This week, I’m turning over the column to my eldest son, age fifteen, because he wanted to talk about Bleach, one of his favorite manga series.
Specifically, he wanted to recommend the Bleach Value Pack, Volumes 1-3. I’ll turn the rest of the post over to him. I did review Bleach previously but he has an interesting perspective, especially on what and what subject matter isn’t suitable for younger children.
Single Bleach volumes are priced at $10 a book, but this is $15 for three. That’s half price over the single volumes. Editions like this have been coming out for a while now from series such as One Piece, Death Note, Dragon Ball, and Dragon Ball Z.. This lower pricing has been a smart move on Viz’s part and I hope this trend will continue. For example, this edition of Bleach‘s first three books is priced the same as Death Note‘s combo pack of its first two books.
For people who are not familiar with Bleach, it’s a real classic, if you don’t mind a little bit of blood.
The story is that a Japanese teenager named Ichigo Kurosaki, who can see ghosts, encounters a hollow and a Soul Reaper one day. Hollows are monsters that eat ghosts and sometimes the living that see ghosts, because their souls are said to be especially strong and tasty. Soul Reapers use swords and magic to fight and kill hollows to save souls. They can also exorcise spirits and send them to the Soul Society, a version of the afterlife. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
Well about halfway through the story Bleach gets so confusing with its views of Hollows, the afterlife, and reincarnation that one begins to get the impression that writer Tite Kubo is making it up as he goes along. That doesn’t really matter, though, because his world makes room for so many interesting characters that are a lot of fun to see in action. Anyway, Ichigo winds up with Soul Reaper powers after a Reaper named Rukia lends him some of her powers to help his family. He winds up taking all of it though so she can’t go back to the Soul Society, leaving her no choice but to train Ichigo to hunt down Hollows to save and exorcise souls.
There is a lot of humor in the story, but the general plot remains serious and bloody for the majority of the time. Included in this is when Bleach takes a dramatic shift in plot after volume five, which leads to extremely well written character development and a plot that really grips you. The first four books, three of which are in this volume, are composed mainly of individual stories to introduce you to the characters. They each have engrossing turns and endings to them though, ranging from Ichigo saving his klutzy female classmate from a Hollow to facing the killer of his mother. If you’re wondering about how long reading it will take, remember that it is a comic book, which reads faster than anything with just plain text.
Most people would like to know if it is alright for children. To be honest, it is rated T for a reason. There is blood everywhere almost all the time, but you almost never see a character die so you won’t have to deal with someone running into your room at night and crying like what parents who let their kids read Harry Potter had to deal with.
I think one or two of the characters smoke every now and then but the main problem is cleavage. No one ever has intercourse over the course of the series but there a few scenes of almost complete nudity. By almost, I mean that the couple instances of actual nudity in later books had mist surrounding the private areas or the character being in a position where you don’t see everything. There is also a decent amount of cussing. It’s not as bad as the online direct translations so there are no F bombs but everyone who’s read the books knows that Ichigo’s catchphrase is “You b*stard!” every time an antagonist says something sadistic.
To be honest, I don’t think it’s that harmful to children. Ichigo always tries to do the right thing, unlike Kira. Moreover, the plot encourages one to do the right thing. I let my little brother and sister read the series at age 10 and they never had any kinds of nightmares from it.
The three-in-one edition is rather basic. There is nothing in it that the original volumes did not have and it still reads from right to left. That’s because in Japan they format their books differently. After about ten pages one will forget that it reads backwards from American comics. The panels do seem a bit condensed, but it does not compromise the quality of the artwork, and the edition itself is more durable than most paperbacks.
In conclusion, a highly recommend purchasing this. Bleach is a fantastic story and is a real catch at $15. Here’s to further copies of one of the most highly praised manga out there!