It’s time to take a look at Bleach. “Y You don’t just mention one of the greats like that.” That’s true. This is one of the greatest titles of all time. Honestly, Bleach didn’t make it to the top as smoothly as something like DBZ, It made more mistakes than Hitman Reborn, and it never got as intense as Megaman NT Warrior. That being said, the series kept on persevering as it churned out chapter after chapter. The pros always ended up outweighing the cons and it easily had some of the best action scenes in any title out there. That’s why it’s good to be a really long manga because as long as the negatives don’t show up constantly, they’ll eventually be swept away by all of the good scenes in the series. With only 4 real arcs, Bleach had time to develop all of them and give us a bunch of fights.
The basic premise of the series is that Ichigo Kurosaki one day sees monsters attack his home and quickly moves to stop them. He gains the abilities of a Soul Reaper by accidentally stealing Rukia’s. She tells him that it is now his duty to slay the evil demons known as Hollows and Ichigo agrees…to an extent. The first real arc starts when Rukia is kidnapped by her superiors and they decide to execute her for allowing a human to obtain her powers. This all seems rather crooked so Ichigo decides to go rescue her along with some friends that he made along the way. Still, can he really beat these Captains of the Soul Society who have been training and honing their skills for multiple centuries? It’ll be tough, but Ichigo is as brave as they come!
As there are a ton of characters throughout the series. I’ll mainly be talking about them as they arrive. So for example, I’ll now discuss all of the characters who were in Arc 1. We gotta start with Ichigo of course. He’s a very aggressive character who is always eager for a fight and very quickly became one of my favorite protagonists. He doesn’t dwell on things as much as other leads and just jumps into battle. He takes what his friends say at face value and doesn’t even fall for the usual mind games where the villains try to make him doubt the Soul Society. He gets stronger and stronger with each arc and eventually became the ultimate hybrid fighter. His Bankai has an excellent design and is still my favorite in the series. The original is certainly the best although all of the versions were pretty cool. His Hollowfication is also a very cool ability and it was handled perfectly. I would have liked to have seen it more in Arc 4, but it got a lot of screen time in the first two arcs so that was pretty satisfying.
I think one of the things that separates him from Naruto and Luffy is that he is a lot more serious. The others tend to have comic relief moments even during big fights or just have more displays of not looking all that smart. Ichigo’s not exactly a genius or anything like that, but he certainly doesn’t let his opponents know that and Ichigo always has a good bluff going on. He takes on all opponents even if he is outmatched and generally finds a way to come out on top. He adapts in battle well and just comes across as a really heroic guy. He is certainly one of the big reasons why the series was so good.
Rukia is arguably the main heroine. It’s between her and Orihime, but I’d argue that Rukia certainly appears more and gets a bigger role. She fights with ice abilities and gradually moves up the ranks of the Soul Society. I’d probably hold a bit of a grudge against them if I was her considering that they tried to murder her in the first arc, but she got over it surprisingly well. She’s a nice enough character and I’m glad that she decided to help Ichigo even though it meant defying orders. He would clearly do the same for her and has done so in the past. She was a consistent character throughout the series and was probably the most enjoyable member of the main supporting cast.
Next up is Orihime and unfortunately I can’t really say that she was a great character. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a nice enough person. I just feel like she didn’t stand up for herself enough. The whole series hyped up the fact that she is a reality warper who can reject events. This power has unlimited possibilities, but she only uses it a handful of times in the series and mostly just gets kidnapped, defeated, or mind controlled by the enemies. She never makes a decision to step up and fight for herself. It was a little disappointing because I had been expecting her to make a big move like that. I feel like the author never let her get a real role beyond being the damsel in distress so there just wasn’t much to like about her.
Chad is another one of Ichigo’s friends and his arms can turn into cannon arms which increase his attack power quite a lot. While his stats are still human in nature, his attack strength is enough to hurt even the strongest of enemies. It makes him a bit of a glass cannon. Ultimately he can’t really compete by the second half of the series or even after Arc 1 really. He’s a nice enough guy though, but I lost a lot of respect for him in Arc 3. Going behind Ichigo’s back and joining a really shady organization was pretty suspect. Doubting Ichigo because of his new friend was also iffy and Orihime should be blamed as well. Yeah, mind control’s tough, but if Byakuya could see through it and said that he would be on Ichigo’s side even despite his memories….then how could they not do the same? Their bonds with Ichigo should be far stronger than that. I do have to admit that Bleach had a bit of a weaker supporting cast than the average Shonen, at least from the main main cast. I’m only counting Ichigo’s inner circle of friends with that statement. Most of them cracked by the end.
