Tite Kubo’s Bleach was once in the top running for one of the best manga franchises ever produced, alongside Naruto and One Piece. Although Naruto ended strongly and One Piece is still captivating audiences, Bleach has since faded from the public spotlight. The manga entered its final story arc in February 2012 and is now scheduled to release its final chapter on August 22. What was once one of the big three anime/manga now feels like a shell of its former self with a story arc that seems to have dragged on forever. But, we can’t forget how great the original manga was.
Admittedly, many of us stopped watching the anime and reading the manga when Aizen, the original villain in the earlier story arcs, was captured after his battle with Ichigo. It seemed like a fitting end to a storyline that ran the gamut in character reveals, plot twists, and amazing fight scenes.
But Tite Kubo didn’t feel that it was the end of Bleach. Since the story continues, Ichigo is revealed to be half-quincy, some of his former friends turn on him, and a lot of characters die. Bleach is a quintessential example of something that should end in its prime, solidifying its place among the greats. Instead of going out like Bo Jackson, the manga is going out like Kobe Bryant — on its last two legs and struggling to hold on to relevancy.
At times, Bleach gave us a better storyline than both One Piece and Naruto. Its villains, in particular, felt more fascinating and fully-realized than the antagonists in other series. Aizen’s character reveal as the main antagonist was very surprising and shocked a lot of the story’s followers. That type of shock kept us all interested, especially because Aizen was framed as a kind and benevolent person before his eventual betrayal of Ichigo and the entire Soul Society. He turned out to be ambitious and calculating, always having a backup plan and having little regard for the lives of everybody, including his underlings.
His legion of followers, The Espada, were probably the best part of the show. A lot of people fell for Grimmjow and Ulquiorra, heralding the two for their backstory, dialogue, and fighting ability. Each character had different personalities and this allowed Bleach to reach out to multiple audiences. Even if an individual didn’t like the villains, the protagonists were also very interesting because they were not typical heroes. Their various motivations and beliefs led them to fight each other, though they belonged to the same side. Having a wide range of characters all existing at one time is a difficult task to accomplish. Although it has not done well with this recently, Bleach did well with this in the past.
With the wide array of characters came a large amount of character abilities as well. We became obsessed with finding out what each character’s Bankai (their special move) was. This led to very large fight sequences with multiple characters battling at the same time. It was captivating, but sadly, a lot of the battles fell to the wayside and many villains were defeated in a lackluster fashion, like the defeat of Tosen or Stark.
Even though the manga is on its last legs, it is hard to see something that brought us so many memories disappear. There is going to be a surprise announcement following the release of the final chapter. Perhaps Tite Kubo is trying to revive the now-deceased anime. If it were to come back, we hope that it can be a return to what Bleach once was and not what it has grown to become: a forgotten classic.