Bleached…Posted: January 16, 2008
Over the last several weeks at work (I’m such a slacker) I’ve managed to read all 21 volumes of Bleach that have been released so far in the US. There is something to note here, namely that Bleach is a manga and I don’t normally read manga. At all. The question is why exactly I decided to read this particular series.
Honestly I don’t know. Is it because it’s part of a youth revolution that will save us comic fans (or DESTROY US?)? Or was it a whim of a bored man? I’m not sure.
Anyway, what I thought about Bleach…
What struck me most about this series (once I adjusted to the whole reading right to left thing) was how much it really is just a very well done superhero story. Oh sure there’s a bunch different trappings, you know, swords, death gods, etc. but fundamentally Ichigo Kurosaki’s story is no different than the stories of Spider-Man I’ve spent much of my life reading. (Youth gains powers through no fault of his own and finds himself in increasingly complex situations as he tries to use his powers to do the right thing).
What made Bleach a very enjoyable read was Tite Kubo’s excellent sense of pacing. He seems to know exactly how and when to throw in a plot twist or reveal this or that about a characters “dark past” which constantly keeps you interested and moving on to the next volume. He also is very capable of keeping his increasingly large cast straight and make each character (even most of the minor ones) relatively unique and memorable. His characterization skills are also solid, making his main protagonists likable and interesting.
Kubo’s best strength as a writer, I feel, is that he’s an excellent world-builder. The gibberish he makes up to shape the world around his character is interesting and he does a good job of adding more and more elements to keep the plot going without contradicting what he’d established before. This is of the keys to this sort of serialized fantasy story and many American superhero writers could learn from his example.
Certainly the man is no Shakespeare but Bleach is a very enjoyable and solidly written book, some of the best stuff you could expect from this sort of story.
Kubo’s art on the book is workman-like; it does everything it’s supposed to do but does nothing spectacular. That’s not always true, occasionally for be scene Kubo will show-off but usually his art take a detailed but very by the books sort of approach.
My biggest fear going into reading his series, being that it was unabashedly written for men, was how the female characters would be portrayed. Their treat of course was a very mixed bag. Severalof the female characters are shown to be strong, competent (since Bleach’s story is very martial this means, of course, being good at inflicting violence) and in the thick of things. The series only occasionally descends to the level of cheesecake but does sometimes portray men groping women in a neutral (positive?) light.
My biggest problem with the series is the character Chizuru Honshō, described as “the school lesbian”. This character is a terrible stereotype, who sexually gropes women, is a misogynist and is always portrayed as a gross stereotype of her sexuality. One wonders if Kubo has actually ever met a lesbian in his life. The character is offensive to the point where every-time she shows up I just want to put the book down.
In any eventuallity, I generally enjoyed Bleach and am looking forward to reading the next volume when it comes out at the end fo the month.