The biggest character to flop was Uryu. He started out as a weak rival who Ichigo surpassed almost instantly and then helped out during the next few arcs. He wasn’t mind controlled so that was good. Unfortunately, he decided to become a big traitor in the final arc and there was no turning back from that. I knew from the start that he would have some kind of big justification but that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest. It turns out that his reason for betraying everyone was more pitiful than I could have imagined. It would have made more sense to have attacked with Ichigo and friends instead of trying to murder them several times. Uryu had the help of a great deal of plot hax throughout the final arc and every scene with him was just incredibly annoying. He’s easily one of the most unlikable characters in the series by the end and you have to question just how weak the bonds were to the guy. If he can betray everyone so easily, then maybe he was never really much of a friend in the first place.
Zaraki is one of the big Captains of Soul Society and one of my personal favorite characters. He really enjoys a fight and likes to charge straight in. That doesn’t work too well against some of the more overpowered villains, but I certainly like the confidence. At one point he was my favorite character. While he was surpassed by Grimmjow, Byakuya, and Ichigo, he still remains as one of the more likable ones. He may not have looked too tough in Arc 1 since Ichigo was able to take him on, you could argue that this was plot hax or that the author hadn’t really thought the power levels through yet. Regardless, he began to look much better from there and did particularly well in Arc 3 and shined a bit in Arc 2 as well.
Byakuya is another Captain and the polar opposite of Zaraki. He’s always very calm and collected during his fights. Instead of charging in, his abilities are made for long-middle range combat as he assaults you with thousands of flower petals. He’s known as one of the more powerful Captains and potentially the strongest although the series tries to convince you that the title goes to Shunsui or Yamamoto. I was hoping to see more of him in the final arc but the cast was so big by then that everyone only got to have 1 or 2 big fights. As it is, I’m satisfied that he at least got one big fight in every arc. He really did well for himself throughout the series.
Hitsugaya is one of the youngest Captains and as such he is a little weaker than the others. Like Rukia he has ice powers and he has made it his mission to protect Momo. He gets into a rage a little easier than the others as supposedly he is still too young to control his emotions. (Not that I buy this much as all of the Captains lose control once in a while) He gets a lot of screen time so you’ll see him a lot. I liked the character well enough, he’s not my favorite character, but still beats quite a lot of them. He’s in the upper echelon at any rate. His Bankai needs some work though. I never found it to be particularly useful or strong.
Ichimaru is one of the 3 evil Captains. No worries, he has a sob story to explain why he did what he did and I didn’t buy it at all. I didn’t like him as a villain or as a “hero.” I did like the fact that he actually lied about his Bankai’s ability though. Seriously, more characters should do that as everyone takes what their opponent says at face value. A lot of people make fun of the series because the villains always explain their abilities to the heroes. Some of them would be quite dangerous if they didn’t explain it because you just couldn’t figure it out. At the very least Ichimaru is certainly one of the smartest villains. I don’t like the character, but he made for a good opponent.
If you want an unlikable villain who doesn’t even make for a good antagonist, look no further than Tousen. He is another one of the Evil Captains who fights by erasing your 5 senses while you’re within his bankai. It doesn’t work out so well for him though so then he gains the ability to turn into a fly. His whole character’s personality is meant to show that he’s a very rotten person who tries to make everyone feel as bad as possible. The series doesn’t even try to make him a likable character and it’s just hinted that his sense of justice was corrupt from the start. His fans were likely disappointed by this since the fact that he lasted over 40 volumes hinted that he would get to do something big. It just never happened.
The final one of the evil captains is Aizen. He’s the mastermind behind all of Arc 2 and gets more hype than almost any other character in manga history. He’s an incredible character and I’m always tempted to put him in as my favorite character in the series. Grimmjow has that spot wrapped up and I think it’s safe to say that Ichigo has the number 2 spot, but Aizen is 3rd. He basically planned out the entire series and used everybody. Even as a normal Captain he had already surpassed the rest and then he got to evolve into a higher level being. His illusion abilities ensured that he was 100% unbeatable. Only plot hax could help Ichigo at that point. It was just a great moment and Aizen became a DBZ level being. He has quite a few of the best moments of the series and breaking his glasses was one of them. It’s amazing how quickly his design can change. His fight scene against all of the Captains and Visored is also one of the best in manga history.
What really makes Aizen great is his incredible overconfidence throughout the series. He is always smug and knows that the events are all happening according to his plans. He doesn’t get to do much beyond Arc 2, but that was really all that he needed to be considered as one of the best Shonen Jump villains. You’ll see why he is so great once you read Bleach. He just had everything that you could possibly want in a villain, Power, and Personality. He was a very pragmatic character.
Back to the heroic captains, next up is Komomura. He’s probably one of the weakest Captains as his Bankai makes a bigger version of himself. The problem is that it’s slow and that makes injuring it easier. Komomura also takes in all of the damage that his avatar takes which makes it one that is ill suited for combat. He’s a very by the books character which is a huge red flag and it makes using him so much easier for the villains. I never got around to liking him and I have to say that the character’s ending in the series was pretty sad.
