Remembering “Bleach” and Adult Swim- The End of an Era

The one thing that could possibly keep me from watching Prince perform on SNL for 8 non-stop minutes is the end of my very last animé series on Adult Swim.

I first started watching Cartoon Network on Saturdays after midnight in college.
It all began with InuYasha and FullMetal Alchemist. Some nights I stayed up until 2am to see other series I later gave up because I couldn’t stay awake that late. “S-cry-ed” is the only one of those that I remember. It was good, but I just couldn’t stay awake to get invested.

InuYasha was such a great series and it’s sad that the network lost the rights to the series after so many years.
I was kinda hoping they’d shoot another animé series to take us to the end of the manga (the series ended halfway through the manga storyline at episode 167). I got super invested in it and the characters, leading me into a series of fanfiction that I’m still hoping to adapt into my own creation.
Between other projects and the fact my story was hijacked from (plagiarism I did put a stop to but am still shaken about), I doubt that’s something that’ll ever pass. Oh well, I can always settle for dressing up as my character at Comic-Con one year.

FullMetal Alchemist I stuck with for TWO series. One was unique to the animé and the latter, Brotherhood, was closer to the manga. Enjoyed them both although I found Brotherhood pushed the envelope of believability. Also didn’t like how they changed who the homunculi (false humans created from attempts to resurrect humans) were and how convoluted the final 3 episodes were.

Another series I stuck with, for a relatively short time because it only lasted 26 or so episodes (both FullMetals ran for 40-50 episodes each) was Kekkaishi. I got into this rather easily because a) Vic Mignona (who I affectionately know as Edward Elric) did the voice for the main character Yoshimori and b) the premise reminded me a little of “Bleach”… protecting an area from demons and evil spirits.
Then there was the unrequited love Yoshimori had for his fellow Kekkaishi Tokine. I wanted him to succeed in wooing her even though she was very uptight and business-like around him. The dynamic reminded me a bit of Ash and Misty, but for whatever reason, I shipped for Yoshimori and Tokine and I still regard Misty with a lot of hostility.

Ok, I KNOW the reason why. But to me, it feels like 90% of Misty’s interaction with Ash was condescending and mean-spirited… with Tokine, it felt like 60% of the time.

Anyway, moving on… back to “Bleach.”

Upon further examination, “Bleach” had its Adult Swim premiere September 8, 2006.
It came to the end of its 366 episode run this Saturday, 8 years, 1 month and 25 days later.
Excluding the two hiatues and some holidays, that’s 366 Saturdays! That’s a long time!

I don’t think I’d stuck with anything quite that long before. And this brings to an end a very long standing tradition. I’ll see what happens the next couple weeks when I realize I don’t HAVE to stay up late for anything (except for SNL occasionally) on Saturday nights. But the one positive is that I don’t need to worry anymore about missing anything on Saturday nights when we go to the shorehouse 😛

Wow, where to even start?

One thing I can be grateful for: with my animé series that I’d stuck with on Adult Swim, the finales are never a disappointment. With “Bleach,” there wasn’t even any sadness. I knew it was coming. I had a while to accept it was coming and they pulled no punches. The series finished on the perfect note with everyone in good standing to continue through life happily.

There’ve been 16 seasons.

Season 1 was the origin story. Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchki passed her powers to human Ichigo Kurasaki. In her place, he defeats the Hollows wrecking havoc in his hometown of Karakura. Extraordinary powers start to manifest in his friends Orihime and Chad. He also meets Quincy Uryu Ishida, a type of being who have long been enemies of Soul Reapers. Instead of purifying departed souls with Zanpaktos (swords) to grant their entrance to the Soul Society, they destroy them by means of archery.
It ends where Rukia is taken back to the Soul Society by her brother, Byakuya where she will be punished for passing her powers off to Ichigo.

Season 2 was part 1 of the “Rescue Rukia” story arc. Ichigo, Chad, Orihime and Uryu enter the Soul Society to save her. They also have to duel against other soul reapers. It’s more of an introductory section, getting to know the 13 Court Guard Squads. Then there’s the story of Aizen’s murder and finding the culprit

Season 3 is part 2: Ichigo trains himself to learn Bankai, i.e. the next level, in order to become strong enough to defeat Byakuya. He does come to Rukia’s aid, but we later discover this drawn-out execution was plotted by Aizen (who faked his own death) for one reason: to gain possession of a magical object that was placed inside Rukia during her time in Karakura Town
Another result of this is that two captains: Ichimaru and Toshen defect and join Aizen in his plans.

