Bleach (Episode 1)

I am a fairly young man.  I’m older than a teenager, but still lack the experience of a true adult.  Though, technically, I should be an adult.  After 23 years of breathing air and being surrounded by people, I probably have a few tricks up my sleeve and oh-so-important musings that should qualify me as one.

When it comes to anime, though, I probably act a bit like a middle-aged fogey.

To give some background: the very first anime that I saw was Sailor Moon when I was nine years old.  At the time, I didn’t know that it was Japanese animation, but it sure as hell intrigued me because the characters didn’t look like Street Sharks and SWAT Kats, and they certainly looked nothing like the people in Batman: The Animated Series.  I was curious about what kind of show it was, but each time my grandma would come into the room, I had an immediate urge to turn the TV off or change the channel.  I guess I was more savvy than I thought when I was a kid.

A few years later, I had a friend who was heavily into Pokemon.  So, being the good friend I am, I too got into Pokemon.  Bought a couple of the games, watched the show, got a bunch of toys about it… It never occured to me that it was Japanese, though.  It did remind me of a certain show that I saw portions of when I was younger, though, so there was a sense of familiarity with it.

When I was about 14-15, I discovered Toonami.  And of course, that meant I discovered Dragonball Z.  This was a show that I began to watch religiously, along with Yu-Gi-Oh.  Then Adult Swim came to pass, and I saw Cowboy Bebop for the first time.  Boy, that was an awesome night: staying up to watch it, hoping that my mom didn’t catch me watching something meant for adults.  Wild.  And afterwards, I found myself in a whole mess of different shows that I could never hope to catch up to, what with the skyrocketing prices of anime DVDs and the unreliability of Adult Swim/Cable back then.

These days, I’m very particular about what anime to watch.  And when that sentence is translated, it reads: “Unless it’s really, really, REALLY good, I don’t really watch anime anymore.”  This is mostly a pride thing.  It’s not that I have an issue being a grown person and watching cartoons.  I’d own the whole Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, and Batman Beyond TV shows in a heartbeat, if given the choice.  It’s not the quirks and mannerisms that keep me away.  If you ever see me around the internet, you’ll probably find that I make this face (-_-) plenty of times.  No, what my issue is that I’m not really comfortable sharing with people that I watch anime.  Nevermind that there’s a very supportive fanbase out there on the internet that has no qualm with anime.  But in my life, I am one of two, maybe three people, in my circle of friends who watches anime.  So I tend to keep to myself in what I like.

Even then, I’m still tied to the days of DBZ, Pokemon, and Cowboy Bebop, remembering simpler times when I didn’t turn into a psychotic geek with a penchant for yelling at TV screens and writing sarcastic reviews to prevent me from throwing ketchup bombs at my local theater.  It was a great time.  But unfortunately, that’s also a problem for me.  Nowadays, anime has caught a big break, becoming rather huge in America by its own right and attracting numerous fans, whether they be casual or serious.  This in turn has caused the demand for accessible anime to go up.  Original anime, dubbed anime, censored, uncensored, it didn’t matter; the floodgates opened, and Japan has (for the most part) been willing to share their hard-spent time and money to entertain us foreigners, as well as themselves.

This means, however, that the volume of different anime available to American audiences has gone up a lot.  Now there are more choices than DBZ, Cowboy Bebop, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon.  Now we have stuff like Death Note.  Monster.  Full Metal Alchemist.  Ghost In The Shell: Stand-Alone Complex.  Gurren Lagann.  Naruto.

And…

*shudders*

Bleach.

Hoo boy.

I can definitely say that I’ve never seen something like Bleach before.  But other people have.  They certainly have.

So what’s it about?  Well, the good thing about anime like these is that it will become rather apparent after the very first episode.

And hey, this is a post about a first episode of a show called Bleach!

Let’s see if it’s the same one!

– – –

So we open to the title screen, where…

Wait.  Stop.  Hold on.

OK.

What the hell is this?

This just seems… lackluster.

