Saturday, September 23, 2006

Review: Bleach vol 1

Bleach is Tite Kubo's second comic. His first was the short lived Zombie Powder, which caught my eye four or five years ago when I saw a single chapter of it. Of course, I had no idea what was going on, and having learned what it's about now, I'm still not certain the story was any good. The art, however, was impressive. Sleek and angular.

For being his second series, the first volume of Bleach looks rather awkward. The style hasn't quite solidified—similar to what was happening Nobuhiro Watsuki's Buso Renkin vol 1.

The story concerns a high school student named Ichigo Kurosaki, and how his family is attacked by a "hollow." (Hollows, we find out, are souls turned almost demonic because they have not been given a passing on ceremony that would admit them to the Soul Society.) Ruika Kuchiki is a member of the Soul Society, charged with hunting down Hollows. She attempts to lend some of her Soul Reaper powers to Ichigo so he can save his family, but he absorbs all of her powers. This makes him a Soul Reaper, and until Ruika's powers build back, Ichigo will have to perform her duties for her.

His odd, quirky family provide comedy relief—including a father who routinely beats him up. Ichigo's friends pose as bait, and there's clearly a love interest in the girl Orihime.

Bleach and Buso Renkin strike me as a wonderful compare/contrast project. They have a lot of similiarities. A main protagonist with "unsually" strong undeveloped powers. A female protagonist serving as the mentor who must guide the young male through the trials of his new role in society. (It's an interesting relationship, and I think I'd like to write something with that.) The opening story is so similar in places that I had deja vu reading it.

Buso Renkin uses alchemy, that mix of science and magic—and most of the science in Japanese comics might as well be considered magic when examined realistically—to fuel its world. The monster that are fought are humans transformed through alchemy gone wrong. The weapon that fight the monsters were created by alchemy. The ones responsible to set the world right and protect it are a society of alchemists. Since it was published in 2003, two years after Bleach started, it's possible that Watsuki was influenced by Kubo's series. One could describe Buso Renkin as "Bleach with alchemists."

However, Bleach moves a little slower. It appears to be setting up for a long, long journey of gradual development. (That Viz has already released 16 volumes almost confirms the theory.)

I'll probably read volume two, but I didn't feel the complusion to know what was going to happen, like I did with Buso Renkin.

Rating: B+

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