This is another one of my old articles. This one is a bit different, because I looked at the original pilot for Bleach, the one-shot that got the series picked up in the first place. I reviewed it for Caiminds and my own site, On The Dark Side of Things. BTW, check out Caiminds, I have a new manga review up there you should read and stuff. Anyhow, onto the pilot review.
I have had a long, long love/hate relationship with Bleach, eventually leading to this article I wrote on my blog trying to defend its good points and why I fell in love with the series in the first place. You know, until our good friend Aizen became the most OP motherfucker alive and most of the main cast weren't allowed to do anything. I honestly believe the early arcs of Bleach were of high quality and made for damn enjoyable stories and conflicts, well focused and filled with wonderful dialog. Then my curiosity was peaked. While browsing the Bleach threads of /a/ (where else will I get such a large amount of Rukia reaction picks for avatars?), a bunch of arguing shippers (because internet) kept citing the Bleach manga's pilot chapter for Kubo's true intentions to who Ichigo would end up with. Then someone mentioned on TV Tropes that Rukia was small enough to fit in one's pocket in said pilot, and if you have known me for at least five minutes, that's the second most amazing thing you could ever tell me besides "Arrested Development crossed over with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
The plot for this pilot is similar to the eventual series, but with some noticeable changes. First off, Ichigo's family never comes up, focusing instead on Rukia saving him from a massive hollow after he thought she was attacking an innocent spirit. The set up of Ichigo having to do her job as a soul reaper remains the same, except Rukia expending her powers has lead to her shrinking down so small that she can fit in a mug. That feeling you get when you see 12,000 puppies playing with 12,000 kittens is what I feel to this concept. The main plot kicks in when Orihime, a supporting character who Ichigo is attracted to here, kicks the bucket and needs to be taken to the soul society. As for the hollow that attacks her, it's an interesting twist on what eventually made it into her first major arc in the main series.
|Ghosts are weird like that.|
The character dynamics are almost exactly the same as they eventually became during the series. Ichigo and Rukia argue constantly, with Rukia taking the bossy role. Orihime is just as much as a kind yet spacey girl she was in the early chapters, with her crush on Ichigo still readily apparent. In a weird little turn, Ichigo has a crush on her as well here. Another significant change is that Rukia has more power in her relationship with Ichigo, shown in a really funny scene where she forces him out of his body with a little fork object. Otherwise, it all plays out in a similar manner to the final versions. There are minor backstory differences, like Ichigo's family running a funeral home, but the personalities are ultimately the same.
The main conflict mirrors Orihime's first interaction with a hollow in the main series, down to who the hollow actually is. The speech is even similar, but it does a better job at establishing just how tragic hollows actually are. Innocent people corrupted by loneliness and despair due to their unstable nature as spirits, lashing out against those they care deeply for out of desire made by their twisted minds. It's handled well in the time given, establishing Ichigo's more sympathetic side and Orihime's kindness, along with Rukia's sense of duty. How the hollow is actually stopped surprised me and put a good cap on the story. How the pilot was set up for future installments was my favorite part, truthfully, because it's far more logical to what actually occurred in the final product.
|Earth to Orihime...|
The dialog really makes the pilot work. Ichigo is still young and dynamic, acting tough but constantly showing signs of how green he actually is to the situations he's thrown in. It's played off Rukia's hardened, business first attitude much in the same way as the main series, but putting more attention to Ichigo's immaturity and idealism while going more with Rukia's experience with her work, mocking Ichigo's youthful bashfulness. When Orihime finally pops up, she keeps up perfectly with the two in a comedic manner, such with how easily she accepts that Ichigo has become a god of death and the worst regret she gives after dying is that she died by falling down stairs. It's Kubo's comedic writing at its finest.
The art is on the same level as the original chapters that followed. Honestly, I sort of prefer it. There is a lot of rough character designs, but I think it adds some extra personality to everyone, especially Ichigo. He just works better as an awkward, okay looking kid than the bishonen he's evolved into. The hollows, however, lack their mask motif and look mainly like normal spirits that can turn into more monstrous forms. I understand the angle, allowing them to disguise themselves, but I'm glad Kubo decided to change this. The one weird thing is that Ichigo has two stars on his kimono, located on the sleeves, as did Rukia with little flame logos. They don't really fit and I certainly don't miss them.
|It's not the size that matters, but second innuendo.|
This is a really well done pilot for a series and I can see why Bleach was picked up. The concept itself isn't that new, but it has great writing and a lot of fun comedy. It just oozes personality, something I've seen less and less of over the years of Bleach's run. It has that human element, where it was really just Kubo's own creative juices fueling it. No grand plots, no complex backstories, just a group of likable characters bouncing off each other and well done supernatural drama. Also, Rukia is pocket size for most of this. WHY COULDN'T THAT HAVE MADE IT INTO THE FINAL SERIES?
» Source: http://otdsot.blogspot.com/2013/05/bleach-pilot.html
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