And I’m not sure why.  It sure looks like it’s got everything that it needs to succeed.  Wide cast of characters without losing focus on the intended main characters, different profiles, highly colorful, action packed, emotionally captivating… it looks pretty good.  Then why do I feel so uneager about it?

Hmmm…

Ah, you know what?  It’s the song.

Yes, that’s what’s not selling it for me.  It just sounds so wrong for this kind of opening.  It gives me a feeling of ‘meh’.  It doesn’t impress me.  In fact, after listening to it multiple times, it actually kinda annoys me because there doesn’t seem to be any energy to it.  The music doesn’t match the dynamic that the opening is showing us, so it’s sending mixed signals.  On one hand, it looks like the characters would be lively and never dull.  But on the other, they’re being backed up by a boring song.

As a result, I’m inclined to ask if the band themselves are boring.

OK, well… that’s pretty good.

So why not use that?  There’s the energy you need.

Whatever.  Anyway, we open up to… I guess the Cliffs of Dover, and the sun shining on these rocks.  The shadows cast from this light soon converge, and a liquid drop of shadows fall up from the ground.  After scrolling to the landscape of a city, we get writing on the screen:

We Tremble in Awe of That Which Cannot Be Seen.”

Oh, come on.  Martin Short’s not THAT dangerous of a guy.

Then two… somethings that we can’t see crash to the ground, followed by their own writing for the screen:

“And We Worship That Which Cannot Be Seen.”

Hey, I want sugar on the first date too, but you don’t see me complaining about the lack of it.

Cut to a lone warrior standing atop a telephone pole with the full moon behind her.  I mean, it’s right there behind her.  My guess is that Jim Carrey is backing her up by using his awesome Morgan Freeman powers.  She hops from one telephone pole to another, and then flies down to the ground.  And while she does so, time slows down so we can get even more writing on the screen:

“And so fell the sword of fate…”

Well, I know she looks like a twig, but I wouldn’t necessarily call her a “sword” or anything.

Then we’re assaulted by a loud noise with an episode number attached to it.  I don’t know about you, but that certainly nullified my need for breakfast energy.  Hell, it nullified my breakfast period.

We come across four men standing above another man as they stare down yet another man.

Whoa, slow down, I’m confused!

One of the men tries to punch the orange-haired stranger, but he becomes the recipient of a lovely parting high kick.  Then the orange haired stranger gets angry and tells them to look at what they did.

No.

Oh no.

Oh Lord, NO!

That poor vase and those flowers!  OH, THE HUMANITY!  WHY MUST THESE LOWLY THINGS SUFFER?!  WHY?!  WHY?!  WHY?!

Hang on, this is actually pretty embarassing.  I’m getting so worked up over the vase, and yet I don’t know who the vase is or why we’re mourning for it’s loss against gravity.

Actually, the vase and flowers were laid there by our protagonist Ichigo Japanese-Sounding-Last-Name.  After stomping a man’s head into the ground (for comical effect, not the gruesome Roman Polanski effect), Ichigo asks the remaining three men what the flowers are for.  When one of them answers correctly, Ichigo congratulates him with a similar high kick to the chin.  Man, I’d hate to see him teaching a class at school.  Ichigo then asks the remaining two why the flowers were knocked down.  After mixing it up by punching both of them, he threatens the remaining two losers that they should go apologize or there will be flowers for them next.

OK, so… my guess is that it goes like this:

Loser 1: “Hey, um… sorry about knocking you over.  It was an accident.”

Loser 2: “Yeah!  Totally an accident!  We won’t do it again, we promise!”

Vase: “…”

Flowers: “…”

Loser 1: “…”

Loser 2: “… why are we doing this, again?”

But this doesn’t happen as the losers hightail it and leave before Average Student Ichigo kicks their butts again.  With his hands.  Which begs the question why there’d be kicking at all.  After they leave, Ichigo turns around to address a ghostly girl that materializes behind him, telling her that he’ll get some more flowers for her next time.  She responds by thanking him for coming to her defense, and that maybe now she’ll finally be able to rest in peace.  Well, glad to know that your unfinished business involved the beating of some skateboarding losers who didn’t know you existed at all.  That’ll show them.  Man, it’s nearly four minutes in, and I already miss Odd Thomas.

