OGIUE MANIAX

Anime & Manga Blog | 50% Anime Analysis, 50% Ogi

Ichigo x Rukia: The Victim of Soap Opera Tactics?

Warning: Bleach Ending Spoilers

I’ll be upfront: I shipped Ichigo x Rukia.

From the very start of Bleach I loved their dynamic. The continuously growing friendship, the humorous arguments, and both the establishment and reinforcement that their bond was something special made me feel that, if anything was true about Bleach, it was that they would end up loving each other and being closer than anyone could possibly imagine.

While romantic love is not the only kind out there, it’s clear from the ending of Bleach that creator Kubo Tite had a different idea in mind. As seen in the final chapter, Ichigo ends up with childhood friend Orihime, and Rukia ends up with a childhood friend of her own, Renji. While those two relationship paths were certainly developed throughout the series, it still seemed jarring to me because I still found the connection between Ichigo and Rukia to be so much stronger and more profound. Because I wasn’t deeply invested in Bleach by the end, these canon pairings didn’t jar me into any sort of indignant fervor, but they nevertheless left me a bit puzzled.

In a conversation with Kate from the Reverse Thieves anime blog about when fans and creators disagree in terms of romance in particular fictional titles, she pointed towards the soap opera community. As love triangles and changing relationships are hallmarks of soap operas, they inevitably create strong groups of shippers for any and all combinations. However, when there is a particularly fervent fanbase that the creators disagree with greatly, one common tactic is to separate the two characters so that they are not allowed any on-screen time together. The hope (though often a futile one) is that it will quash the support base for that particular pairing and promote the ones that are being shown.

Upon first hearing about this, I laughed at it as an amusing quirk of soap operas, but the more I thought about it the more it started to sound like exactly what happened with Bleach. If you look at early chapters of the manga, Ichigo and Rukia are around each other often, and their interaction is the core of what what makes the series endearing. When Rukia gets taken to Soul Society and Ichigo follows to rescue her, there’s a sense that something has been kindled between them, even if it might not necessarily be romantic feelings. It’s no wonder so many fans (including myself) latched onto this idea.

However, when looking at later developments in Bleach, Ichigo and Rukia are rarely seen together. I might be mistaken, but I think the last time that they spent any significant time together is after Soul Society when Rukia is supposedly gone but shows up at Ichigo’s high school once more, new and improved. While seeing Ichigo’s reaction to Rukia’s return is another “evidence” moment, what’s more important here is that, in just about every arc after this, Ichigo and Rukia are usually fighting separately. More often than not, Ichigo is with Orihime, and Rukia is with Renji. While Rukia had her own arc of being taken away to another world, Orihime gets the same treatment in Hueco Mundo. Even in the final battle against the ultimate villain of the series, Yhwach, these combinations are perpetuated.

Of course, I don’t actually know what went into Kubo’s thinking, but it just plain stands out to me that Ichigo and Rukia have so little page time together after a certain point in Bleach. Although ultimately how a relationship develops in fiction is the product of how creators write the characters, it’s as if Kubo had ended up smothering any additional opportunities for fans to enjoy and revel in the Ichigo/Rukia dynamic which made the series so strong initially. It feels like the only time we see them together again is in that final chapter when the two are already happily married to others and with kids of their own. The other remnant of their bond is when their respective children meet, but that is only a fragment of a new potential beginning between two similar-yet-different characters.

If you liked this post, consider becoming a sponsor of Ogiue Maniax through Patreon. You can get rewards for higher pledges, including a chance to request topics for the blog.

This Do is So Tite: Bleach and Hair

Since the most recent arc of Bleach, a number of characters have gotten new hairstyles, many of them seemingly odd compared to what had come before them. “Why does their hair look so much worse?” That feeling seems to be pretty prevalent among readers of Bleach.

While I agree that a number of the hairstyles just don’t quite look right, I think it doesn’t just have to do with Tite Kubo phoning it in. Allow me to explain right after this SPOILER CUT.

Continue reading

Shounen Opening Pattern

Recently, after years away from the Naruto anime, I decided to check out a few recent episodes of the second series,  Naruto Shippuuden. Watching the opening, I saw the Konoha ninjas fighting off an invasion of their home village, with each character getting their own time in the sun, as if the intro wanted to tell you that each and every character is Important. Given the immense cast of Naruto and the 90 second limit of the opening, this means that each character gets no more than a few moments. In fact, Uzumaki Naruto himself, our titular protagonist, hardly has more screen time than others. All in all, the opening is quite hectic.

Afterwards, I decided to go back and watch the very first Naruto opening, and right from when the orange ninja beckoned me to “C’mon,” I was getting an entirely different feel from  the Shippuuden intro. Instead of the scores of figures that currently populate the series, the first opening features only four characters. Rookie ninjas Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura, as well as their teacher and leader Kakashi are each focused upon extensively, and it makes the newest opening feel almost claustrophobic by comparison.

Part of this has to do with the open-endedness of the first opening. With no specific plot developments to hint at, it’s as if the characters and the intro itself are given room to breathe. You get a real sense that these characters are important, Naruto in particular. In a way, it’s quite relaxing.

I compared Bleach openings, too. Once again, the simple, yet heavy emphasis the first opening puts on Ichigo and Rukia differs a good deal from the almost overwhelming number of characters featured in the current opening. Taking a step back, the sheer contrast between then and now seems to speak towards the character bloat that the most popular shounen fighting series almost inevitably experience. If you go and watch every opening back to back, be it Bleach or Naruto, you can really experience the cast creep.

