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Saturday, 3 September 2016

Editorial: Thoughts on Bleach's Ending, Part 2: How It Could Have Been Improved.

Editorial: Thoughts on Bleach's Ending, Part 2: 
How It Could Have Been Improved.

So, at the beginning of this week I rambled a little Bleach's ending in a sort of quasi-review. It was not a very positive review, to probably nobody's surprise, but I said at the time that I would come back and talk about how it could be improved, so here I am to do that.

We'll start off with pairings and romance related stuff, since let's face it that's what a significant number of the people reading came for, and the first thing I would say is that the 'timeskip, marriage, and kids' ending almost never works, to the point where I'm semi-convinced that the only people professing to like it in this instance are those who see it as some kind of strange victory condition in a very petty conflict.

Instead, I posit that Bleach could have gone down three different paths with this: 

Firstly, it could have ended without any clear romances, leaving open the suggestion that a romance could happen in the future. 

Secondly, it could have ended with Orihime asking Ichigo out, and him accepting. It's a clear cut romantic ending, but it lets the fans determine exactly where they think that romance would go, rather than simultaneously dictating where it will end up, but robbing fans of a chance to see how they got there.

Or, if Kubo Tite absolutely did want to end on Ichigo and Orihime being married and Kazui being born (I do actually really like Kazui and Ichika), then it should have been set up much, much earlier.

Still annoyed we never found out exactly what it is Unohana's bankai does.

By 'set up,' I do mean 'they should have been dating.' I mentioned in my last editorial that the manga was always pretty clear that Orihime was interested in Ichigo, and that it at least suggested that the reverse was true as well, but that a mutual crush does not a romance make, and that by jumping straight from 'crush' to 'marriage,' fans are robbed or seeing or even really being able to speculate on what that romance would be like.

So instead, why not set up early on that Ichigo and Orihime are dating? Why not, in fact, have them start dating in that very first arc, before Soul Society even happens? Apart from contextualising Orihime's jealousy of Rukia later on (which I do actually think Kubo Tite handled pretty well, as jealousy without any kind of rancour or bitterness, or with any kind of negative effect on their friendship, almost never turns up in fiction and was quite nice to see), it also means we are clued in early on to a romantic relationship between those two and, critically, we can see that relationship evolve, turning from a crush, to dating, to love.

That would have made a timeskip and marriage ending a lot less jarring, because we'd have a lot more context for it, and we'd actually have a romance subplot instead of a 'these two characters have a crush and now they're married, surprise' plotline. Also, it would mean that Rukia could be Ichigo's wingman, and that's a frankly adorable mental image.

Apparently Komamura didn't actually die, so seriously, why is Tetsuzaemon a captain?

Similarly, it would have helped if Kubo had given Orihime a greater role in the plot. The reason he didn't seems to be mostly rooted in having an unwieldy and gigantic cast of characters (and, potentially, could well be to do with editorial fiats by Shonen Jump, who may not have wanted Orihime to have a major role -- see point in the last editorial about teenage boys and their odd whims), and he clearly does try, at points, to insinuate her into the plot in a more meaningful fashion, but it never quite works out, which is a genuine shame.

Moving onto more interesting things, I would -- well, I wouldn't have a timeskip of ten years, although if I did I would sure as hell make Ishida a fashion designer and Chad a police officer or something. Instead, a shorter timeskip of, say, a year, would work a lot better.

This would give us time for Rukia to become a captain, would allow us to get some glimpse at the future careers of the main characters (since they'd have just gotten out of school), and would have been a much more reasonable amount of time for Seireitei to get repaired in.

But I would also have Kyoraku's ominous prediction come true. That was a Chekhov's Gun that was never fired, which is a pretty terrible oversight, and I have a suspicion that it was done because having Orihime be forced to live in Soul Society to be with Ichigo would have felt very, very creepy.

So here's my alternate suggestion: A year has passed. Ichigo cannot return to the Human World, at least not for very long, but he is living happily in Soul Society. On the same day that Rukia becomes a captain, he becomes third seat of the Fourth Division (thus keeping the 'he becomes a healer' thing from the ending).

Meanwhile, Orihime is in Las Noches. Orihime has no family left in the human world, her friends are all spiritually aware and can probably go visit anywhere now, and her dreams were always meant to be a bit over-the-top and absurd, so make her Queen Harribel's court healer. 

Tbh, this was a kinda flirty moment from Ichigo? And that is hilarious to me, because
it suggests that he thinks what girls are really into are massive, porcelain horns.
He's not wrong, either.

This would serve several roles: Firstly, it would speak volumes to Orihime's compassion and strength of character, as she would willingly return to a place that holds a lot of bad memories for her in order to help a group of people who are very often maligned and disadvantaged. Secondly, it would give Orihime a place in the world separate from Ichigo, and her own position, dreams, and social circle. This is a world where portals that allow near instantaneous transportation between worlds exist, so it's not like it would have a tremendous impact on their relationship, either.

Last point that could do with some changing: That final battle. It was rushed, it was kind of bland, and it clearly suffered for the time constraints Kubo Tite was under. So here's an idea: Maybe just cut out, like, two thirds of the Sternritter? With considerably less Sternritter fights, you then have more time to devote to a big blow-out battle between Ichigo and Yhwach.

I did like Grimmjow's new outfit.

Have Rukia involved. Have Orihime involved. Hell, have Chad involved, and give Isshin and Ryuken roles, since Yhwach is as much their enemy as Ichigo's. Just have Ichigo, Rukia, Orihime, Chad, Ishida, Renji, Isshin, Ryuken, and Aizen mobbing Yhwach, since we know already that Kubo Tite is actually pretty good at 'small army of protagonists versus one dude' fights.

Also, for god's sake, guys, don't kill off Unohana, she's one of your most interesting characters. Kill off Kenpachi, because nobody likes or cares about Mr. One-Note-Characterisation.

Also, why is Tetsuzaemon Iba a captain? This will never not bother me.

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