This begins a very long and frustrating rollercoaster…

We introduce another race of beings, The Bounts, and have to defeat them and their leader, Kariya over the course of 2 seasons.
Three new mod souls (like Kon, who take refuge in stuffed animals) are also introduced.
One thing I particularly liked about this season was the reinstated screen time of Uryu, who had slowly become one of my favorite characters (after my bout with InuYasha, I’m a sucker for archery… bear in mind this was a couple years before The Hunger Games happened).
It was a little tricky, though, because he lost his Quincy powers in the previous season and Rukia still hadn’t regained her Soul Reaper powers since the beginning of the series. Her only attack was Kido: magical energy, mainly in the form of Hado #33 “Sokatsui”.

By their deaths, most of the Bounts are able to deem themselves in that they aren’t all bad inside.
Except for the leader, Kariya, who got so into Ichigo’s head that he was still being haunted by him into the beginning of Season 6.

Season 6 introduces two sets of new characters: the Vizoreds and the Arrancars.
Ichigo as of late had been bothered by the hollow powers that have started to manifest him that he’s unable to control. This is something that resulted from the process in which he gained his own Soul Reaper powers. He has a time limit to make the transformation or risk becoming a Hollow. He made the transformation at the brink of this limit so he actually has the power of both.
This is something he has in common with the Vizoreds, who want to recruit him to join them.

The Arrancars are Hollows that were given extra powers by Aizen using the Hogyoku. Their masks are removed and they have a new humanoid form as a result. We get to know a certain number of them in particular because they are Espadas: more powerful Arrancars who each have a designated number from 1-10

Season 6 begins and ends with Ichigo gaining control of his Hollow powers.

Season 7 shows more training for the upcoming battle with Aizen, but the biggest plot point is the kidnapping of Orihime. She’s conned into leaving with Arrancar #4 (however evil he turns out to be, he was my favorite) or all her friends will be killed. Ichigo and his friends go to the Hollow world Hueco Mundo to rescue her and are later joined by Renji and Rukia (the head captain deemed Orihime a traitor and therefore forbid the Soul Society from rescuing her)… this is almost a rehash of the “Rescue Rukia” story arc but it takes MUCH LONGER to resolve.

Season 8 sees the end of many Arrancars. The most noted being Grimmjow who was Ichigo’s biggest competition to overcome.

Things have progressed rather well at this point, but then frustration began to set it.
We have Season 9, our first side-story arc. We follow a new Soul Reaper captain Amagai (who took over for the defected Ichimaru) as well as this princess Lurichiyo from one of the primary noble clans of the Soul Society.
She’s at Karakura Town running away from home and becomes a source of annoyance for Ichigo.
As it turns out, the two things are connected. We’re to believe the new 3rd seed of Squad 3 is the bad buy when it’s really this new captain. All because he believed the head captain killed his father.
And the season ends with Ichigo defeating Amagai and Amagai committing suicide…
Just a bunch of WTF moments: the bad guy being the last person you expect (kinda like Aizen all over again) and the whole “he killed my father” motive… give me a break!

Season 10- We’re back in Hueco Mundo.
A lot of episodes were focused on Ichigo and Espada #5 as well as this other character Nell who is revealed to be a former Arrancar who lost her powers… I’ll have to look her up just to see what happened to her and her fiends. It was so hard to keep track of everyone with how long this series dragged on.
There was a huge moment for me when some of the Soul Reaper captains arrived to help rescue the other characters.
A real HELL YEAH! moment because it really wasn’t looking for some of them. Chad and Uryu in particular.
Aizen reveals his plans to destroy Karakura Town in order to create a special key that’ll more or less grant him universal domination.

Season 11, which I wasn’t aware was an actual season, told the origin story of the Vizoreds. They used to be Soul Reapers that Aizen experimented on. They were overwhelmed by Hollow powers, presumed dead and Keisuke Urahara (who was Captain of Squad 12 and head of the department of research & development) was banished to the world of the living, framed for their illegal creation.
Other than explaining this origin story, it served another purpose:
Making us hate Aizen even more… and this had some of the spookier scenes of the entire series because these Hollow transformations came out of nowhere and went out of control.

Season 12 is more of the individual duels in Karakura and at Hueco Mundo….

then Season 13 and puts the action on hold AGAIN…
annoyance continued on, but this became my favorite season since the beginning of the series.
The Zankaptos take on physical forms and rebel against the Soul Reapers. A lot of great new characters.
There was also conspiracy that Byakuya betrayed the Soul Society since he was working together with his Zanpakto and helping the bad guy, Muramasa.