Having an enormous cast of characters in a shounen title is not anything new. Kinnikuman for example sports so many wrestlers that it can be difficult to keep track of everyone. However, the anime’s openings do not try to partition roughly the same amount of time for every character. They do not try to say that everyone else is almost as important as Kinnikuman himself. And while there are a number of differing factors between Kinnikuman and Naruto, not least of which is the fact that Naruto simply has more openings, I think it also highlights the increased focus on a “pick your favorite” method of presenting characters in anime and manga.

Essentially, I believe the reason that later Naruto and Bleach openings feature so many characters with roughly equal screen time is that they know each character has their own fanbase, and they want those fans to feel that their favorites are getting treated right. While I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with this, it still makes me miss those simpler times, when it was mainly just Ichigo and Rukia.

If you want to check out the openings I’ve referred to in this post, Crunchyroll has the latest episodes of Naruto and Bleach. As for the older ones, I’ve provided links below. Keep in mind that due to copyright policies and such, most of these videos are modified somewhat, usually by making them widescreen when they originally weren’t.

Naruto Opening 1

Bleach Opening 1

Kinnikuman Opening 1

Kinnikuman Opening 4

Home Made Kazoku Rap-Sings Their Way to Otakon

Otakon 2010 fires its first major volley with “Home Made Kazoku” as their Sunday musical guest.

Realistically speaking, this is pretty much the kind of musical guest I want at conventions more often. While I know that they’re not a J-ROCK BAND and thus won’t have quite as much clout among those who go to anime conventions mainly for the concerts, Home Made Kazoku’s a legitimate act that’s actually done music for popular anime. I mean, you couldn’t exactly call Naruto or Bleach small-fry cartoons (aside from literally being for children), and they also did “Shounen Heart,” the love-it-or-hate-it second opening of Eureka Seven.

I still consider it a crime that JAM Project got only a fraction of the audience of other musical guests at Otakon 2008, especially when they had Kageyama “Chala Head Chala” Hironobu, a guy whose songs almost every person at an anime con knows at least one of. While I get the appeal of the J-Rock band, I wouldn’t mind them nearly as much if more of them had actually sung something related to anime, or if they weren’t being sold mainly on image. Hell, a COVER of an anime song would be acceptable.

So, Home Made Kazoku. I can’t wait to see everyone at the concert try (and fail) to sing along to the rap portions.

That includes myself.

It’s hard!

How to Tell If You’re Tiring of Bleach: BANKAI GYAKUTEN

Now there are a lot of fans of the Shounen Jump manga and anime, Bleach. It’s one of the more popular series in the US, and of course does well in Japan too. However, along the way many fans fall off of Bleach or start to feel as if it’s dragging. Something is missing, something that drew you into the series initially and kept you reading for a long time. I believe there to be a simple indicator of whether or not you feel like either dropping Bleach or putting it on hiatus or whatever.

When a character reveals their Bankai for the first time, are you excited?

If you said, “No,” then it’s possible you need a break.

It’s difficult to tell with whom the “fault” lies. Maybe it’s that you the reader have read so much Bleach that it’s starting to become old hat. Maybe you’ve lost a taste for endless Shounen Fighting. Or maybe the author Kubo is losing his touch, or at the very least losing his touch in your eyes. Whatever the reason may be, you have the option of sitting back, avoiding the comic, and who knows? Maybe you’ll come back to it a month later and appreciate it anew. Or you might just never read it again.

But really, it all comes down to the Bankai. The reason why I use this specifically is that because the Bankai Reveal is always supposed to be a Big Deal in Bleach, and if the Big Deal moments aren’t grabbing you, something is up.

Oh, and if you tired of the manga before the first Bankai is ever revealed…well I can’t help you there.

My Eyes, I Can’t See

She can melt her own sword with her hotness

That is my reaction to catching up on over 100 chapters of Bleach.

You see, because when you get that much Bleach in your eyes it

Anyway, I actually started reading Bleach about 2 years ago and kept up with it pretty well, but the day my first external hard drive died was the same day I downloaded a ton of Bleach manga, and it left me with sort of a sour taste. I basically abandoned the series shortly after the Soul Society Arc.

So here I am, all caught up, and the series seems to be gearing up again after a fairly nice, if shaky conclusion. The only problem, I realize, is that much of the comic for the past 100 chapters or so has felt very meandering. When you read in big chunks, time passes pretty quickly, but then I realized just how long it would have been had I been doing this every week. It’s kind of daunting when you step back and think about it.

Maybe it’s the fact that the humor more recently hasn’t been as strong as some of the earlier chapters (BOHAHAHAHA), or that because Ichigo and Rukia weren’t together for most of it that I didn’t get to see the strong interplay between the two that attracted me to the series in the first place. Actually, those two are kind of related, aren’t they?

Speaking of Rukia, she’s one of those unusual characters who always looks hotter in official art than she does in any fanart be it Japanese or American (see above). I don’t know what it is, but a lot of people who draw her don’t seem to “get” what makes her attractive, though they will work fine with Orihime, Yoruichi, Rangiku, Nemu, and practically the entire cast, but not Rukia. Rukia’s appeal lies in her eccentricity combined with her knowledge and naivety. She’s aggressive, but not as if she’s trying to compensate for being small, and there’s always a sense that she follows her own unique internal logic. Not to mention the nice eyes, and you know I’m a fan of nice eyes (see primary character theme of this blog).

Will I keep up with Bleach now that I’m all caught up? I don’t know. It is kind of fun to just wait a bit.

%d bloggers like this: