Recently, with the help of a Borders gift card, I acquired volumes 1-21 of the Bleach manga in a big box set! I’m not a total stranger to the franchise–I watched the first season of the anime a few years ago–but I am new to the manga, and I’ve decided to embark on a blogging journey and write a few things about each volume I read. Much of the story will be familiar at first, as I cover the ground from the anime’s first season, but I’m looking forward to the parts of the story that are new to me.
So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Bleach, volume 1.
Bleach, Vol. 1: Strawberry and the Soul Reapers
This is, of course, an introductory set of chapters, and so far it conforms to my memory of the anime. I have always thought the beginning of the story–roughly the first 13 episodes of the show, and probably about the first 2-3 volumes of the manga–were genuinely compelling stories, because each story in some way is about how people deal with death and its aftermath.
This is especially pointed in the second story arc in this volume, which concerns Orihime’s late brother. He has turned into a Hollow–an evil, unrested spirit–and has come to devour Orihime’s soul because of his jealousy for her attention post-afterlife. She failed to pray enough to him, apparently. I found the scenes where Orihime, bowed down with regret and guilt–unwarranted as it is–and embracing the twisted spirit that her brother has become a very compelling and moving scene, especially for so early in a series. There is an undoubted metaphorical resonance in the idea that Hollows are once-living people who have returned to destroy their families, much in the way grief and the unresolved absence of loved ones can tear people apart in real life. It’s also perceptive in the way it shows how exclusive, fiercely devoted love can become twisted into jealous possessiveness, leading unto death and murder. It makes the concept of a “Hollow” meaningful; it’s love hollowed of goodness. The flicker of conscience that still remains in Orihime’s brother is only aroused, for a brief moment, but her unconditional love.
That’s quite a way to start off a character who we will find out about much more later on, and who appears at first to be there mostly for the big-boobed fanservice.
The Chad/parakeet story, which is quite interesting in its own right, begins at the end of this volume, but I’ll wait till the next entry to talk about that. It too has some interesting features, which at the time I watched the anime, cemented my interest in the story overall.