Shunsui is supposedly the Captain with the most potential and possibly the strongest current one. He is always bored during fights so he rarely ever tries. He prefers to just flirt around the whole time and comes across as a rather unlikable guy who just holds everyone back. I never actually got around to liking him and he’s definitely one of my least favorite Captains. His attacks involve games so they can change for every fight. It’s the kind of ability that can easily backfire if you ask me.
Another captain is Ukitake and he is almost always sick so he rarely gets to fight. I didn’t care much for him either. He got some random plot twists at the end and got a little relevant, but I couldn’t take him seriously by that point. I never saw anything that suggested he was worthy of the Captain title. Yamamoto is the leader and he has fire abilities. He is one of the most corrupt members of the Soul Society and decides that people should be executed for no real reason. Honestly I was rooting for Yhwach during their big battle. Yamamoto seemed to be in the wrong the whole time. The fire attacks aren’t bad, but we didn’t get to see Yamamoto fight much. He made for a decent villain, but the fact that he was allied with the “heroes” made it a little more difficult to look at him without cringing. Nothing worse than having an army of potential heroes, but then seeing that they’re being led by the biggest villain of all.
Rangiku is Hitsugaya’s second in command. Her sword can turn into smoke which is pretty useful. She’s a decent fighter even if she can’t compete with the higher members. None of the lieutenants can really fight at such a high level anyway so it’s to be expected. Unfortunately she is mainly used for fanservice so it’s hard to take her seriously. Momo is another helper but she spends most of the series getting tricked. She never actually gets to have a serious fight and her best moments were missed due to an illusion. Depending on when the illusion started, she was able to fight several Captains at once though so that was cool.
Renji gets a pretty big role like Rukia and serves as one of the main supporting characters of the series. His sword can stretch and turn into a dragon that attacks opponents. It’s another Bankai that is filled with weaknesses so Renji has to rely on fundamentals to win. He’s not a bad character. His personality may be a little weak at times as you wonder what it even is, but he’s someone that you can count on. He gets quite a few fights, but usually ends up losing them. He’s decently strong, but just not strong enough.
Hisagi and Ikkaku are other generals who get a reasonable role. Ikkaku is decently good as he also loves a good fight. He ends up holding back a little too often though even if it means losing a fight. That character trait of his can be really annoying. Hisagi is pretty bland so it’s hard to ever get around to liking him, but he’s still not bad. I think he could just use some more character development. Finally from the main generals we also have Yachiru. She’s a fun companion to have and is always helping Zaraki out. The plot takes some intriguing turns with her and while they may be a little suspect, it doesn’t change the fact that she was one of the more likable generals. She was able to help fight off one of the big Quincy opponents and there was always a lot of potential for what the author could do with her character.
Grand Fisher is the only pre arc villain that I need to talk about. In theory he should have been a major deal because he murdered Ichigo’s Mom and is what started him on this path. In the actual manga he felt a little more like a footnote though and is mainly memorable because he got his own OVA and then later returned briefly in the Hueco Mundo arc. (Which I have no idea what Kubo was thinking there since it was such a small cameo. He’s a pretty decent villain I suppose even if he doesn’t always fight fair. He’ll use any means in order to win. He’s not really my kind of enemy, but he’s not bad either. He certainly had a more menacing design than most of the other villains.
Lets quickly talk about the comic relief squad. Keigo is Ichigo’s main friend and he’s annoying. Orihime’s friend is Tatsuki and she’s a little better as she knows how to fight and is always ready to give Orihime a pep talk. Next up is Chizuru and this is where things start to go downhill. She just can’t hold her own scenes at all and definitely wasn’t needed in the manga. I can’t think of a single scene where she contributed. Then there’s also Kon. He’s a pretty pointless character if you ask me and one with a terrible personality. The verdict is out and I have to say that the human friends were absolutely terrible. Tatsuki is the only bearable one and even then she’s not all that memorable. Ichigo also has two sisters who get some mild hype and all, but never actually get to do anything. The series had hinted that the plot would go somewhere, but it was another red herring. Fortunately, the humans don’t appear much since Ichigo is never actually home.
Back to the soul society characters, we have Yoruichi. Unfortunately she is used for fanservice at all time and is a flirt by nature, but she does have some good fight scenes. Unlike the rest of the characters, she fights with athletics and hand to hand combat rather than use a weapon. She is similar to Chad in this respect except she is actually powerful and can fight with Captain level opponents. Yoruichi serves as a mentor to Ichigo as well. Overall she’s a fun enough character to have around and it would have been neat if she could have had some more fights. Her Arc 4 fight didn’t feel real since the series kind of messed it up a bit.
Soi Fon is another ninja and unlike Yoruichi, she didn’t defect from the Soul Society. (Wrong move) She can be a little too obsessed with Yoruichi, but at least she is also overconfident which is always a very nice trait to have. She can hold her own in a fight reasonably well which allows her to get past the fact that she has one of the worst Bankai abilities. Just about everyone can dodge a bullet that moves in a straight line after all. Her general is pretty bad though so she has to hold the fort for her division.
