I have returned! Sorry for the long delay, I've been working on original projects and haven't had much time to work on the next entry for WJA:TFE. Now, let's get to it!

Too cool for school, fool!

(Apologies in advanced for the wonky, 16x9 screenshots: I didn't want to crop them without getting different picture sizes like in the opening image.)

Ah, Bleach. One of the former "big three" series of modern Weekly Shonen Jump (the other two being Naruto and One Piece) and one of the most popular titles to come out of WSJ for the past decade.

Um... apologies to any Bleach fans but...

I don't care all that much for Bleach. Amongst its contemporaries, I find it to be one of the least inspired and quite tough to go through once the initial story arc finishes. It just reminds me a bit too much of Yu Yu Hakusho (apparently the editors at WSJ thought the same and rejected the series at first but eventually gave in because Akira Toriyama stepped in.) and I don't care too much for Tite Kubo's art style and writing.

That's not too say that Bleach isn't a complete wash (...), some of the characters are fun and a few of the battles can be entertaining.

Enough of the negativity, let's get to the episode summary!

"Let's hope Ichigo and dad don't find a road-roller..."

Bleach - Episode 1

Our story begins in a otherworldly wasteland where dark creatures begin to invade our world through supernatural means. A girl wearing a black robe with a sword at her side leaps into action. We then leap ahead a day or two later where we meet our main character: Ichigo Kurosaki-- A tenth-grader tough guy with orange hair. He picks a fight with some skateboarders after we find out that they accidently knocked over a glass of flowers for a girl who died recently. Ichigo berates the guys (even beating up one of them) and chases them off. He then apologizes to the ghost of the girl who was watching from where the flowers were knocked over. He tells her to move on-- Its apparent that Ichigo can see ghosts.

Ichigo arrives home and gets into a fight with his dad over being late for dinner-- His family (his father and two sisters) already seem well aware of Ichigo's gift as another ghost haunts Ichigo, much to the annoyance of the high-schooler.

The next day it turns out that there was some sort of incident where a group of buildings had suffered a massive amount of damage from an unseen force near the Kurosaki household. Ichigo heads out with more flowers for the ghost girl from before but hears a scream-- another attack! Ichigo arrives to see a large creature wearing a mask chasing after the ghost girl!

The two are then saved by the black-robed girl from before. She disposes of the beast with her sword and leaves them without saying a word. It turns out only Ichigo was able to see the creature and the girl. Later on, Ichigo sits in his room, trying to figure out who the black-robed girl was... who then literally appears in his room.

"Hey, you're not Botan!"

Ichigo promptly kicks her when she doesn't respond to his surprised reaction to her being in his room. The girl is surprised that he can see and touch her and then recognizes the high-schooler from when she defeated the monster earlier. She tells him that she is a Soul Reaper. Elsewhere, the ghost girl is being chased by another monster.

The black-robed girl (called Rukia) explains to Ichigo that she is from the Soul Society and was sent to this world to exorcise evil demons-- Ichigo doesn't believe a word of it. Rukia then restrains Ichigo with a technique of some kind and mocks him. She then exorcises the ghost that was haunting Ichigo the day before, sending him to the Soul Society. Afterwards, Rukia explains that there are two types of spirits, the good ones like the ghost girl and the ghost she just exorcised and the Hollow, bad spirits that hunt and devour the souls of both the living and the dead. (This is all explained through some really bad drawings made by Rukia, which is pretty funny.)

It is up to the Soul Reapers to bring the good spirits to Soul Society and to purify the evil Hollow. It is unknown why the Hollow do what they do-- speaking of which, the Hollow stops hunting the ghost girl as it smells a wonderful spirit and a Soul Reaper nearby.

The Hollow arrives at Ichigo's house without Rukia knowing and attacks Ichigo's sisters (his dad is away for the day), kidnapping one of them. Ichigo sees this and is so angered that he breaks the technique Rukia used to bind him-- much to the Soul Reaper's surprise. Ichigo tries to save his sister but fails and Rukia preapres to battle the Hollow-- who is after Ichigo because of his unsurpressed spiritual energy. Ichigo challenges the Hollow and is nearly killed but Rukia manages to save him, getting badly hurt in the process.

She then tells him to become a Soul Reaper and exorcise the Hollow by taking her sword and absorbing half of her power. With a great flash of light, Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper and slices one of the Hollow's arms off. It turns out that Ichigo had taken all of Rukia's Soul Reaper power, much to her confusion.

Ichigo defeats the Hollow, becoming the Substitute Soul Reaper and the episode ends.

"...Is it that time of month again?"

Not a bad first episode! It sets up the initial premise of the series nicely and delivers a quick introduction while leaving some mystery for further episodes to explore. Ichigo is a neat protagonist but isn't too special... the real character that makes this episode fun to watch is Rukia. She is quite funny, which offsets her serious demeanor and stops her from becoming just another 'tutor' character. Outside of his funny father, Ichigo's family isn't explored all too well and don't leave much of an impression.

The animation by Studio Pierott is okay with some stylish touches to make it stand out a bit more. (though the animation and style in the opening is fantastic!) The music for the episode is actually one of the best parts-- there are some dark, haunting tracks and a peppy 'ass-kicking' song towards the end that are really good. Then there's the opening song "Orange Range" by Asterik. Its fantastic and combined with the stylish animation makes for one of the best openings for a modern WSJ anime... the same can't be said for the closing song "Life is Like a Boat" by Rie Fu-- It just feels odd.

While I am not a fan of the series, Bleach is entertaining during these opening episodes when the action is smaller scaled and had a sort of supernatural twist to it. (even if its a bit too reminiscent of Yu Yu Hakusho) Its when the series heads to the Soul Society and becomes a standard battle series is when it loses me. It becomes bogged down by post-Dragon Ball cliches without doing much new or different.

Bleach is available on DVD from Viz Media and officially streams on various sites. The original manga is also available from Viz Media and can be read weekly via Viz's official WSJ digital releases.

Next time I look at one of my personal favorites: The manly yet flamboyant JoJo's Bizarre Adventure! See you next time!