As Ichigo walks back, he narrates to us.  He tells us his name, and that he’s 15 years old, so he’s a high school student.

Uh… no duh?

He explains that his family runs a medical clinic, but his business is with the dead, not the living.  He tells us that for as long as he can remember, he’s always been able to see the ghosts of the dearly departed.

Ichigo comes home, only to be greeted by a man in a lab coat that performs a flying kick straight to Ichigo’s face.

This explains so much.

The man turns out to be his father, and the two get into a fight because Ichigo was late getting to dinner because he was helping spirits.  Glad that they’re taking this in stride.  I know that if there was someone in our neighborhood who could see ghosts, he’d most likely get swamped by people asking how their Uncle Robert is doing in the afterlife, or going to the bank to close an account worth 4 million dollars, or maybe even getting trapped in a seance with a psychotic beautiful woman and your physically crippled best friend.

So while this is happening, Ichigo’s two sisters have dinner, and one of them mentions how she doesn’t really believe in ghosts. 

She mentions this while Ichigo is arguing with a new spirit client that makes itself apparent to him.

Does she also not believe in fingernails?  Especially when she’s painting them black, like the color of her hair and soul?

After another rousing session of “Violence With Dad!”, Ichigo leaves in a huff to his room and lies down on his bed.  As he stares at the ceiling, we get more dialogue from his sisters and father, as they talk about his involvement with the spirits, while also talking about the manchildish tendencies of Ichigo’s father, which he cries about to a poster of his “wife”(?), wondering why his daughters are so cold to him and UGGGHHHH PLEASE GET TO THE POINT and

-The Next Morning-

Police have cut off a section of town which has been rampaged by some big force.  Ichigo walks by the police cordon, and the camera cuts to a close-up of his school bag with flowers protruding from the flap.  He arrives at the same street corner where he beat up those losers yesterday.  Then he stands on that corner and yells out “Hello?!”

Shhh, don’t tell him I’m here watching him.

He hears a roar and immediately runs off to the source of the sound.  Suddenly, an force appears in the city! And… some invisible claws scratch into a building!  AHHH!  GODZILLA’S BECOME INVISIBLE!  RUN!

Ichigo runs to the city and faces down the invisible force, only to discover that he can discover what the creature looks like.  He sees the ghostly girl from yesterday run away from the monster.  Um, wasn’t she supposed to be at peace or something along those lines?  What the hell is she still doing in this plane of existence?  Anyway, the monster gears up to attack the ghostly girl and Ichigo, when who should show up to save the day?

Ha.  You wish.

No, it’s Sword Girl from the beginning of this episode.  She cuts into the monster twice and destroys it.  Then she disappears.  And while Ichigo stands there trying to figure out what in the flying frak just happened, people come around him and whisper to themselves “Oh!  There must have been another explosion!”

Man, no wonder Godzilla keeps invading Japan.  These people take these things in far greater strides than most New Yorkers do.  And usually, they can actually see what caused the explosion or dented that vehicle

And then there’s the screen of Bleach: Episode 1: Part B.  Colon.

We find Ichigo back in his bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what had happened earlier that day, and why he couldn’t sense something.  As he thinks to himself, he receives a visitor at his window, and who of all people should show up?  That’s right, it’s Sword Girl again.  He asks what the hells she’s doing there.

Her response?

Well.  That explains everything.

This doesn’t impress Ichigo and he kicks her while demanding to know who she is.  Thank God somebody’s acting sensible around here.

She’s surprised, though, because he can see her.  For you see…

She is a spirit herself.

She asks if he can really see her, to which he (and vicariously, I) respond that if Ichigo was able to plant his foot on her small back, then yeah, he can see her.

Eventually, after a few seconds of whatever, she finally tells Ichigo that she’s a Soul Reaper.  Meanwhile, the ghostly girl runs from…

OK, wait, stop.  This is ridiculous.  I know I’ve said this before, but: what the hell is she still doing in this plane of existence?!  Didn’t she say that she could finally rest in peace?  Is she just taking her sweet little time with it or something? 

