Wednesdays Watching Anime – Bleach
March 11, 2015 § 2 Comments
I’m back, with a new idea for a weekly post. We at the Crab-Flower Club are going to watch anime OPs and EDs in order to write reviews on them. The background and initial analysis will probably be my doing, and then Katie will bat cleanup.
Our first selection is… Bleach OP1, “*~Asterisk~” by Orange Range!
Ben: In a lot of ways, I think of this one as the gold standard for anime OPs. You take an arresting piece of music and match it with colorful images inspired by the anime. By any standard, Orange Range is a superlative choice for the song, oozing as it does with the petulant cool of the mid-2000s pop scene. It sets off these various characters in boho chic as much as do the backgrounds, which are mostly flat washes of bright colors as much suited for advertising as for anime. They all certainly look like teenagers, but cool teenagers, and that’s something the OP tries mightily to push to the fore.
On the other hand, it’s a marvelously misleading thing to watch. I admire the courage to introduce what is in essence the entirety of the first season’s cast, if it is courage and not just complacency, but no context whatsoever is given for them. Left standing there, looking all serious, they’re just faces, albeit handsome and stylish ones. Really, on repeat viewings, it’s actually more arresting than the music how scrubbed clean of plot elements this OP is. There is literally no implication of what the show is actually about, which I’d already consider a problem with a show called something as nonsensical as Bleach. We get a brief glimpse of Kuchiki Byakuya, who might regarded as the principal antagonist for the first season, but the only scene of fighting involves generic guys with swords.
Why doesn’t this OP depict anything that actually happens in the anime? To be even more blunt, why does this OP work so hard to avoid depicting Hollows, the ubiquitous skull-faced opponents of all the show’s characters? Subsequent OPs for Bleach don’t do that. It’s like, for the first season, they wanted to see if they could sell Bleach as a slice-of-life anime that happens to have swords, rather than a more typical shounen affair. Why else have Ichigo and Rukia turn away from each other like they’re arguing, four times in a ninety-second sequence? It’s a predominant motif in the OP. Granted, the Ichigo/Rukia relationship is the most interesting part of Bleach by far, and the attenuation of that relationship during “Soul Society” arc that begins after episode twenty is, at least for me, the end of it as an anime worth watching. I don’t know, maybe emphasizing that relationship really was their instinct here, in which case it’s a shame that they didn’t follow through.
Katie: This is the show where the moody-looking blond dude goes around battling otherworldly death-monsters, right? Turn-of-the-millennium anime series seem fond of implacable but sympathetic figures guiding beings into death (Boogiepop Phantom!), like everybody read the first issue of Sandman featuring Death and was like, “I want to do this. With more wicked shounen battles. For 366 episodes.”
But that’s not what you get in this opening, as Ben observes. No goth fantasy, only teenage dreamland. With the male and female lead repeatedly posed back to back, it looks like one of those love-hate romances. Or almost like one. You’re right, Ben, coolness is the main mood here. This is also the age of FLCL, where popping colorbright imagery and flashy camera effects are accompanied by something gently sad, a little downbeat, characters who seem like maybe they didn’t get quite enough sleep. (Ooh, wait, was there some fighting for a second? There was! Blink and you’re already back to kids hanging out by a wall or something.) I especially love the spraypainting-the-camera-with-credits bit, a nostalgic touch of juvenile delinquency.
Why is this show called Bleach again? I looked it up on Wikipedia:
The series was originally meant to be named “Black” due to the color of the Soul Reapers’ clothes, but Kubo thought the title was too generic. He later tried the name of “White,” but came to like “Bleach” more for its association with the color white and that he did not find it too obvious.
I thought it was because of Ichigo’s hair. The OP certainly doesn’t dispel this assumption. In the version of Bleach I imagine from the OP, Rukia stains the kitchen sink with Manic Panic, punctuating her scrubs with frantic assurances offscreen, “No, really, you look good! Really!” Meanwhile, Ichigo stands apart, camera swirling around him in a wild 360, reflecting broodily on the distance between the goldenrod color he ended up with and Electric Banana the way it looked in the magazine. (At least his hair is still in the . . . orange range.)
Ben: I think that Kubo initially made Ichigo a redhead to give him an in-universe reason for being so good at fighting. You know, he looks like a delinquent, even though it’s his natural color, so people are always trying to beat him up. That’s how it works in shounen land. Later, it was retconned to be because of his secret shinigami heritage or something. Everything was retconned to be because of secret shinigami stuff.