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Off The Rack Comic Review: Bleach

August 30, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
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6.5
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Off The Rack Comic Review: Bleach  

You ever hear of those people who start with, like, a toothpick and trade their way up to something ridiculous like a Lamborghini? I’m like the opposite of that.

A looooong time ago, I was really into collecting and playing Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. It was an awful habit; 2/10, I don’t recommend. Anyway, I was staying with my family for a while, and I wanted something my cousins and I could amuse ourselves with. The store I worked at sold the cards, so I used my discount to buy some starter decks, and we got into playing.

Here’s what I discovered: trading card games have the worst effect on me possible. It’s like heroin, but smaller and cardboardier. Buying cards and making decks, man. I apparently live for that stuff. It would ALMOST happen to me again many years later with Pokemon, but luckily I cut that one off before it got too bad. That just resulted in a few months of playing.

Anyway, when I decided to divest myself of my Yugiohs, I started trading them away on other goods. Comic books, game systems, video games, cash. I ended up with a decent haul (a lot of old Amazing Spider-Man comics, an Xbox 360 when those were still the current only a year old or so, a PS2, a 3DS when they were brand new, and more). But honestly? I lost a LOT of money on the transactions. If I put the money that I spent on cards into stuff, I could have gotten all of that and far more.

But oh well. I have my memories go playing cards, too.

(Also, I still have a BUNCH of cards I didn’t trade so I could play casually. Which I never do. Because if I start playing again, I know what happens next…)

TITLE: Bleach

Writer and Artist: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Shonen Jump

Protagonists: Ichigo, Rukia, Chad, Orihime

Antagonists: Hollows

All right, M8nga Weeks are back! I had fallen off my old Manga On The Eights trend several weeks ago, but I was recently reminded of that by Ella Notari from 411mania’s comments section, so it is making its triumphant return here in Off The Rack volume #108.

We are covering Bleach this week, a manga I have read a bit of, and of which I even own a decent sized chunk (I have the box set of the first 21 volumes, I think it is. I got it YEARS ago in the aforementioned trading off of the bulk of my Yu-Gu-Oh! collection). But it’s one in which I have never really gotten invested.

Since it’s been so long, I re-read the first two volumes for this review.

Bleach, a book whose name betrays absolutely nothing about what happens in its pages, is about a high school student names Ichigo who can see and interact with ghosts. His nuclear family unit (his dad and two sisters, Yuzu and Karin) all have varying degrees of Ichigo’s ability, but his is by far the most enhanced.

Ichigo does he what he can to help souls rest, but his growing spiritual energy has gotten to the point where undead spirit monsters called Hollows are beginning to sense him, and they want to feast!

Ichigo discovers this when he runs into a Soul Reaper named Rukia who has entered his home hoping to vanquish such a Hollow. She is caught by surprise by Ichigo’s ability to see her, as well as by his own immense energy. She becomes badly wounded and has to channel her powers into him.

The newly empowered Ichigo defeats the Hollow, but he and Rukia end up stuck together until she can recoup her powers and return to the spirit society. For cover, she enrolls in Ichigo’s school so she can keep an eye on him and train him as a Soul Reaper for when she received orders on Hollows to deal with.

Over the first two volumes of the series, Ichigo and Rukia fight off a couple Hollows, including one who is the lost, demented brother of Ichigo’s friend Orihime, and another who gets entangled in the life of another classmate, Chad. Both Orihime and Chad go onto become regulars in the series, even developing powers of their own in their dealings with Ichigo.

Bleach is up there with Naruto and One Piece in the echelon of Shonen Jump manga that just never ever end. If I recall correctly, all three have just an absurd number of volumes. Bleach is probably the least successful of the three, but that’s not a knock. It’s like saying Tom Cruise has less money that Bill Gates or Oprah. It’s true, but he’s still doing real damn well for himself.

The length isn’t necessarily the issue here, but I’ve always enjoyed the more limited SJ series. The original Dragon Ball run that was about 40+ volumes. Black Cat, which was 20. Rurouni Kenshin at 28. Hikaru No Go. Death Note. Those just feel less directionless and more focused than the 100+ volume monoliths.

Bleach follows the very Shonen Jump / Dragon Ball influenced story style where we are introduced to a VERY POWERFUL young hero, and over the course of the series he develops powers that make his initial status seems entirely negligible. Ichigo just fights harder and stronger villains with every arc, and his powers grow and grow.

Being a Dragon Ball fan, the last thing I can do is complain about that. But it does all start to feel a bit repetitive to me.

I will say the hardest part of getting into Bleach is getting past the first, say, fifty-some pages. The book is messy in every sense of the word early on. The art is rough, the layouts are scattershot, and the dialogue is really lame. The art and layout issues resolve by, like I said, about 50 pages in, but the dialogue remains a problem for a while on. But it is HARD to want to keep turning the page for a while.

It does end up getting a little better and a little more interesting. And as it goes on well past these first two volumes, the mythology of the Soul Reapers and their world is creative. But this was always a series I could take or leave. It’s sadly just a “good enough” book, and it feels like the threats grow too powerful, too quickly.

Talking Point: Do we still like M8nga Weeks? I will keep it up for a bit at least going forward!

That’s enough homework, though. If you liked this article, check out Ghosts of the Stratosphere. That’s my website where others and I write comic book and pop culture articles every day. Comics, Wrestling, TV, Movies… it’s all there.

You can also follow us on Twitter, @gotstratosphere for updates! Mostly I tweet about food.

6.5
The final score: review Average
The 411
It’s a neat concept as an overall story idea, and there are some nice reveals as the story goes. But I do distinctly remember it losing me ENTIRELY in the mid-20’s, and it only went on forever after that. The art is middle of the road for a SJ book. Not as good as, say, DBZ or Kenshin, but far better than Naruto or One Piece.
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Off the Rack, Rob Stewart