small plunge, when I was hosting an anime theme week for an internet forum; and Bleach had been selected as the series.

I watched two episodes and instantly enjoyed what I had seen, well enjoyed it enough that I went right out the next day and bought the complete first season.

The set has literally sat on my shelf un-opened for over a year and a half, along with more than a dozen other shows that I just simply have not gotten the opportunity to watch yet. So at the start of this month, I found myself between some season sets, and anime shows; and since I'd almost stuffed myself to the gills on Moe and Comedy and Magical Girl titles, I thought a little action was what the doctor ordered.

Turns out I was right. A little action and adventure was all that I needed, and now that I have successfully watched through the first season, I'm going to offer my own take on the franchise, and review the series 15 episodes at a time.

Hey, I'd love to do an episode by episode review; but holy crap, what do you people think my fingers are made of...steel? I'd be reduced to a babbling idiot by the time I tried to review every single episode, sheesh!

Anyway, I started Bleach much the same way I started Dragon Ball, and that was with an attitude that I was not going to be taking it all that serious. I mean there were enough fans out there that already took some of these shows seriously enough for everyone; and I for one didn't feel like getting that "in bed" with a show.

One of the things that attracted me right away to Bleach was the mixture of humor and action; also one of the things that I feel as a viewer will keep a show from taking itself too seriously, and even-though there are times almost any show will have a bit of comedy, it does at least off-set the sheer overwhelming action with a little absurdity.

The concept of the show was one that sort of always had me a little on the confused side, until I actually sat down to watch it; and then found it somewhat easier to follow. Which unlike a lot of the shows, that I've seen is definitely a good thing. Some shows start off so buried under the weight of what they are about to do, that you feel an urge to push and shove.

I would like to think that Bleach is more or less the story of Ichigo--our main protagonist--and the trials he faces on his road to destiny. I said I'd like to think this, but after the first four episodes, it becomes abundantly clear that Tite Kubo the creator had something far more engrossing planned, as characters begin making appearances left and right.

I've always felt that "less is more" in a lot of instances, and there are times when I'll be the first to say that isn't always the best thing. The fact that a lot of characters begin showing up, even secondary characters is a real good thing.

So, like I said, the concept of Bleach, for those that don't know, is the story of high school student Ichigo, who has the ability to see spirits, encounters by chance one day a Soul Reaper named Rukia.

As a Soul Reaper, Rukia is tasked with sending wayward souls on to the afterlife of the Soul Society, and protecting them against other Souls that have gone bad and turned into soul devourers called Hollows.

It's while attempting to prevent such a creature from harming his family, that Ichigo acquires Rukia's Soul Energy and takes on the role of Substitute Soul Reaper, and begins rather reluctantly at first to take on Assignments.

Rukia on the other hand, has weakened herself to practically nothing, as Ichigo took a little more of her power than she obviously was expecting; and now has to life on Earth amongst humans--enter some high school angst.

For pretty much the entire first 15 episodes, things are more or less building up to a major arc, all that has happened to this point is just a few small two or three episode arcs, but nothing that takes the series into the about-face that comes later on.

For all her time that she has spent on earth, and for committing the sin of giving her powers to another, Rukia is in deep trouble with the Soul Society, and faces the harshest penalty known to exist.

However, from what we know of Rukia, she is pretty stubborn, and while this impending doom is right around the corner, it doesn't stop her from continuing on with what she is doing, with little to no regard for herself.

For the first 15 episodes, I learned rather quickly how I was going to best appreciate the show, and which characters were going to be my likables, my favorites, or those that I wish would trip and hang themselves by their shirt collar. But all in all, I am not disappointed in Bleach as a whole anyway.

Some small things do grind on my nerves, most importantly, the airheaded Otohime, and at times Kon. The ending songs are not my style, and I just skip those. The DVDs that Viz released seem somewhat poor in quality, but after a bit you don't seem to notice, unless you are just one of those anal types that loves to pick and poke at everything with a little flaw; and that's just sad.

Bleach could definitely stand to use some better pacing at the start, and the episodes are too damn short. Just when you are good and well in an episode it ends, and episodes that are 22 minutes long are a crime against the fan-base when all others are average 25.

By the beginning of the next 15 episodes, I have become nice and hooked in the show, and I find it a nice refreshing breath of air that those fans of Bleach don't argue over the petty things in the show, just their hatred of filler, and in all honesty; I just don't understand their fear of filler, and why it get's on their nerves so bad. I mean, if the manga wasn't around they would never know and probably be happy little dorks; but hey, if they want to stroke out at 25 from all the yelling about filler, then that's not my problem.

I'd love to think that Viz will finish releasing Bleach, but I've watched a few too many shows get some steam and then diminish quickly. Though I do think that airing on Cartoon Network has been a definite help for this show.

For now, I'm gonna grab me some goodies, and get to watching some more, and hopefully get another review out soon, while it is still fresh in my memory.