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December 19, 2010 Comments (0) Views: 8585 Anime

Deconstructing Soul Society

In October, I decided that I would celebrate my resolve to cease my continued torture in the form of watching Bleach on a daily basis, with the date set for the eventual time that the show goes into its early-fall-to-late-spring filler arc.   Despite my overwhelmingly neurotic desire to finish what I start because it represents an commitment I make—for better or for worse (see:  Heroes)—the show based off of Tite Kubo’s manga became too horrible to bear as of May 2010.  While I always knew the show was bad (my brothers were the ones who convinced me to pick it up against my good conscience—they stopped watching it more than two years ago), after the return to the main storyline from a very long filler arc, I realized how much I didn’t care about anything happening onscreen, and that I found the wretched filler to be comparatively more entertaining than the drudge being passed off as cannon material.
Two months later, and verging on the 300th episode, I realized how duped I’d been.  Somewhere over the course of the year, the producers wised up a little and have not gone into their serialized filler.  Instead, they have been airing a few episodic fillers with the tease of a ‘real’ episode every now and then.

I’ve been driven mad.
I’m done with the show.
Let the celebration commence.

At the end of the day (and by day I mean roughly three years), I’m left wondering just what hell Bleach is ultimately about.  The only message that comes to mind is:  “The system sucks, but up with the status quo.”  How does a society full of powerful people and supposed geniuses (who are all deviants to a certain extent) feel compelled to sustain itself when it is the direct (not indirect as in a lot of real-world analogies) cause of corruption, inequality, death, and its own misery?  To top that off, in various flashbacks, we see that it is not uncommon to have a negative opinion towards the Shinigami that protect the two realms.  Often, it is explained that future shinigami are compromising much of their belief systems to ambiguously join for ‘the greater good.’  Anyone who paid a fleeting amount of attention to middle school social studies understands the disgusting implications of that phrase.  There is no monarchy, and no real government, so what drives people to adhere to the agenda that Soul Society presses?  Laziness or some depressing state of apathy from the general population seems to be the only answer.

He might look cool, but he's actually one of the most ineffective people in the entire show. Fearless leader, indeed.

This is how the shounen genre fails: when the ‘good’ guys are just as bad as the ‘bad’ guys, yet the writers try to constantly proselytize that with some notion of  ‘fairness’ or ‘righteousness’ many inexcusable ideals and actions are permissible.  Because of the abhorrently skewed rationalization of ‘morals’ and ‘honor’ that Bleach pretends to philosophize over and present, the series’ main villain, Aizen continues to be viewed as evil by the general populace.  This is the most disturbing thing to me:  one of the show’s few free-thinkers, who refuses to follow an outdated moral code that doesn’t suit him, is painted as a heretic when he merely does everything that Soul Society has done and continues to do.  So the real message is not that Aizen is doing anything wrong, but that he refuses to be controlled, and those who refuse to fall in line must be quashed.  So much of the audience believes that Aizen is a cheater, even though throughout the show, there has been more justification for his actions as opposed to Soul Society’s hypocritical, nonsensical, arrogant, and corrupt bureaucracy.

Behold! The Troll of Soul Society.

Early on in Bleach, when Ichigo was facing random Hollows, collecting his tank, white mage, and archer, the viewer introduced to Soul Society through Renji and Byakyua–the two people who want to drag Rukia back home to be executed.  Despite the fact that they both supposedly love Rukia, they feel compelled in their duty to make sure that she dies without explanation, for the sake of upholding ambiguous laws and noble ‘honor.’  Aizen, of course, is manipulating all of the events that invariably exposes the inadequacies of Seireitei’s governing process, using the system’s red tape and loop holes against itself.

Because I had to put this in here.

On the other hand, Bleach is marked by two other geniuses:  Kurotsuchi Mayuri, the deranged Dr. Frankenstein of Soul Society, and Urahara Kiesuke, the all-but-gray sage who seems to have been the only person smart enough to match wits with Aizen and minimze damage he could have wrought.  During the Pendulum Arc, we are shown how Mayuri was, in fact, considered too dangerous to be a captain, and imprisoned because he was deemed a threat.  Kiesuke was allowed to bring him out of incarceration because he was both strong and intelligent enough to exert control over him by giving him a taste of what he wanted:  the freedom to play with and genetically modify ‘specimens.’  But then, Urahara is transparently framed (by Aizen) for conducting forbidden experiments, and Mayuri somehow gets promoted to Captain?  If Kiesuke were conducting said experiments, wouldn’t his entire scientific squad be up to specualation, and why would his ex-con underling not be thrown back to jail?  But that’s not important.  Soul Society (and Tite Kubo) needed a scapegoat for unexplained deaths, and Urahara was the closest answer.

Totally not the face of a criminal.

But sadly, in a last-ditch attempt to seem intelligent and deep, what do hack writers always end up doing?  They attempt to make the enemy sympathetic, despite the inconsistencies that such revelations are bound to cause.  Byakuya and Renji actually loved Rukia.  Mayuri is transformed from a malicious, one-track minded, scientific savant into a petty buffoon.  All the Arrancar were ‘tricked’ into cooperating with Aizen.  Tousen was only exacting revenge on Soul Society for covering up the death of his female friend.   I have no doubt that when Aizen finally kicks the bucket by Ichigo’s unwitting hand, he’ll get his sob story too, where (I’m sure) he’ll explain that his experiments were to create some force to protect the world from a great threat.

How did you get this way?

So at the end of the day, Bleach is a show where nobody is wrong.  No one is to blame.  No one is responsible for his own actions.  Society is most functional when its denizens have blind faith in indistinguishable authority figures.  Those who would challenge the system or pursue science for the sake of discovery are enemies who must be controlled or expelled entirely.  And should society implode due to its own fascist devices, an idiot who can only think to swing his big sword and cause massive amounts of collateral damage is the sole person capable of being the messiah.  It’s the perfect message for a post 9/11 world.
Never mind.  This show is genius.
Filled with fanboy rage?  Join the forum and rip me a new one.

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