‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War’ Episode 1 Review: One of “The Big 3” Returns for Its Final Arc

For a time, the world of manga and anime was dominated by a group of stories called “The Big 3”. Weekly Shōnen Jump managed to debut three series very close to each other, and these three series ended up becoming some of the biggest franchises in the medium. These series were One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. Of those, only One Piece remains, being the most successful. Naruto is over but continues in the less successful Boruto, and Bleach is over, but this new adaptation opens all kinds of possibilities for the story to continue in the future.

You see, unlike Naruto, who received an anime adaptation that covered the entirety of the manga, Bleach received the Slam Dunk treatment, and its last arc never received a proper adaptation. Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War, serves as a sequel to the original show and as a way to rectify that mistake, allowing the series to be adapted in anime form from beginning to end. The series adapts the titular Thousand-Year Blood War that serves as the last part of the story, so far.

And so, Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War is being treated as a huge event, with most of the original cast coming back to the series and Studio Pierrot producing the animation just like in the original show. You have to see one of the episodes to feel that this is a passion project. The chance to finish something they began doing so long ago, and because of it, the results are quite amazing, especially in comparison to the original show. Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War will consist of 52 episodes that will be divided into batches of 13 episodes with time breaks between them.

It is so nice to see Bleach back. Not only because of the nostalgia factor but also because the story deserves an ending. There are many people out there who have never read the manga and only have watched the anime, and for them, the story deserves an ending. It is also fascinating to see how much animation has been improved between the end of the original show and the beginning of this project. The animation is more fluid, and the integration of CGI assets feels way more natural than ever before.

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Hearing the voices of the characters coming out of your TV is also quite nostalgic. Bleach’s iconography is quite iconic, no pun intended. The manga was always defined by Tite Kubo’s ability to draw his characters in a way that no other mangaka could. There is a sense of style that is very much unique to Bleach. You won’t find character designs like these anywhere else, and it is because of its uniqueness that it should be preserved as one of the great works of manga.

However, Bleach’s writing was never its biggest strength. The series was always more style than substance, and while the characters are truly fantastic, the plot is very predictable and follows the conventions of Shōnen Manga to the teeth. Kubo managed to create one of the biggest twists in manga near the beginning of the series. However, he never managed to do that again during the entire run of the series, so it is understandable that many people feel like Bleach peaked very early on, and that everything went downhill from there.

In the manga, the Thousand-Year Blood War definitely felt epic, but it didn’t flow naturally from what came before it. It always felt like Kubo had the arc in mind as the endgame for Bleach, but he had to rush early to it. And so, the arc feels a bit detached from the rest of the series, like there is something missing between the previous arc and this one. The same feeling comes from watching anime. The first episode just rushes by, introducing the characters and setting up the new enemy.

It would be excellent if, with this adaptation, Kubo and the rest of the creative staff at Pierrot would manage to iron out those rough edges that existed in the original manga arc. There should be more background context for the big bad, and also for the large number of characters that are going to be introduced with this new arc. Bleach always introduces many characters in each arc to compose the villains’ side, but in Thousand-Year Blood War the number always felt excessive and the development of these characters was basically nonexistent.

52 episodes feel like a good number of episodes to tell the story and also accommodate this level of context that the story needs to feel more complete. Of course, this is only wishful thinking, and maybe the entire run will consist of just fight after fight. At least it will be pretty to look at, as Pierrot really leveled up their game when it comes to the visuals. Everything just looks and feels better, so there are many reasons to be excited about this new Bleach arc.

The Thousand-Year Blood War positions itself as a fantastic Shōnen anime arc, filled with great battles, amazing visuals, and lots of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with the series. Kubo released a one-shot that continues the story past this arc a couple of years ago, and it feels like a promise that there is still more of Bleach to be told. Maybe if this new anime arc is successful enough, we can get a proper manga continuation. Time will tell.

SCORE: 9/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.