Mayuri is easily the most evil of all the Captains. It’s played for humor to a large extent which seriously doesn’t work and it’s going to come as no surprise that I do not like Mayuri at all. Few things are worse than villains who stay in the company of the good guys and get to wear that flag at the end of the day. Mayuri would have been better if he was a pure villain and joined the Espada or something. Otherwise his emotional moments don’t work at all and basically any fight that he was in felt like a waste by the end. Unfortunately he did get a bit of a big role in the series. His assistant is Nemu and she’s nice enough. She has to put up with quite a lot throughout the series. Nemu gets a really random power up at the end of the series which was nice as it skyrocketed her power level even if it didn’t make all that much sense. She’ll give you a good fight or two, but overall doesn’t appear very much.
Urahara is one of the mysterious ex captains of Soul Society. You don’t find out why he had to go on the run for quite a while, but I didn’t like him at all. He’s one of those classic comic relief characters who only acts serious once in a while and by then it’s way too late. It’s impossible to take him seriously in the slightest and grates on your nerves constantly. You can go for about a dozen volumes or more without seeing him at times though so that works for me. Finally we have Unohana. She is a mysterious Captain who only gets one fight during the entire series. It involves a pretty sharp change in her personality and I wish we could have seen her actually fight a villain. The way she gets written out of the series is like something out of Fairy Tail’s last arc and doesn’t make much sense. Why didn’t she help during Arc 2? She didn’t really have a great excuse for that considering that the worlds were at stake and this is a character who just took too long to live up to the hype.
It’s pretty nostalgic to go through the first arc because you can see how the art and the characters have changed. It was a great way to get the series started because the plot was simple so you just got to see everyone fight each other. This helped to build character dynamics and such for the future arcs. Ichigo got really strong in a short period of time so this helped the fight scenes since it meant that the author could really go all out. The pacing was on point and while it had lower highs than Arcs 2 and 4, it probably had the fewest lows. It’s a very consistent arc.
Next up was the Hueco Mundo arc. You can split it up into multiple arcs but for the sake of the review it’s just one big one. It starts immediately after the first arc as Aizen turns out to be a traitor. It’s a pretty amazing way to end the arc and I have to admit that the anime handled it perfectly. Seeing Aizen handle everyone with ease was some good foreshadowing for what you can expect in this arc. Aizen has kidnapped Orihime and now commands all of the Hollows. He lives in their domain which is known as Hueco Mundo. He commands 10 Espada, which are Ultimate Hollows that are now sentient and humanoid. Ichigo heads over there to rescue her along with his friends and several members of the Soul Society. The battle also takes place in the human world as the rest of the Captains do battle with Aizen and the Espada that he took with him. Will Ichigo be able to defeat the Hueco Mundo members and return to Earth in time or is it all over? This arc is the best part of the series so you won’t want to miss a beat here!
Lets dive into the Espada. Stark is number 1, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that he is the strongest. Grimmjow, Ulquiorra, and possibly Harribel all seemed a little more impressive. I’d possibly stretch it and mention Nnoitra, but I do think he’d have a problem with all of the potentials. Stark is a pretty laid back guy which makes for a reasonable villain. He thinks things out strategically so you don’t have to worry about him panicking and falling into traps. He did a good job of understanding Shunsui’s complicated bankai and countering it. He certainly put up a very good fight.
Baraggan is another high ranking Espada and anything that he touches crumbles into dust. It’s actually a very useful ability since he can also emit dust that damages the opponent. You can’t get anywhere close to him as a result or you’ll be in mortal danger. He used to be the king of Hueco Mundo as well so he is used to calling the shots. You almost couldn’t help but feel bad for him when Aizen showed up because his whole life was flipped upside down in an instant. There just wasn’t really anything he could do at that point.
Harribel is a fun water type Espada whose abilities are straight forward. She is fast and can attack from long range with her water towers. She was actually doing well in her fight and may have even claimed victory if Aizen had not stepped in. I can see why her fans wouldn’t be too satisfied with how her story ended. It was even more disheartening when she showed up in the final arc. Honestly there was no point there since she only appeared for one panel and was then never brought up again. It was a rather disappointing return, but the same for Grimmjow as well. Most of these characters just shouldn’t have returned in the final arc if they weren’t going to do anything. Being cancelled isn’t much of an excuse either since Kubo had a bunch of time.
Grimmjow is the best character in the series and I liked him right from the start. He’s a headstrong Espada who decided to challenge Ichigo right from the start. He doesn’t have any fancy powers and just overwhelms his opponents with pure speed and power. He doesn’t like to take orders from anyone and that even includes the mighty Aizen. He gets quite a few good rounds against Ichigo and I would probably consider him to be the 2nd strongest Espada at the very least. I just don’t think any of the Captains would have lasted very long against him.