Who did all this to reunite with his former master who ends up killing him… and Byakuya’s “betrayal” was really an effort to defeat this other guy in order to bring honor back to his family now.
It’s so easy to believe betrayals on these shows since nothing is ever as it seems and it’s happened before many times. I didn’t want to believe this was the case here and thankfully I was right.

Season 14, I believe, is where we finally see the end of Aizen. Ichigo defeats him with the final Getsuga Tencho, which results in him losing his Soul Reaper powers.
249 freaking episodes to defeat this guy!! It took less to reveal Bakura as the true villain of Yu-Gi-Oh. Granted, it was still 200 bloody episodes, but c’mon… that’s one huge tease.

Season 15 featured a series of imposters: copies of all the soul reapers from the 13 Court Guard squads.
The bad guy is a member of Squad 12 who researched and developed Operation Spearhead, which created and later destroyed Mod souls like Kon.
He and this girl Ichigo and the others have to protect were Mod squads created from one person who was in charge of these experiments. And in order to destroy the bad guy, the girl must also cease to exist as she is reabsorbed into him.
By the end of this story arc, Ichigo loses his Soul Reaper powers for good… it feels like a legit, yet sad, ending to the series, but not quite.

Season 16 will likely go down as one of my least favorites. Never mind the Bounts and the constant interruptions between us and defeating Aizen.
Season 16 starts out super depressing and nothing like the rest of the series. For starters, it’s 17 months after Ichigo loses his power. Except for him, all of the characters look different. We’ve had this whole series go by so far with the characters looking the same. As if to show that they’re aging, they all have different hairstyles.
I never got used to that :/ that’s just me, I hate change in general.

He meets this guy Ginjo and gifted humans known as full-bringers. They use objects on their person to draw out unique powers. The objective was for Ichigo to learn full-bring, regain his powers and help the other people to become fully human.
Then we get the complications of the villains.
Shukishima has this power “Book of the End” that allows him to insert himself into the memories of other people. He uses this to get all of Ichigo’s friends and family on his side, so they will believe Ichigo attacking him is him attacking a mutual friend of theirs for no reason.

This is one reason I almost didn’t survive the season or the rest of the series… 4 weeks of this felt like a freaking horror movie!

The soul reapers finally reappear, I breathe a HUGE sigh of relief, and Ichigo gets his powers back.

Then we find out… yet again, someone who believed was a friend was a villain.
Ginjo was the bad guy the entire time… I’m like WTF…
it was also hard to believe he was another substitute soul reaper that disgraced his position.

I don’t know what the hell it is with plot lines lately, but they’re so heavy in surveillance and government conspiracies. Apparently there was this plot in the Soul Society that they would watch Ichigo to see if he’d help them or destroy them and originally this deal with him and Ginjo was to end in them both being destroyed.

Thankfully, Ichigo goes against every other example of this storyline and decides that this doesn’t bother him. At the end of the day, he just wants to protect people. He defeats Ginjo and agrees to remain as a substitute soul reaper.

This was a great ending to an otherwise exhausting series.
There was plenty more good time than bad. There were so many great memorable characters.

Ichigo will remain one of my favorite protagonists (and Johnny Yong Bosch as one of my favorite voice-over people, still can’t believe he used to be a Power Ranger).
Rukia and Renji are great as well as friends of Ichigo’s. As for how well they can fight, I’m still figuring that out. I’d only really seen Rukia succeed once or twice in overwhelming somebody.
Byakuya, I’ll always enjoy for the reasons I enjoyed Sesshomaru. He’s unemotional, starts off an antagonist and softens overtime…
Toshiro Hitsugaya and Rangiku of Squad 10 are more great characters I really got to love.
And like Byakuya, Kenpachi of Squad 11 will be one of those guys I’ll always be confident will be able to win in battle no matter the odds.
Keisuke Urahara is a little unorthodox, a bit of a weirdo but always means well.
Soifon, leader of squad 2 and the stealth force and Yoruichi…

The one thing I’ll always kinda wonder about are the relationships. Will Renji ever reveal his feelings for Rukia? Does Rukia love Ichigo? Does Orihime love Ichigo? Does Ichigo have feelings for either of them?
And when he dies of old age or whatever, will he become a soul reaper in the soul society? And if so, which squad and could he eventually be a captain?

Ultimately, this is one of the best rides I’d ever had and I will definitely miss it.
and most likely will get some DVDs of the series to remember it by.

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