Thursday, August 18, 2016

At Last, 'Bleach' Wraps Up (Very Poorly)

After a fifteen-year run, the Bleach manga ends with its 686th chapter.   Which might as well, since it has long way gone beyond “jumping the shark” territory.  It used to be one of my most favorite manga/anime properties because it used to be genuinely riveting and badass.  But the last few years’ worth of chapters has ranged from mediocre to straight up godawful.  And the worst thing about it is that the obsessive nerd in me couldn’t stop myself from still following it regularly.  I felt I had invested too much fandom on it already that I just have to see it through till its end.

So every time a new chapter was out, I proceeded to read it.  I mostly had to suffer through a narrative that was either mind-numbingly boring that I soon forgot what I had just read or so pretentiously convoluted that I felt it was not worth the effort of making sense of it.  Then there were rare instances when it seemed to be going towards a direction that would make it good and exciting again – but these eventually dwindled or nothing substantial happened from them.

To sum it up, Bleach was somewhat of a torturous fandom for me, that its conclusion would come as a relief.
But though I wished it would finally end already, I was still a fan enough to wish for a fitting wrap up for it.   I wanted it to conclude organically – exploring all what needs to be explored, revealing all what needs to be revealed, and telling all what needs to be told in its own pace.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t set to happen.  Instead, it ended in such a weak, rushed, and abrupt manner in which the only logical explanation it had turned out that way was because: a.) the manga’s drop in popularity and equality led its publisher to pressure its creator, Tite Kubo, to end it ASAP in order to give way to on-the-rise manga titles; b.) Kubo was actually at loss where the story was going, didn’t know what his endgame was going to be, since – if the quality of his writing can be an indication – he had just been winging it on the fly in the past few years; or c.) both.

I’m greatly unsatisfied of its cop-out ending.  Here are some musings:
  • It ended without revealing several bankai releases – including those of Shinji Hirako, Isshin Kurosaki, and even big bad Sōsuke Aizen.
  • Isshin and Ryūken Ishida didn’t have any significant contribution to the final battle (I was wishing Isshin’s bankai was going to be revealed then).
  • I really wanted for Gin Ichimaru to show up – alive – in the end.  (This is just a minor fan nitpick, though.  I just love that character.)
  • The good guys never truly defeated their respective final Quincy opponents as Yhwach’s Auswählen absorbed them.

  • Rukia Kuchiki is now a captain?!  I like her as a character but she didn’t really contribute enough impact to warrant the position.  I understand that she was the late Captain Ukitake’s lieutenant, so it was within her rights to succeed him, but still.
  • Former vice-captains Isane Kotetsu and Tetsuzaemon Iba also succeeded their late captains’ positions.  At the very least, their bankai releases should have been revealed.
  • I was hoping that Ikkaku would eventually be forced to become a captain in the end.  He remains under Zaraki – replacing Yachiru Kusajishi as lieutenant.
  • Ichigo and Orihime Inoue got married.  Rukia and Renji Abarai got married.  I originally wanted Ichigo and Rukia to end up together.  But when Bleach got bad, I eventually stopped caring for the characters and whom they would hook up with.  Still, it would have been nice if Ichigo and Rukia did become a thing.
  • The final panels of the manga show Ichigo and Orihime’s kid meeting Rukia and Renji’s kid.  It was done in the lamest, most clichéd way possible.

If messy, unrewarding arcs about Fullbring and uber-powerful Quincies were all Bleach had to offer after the battle with Aizen, it would have been preferable if it instead ended then.  Sure, a lot of stuff hadn’t been covered yet at that point, and it would have left a lot of lingering questions in the air.  But the situation isn’t any better now.  It still ended with a lot of unexplored details (again, the unrevealed bankai releases are driving me crazy).  At least, if it ended then, it wouldn’t have had the Fullbring and Quincy garbage destroy its previously beloved reputation.

I’m glad that I’m finally free of the chore of reading Bleach (I now only specifically follow three manga titles: One Piece, Fairy Tail, and Hunter X Hunter).  But remembering how awesome it used to be, it makes me sad that it closed in such pathetic fashion.

(Sigh) I wish it had played out differently.  I wish Kubo had been able to make Bleach a masterpiece.

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