Nnoitra is another powerful fighter. I don’t think he could have beaten Grimmjow if the latter hadn’t been so weakened, but he does live up to his rank rather well. He’s another close combat fighter who makes use of his extra arms in battle. His durability is so high that even Zaraki’s slices had a hard time of actually piercing him. His personality may leave something to be desired, but you can’t really ask for a better match up for Zaraki. Power vs Defense, a classic standoff.
Ulquiorra is the only Espada who is likely stronger than Grimmjow. He has two resurrection forms which increase his strength exponentially. Considering that he was overpowering Ichigo in his base form, the two power ups just made the difference even more drastic. He was a very likable villain and certainly one of the best in the series. He also gave us some of the best moments in the series. It’s almost a shame that he didn’t return in the final arc, but since everyone who did show up looked pretty bad…it’s probably for the best.
Nel is a former Espada who ended up being turned into a kid. Now she fights on the side of the heroes and can change back into her adult form once in a while. She’s a pretty fun fighter. I think her role could have been a little bigger as she never ended up actually winning a big fight since the effects didn’t last long enough. She did come through for the team when it counted though as she bought enough time for Ichigo to regroup and for Zaraki to arrive.
Yammy is the 0 rank Espada so he is technically pretty tough. The trouble for him is the fact that raw size and power are basically the only things that are on his side here. He doesn’t have much speed so his opponents can speed blitz him all day. Surprisingly, he did have some of the best fights in the series though. His first fight with Ichigo and Yoruichi was a lot of fun and then his rematch with Ichigo was one of the most epic moments in the whole series. Ichigo was making a big speech and he still managed to stop him. He ended up being a more well rounded character than I had expected.
Aaroniero is definitely the weakest member of the Espada. He isn’t even remotely tough and can only win battles through mind games. It’s quite telling that some of the Espada subordinates seem like they’d put up a better fight. Naturally Aaroniero is supposed to be one of the main thinkers of the group. He needed to be since he can’t fight, but he doesn’t even have any engaging dialogue so he completely struck out. Just as underwhelming is Zommari. He’s the most boring member of the group as he barely has any personality. He has a lot of eyes which can paralyze his opponent. He’s also supposed to be very fast, but Zommari’s not even the fastest so it’s not a huge asset. I think Kubo was running out of ideas by now so he just had to slap some Espada ideas together.
Szayelaporro is the final Espada and he’s another thinker. His abilities are pretty overpowered since he can destroy your bones by destroying little stick figures of yourself. Classic Voodoo abilities. He is countered by Mayuri in the end who can move his bones and take them out anyway. It was an odd explanation for what ended up being a very twisted battle. Certainly one that wasn’t my cup of tea. There’s nothing to really like about this guy but I’ll give him some props for being another smart villain. He was pretty well prepared.
Isshin is Ichigo’s Dad and he got a lot of hype during the series. Unfortunately he is comic relief for most of it and only gets serious a handful of times. It’s hard to even say how strong he is since his only real fight was a decisive loss against Aizen. The series may make the case that he is a little stronger than Ichigo, but was then surpassed by the Final Getsuga mode. This is another one of those times where the author went a little too far in trying to make Isshin unlikable the whole time. There’s just no way you can like him after all of his early scenes. Sure, he’s stronger now, but just because he’s strong doesn’t mean that he is actually a good character now. Uryu’s Dad also gets a lot of hype, but doesn’t actually get to do anything which is even more mind boggling. He’s better than Isshin, but you also couldn’t say what his personality is.
Enter the Visored. Shinji is the leader but he’s pretty annoying the whole time. His ability to alter your senses is pretty good, but it is effectively a weaker version of Aizen’s illusions. I bet Shinji wishes he had gone for a lethal slice right away instead of messing around eh? Shinji’s the kind of guy who likes to be vague and just annoy you for a while. He gets a lot of hype, but it’s mostly all unfounded when you consider that he doesn’t really win any fights. Hiyori is the only other member to really get a role. She talks a good game and yells at Ichigo quite a bit. She is reasonably strong, but Ichigo surpasses her pretty quickly.
We should also talk about Zangetsu and Hichigo. The series is pretty vague about them for a while and there are a bunch of twists. Ultimately, Hichigo is Zangetsu and just didn’t want Ichigo to know that so they could train a little harder. It was a pretty good twist since admittedly I like Hichigo a lot more anyway. The person that Ichigo thought was Zangetsu was actually just a shadow of Yhwach which was…interesting I suppose. I can’t say that I ever cared for him so that’s fine, but Hichigo should have appeared more. The filler seasons in the anime gave him some extra fights and I suppose the manga gave him an ample amount of screen time. He was just a blast!