Well, while she’s wasting time, she’s getting chased by a big monster that cuts some power cables and makes some mondo dinosaur footprints.

We cut back to Ichigo and Soul Reaper while he confims to himself everything that she’s said, which basically consists of:

  • She’s a Soul Reaper
  • She’s part of the Soul Society
  • She hunts demons
  • She was hunting that demon Ichigo saw trying to catch that ghostly little girl

Glad we got that situated.

Ichigo doesn’t quite buy any of it, and the Soul Reaper calls him out on it since he can see her whereas other humans can’t.

Strangely enough, I agree with this, and yet I wonder why the little girl at the beginning of this show was allowed to not believe in ghosts because “she’s in permanent denial about it”.  This is starting to look very sexist.

Regardless, he puts his hand on her head and tells her to run off like a little brat.  She does not take kindly to this, and then does something called Bakudo No. 1 Soy.

Wait, I think that “Soy” part was just a spoken sound effect to make it sound cool.

Anyway, Ichigo suddenly finds his arms bound to his back by magic.  The Soul Reaper tells him to stop struggling and accept what has just happened, while revealing that she’s lived ten of his lifetimes, she’d kill him on the spot if it wasn’t against her order, blah blah blah blah blah.  Sheesh, even for a Soul Reaper, she’s still a woman.  Or… girlish… type… thing.

She draws her sword, and Ichigo flinches in the expectation that she’ll cut him up.  Instead, she places the end of the sword’s hilt on the spirit that came to Ichigo during dinner.  It begs not to be sent to the Underworld, but she soothes the spirit by telling it that it will be sent to the Soul Society.

Just so you know, this is the spirit:

I’m shakin’ in my boots already.  I tremble in awe to see what badass ninja-type thingy this guy becomes.

She explains to Ichigo what the responsibilities of a Soul Reaper, and then decides to tell him what her job is.  She starts with…

K, you know what?  If you’re going to treat me like an idiot, then screw you.

So the big creature thing from before (or “Hollow”, as the Soul Reaper’s drawing so accurately displays him as) is still chasing that stupid ghostly girl who hasn’t even thought about crossing over, where she trips on the ground for a second time, never mind that it’s been shown that spirits like her can levitate off the ground and fly.  Unless that was a joke encounter and they can’t actually do that.  In which case: why did we see it before with Ichigo at his home earlier in this episode?  You’re sending mixed messages, Bleach.

So it looks like we’ll finally be rid of this stupid girl, when the Hollow stops his fingers right above her and says “I can smell it; an especially tasty soul.  It’s nearby.”  And then he leaves the ghostly girl.

If she doesn’t take this as a sign to move on, then she fully deserves to get eaten by the next creature that randomly comes down.

Meanwhile, the Soul Reaper tells Ichigo that the second Hollow is still out there.  Ichigo responds rather sanely by saying she should go out there and kill it.  To her dismay, the Soul Reaper confesses that she can’t tell where it is, unlike when she was totally able to find the first Hollow from before.  She can usually tell, but her senses are being blocked by some powerful force.  And Ichigo yells at her for not being able to hear the loud sound that’s out there.  She’s curious what he means by loud sound, and then a second later, she can hear it.  Then a little girl screams, and Ichigo realizes it’s one of his sisters.  The Soul Reaper leaves the room, while Ichigo demands that he unbind her.  One sister crawls by the door, begging Ichigo to save the other sister, muttering a low “Ichigo…” before succumbing to DFD (Dramatic Fainting Disorder).  Then the other sister screams, and the Soul Reaper heads down the stairs.  Ichigo, prompted by the sight of his injured sister, finds the strength to become like a caterpillar and crawl away from the room while still being bound by the Bakudo.

The Soul Reaper finds the monster, with the black-haired sister in his clutches.  I wonder if she’ll still be in permanent denial about ghosts after this encounter.  Ichigo falls down the stairs and stands up, to the amazement of the Soul Reaper, since he’s still under her constriction spell.

