Hello everyone! I’m Mokugyo, a proud anime lover and writer of the Anime Study column here on Manga.Tokyo.
I have to make a confession: I love manga. I’ve been reading Weekly Shonen Jump every week for over 20 years. The magazine is one of the most popular magazines in Japan, and many world-famous manga are serialized in it. In 2016, many popular manga published their final chapter. One of them was BLEACH.
I was so devastated. BLEACH was over, and the only though I had was ‘Wow… That was an amazing run.’ In this article I will give you my 4 reasons why BLEACH is such a great title.
What is BLEACH?
In August 2016, the manga BLEACH ended its serial run in Weekly Shonen Jump. It had been part of the magazine for 15 long years, from 2001 to 2016. The manga’s TV anime adaptation was popular as well. The anime aired from 2004 to 2012 in Japan, and also overseas in America, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, to name just a few countries. It was especially popular around 2005-2007.
Its early days were especially popular and many people knew everything there was to know about it, from its beginning to Rukia’s rescue in Soul Society. At its peak, it was as popular as One Piece and NARUTO – two manga that were especially difficult to rival in the early 2000s in Weekly Shonen Jump. So what’s so good about this manga?
— 映画『BLEACH』公式 (@bleachmovie2018) November 9, 2016
BLEACH’s Greatness Part 1: Unique establishment of Shinigami
Here’s some background for those completely new to BLEACH: The main character is an orange-haired high school boy called Ichigo Kurosaki. This righteous teenager is an agent of a Shinigami, or Death God, and fights against evil spirits called Hollows. Put simply, that is the main plot of the story.
One of the best things about the manga is the establishment of Shinigami. In Japan, the word Shinigami reminds you of an evil form that kills people with a scythe. But Shinigami in BLEACH are different; they have the appearance of a samurai dressed in black. The author gave a unique twist to the archetypal character and put it in an action manga. That was innovative.
BLEACH’s Greatness Part 2: The Gotei 13
Rukia Kuchiki gives Ichigo Kurosaki the power of a Shinigami. She is a heroine in this manga, and a failed Shinigami. In the beginning, the story follows Rukia and Ichigo fighting and working together as they gather members with various abilities. Eventually, Rukia gets captured in the Shinigami world after being forced to give a human, Ichigo, her Shinigami powers. Ichigo and his allies go to the Soul Society where the Shinigami live in order to save Rukia. This part of the story is the so-called Soul Society Arc, the most popular arc of the manga. In it is featured a big organization of strong Shinigami, the Gotei 13.
— JC出版【集英社ジャンプ･リミックス】 (@JUMP_REMIX) November 24, 2016
It is not an exaggeration to say that the popularity of BLEACH owes a lot to the Gotei 13, the second greatest strength of this manga. Many unique Shinigami characters make popular appearances. Each Shinigami also has their own Zanpakutou, a sword whose shape differs according to its wielder. The finishing moves, Bankai, also depend on the character. Byakuya Kuchiki, Rukia’s brother and captain of the Sixth Division, and Toushirou Hitsugaya, the captain of the Tenth Division whose has the shape of a young boy, are especially popular characters of the Gotei 13.
Ichigo fights both against them and with them. The Soul Society Arc is so popular because the Gotei 13 are both friends and foes, and you never know if they will be the former or the latter until their true colors are revealed.
BLEACH’s Greatness Part 3: Good design
It’s difficult to explain BLEACH‘s charm to someone who isn’t familiar with it because there are so many things that are born of the story, and which only make sense if the story is understood. So far, I’m trying to keep them at a minimum to ease your understanding, but I’m a little worried about whether or not I’m making sense!
If there are too many things in the manga, if the learning curve is too high, then it usually doesn’t get popular. But this manga became popular quickly, because it makes fancy settings look simple. The design makes the readers want to read, and that’s the third greatest thing about the manga. This manga has detailed art, rare for Japanese shonen, and great design. For example, you can see the author’s design sense in his cover art and positioning of banners. The author, Taito Kubo, was always trying to make it simple and cool.
BLEACH’s Greatness Part 4: Accessible Storytelling
Taito Kubo made the plot accessible. The manga shows battles one-on-one to help the reader focus on less things, and the easy-to-follow storytelling is the fourth greatest thing about BLEACH. The manga is easy to read, and the anime is easy to watch. The pictures and art are well-composed, and so is the story.
However, this simple plot is also its downside at times. A lot of characters appear in BLEACH. They fight one-on-one every week, which means the story takes ages to progress. That’s why the manga is so long. And because of the length and slow pace, the manga gradually lost fans. In its final years in Weekly Shonen Jump, the story progressed too fast and was featured near the end of the magazine. The anime ends only halfway through the story.
But even if its popularity declined, the manga is still attractive, because it ties up the loose ends in the final chapters. As you finish reading it, you come to understand the mysteries in the story. The ending is satisfying. Therefore, I’d like people who haven’t yet read the manga to try reading it. And if you like the manga, I definitely recommend the anime as well.
— 少年ジャンプ＋ (@shonenjump_plus) November 1, 2016
Change is inevitable
It’s been announced that BLEACH is going to be adapted into a live-action movie in Japan. That’s further evidence of its undying popularity. I hope that more people have the chance to know BLEACH and lose themselves in its amazing story.