This arc was easily the height of Bleach and one of the best arcs in manga history. This is where introducing all of the Captains in Arc 1 paid off. We got to see them go up against this new team of Espada. Ichigo got to use his newfound abilities against the Espada and gradually grew stronger during the adventure. The climax in Hueco Mundo with Ichigo taking on Ulquiorra was spectacular and yet it was topped with the Aizen battle against the whole cast. Just when you thought the arc was at its height, it would raise the ceiling once again. Most of the villains were really strong as well so it was fun to imagine hypothetical fights and see who really should win. Could Ulquiorra beat Aizen? Could Grimmjow beat Stark? Just about any fight was on the table. This series pulled off the villain round table meeting cliche to perfection and you really can’t help but give the series some props for doing such a good job.
After that big arc, the manga decided to finally let the heroes rest a bit with a mini arc. Ichigo has lost his powers after pouring everything he had into defeating Aizen and is now a normal human again. The problem is that he can’t even see Hollows anymore so he certainly can’t protect anyone. He decides to gain his powers again as a group called Xcution decides to help him, but they turn out to be traitors and steal his powers. They mind control his friends as well but fortunately the Soul Society returns to aid Ichigo. With his strength restored, Ichigo may just have what it takes to come out of this battle on top.
Tsukishima is really the standout character of the Xcution group. He serves as the main antagonist for the most part and his abilities are really useful. If he hits you with his sword even once, then he can insert himself into your memories. This causes you to believe him to be an ally. If he strikes your weapon then he’ll be its friend as well and will know what it can do in advance. Add in his super speed and technique and you have a very formidable adversary. He was a lot of fun and had a really good fight with Byakuya in the end. I was reasonably satisfied with how they countered his ability as well. Without him the arc wouldn’t have been nearly as hype.
Riruka is probably the nicest member of the group, but she’s still evil for most of it as she knows about the sinister plan. It’s another “appearances can be deceptive” kind of moment. She may not be the strongest opponent in combat and her fight scene wasn’t even all that serious, but she’s all right I guess. Not really a bad character, but not one that you can take seriously. At least she had more of a role than Giriko though. He is a bar tender who can turn into a really strong monster. He goes down in a single hit though and barely gets any lines at all so he’s completely forgettable. He’s only worth mentioning because I thought the character had a lot of potential until that moment. Talk about giving a character the short end of the stick eh?
Jackie was one of the first members to fight and I actually did like her. Her Dirty Boots ability was fun and there certainly aren’t many fighters who use their legs instead of hands. I mean, I’m sure hardcore anime fans could probably name a bunch, but it’s still considerably less than fist fighters. She was able to give Ichigo a good fight even if he was weakened at the time and she was just a fun fighter to have around. It’s too bad she never really got to do much after this arc, but all of Xcution basically vanished.
Ginjo is the big mastermind behind the group and his plan was pretty bold. He had to actually lose his memories for it to work which is clearly risky because of all the variables that it brings. He became a bit of a generic villain once he turned evil with a lot of yelling, but at least the foreshadowing was always there. Honestly if I was Ichigo, I would have suspected something was up after he slashed his eyes. Seriously that was going way too far for a simple training exercise. Ginjo’s super form was really cool though and the plan to steal Ichigo’s powers was certainly one that could have a lot of payoff. Due to his low screen time compared to Aizen and Ywach I can’t say that he’s quite as cool as those two and it would be hard to make it up there anyway (At least Aizen would be unobtainable anyway) but I did like him. Ginjo was a serious threat and worked really well as the main villain.
Moe didn’t do a whole lot next to the other members since he barely appeared until he got his powers, but I did like his fight with Ikkaku. It may have been a little cheesy, but it was reasonable. His luck based abilities are certainly fun to have even if I’d never want that to be my super power. It’s one that can really come in handy if you’re very lucky. He’s the kind of lackey who was created just to have a good fight and not really to become an actual character. Yukio can send people into a video game which is pretty neat. Naturally that power is pretty much a crutch though as he can’t fight at all if you get past that. Once you’re in the game he is pretty OP, but it’s definitely not a very combat ready kind of technique. He was okay I guess, but not too memorable or exciting to watch. I wouldn’t have minded if he was replaced with another character.
This was a fun enough arc. While it is probably the weakest one in the series, it did a good job in the few volumes that it had. It was certainly more low key than the others, but depowering Ichigo was a nice way to bring back some classic hand to hand kind of battles. Ichigo’s fight with Jackie was fun as despite being a more low tier event, captured the early Shonen feel that the series no longer had. Instead of watching two city busters going at it, it was more of a street level affair. While some of Ichigo’s friends fell into the gutter in this arc, it was worth it to see Ichigo mess up the XCution group with both his newfound powers and his restored ones.
Finally we enter the last arc. The Quincy have decided to rule the world and destroy the Soul Society. They actually did not go extinct as we were told and have been hiding in a shadow dimension all these years. They have decided to strike now and their target is the Soul Society’s leader, the Soul King. They have amassed a large army and are poised to take the win. Ichigo hurries over to help, but his friend Uryu has joined the other side. This leads to a lot of tension and it appears that Ichigo is also a quincy in addition to his Shinigami and Hollow forms. He has to come to terms with this and save the world, but it’ll be his toughest fight yet.
