This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later on with next to no spell/grammar checking.
Kurosaki Ichigo is a fifteen-year-old boy who can see ghosts. He meets Kuchiki Rukia, a "Soul Reaper" trying to protect Ichigo’s family against a "Hollow" (an undead monster attacking the living). Things don’t go according to the plan and Rukia ends up having to transfer some of her powers to Ichigo who saves the day and becomes a Soul Reaper himself. Reluctantly, he begins to protect his town while trying to keep up with his education and social life. But the hollows keep coming and the stakes keep getting higher.
Bleach is a fantastic manga. It is also the first (and so far only the one) I’ve ever read, so keep that in mind. It’s got cool samurai-like sword fights, action-packed story that keeps pushing forward, placed in an intriguing world full of history, mystery and awesome characters.
Ichigo is the protagonist, but the Bleach cast is staggering. It is the thing I would normally be completely lost in, but the books do a great job introducing them and their differences so gradually that it never became a problem.
And they’re all great, with their backstories, fighting styles and abilities. I got hooked instantly and stayed hooked throughout its staggering 74 volumes. Tito Kube has managed to build and draw a world that stayed with me and kept me coming back, desperate for more.
Unfortunately, Bleach suffers from an affliction common to long-running series: upping up the stakes, inventing more and more grave threats and dealing with them by even more fantastic powers. The heroes fight godlike creatures somewhere around the half of the series and literal gods will have appeared before the whole story ends.
Over time, things become harder to follow and the reader loses a sense of scale. Is this fantastic power going to be enough to withstand that fantastic threat? Who knows!
Tite Kubo has managed to tone things down back to a manageable level in one of the later arcs, but then let everything blow completely out of proportion again at the very last one.
The other thing that bothered me throughout was the rather blatant cheesecake aspect. A large proportion of the female protagonists feature humongous breasts and the male gaze is in full force.
I quite enjoy a bit (or indeed a lot) of sexiness, but for the most part, Bleach does it in an over-the-top crass manner. That said, I’ve only now learned that the target audience for this manga is teenage boys. I don’t think that makes it right, but I get it I guess.
An aside about the anime based on Bleach: I have seen it a couple of times prior to reading the manga and it is the most faithful translation of a "book" into a "movie" that I’ve ever seen. The anime follows the plot perfectly, the characters give off the same vibe and the two works really feel like two sides of the same coin.
I have had a blast with Bleach. It has a special place in my heart.