The cancer that is killing Bleach

Why do we suffer?

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.

Let it end! Let it end!

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.)

Oh you crazy Yuricon you

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.

Yes, this is really from that ep.

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.

Omisyth’s thought on what a filler should do

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16 thoughts on “The cancer that is killing Bleach

  1. Er… you know that Kubo Tite has nothing to do with the Bleach anime, right? He just designs the filler characters (if as much) and maybe provides some info for the anime writers about the world, and that’s all. The anime fillers exist to keep the show on air and its fans occupied while the manga advances enough for adaptation.

  2. barak – I am aware of the normal purpose of fillers; my argument above is that in Bleach the fillers actually serve to break up the monotony of heavily decompressed arcs, which is a much more important consideration where the viewer is concerned.  Ultimately, however, it is something that could be done better by simply using less decompression.  Shows do not have to run continuously.

    Kubo Tite is aware of the direction in which the anime is going and just how much filler it has.

  3. I (sort of) agree with what you said about the fillers, I just pointed out that it’s not Kubo who decides these things, it’s the anime writers and planners. Kubo may be aware what the anime is doing but he’s just writing the manga – I doubt he has any influence on what the anime writers do. The anime has enough small (and less small) differences from the manga, especially in the first two seasons, to make it obvious that the anime writers are going their own way with the material.
    And actually, these shows do have to run continuously. People usually forget that most Japanese don’t watch anime like us, and casual viewers don’t get attached to shows enough to wait for months for the next arc to begin. Plus the target audience of Bleach (those who buy the merchandise) are 12-15 year old children. Take the show off the air for say, half a year, and people will become bored with waiting, merchandise sales will dwindle, and by the time it’s back on air most of the viewers will have latched onto something else. This is why fillers are necessary.

  4. barak – I disagree about the necessity of running continuously, and I can think of a lot of examples that do not fit your assertion.  Full Metal Panic didn’t run continuously, and it’s still pretty big.  You might call Fumoffu a filler season, of course, but at least then it was a well-done filler season that did not rely on being a parody of one thing.  Fullmetal Alchemist didn’t air continuously, and it’s still pretty huge.  Lucky Star went to the trouble of referencing both of them. Heck, Evangelion hasn’t aired in over 10 years, and it still has a fan base and new products getting developed for it: check out this new Evangelion cell phone app review from our friends at BasuGasuBakuhatsu.  A well-done show will have followers and name recognition even if it doesn’t run continuously.

    Of course on the other hand there are shows like Pretty Cure that have relied on exposing the audience to the same formula over multiple seasons.  Is Pretty Cure a commercial success?  Absolutely.  But it’s the kind of show that kids like and then grow out of.  When a show chooses that kind of commercial success over enduring appeal, it’s perfectly normal for critics to disagree with its direction.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of the economic basis for these decisions – it’s that we don’t feel that the immediate economic gain justifies them.

  5. I suppose it’s just my opinion but the fillers really have given me time to watch something else. I’ll be honest in saying I scanned through 213 & 214 simply because the fillers just don’t hold enough weight for my 20 mins. of time. Also the supporting cast isn’t strong enough to have their own episodes. Kon in particular is a pretty shallow character – you know everything about him from the first time you met him so there’s very little to no development for his stand-alone Kurara Riser “specials”. I’ve taken the couple of weeks of fillers to explore other animes I’ve had for a while but have just put on the back burner, as well as watch new ones.  Michiko to Hatchin is what I’m currently enjoying of the older batch right now, while also taking time to venture into new series like the new FMA Brotherhood, 07-Ghost etc. I have never been a fan of fillers and while it’s a nice sentiment for Bleach to show what’s on the other side of the fence a.k.a. what the other charatcers have been doing, the question you have to ask is – how much of the general audience really cares? I’m sure some people do but the fillers seem to pick either weak characters or ones with no real interest.  There’s alot of hit and miss with the fillers over the Bleach history and for me there’s more missing than being on target.

  6. Come on, shounen fans, time to move on to the K-ON moe crowd.    Our characters are also interesting and I promise we won’t have 200+ episodes of god knows what.

    Disclaimer:  I”ve never watched Bleach before.    

  7. @WC – Exactly; this is why it’s a problem to do so much filler.  People aren’t going to stick around and watch it if it doesn’t interest them, and while the die-hard fans do want to know what all the other characters are up to, many viewers honestly do not.

    @Roy Mustang – Hah.  Well, if you’re curious, Mike is currently reviewing the Bleach manga, starting with chapter 1.  This is the good, early stuff, before the fillers set in.  Feel free to check it out!

  8. bleh fillers >.< some can be good and a nice break but this many what seems like all the time in bleach is just too much. guess i like the punishment though i still watch it… 😐

  9. What really bothers me from the Bleach fillers is that they cut very interesting parts from the story such as Ichigo’s fight vs. Ulquiorra. Giving Kon a story arc for himself is boring unless he shows a bit more mature personality such as in his first appearance when he saved a group of kids and even ants. The most probable reason for these Bleach fillers is that the arrancar arc may be the longest story arc ever shown in a shonen series unlike Naruto and One Piece’s arcs that are shorter making their fillers don’t seem to cut to much. Besides, Kubo tends to use a page without anything happening in the manga to add more drama to the situations.

  10. @chii – It can be hard to give up on a series!

    @sainta – I also find it strange when they cut things that were in the manga from appearing in the anime, as it’s clear that they have no problem with drawing out some scenes even longer in the anime.

  11. This is why I dropped bleach long long ago 😛 I’m glad I did, this episode is definitely not worth watching. Maybe I should start reading the manga xD

  12. actually did you know that this sentai parody is based on an omake from the Bleach appearing around volume 30? There they only used incomplete panels, but the anime staff wanted to adapt it.

  13. @Ruby – The manga has much better pacing.  It’s like night and day.

    @sainta – Hmm; while I don’t recall it offhand (and I am caught up on the manga), it doesn’t surprise me too much. Good to know.

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