Bleach – Season 10: Arrancar vs. Shinigami arc

Bleach – Season 10: Arrancar vs. Shinigami arc

image
The battle against Aizen and his army of powerful Arrancar and Espada in order to free Orihime continues. We see a new side of Nell, more powerful versions of Szaelporro and a certain small group of shinigami captains appear in Hueco Mundo to ramp up some serious high-octane fights.

Ten seasons in and I’m starting to think that Bleach should be progressing a little faster than it actually is. It has the feeling that it’s being kept alive by artificial respiration at times, and things could have been easily condensed into an anime that is half as long and been twice as impressive as a result. What started as a great action-packed shounen series steeped in mythology has now become unnecessarily complex, changing the rules halfway through the plot if the producers think that certain twists and cliffhangers will extend the overall shelf life for a few more episodes.

image
You said it, Renji.

The amount of characters has almost become out of control. There are so many involved, all of which simply must have a certain amount of screen-time, so the same 10 minutes in time is covered from several different character perspectives, meaning that this stretches out the amount of episodes we have to sit through exponentially. It feels like more time has passed than actually has, and so these epic Bleach battles that were once a crowning glory is now the biggest cross to bear. At the same time it feels that other characters are noticeably missing for long stretches or just pop up occasionally with one-liners just to remind everyone that they’re still kicking around and doing stuff, even if, for some reason, they’re not actually fighting Aizen (and why are they not doing this?).

image
Instead, we are given a small selection of very long one-on-one battles that outstay their welcome. If a fight ends quickly (god forbid), someone else suddenly takes up the challenge. If an opponent seems to be losing, they’ll suddenly gain a new power from nowhere that almost guarantees that we’ll still be watching their battle for at least one more episode. It makes all the usual fast-paced action seem excruciatingly lumbering and, after so many similar seasons, I’m beginning to feel unfulfilled even though it seems so much is going on. The fights used to be so original and unpredictable and now I’m unable to engage with most of it. Plus, I know that the fights I’m watching here are still a long way off any real conclusion, and that’s what I feel is most disappointing.

image
Trust me, you did. Now, are you going to get around to fighting in this episode?

However, there are still moments where we can see Bleach in its purest and best form, when less is truly more. The animation is still impressive and has come on a long way from the earlier seasons and, when the characters get a chance to converse amidst all the sword-swinging and powering-up, we see that they are still the likeable personalities they’re meant to be. Shame these moments are few and far between. Whilst shounen anime can often be described as formulaic, this isn’t technically a bad thing if all the elements are in good combination and the story is moving forward. Sousuke Aizen could’ve popped to Marbella for a fortnight for all the progress Ichigo and the other shinigami have been making recently.

image
We also have the reintroduction of Rurichiyo in this season. Whilst her addition could be construed as a filler element, it does give us a reprieve from the incessant fights and the constant chronicling of Aizen’s past and future plans. Going from one dark tale of Soul Society straight into another would have lessened the impact of both story lines. Thankfully, things are interesting from the onset and give you a deeper idea of some of the characters and their motivations, with some relationships evolving in interesting ways.

imageIf Bleach went back to its roots and became a bit more simple, more focused on the core characters and wasn’t plagued with constant ‘twists’ meant to roll out the length of the series for the sake of it, we would be onto a winner. Unfortunately, it feels like elements are shamelessly padded with enemies explaining their actions, heroes patiently listening to their spiel before coming back with some of their own, and then the camera switching to another duo – with the process repeated yet again. But things do perk up towards the end of this season (if you have the fortitude to make it that far in), moving onto other character sets, worlds and moments in time. This includes Rurichiyo, of course, a game of Kemari and a short arc on what Soul Society was like 100 years ago. These episodes show more of what I think is Bleach in its greatest form: well-choreographed fights that go easy on the heavy dialogue. We also have a dash of humour and mythology as well as spots of character development. Hooray!

image
In my opinion Bleach is fine for now, but things look dangerously uncertain for the long term. It’s becoming too broad with its overall delivery, has trouble keeping tabs on its ever-expanding cast of characters and seems to have lost focus on where it’s meant to be going. If you’re still enjoying this anime to its fullest, you must be a die-hard fan.