Yhwach is the big bad of this arc and Kubo did his best to make him the most threatening villain yet. His plan was so detailed that he knew everything that would happen in the next 1000 years including Aizen’s whole plan. If you take that into account then that makes this villain one of the most brilliant masterminds in history. He’s pretty strong as well and has a good design so I can roll with this. He may be a tad bit generic next to the others and the fact that he is omnipotent and all powerful may have been a bit much. After all, that basically confirmed early on that plot hax would be necessary to defeat him right? Still, he gave us some pretty good fights and his design was on point.
Bazz B is essentially this arc’s version of Grimmjow. He just has a little less personality and doesn’t get as big of a role as Grimmjow. His abilities are impressive though as he was defeating Hitsugaya with minimal effort and at least tried to defy the villains after he was portrayed. He’s probably my favorite Quincy villain even if he can’t match up to most of the Arc 2 guys. He made the arc more fun.
BG 9 wasn’t really a big villain, but he had a really cool design. He also put up a really good fight against Soi Fon and could have been a major villain if the higher ups weren’t so impatient. It was a bit of a running gag that the Quincies ended up destroying as many of their members as the heroes. It’s why you shouldn’t work for villains, you’ll always end up getting back stabbed. As Nodt is another villain with a creepy design and his fights against Rukia and Byakuya were pretty intense. The author has always shown that he is pretty good at drawing horror designs as well as action and it worked out pretty well in this case. As Nodt was definitely a powerful Quincy.
Mask is one of those villains who I feel is created just to irritate the fans so I have to admit that I became a big fan. He’s just so out of place next to the other villains as he loves having a good time and boasting about his strength. He was also incredibly strong and lasted quite a while during the series. It must have had some of the most negative reception in all of Bleach week after week but he pressed on. I was rooting for him the whole time and so it was good that he put up such a fight.
Askin is one of the big Quincy generals and he was a fun character. His poison abilities are quite formidable and he wasn’t quite as loud or aggressive as the other characters. It worked well as a contrast and he sure did a lot of damage to the heroes before finally being taken down for the count. His design also reminded me of Aizen the whole time even if they don’t necessarily look all that alike. It may have been the cunning disposition. There was also the Thor homage by the name of Gerard. He was a fun character who had a similar personality as Zaraki. He just wants a good fight and is always eager to jump into a brawl. His damage reflection/absorption ability was pretty handy and I was glad to have another straight forward fighter. While guys like Askin are great because they’re exceptions to the rule, there’s always room for another brawler.
Pernida is the Hand of the Soul King or something like that. He was completely insane so it was hard to believe anything at the moment. His nerve attacks were pretty interesting even if they also felt rather weird. I guess you have to make use of the attacks you develop right? He wasn’t my favorite villain, but he was pretty tough. Gremmy is a reality warper who should have been 100% invincible but plot hax led to his defeat. He could literally do anything that he believed he could, but decided to squander this ability by making comets and portals instead of just instantly destroying his opponents. In the hands of a more confident character like Grimmjow or Ichigo, this ability would have really been something else.
Lille is another hype fighter from the Quincy and he is a long range specialist. His bullets can hit opponents from anywhere even if they miss. It’s a fun ability to have, but his super form is even better, the arrival of the Chicken. It was one of the funniest parts in the whole series and I just love how it was executed. It may not have been intentional, but cmon…can we really take this villain seriously after such a transformation? He was really powerful anyway so you just can’t let appearances deceive you. It was certainly one of the most fun power ups in Shonen Jump.
Jugram is the right hand main of Yhwach and his powers are pretty good. He becomes omnipotent and all powerful at night when his master is asleep. Otherwise, his abilities revolve around balance so he can reflect all damage that he has taken to his opponent. Naturally this leads to him fighting an opponent with the exact same ability which was the perfect loophole against him. I don’t actually like Jugram and he messed up so many times when it would have been easy to squash Uryu’s plans and stop the heroes. You don’t have many excuses when you’re all powerful. Still, the infinite fight of swapping damage was fun enough.
Bambietta and her posse were interesting. I didn’t care for her partners much since they were typically a little more disturbing than anything, but I liked Bambietta’s can do spirit. She was always ready for a fight and her explosives were quite handy. It’s like Bakugo’s ability from Hero Academia but a little more potent. She didn’t get to appear as much as I would have liked, but she did well with what she was given.