She tells him he’ll only get hurt if he intervenes, but he ignores her.  He struggles with his bound arms, and the Soul Reaper begs him not to keep on fighting it, since the Kido is too strong for a human to break.

Then he breaks it.

Sorry for the lack of suspense in that “reveal”, but did you really expect that he wouldn’t?  A guy who can already see ghosts, was far more observant at hearing a Hollow than an official Soul Reaper, and is one of the two main leads that was featured in that lame-ass opening?  Did you really think that he was going to fail at what the Soul Reaper considered “impossible”?

This is one of the primary reasons why I don’t like to watch this kind of anime.  Anytime you hear someone go “That’s impossible!”, one of the main characters proves that it isn’t.  This is usually an inspiring moment for a feature.  After the tenth or so  “That’s impossible!”/”Nope!  It’s possible” situation, it gets less inspiring or suspenseful.  People start to wonder why the main character doesn’t simply snap his fingers and say “OK, bad guy?  You’re gone.  Girl, you’re right here at my side.  World is saved.  I get a grilled cheese.  Role credits.”  I know that the show has to have some semblance of a plot, but if you keep adding “impossible” dares into these shows after you’ve already proven that they can be possible once or twice before, then the audience isn’t going to be captivated by the feat.  They’ll do what I did and say “Nope.  It’s possible.”  And then, a minute of screen time or so later, it comes true.  And that’s if you’re lucky.  Sometimes they stretch out the impossible card for several episodes before they decide that it’s possible.

And you know what’s worse?  This is the very first episode of this series, and the time from opening to the first stance of the impossible being proven wrong is 16 minutes and 35 seconds.  This is a half hour show that has 282 episodes to date.  And the first episode has already pulled out the “Nope!  It’s possible!” card.

Anyway, Ichigo grabs The Folding Chair of Doom and attempts to bitch wrestle the monster, who simply tosses him aside.  The monster sets its fingers on Ichigo, but the Soul Reaper cuts into its arm, causing the Hollow to drop the sister and disappear.  The Soul Reaper tells him that the monster didn’t take either of his sister’s souls because it was looking for a specific soul to devour.

In fact…

“Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah hungry for that soul earlier blah blah blah blah blah not the girl blah blah blah blah blah blah spirit energy hidden deep within blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah it also explains blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah it is the girl blah blah blah blah blah blah blah bottle deep inside your blah so that’s why it’s so blah blah blah blah blah I went to Gay Paree blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah peanuts blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Diet Dr. Pepper blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah BLAH.

Blah blah.”

-The Blah Reaper

This is another thing that I tend to dislike about these animes.  They explain everything.  I’m usually fine with people explaining there work.  It shows that the creators and writers of the show have thought through this and don’t want to leave any apparent plot holes or unanswered questions to the unsuspecting audience.  But there has got to be a better way of doing it without sounding like a math student explaining his proofs while in a situation where he could be attacked at any second.  These people explain things at the oddest times.  And let me tell you: if we tried to pull this kind of thing off in an American-made movie, the person who was explaining everything in the middle of a battle would have gotten out four words before getting shot in the head.  Because there’s a time and place for explanations on why someone’s awesome, but it’s not during a fight.

In any case, I’m sure if someone were to hear this explanation, they would still have questions on why it worked specifially now as opposed to earlier in Ichigo’s life, since he’s been able to see ghosts for “as long as he can remember”.  But honestly, why on earth do I need to concern myself with this inconsistency?  This is a series about the afterlife and ninja people who fight monstrous souls.  Reason is not exactly gonna be a strong suit in a story like that.

So Ichigo realizes that both of those Hollows from earlier were looking for him.  So he faces off against the injured Hollow.  Because hey, what’s one giant monster gonna do against a human?

Well, it’s going to do nothing to him, because the Soul Reaper jumps in the way of the monster, causing it to bite into her shoulder.  She falls to the ground, calling him a fool and asking what possible chance he could have had fighting a Hollow.  Hey, I don’t like your tone, little missy.  This guy’s fought loser skateboarders, ya know.

