Today being Manga Monday, I wanted to talk about one of my all time favorite manga, one that is somehow still getting updated. Tite Kubo's Bleach has been running since 2001, and though it has seen a couple of hiccups, it is as yet ongoing.
I've been reading Bleach since probably ~2006-7, give or take months at a time for buildup/catching up. I've loved it from the beginning, though now I'm beginning to wonder about how much I can continue to love it.
Just a spoiler warning for people not caught up on the manga.
Just a quick sum-up of the series from memory:
Red-headed normal Japanese high schooler is given the power of a shinigami by Rukia Kuchiki. Shinigami are Soul Reapers who fight malicious souls called Hollows. Ichigo begins to take quickly to his new power, then Rukia is kidnapped and brought back to the Seireitei, made to stand trial for giving up her power. Ichigo and associated team rescue. Turns out to be a giant machination by Aizen, who's trying to fuse with a legendary artifact, with the intention of rising to a godlike level of power. Arrancar are introduced, shinigami-esque hollows with only partial hollow masks and iron-hard skin. One of them kidnaps Orihime, the maybe, maybe-not lover of Ichigo. Again Ichigo and team make for a rescue. Ichigo discovers innate hollow-esque power as he prepares for these fights. Ultimately Aizen and his remaining, powerful arrancar show plan to destroy the real world with a substitute. Ichigo fights Aizen with all of his considerable power and is finally triumphant, after putting literally every ounce of strength into his final getsuga tenshou. Ichigo loses all of his power as result. Only he didn't. Later on, a new guy Kugo comes in and shows Ichigo the way of the fullbring, a different sort of power that draws different strengths. Ichigo begins training and getting used to this new power. Turns out to be a big convoluted trap with memory wiping and the whole nine. Rukia, Hitsugaya, Renji, and some others from the Seireitei come and imbue Ichigo with some of their reiatsu, kickstarting his shinigami powers back up. They are all victorious. Not too long after, Quincies, an entirely different force of warriors designated with purging hollows, begin attacking the Gotei 13. They are lead by Yhwach, the son of the Soul King.
Tl;dr - Ichigo is a badass sword wielding grim reaper
Now I know that summary didn't have all the information in the series, but I only have so many fingers with which to type. In any case, if you are caught up, you'll have an understanding of the series in general.
For me, something that is hard to swallow with Bleach (haha) is the fact that we were shown a fairly obvious and logical point to end on with the fight against Aizen. The Final Getsuga Tenshou took every last drop of Ichigo's power, only to critically wound Aizen, not outright destroy him. But he was defeated, and Ichigo was finished, everything put into his last saving throw.
The touching goodbye between Rukia and Ichigo, all of it made sense narratively. It would have left a couple of loose ends but really tied everything important off.
But after that, the series didn't end. It kept going through the weird Fullbringer stuff and then some. It did hit a hiatus period as Kubo said he was gearing up for this current arc, the 1000 Years Blood Ward Arc.
Now Bleach is finally in the final arc, and I think they're doing too much as a going out thing. Now Ichigo is canonically every single supernatural thing in the series. A shinigami father, a quincy mother, a hollow visor, and the power to fullbring, at least briefly.
Ichigo feels more and more like a fanfiction superman character who is all things.
On the one hand, it's really cool to see that Ichigo has all of this ability, but on the other, we haven't seen him do a whole lot of stuff lately. Right now he's just trying to get to Yhwach and defeat him before he destroys all of the Seireitei and becomes a literal god.
He's got dual-wield zanpakutos now and we've yet to see him really use them. We don't even know that his bankai has changed. We still don't know Kenpachi's Bankai. Kubo seems to want to bring the whole series to a climactic end, but it all feels maybe a little too big, because some parts are falling off a little.
Hopefully, whatever ending Kubo DOES go with, it will be as emotionally satisfying as the final fight with Aizen.