We also can’t forget Squad 0 and the Soul King. The Soul King was a big joke and lived up to his One Above All reputation. He may be all powerful, but he can’t talk or even move so it is easy for villains to take him down. I can see why Aizen wanted to terminate him right from the get go. The guy is the ultimate definition of a figure head and can’t actually do much. Meanwhile, Squad 0 got a ton of hype and supposedly they could beat the Captains with ease. Their hype may have been intense, but that didn’t stop them from getting destroyed pretty easily by Yhwach’s squad. The funny thing was that you knew Squad 0 was doomed from the start despite the hype and that’s what made it all the funnier. They were also pretty corrupt and evil much like the actual Soul Society so it’s not like you even felt bad for them.
Arc 4 was definitely a mixed bag. On one hand it had a lot of hype moments like always. The silent chapter of Ichigo noticing the ruined Soul Society was handled incredibly well and there is just something about being the last arc that helps to draw you in. At this point in the series, Ichigo is already so powerful so when the new villains come into the picture you can’t help but get excited at the battles that are coming up. The fights delivered as always. On the negative side, it feels like the author started to give up a little here. Some of the villains felt very random like the Mask guy. The Chicken power up came out of nowhere and the random characters got so much screen time that in the end Yhwach didn’t actually get to have the big climactic fight that everyone was waiting for. The series ended very abruptly without tying up many loose ends. A lot of plot lines the fandom will just have to end on their own with a bunch of theories.
The ending is also pretty lackluster as it’s about as generic as you can get. We have a big timeskip as always with the next generation possibly being even stronger than the last one. It’s just not all that inspired at all and we certainly could have done a little better than that. The final arc also started going for more creepy factor effects which were okay in some aspects, but didn’t work in others. The villain who was actually a guy and constantly smelled of something vile was just a little over the top.
By now you get why I like the series a lot. There’s constant action and a lot of powerful fighters. The author does a great job of delivering hype for all of the battles and the trash talking among the characters was beautiful. You never knew what to expect and constantly powering up and explaining your abilities to the enemy was a fun trope by the end. The series could also be unintentionally hilarious which is the main reason that I like reading the chapters and then checking out the feedback. It was so negative at the end with everyone poking fun at it, but that just made Bleach all the more enjoyable.
There are some considerable negatives with the series though. First of all, there is a degree of fanservice here. It’s nothing major as it is pretty much forgotten for all of the climaxes. It really only pops up occasionally when characters like Yoruichi, Chizuru, or Rangiku show up. It’s enough where it can be noticeable. There is also the creepy factor like when a villain essentially forces one of the heroes to give birth to him as a form of regeneration or other moments where shady things seem to happen. Bleach is definitely darker than some of the other Shonen titles like Naruto and One Piece. It doesn’t go too far for the most part and as I mentioned, it is 74 volumes so the positives typically outweigh these negatives considerably. I’m sure you could fill in 69 volumes with the positives and leave the other 5 for the negatives or some similar fashion. If the series had been shorter or the negatives more frequent then it would have lowered the series regardless.
One thing that was always a very strong aspect of Bleach was the artwork. It is easily one of the best series of all time in that regard as the simple, but smooth art style makes it easy to follow the action. The author is also able to raise the stakes in various scenes by applying more ink. The only series that is really ahead of Bleach would be One Punch Man. I dare say that Bleach is the second best series after that and the author really put in the work. I don’t know if I could have enjoyed the series quite as much if the art had been a step down. The high quality of the art is what really allows you to appreciate the manga to its full potential.
With a title like this, there is just so much to say, but where to start right? I mainly spent time on the cast, but through that I also explained why I like the series so much. I’m a huge action fan through and through. You don’t get to see huge titles like this one too often anymore where you get to enjoy the cast for over a decade with an array of fights at every corner. I suppose that what makes this title elite is simply that it lasted so long without seriously jumping the shark or losing sight of the genre. Imagine how awesome it would have been if DBZ had lasted this long? A large part of Bleach’s success also has to come down to Ichigo being the main character. A title is only as good as its lead after all. Hopefully Arc 4 of Bleach gets animated someday because that’ll help it be more memorable. Part of why its section is the smallest is that since it was so rushed a lot of villains weren’t iconic. If they’re in the anime, that’ll help their influence quite a bit and hopefully it can expand upon some of the things that were skipped.
Overall, Bleach is definitely a legendary series and one of the most famous ones of all time. I’m glad that it had such a long run. It would have been great if it could have kept on going a while longer, but at 70+ it is hard to actually say that you weren’t satisfied with it. I’d definitely recommend jumping on board with the series and marathoning it would certainly be a blast. I got to do that with Prince of Tennis when I first started it and I have to say that it is one positive of discovering a series so late. Of course, sticking with a series while it’s live is also awesome since you see the audience talk back after every chapter. With Bleach and Naruto gone, I do have to admit that Shonen Jump is a shell of its former self. Still, as the current titles get longer and longer, perhaps we will eventually get a new Bleach. Hero Academia can be the new Naruto in a sense, but I don’t think there is anything that has gotten close to matching Bleach’s spot yet. It left big shoes to fill but I’m sure something can rise up to it eventually.