The Bleach anime is finally returning with the Thousand-Year Blood War arc.
Few anime series have had as depressing a trajectory as Bleach.
If you were an anime fan in the early-mid 2000s, three shonen series dominated the medium: One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. In time, these series became known as "The Big Three"—a term encompassing everything from the massive length of their long-running stories to the size of their fanbases to their obvious influence on the culture surrounding anime.
One Piece, which is still running strong today, has gone on to become the top-selling manga series of all time, and also the third best-selling comic series overall (currently edging up on Batman's number two position's number two position). Naruto remained a flagship title through the end of its anime run in 2017, and then immediately spawned Boruto, a spin-off series following Naruto's son. Bleach, by contrast, just kind of fizzled out, with the anime getting canceled in 2012 right before the final arc.
Bleach's cancellation was a blow from which its most loyal fans never truly recovered. But now, eight years later, the seemingly impossible is happening. Bleach's final arc, "Thousand-Year Blood War," is getting an official adaptation. Moreover, so is Burn the Witch, a Bleach spin-off manga by series creator Tite Kubo. 2020 is quickly shaping up to be the year of Bleach's revival, but this begs the question: Why was the Bleach anime canceled in the first place?
The "Bleach" Thousand-Year Blood War arc anime adaptation has also been confirmed. https://t.co/njNP5mYPKM— A.I.R (Anime Intelligence (and) Research) (@A.I.R (Anime Intelligence (and) Research))1584521698.0
To answer that, it's important to understand how publication works in Weekly Shonen Jump, the Japanese manga magazine where all of these titles are serialized.
Unlike American comic series, which typically debut as single chapter comic books before being compiled into multi-chapter graphic novels, manga chapters usually debut in magazines. Of these manga magazines, Weekly Shonen Jump is the longest-running (since 1968), best-selling, and most prestigious. Success in Weekly Shonen Jump means taking a seat alongside global phenomena like Dragon Ball.
Perhaps the main reason that Weekly Shonen Jump has been so successful is its reliance on weekly "reader surveys" to determine which series people are most enjoying. As such, it's not just hyper-competitive for manga artists to get their series published in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump; it's also hyper-competitive to continue being published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Any series that consistently performs poorly in reader surveys becomes more likely to get cut, as is currently happening to Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto's newest series, Samurai 8.
On the other side of the coin, any series that consistently hits the top of the reader surveys is encouraged to run for as long as possible. Thus, while many shorter series complete full runs while maintaining their status in the middle-ground of Weekly Shonen Jump's rankings, the goal is usually to create a top-ranking series that readers can stick with for years and years.
Unfortunately, the pressure to consistently create new story content for an indeterminate period of time doesn't necessarily mesh well with every franchise. One Piece works incredibly well in the context of Weekly Shonen Jump, because its narrative impetus revolves around a pirate adventure, which means author Eiichiro Oda can spend as much time as he wants focusing on elaborate world-building and epic-scale battles. Naruto, too, succeeded in its ability to follow its heroic young ninja from childhood to adulthood, allowing him to grow up alongside the readers. But Bleach didn't have the world-building of One Piece or the character development of Naruto.
What Bleach had was a whole lot of style. Following a teenager who gets shinigami (soul reaper) powers, Tite Kubo managed to create a world that felt edgier, more mature, more punk rock than its contemporaries. The series had an incredibly strong hook and a phenomenal first arc, too. After Ichigo Kurosaki becomes a shinigami, he learns that Rukia, his shinigami mentor who transferred her powers to him in order to save his family, has actually committed a cardinal sin according to the leaders of Soul Society (the shinigami world). As punishment for transferring her powers to a human, Rukia will be sentenced to death. This leaves Ichigo with the task of infiltrating Soul Society, defeating its most powerful captains and rescuing Rukia.
To this day, Bleach's Soul Society arc still holds up as one of the best shonen arcs of its genre. The tension is always palpable, and the battles are phenomenal. The problem, though, is that Kubo didn't really seem to know what to do with the series afterwards. The characters in Bleach weren't as strongly defined as the characters in One Piece and Naruto, and the world-building for Soul Society was never especially prominent. So Bleach tripled down on style, essentially repeating similar "rescue" arcs again and again with cool new villains who were, indeed, very stylish.
Sadly, style isn't enough on its own to carry a long-running shonen for years and years. While the battles continued to be very cool, Bleach's plot started to feel weaker and emptier, especially compared to One Piece and Naruto, both of which seemed to have clear narrative arcs that had been set-up far in advance. Eventually, Bleach began falling in the Weekly Shonen Jump ranking. Its solo manga sales dwindled. And while Kubo was allowed to see his series through to completion, the anime was canceled before the manga ever even finished.
The most depressing thing about Bleach is that if it had been allowed to wrap up shortly after Soul Society, it might still be remembered as a phenomenal series instead of a series that fell from grace.
So then why is the Bleach anime returning now, eight years later, to finish its last leg? Maybe demand from Bleach's most dedicated fanbase has finally paid off. Or maybe with recent resurgence of Dragon Ball with Dragon Ball Super, Shueisha (Shonen Jump's parent company) thought that exposing a younger generation of anime fans to Bleach might result in a similar outcome.
Regardless, as a Bleach fan, this is incredibly exciting news. Even considering how the source material fell off the map, the Bleach anime always deserved a proper conclusion. Modern animation can do wonders, too. Just look at how the Demon Slayer anime turned a formerly middle-of-the-rankings franchise into the most popular new series in years. Let's hope that Bleach's "Thousand-Year Blood War" arc will follow the same path.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Start your journey to become the King of the Weebs.
Even though anime has made its way into the mainstream over the past few years, negative notions about the medium persist.
With the exception of a few mature animated comedies (some of which are fantastic and thematically complex, like Bojack Horseman), animation in the US is still typically viewed as a medium for children. The idea that cartoons are kid sh*t, while perhaps understandable for someone who has only ever been exposed to Western media, is ignorant of the broad range of animation in other cultures.
In a similar vein, a lot of people insist that they just can't get into anime, or they stigmatize all of it because they don't like the "schoolgirl stuff." But it's important to remember that anime isn't a genre–It's a medium. Individual anime series fall into every genre under the sun, just like movies and live-action TV shows. Saying you don't like anime because of the schoolgirl stuff (which is a very valid thing to dislike) is kind of like saying you don't like movies because of slasher films. You're writing off an entire medium of art over a genre that you can easily avoid.
So let's say you are open to watching anime, but aren't quite sure where to start. Or, more likely, maybe you already love anime and you're trying to find a series to convince your SO that the $200 action figure in your room was a totally reasonable thing to buy (it was, and your life choices are perfect). Just check out any of these gateway anime series that serve as perfect entry points into the medium's diverse offerings.
Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
Few series have ever come close to crafting a narrative as perfect as Attack on Titan. The premise is high-concept: The last surviving humans live in a walled off city surrounded by giant, humanoid, man-eating monsters called Titans. One day the walls are breached, and three surviving children—Eren, Mikasa, and Armin—set their sights on joining the military in order to fight back for the sake of humanity. But what could have been a simple, straight-forward action-horror show, turned out to be so much more. Nothing is ever as it seems in Attack on Titan, and the plot continually twists to turn everything you thought you knew on its head. Attack on Titan is thrilling, terrifying, tragic, and emotionally resonant, oftentimes all at once. It's a show about the horrors of war and the lengths humans will go to protect the things they hold dear to them. If you only watch one anime ever, make sure it's Attack on Titan.
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