Bleach Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 24, 2005
Release Date: Saturday, May 01, 2004
Translated by:Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn't change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family, but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits, and along with Rukia, who is slowly regaining her powers, it's Ichigo's job to both protect the innocent from Hollows and to help the spirits themselves find peace.
For the front cover we get the JP cover artwork and the JP logo in the same position at the top. The Shonen Jump label is present in small text at the bottom right along with the creator name. The back cover has some character artwork of Ichigo and Rukia. Inside there is the artwork from the JP sleeve along with a few words from Kubo. For extras we get a couple character profiles of Ichigo and Rukia that include full body character sketches. The print job is nicely done and the tones are dark. We also get the original chapter headers which features Kubo’s quirky flavor of artwork.
One of the strengths of Bleach is how Kubo breathes fun and interesting personalities into his characters with his great designs. Kubo adds a certain touch and flare to his characters that adds to each of their personalities: Orihime has her hairpins, Ichigo has the funny t-shirts, Rukia has her strange gadgets, and Chad with his paisley, polyester shirts. It’s these little things that I really enjoy about his designs. My favorite design would have to be Rukia, who looks like the manga version of Wednesday Addams. The chapter headers also feature the quirky artwork from Kubo, where he dresses his characters up in flamboyant outfits to give them a real cool, hip look.
I was less than impressed with the Hollow designs, which just seem uninspired, and action scenes The action scenes at first are somewhat messy and have a bit of overuse of the line effect to add intensity, which doesn’t really work. This got marginally better as the volume went on, so I believe Kubo is just honing his craft in these early chapters. There is minimal background art used in most of the panels.
What Kubo does do extremely well prior to the action scenes is adds his flavor and style to the panel work. The long, skinny panel facial shots give it a pulp/horror feel and add a certain dramatic effect that is pulled off quite nicely.
The SFX are translated and retouched. The problem with the retouch here is that the English retouch takes up more space than the Japanese, which causes some of the SFX to cover up more of the artwork. Much of the original SFX were already large to begin with, so this problem really because apparent on some of the panels with large SFX.
I don’t want to get into the debate over the translation of Shinigami to Soul Reaper, but I do want to point out one moment of awkwardness in this translation. When Rukia and Ichigo first meet, Ichigo remarks how even though he sees ghosts he never once thought that Soul Reapers would exist. Even Rukia acts surprised when he admits that he does not believe in them because he’s never seen one. This scene makes more sense when they are talking about the Shinigami from Japanese folklore, as after translation you lose that context and I was left feeling, “Am I supposed to know what a Soul Reaper is?”. A minor quibble as after this point the translation works just fine.
The dialogue for Rukia was translated and handled very well. Her speech comes across as articulate and proper, and she gives out commands like she is a solider. Given the age and background of Rukia, it really helped bring her character to life and give her a personality of her own.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Ichigo Kurosaki sees ghosts. He helps them out and consoles them to the best of his ability even though it is stressing him out. Despite this, he has never once considered the possibility that Soul Reapers also exist. That is, until one of the Soul Reapers, named Rukia Kukichi, comes walking into his room, cloaked in black and carrying a sword. The Soul Reaper’s job is too send the souls of the dead to the Soul Society and eliminate all the souls gone, which are called Hollows. Ichigo’s life is about to get a whole lot more stressful.
After stumbling out of the blocks with a bad introduction for Ichigo and an overused gag with his father that just wouldn’t stop, the first chapter offers an interesting setup. Rukia shows up in Ichigo’s room to take care of a Hollow in the vicinity of the Kurosaki household and is surprised when she finds out Ichigo can not only see her but break her binding spell she puts on him to keep him quiet. Distracted by this strong presence of Ichigo, the Hollow begins to attack the Kurosaki family. During battle with the Hollow, Rukia is injured and is unable to fight so she attempts to give Ichigo half of her powers so he can help. The problem is that Ichigo ends up taking almost all of Rukia’s Soul Reaper powers and becomes a Soul Reaper himself. Now Rukia is stuck in the land of the living, unable to return to the Soul Society, and she must command Ichigo to hunt down all the Hollows that show up. In order to keep close to Ichigo, she disguises herself as one of his classmates which results in some really clever fish-out-of-water type of humor. Her quirkiness provides some really great humor, as she secretly steals Ichigo’s little sister’s pajamas and sleeps in his closet all unbeknownst to Ichigo.
While the first chapter offers a unique setup in that it takes a really dark turn as Ichigo’s family is attacked, it then looses a bit of it’s fire as it hits a sort of reset and the family goes back to being okay. While this keeps the story from getting to dark, and the aftermath is handled with a bit of humor, I thought that it sort of sucked a bit of the momentum out of the story.
The next couple stories deal with Ichigo and Rukia hunting down Hollows. As the story progresses, Rukia explains more and more to Ichigo about the world of the Soul Society, Hollows, and the jobs of the Soul Reapers. The majority of the volume deals with a Hollow that follows one of Ichigo’s classmates Orihime. The Hollow is in fact her dead brother of years back who was unable to pass on because of his inability to let his sister go on living. It offers a nice, touching story and I think adds a dimension to Orihime other than the big-breasted bimbo that she is first portrayed as. The final chapter begins another mini-story arc with another of Ichigo’s classmates, the paisley shirt sporting Chad.
While I do love the Bleach series, I do find that the opening volume struggles a bit in hooking the reader. The conclusion of the first story sort of kills off a bit of steam, and I though it took a while for it to recover. The Hollow battles are really not that impressive. Kubo seems to be working out the kinks in the early chapters here, but I thought things showed more promise in the last chapter. It is also hard to really like the main character, Ichigo, as he comes off as a frowning punk and we aren’t given to much background material on him. He does have a good trait in that he seems to want to protect those in need.
While the first volume is pretty standard, opening-volume shounen material, I thought there were quite a few high points. The main selling point for me is the introduction of Rukia. It is hilarious to watch her both manage the orders from the Soul Society, train Ichigo, and try to blend in with the other high school students. Kubo’s other quirky characters like Orihime and Chad also add some enjoyment in this first volume. I think that if you can enjoy these characters, and the quirks and oddities of them, then you will find yourself enjoying this first volume of Bleach.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left