So the Soul Reaper is too injured to fight.  Really?  After getting chomped in the shoulder?  I think she’s just throwing in one of her sick days because she doesn’t want to handle this right now.  In fact, she tells Ichigo that if he wants to save his family, then he must temporarily become a Soul Reaper.  Typical.  Suffer one little boo-boo, and suddenly you want someone else to do your job for you.  Sheesh.

So he agrees to…

So… he basically agrees to Sepukku so that she will be able to transfer a portion of her powers into him.  Before he runs the blade through his stomach, the Soul Reaper tells Ichigo that her name is Rukia Blabbersamisan.  Ichigo follows this up by introducing himself as Ichigo Japanese-Sounding-Last-Name.

And one transformation sequence later, he completely annihilates the Hollow while Rukia is wondering why he has nearly all of her powers instead of the intended half.  As he fights the Hollow, Rukia wonders what kind of being Ichigo is.

“I’ve never seen a human being with spirit energy this strong.”

… grrr…

“I’ve never heard of a human with enough strength to break the Kido on his own.”

Grrrrrrrrrrrr…

“And I have never seen a Soul Reaper wield such a huge Zamp…”

GAH, THAT’S IT!

I’ve had it!  This is so stupid!  This is the first episode, and already this show is trying to get by on the casual use of “never’s” and “impossible’s”!  This Rukia is so stupid, she hasn’t seen something like this in her “ten lifetimes of a human being”?!  And why the hell hasn’t Ichigo gotten into this situation earlier?!  And don’t tell me it’s because of his interaction with the ghostly girl, because in his own words, he said that he was able to see ghosts for as long as he could remember.  Are you saying that this interaction with the girl was the catalyst for his awakened soul energy when he could have been doing the same thing he did for that girl for however long he’s had those powers?!

You know what?  I bet the show will probably explain why it activated just now, and after he interacted with that ghostly girl, showing why she was so special.  But at this point, my interest in the show has diminshed like Rukia’s powers.  I can’t keep going through a series which so casually throws around phrases like “That’s impossible!” and “I’ve never seen [X] before!”  It gets old.  Fast.  Even in this first episode, she fired off three of these in quick succession.  I know there’s an explanation for it, but once again: it’s a show about the afterlife and ninja people fighting monster souls.  Reason is not going to be it’s strongest suit.

So we end this episode with this parting shot:

… that’s the end of episode 1.

– – –

So, what’s there to say about this show that I haven’t already brought up?  Well, there’s plenty.  But as someone who came across it on his own without any provocation from someone else, I can’t say this is my cup of tea.  Nor can I see why it’s so popular.  Maybe people like the impossible being broken every now and again.  I know I don’t.  If something’s going to be impossible, I expect it to be the highlight of the series, not a series of chest-high walls that say “THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CLIMB OVER.  DO NOT ATTEMPT.”  It’s tiresome.  To me, at least.  There are people who like Gurren Lagann, so who’s to say that regular trips beyond the impossible isn’t an acceptable storyline?

But otherwise, from what I’ve seen in this episode, it appears to be a standard-fare anime series, complete with a tough guy protagonist, an abrasive female lead, humorous breaks into…

GAH!!!

Stupid surprise sounds and screens.

Anyway, this is what I think of the series thus far, as an outsider who’s watching this for the first time.

But rest assured, this series hasn’t seen the last of me.  Oh no.  I have to give this series the benefit of the doubt.  You can’t judge a book by it’s first chapter, nor can you judge a movie by the first five minutes.  That would be ignorant and lazy.

No, I’m going to go the extra mile.  Not only am I watching this episode, I’m going to see the next nine episodes.  That’s 9 more episodes to go.  That way, I can be fairly objective in deciding whether this is deserving of the praise it’s received, or if it’s just an over-hyped piece of crap.

Next time you see the word “Bleach” on this site, wear a cup.

-I~J

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: