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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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01/28/2007 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Bleach 01"

Released by VIZ Media

Review by Richard Mellott

When I first accepted this mission, it was with great trepidation. The extent of my memories of other Manga-turned-movies was limited to Spirited Away. This famous animated movie "... is a 2001 film by the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli, written and directed by famed animator Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away was named Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards," according to my search engine blurb. Spirited Away, the dialogue of which I found childish and often incomprehensible, set the standard, so I was not impressed with anime back in its heyday.

With that in mind, leap to Wikipedia's current entry on the evolution of the Bleach manga. "The Bleach manga was first released in August of 2001 in Japan's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. New Japanese chapters are featured weekly in the same magazine; 260 chapters have been released as of January 26, 2007. The manga has been compiled into 25 tankobon by Shueish. The first volume of the manga has sold over 1.25 million copies in Japan, and the series as a whole has sold over 34 million volumes. In 2005, Bleach was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in the shonen category."

Now, updated five years by leaps in computerized animation, it was refreshing to see that the characters had really teenager-styled conversations, vivid fast complete with sarcasm and eye-rolling "duh!" moments. While the premises are still supernatural, the characters shine through in their genuine teenage angst-ridden dialogues. The first four episodes of the TV series, with English language dubbing and recomposed by native speakers, provide a thrilling peek into the beginnings of an epic saga that continues to draw millions to its magic.

Bleach 01 has snappy drawings, and the action rocks with an authentic style that makes for an entertaining visual treat. Style points are given for hair, clothing, and damaged monsters. The characteristic transformed soul-eating "hollows,' who appear and disappear in puffs of cosmic smoke, are huge, lumbering, armored behemoths, way beyond Hulk's dimensions. They are still, however, capable of having complete conversations, which helps to explain movement of the story line, with more engagement by the viewers and mostly male readers; in Japanese, "Shonen" means Boys'. The emotions of the main characters are explicitly, yet subtly played out over their well-drawn faces. What will really appeal to the English-speaking viewer is the easy access to chapters and episodes, and not having to read subtitles. Everyone knows boys hate to read, right?

To the manga-mad fans that insist on reading backwards, the Bleach manga series is extremely available and massively popular. One of my students at the middle school where I teach (Yes, I have a day job.) has offered to swap the manga for the movie, and yet he keeps forgetting to bring the coveted novels. He usually carries two or three at a time, and tries to sneak them out during lessons. I tend to "wink" at this, as he can't read forward worth beans. As an English teacher who is always looking for ways to engage readers, the mangas I have seen my students packing have me fascinated; the drama sustains their attention during the rougher vocabulary challenges.

My stepson knows of the series from his 30-year-old uncle in the Philippines ("He's crazy about them!"), and he saw them first, while visiting there last summer. The TV series this DVD comes from is extremely popular in the Anime devouring community, Japanese teenagers, many miles and culture-shock-waves away.

Get them, enjoy them, and share them. The Anime craze has come into the mainstream, and popular culture has not yet diluted their crazy author's potent graphics and stylistic stories of super-heroes from the dark side. Don't forget the game cards, tee-shirts, magazines, online fan clubs, chats and forums. You gotta get them all, and Bleach is the bomb...where'd they get that name?

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