While K-ON devours the souls of the moe crowd and Full Metal Alchemist helps people remember a time before the present economic crisis, Bleach heads into yet another season of shounen mass appeal. Though I previously had some thoughts about how Bleach is better in terms of depth and execution than the vast majority of shounen shows, the fact remains that it is increasingly bound by the limitations of its genre. Significant problems with power level escalation and a need to maintain already-introduced characters bog down the story. In the manga, this has already led to some ridiculousness – replacing character speech with random song lyrics has no real effect on the intelligibility of the action, which demonstrates just how worthless the dialogue has become.
Bleach 213 is an extended parody of sentai shows that lasts the entire episode. This is a serious problem, as even at the end of the episode, they opt for the clichéd “To Be Continued . . . ” closing rather than ending the farce. In other words, the B-string crew of Bleach will now get an entire season to themselves, and quite likely, they will be parodying sentai tropes all the way through.
To be fair, Bleach filler arcs have always served a purpose. The decompression of fights in the anime – easily the show’s biggest weakness relative to the manga – makes viewers tire of the main storyline, as it slides into a cycle of screaming, powering up, blowing away scenery, and fighting. Kubo Tite chooses anime filler arcs with a mind to providing something new for those who follow the manga: the Bounto arc introduced all-new adversaries and enemies, the Lurichya arc provided all one could ever ask to know about nobility in Soul Society (and then some), and the Amagai Shuuske parts were a nod to fans of Kira and an in-depth look at the traditions, heraldry, and psychology of the nihilistic Third Division. These arcs are not without significant flaws, but they have merit, which is not true of most filler arcs in anime.
With this filler arc, fans of the series may indulge their burning curiosity about what happens in Ichigo’s absence, while revisiting his old classmates from the first season. In fact, it will probably be a surprise to newer fans that Ichigo has classmates. The first-string Ichigo-tai are fighting in Hueco Mundo and rescuing Orihime, so it falls to the ringers to kill the wandering Hollows that threaten the peace. As usual, Urahara is up to something (fully lampshaded by Kon, who goes so far as to say it to his face without any real repercussions.)
It’s funny, but in a weak sort of way. This isn’t really Bleach; instead it feels like an unfaithful doujin. It retains the characters’ personalities, and changes the premise of the show, their power levels, and their relationships. As it turns out, that’s not a change for the better. It’s supposed to be funny, yet most of the humor consists of people looking hapless while things happen around them. Even the idea of parodying Bleach as sentai teams has been floated by Kubo Tite before, in prevous seasons – Don Kanonji regularly referred to other supporting characters by names like “Karakura Red” over a year ago.
Remember Episode 26 of Evangelion, where there was an alternate world, Shinji bumped into Rei on the way to school, and the fans squealed so hard that Gainax spun it off in to Angelic Days, the so-called “Love Eva” manga? This is Kubo Tite borrowing a page from their book.
Perhaps the funniest part of the Karakura Riser filler arc is that thousands of die-hard fans will spend their time and money to watch this, instead of something original and new. I actually like the world Kubo Tite created, but the way his product is being handled is truly a joke.