Creator: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
RRP: $7.95
Bleach v1
Reviewed by Michael Aronson

“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, it’s Ichigo’s job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.”

Now I get it. Although the first volume of Bleach bears little resemblance to the situations and stakes I glimpsed in later volumes, it’s far more accessible and irresistibly likeable. In protagonist Ichigo and “sidekick” Rukia, creator Kubo has realized two very unique and colorful characters. Ichigo is a snarky cynic who reluctantly adjusts to the responsibilities of a Soul Reaper more quickly than he expects. His supporting cast is quick fond of him, though they never fail to give him a bit of social hell, to which Ichigo acts like he couldn’t care less, even if he does.

The Soul Reaper stuff is a little typically Ghostbusters, and we’ve certainly seen its like in other manga and anime properties (reminds me of Blue Seed). But as I’ve been fortunate enough to look at later volumes, the stakes will eventually grow far beyond ghostbusting. When and where that development comes, I don’t know, but I’m pretty satisfied with this modest opening. Ichigo will likely continue to wrestle with demons he can handle on his own or with Rukia’s help until he needs the aid of the Soul Society. I only hope the two status quos will be integrated smoothly and not at the cost of the lighthearted moments of Ichigo’s personal life.

At first glance, Kubo’s art seems pretty standard, but there’s something a little more mature and a little more inventive about his page composition. The way the Hollow Kakei attacks his sister suggests a far more grotesque nature of these creatures, and though the series is rated teen, the subject matter of the dead and the afterlife is a bit weightier than standard teen-rated fare, similar to Full Metal Alchemist.

Not a bad start at all. I’m cautiously optimistic.

12 October 2007
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