Ichigo Kurosaki is a 15 year old high school student with the ability to see, hear, talk, and touch spirits. While sitting in his room, a spirit of a samurai girl enters. Ichigo reveals that she's actually visible to him, and the girl named Rukia Kuchiki explains her identity and purpose. Rukia is a Soul Reaper, which are a group of spiritual samurai's from The Soul Society whose mission is to help wandering souls pass on. These wandering and harmless souls are called Wholes. However, another being of souls exist called Hollows. These are evil spirits with an endless hunger to devour souls and can even kill the living. The devoured souls eventually becomes Hollows themselves.
After a battle with a Hollow, Rukia is wounded protecting Ichigo. Unable to continue battle, she lends Ichigo her powers, thus turning him into a substitute Soul Reaper armed with an over-sized sword. After the battle, Ichigo must continue her mission to help all souls pass on plus defend the world from the Hollows.-summary
Bleach: The Substitute is the first of three continuing arcs in this portion of the series. Bleach is another one of those long running action series that are in large supply these days. It borrows heavily from series before it; such as Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragonball Z. Like DBZ especially, Bleach is a few seasons too long. But this first story arc along with the next two arcs does a pretty good to decent job delivering the story.
I like the premise of Bleach, even though the whole spirit world story has been done before in Yu Yu Hakusho. I think it's done a little better here. The origin of the Hollows and how they constantly spread are very interesting, yet creepy as well. The Hollows are very crafty and formidable opponents. Some of the stories in the first arc are very good displaying their cruel nature. Many fans of the series that I know, acknowledge this chapter as one of the best and most engaging in the storyline.
Unfortunately, the characters aren't as interesting as the Hollows. Ichigo is your average fearless shonen hero who dives into battle with little to no strategy. You're either going to like him or you're not. The supporting characters are every bit as bland as he is, and they could fit comfortably in other series of its type; such as Darker Than Black, Inu-Yasha, and even Shakugen No Shana, which I'm sure says something about those as well.
Despite the characters uninteresting personalities, Bleach works in other areas. Some of the comedy is okay to me, especially, the interactions between Ichigo and his father. The story moves at a pretty good pace, and some background is given that moves the plot along. Other events begin to take place and later a twist is added to increase the suspense.
The animation is pretty good during the battles, and gets better later on in the series. The scenes do not consist of the re-used cel format, but I won't say that the choreography is good, it's about as decent as one would expect from these shonen series. The artwork is nice, and the Hollows are the showstealers, with some of their creative and creepy designs. Another area the series shines very bright in happens to be its soundtrack. Bleach is no slouch in the music department, but most Shonen Jump anime is packaged with a solid music score anyway. The opening rock song Asterisk, which is performed by Orange Range, has a catchy sound with the lyrics to go with it. The BGM has a nice feel to it as well. It does enhance some of the action scenes a good deal, while at other times it can set the right mood during quiet moments, as well as during comedic segments. But it can use a bit of variety though, because the songs lose some of their appeal later on due to over exposure.
I have no complaints with the voice acting. I prefer the English language the best, because I find the dialogue a bit more entertaining. The series does contain a very small amount of foul language. The fight scenes can be pretty bloody, but nothing too graphic in my view. Outside of maybe one bouncy character, the fan service is practically non existent.
In closing, Bleach is excellent for those who consider Dragon Ball Z, Inu-Yasha, and Naruto to be great anime. This is the type of series I can only get into when I want something simple, especially, since I've binged on numerous serious not of this breed. If you find yourself hooked on this first chapter, then immediately pick up the following two arcs: Bleach: The Entry and Bleach: The Rescue. This chapter is 20 episodes with a 500 minute length.
-Very good opening song and BGM
-Lots of action, interesting beginning
-Derivative of many shonen series before it
-Very bland supporting characters
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