Fairy Tail / Bleach – Quick Thoughts

Fairy Tail

Japanese Title: Fairy Tail

Genre: Action Adventure Fantasy

Length: 175 episodes

I thought I would try Fairy Tail, watch it casually while doing work to see if I was missing out on anything. This is a battle anime of a bygone era. In today’s market, after Naruto and One Piece raised the bar, audiences want an ongoing story as a framework around the fights. It also makes them care more for the characters even if on a subconscious level and gives more longevity to a series beyond the final episode. Not to say it will be a commercial failure without it – Fairy Tail lasted 175 episodes – but unless it’s Dragon Ball, it won’t be remembered in the long run. That era has sailed.

Fairy Tail’s overall goal is for protagonist Natsu to find his dragon father. However, each arc has the barest of hints at following this story. The gang will hear of some clue or someone who may know something, they follow the trail, and it leads to a completely unrelated adventure. I say adventure. This isn’t like One Piece – Natsu and company didn’t go far in the 75 episodes I watched. The arcs are the basic “enemy declares war against the Fairy Tail guild for a reason, they fight, half the villains are redeemed, and repeat” structure.

What irks me most about this fantasy is the magic system. There are no rules. Every character has a new type of magic that in most fantasy would fall under a different “school”, coupled with an extensive explanation of how their magic works mid-fight. (Why would you reveal the inner workings of your magic to an enemy?) This comes to a particularly stupid peak when a former ally has to explain his magic to a main character that already knows it, all for the sake of the audience. Tension dries up when characters can pull whatever they wish out of thin air. These wizards have exactly as many spells up their sleeves as the author needs for the fight.

Look, Fairy Tail is an easy watch. There is value in simplicity, where you don’t have to invest yourself and pay attention to all the details, tracking the subplots of 50 characters. On the flip side of the same coin, however, I don’t care once I stop watching. (By the way, for years I thought was from the same author as One Piece for how similar the art looks, right down to the main girls having the same breast size. Even the tone is similar.)

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For battle anime fans only.

*     *     *     *     *

Bleach

Japanese Title: Bleach

Genre: Supernatural Action Adventure

Length: 366 episodes (including filler)

I wasn’t going to talk of Bleach until this new format gave me opportunity for a few brief words on this train wreck.

Bleach sucks. Plain and simple. Of all the mainstream battle anime I’ve watched over the years, this is easily the worst. It started well. Actually, the second season was good – the first is a mediocre monster-of-the-week affair.

The story follows 15-year-old Ichigo who gains the power and responsibilities of a Soul Reaper. In short, he has a magic sword and must use it to kill corrupt spirits called Hollows. The second season – and only good arc of the show – kicks off when the top Soul Reapers arrest the girl (now friend as well) that gave him power. He gathers a few other magical friends and they bust into Soul Society (heaven), ready to fight their way to her jail cell. There are several great fights along the way with some cool powers all themed around swords. It’s a great ride that ends on a strong twist cliffhanger (especially if you haven’t seen the like before). This is episode 63.

What follows is a decent into anime hell.

You think inserting the worst filler every second season is bad? Wait until you see how bad the non-filler stories are!

Bleach leans on a battle anime trope I loathe – the power reset. After each major arc, Ichigo reverts to a total scrub for some contrived reason and must endure a training arc, which I swear lasts a season each time. I stopped watching weekly during one such torture session populated by obnoxious characters.

I returned a few years ago out of intellectual curiosity once I heard the series was done for good. I had made the correct decision to quit.

That cliffhanger I mentioned at the end of the Soul Society arc doesn’t return to the forefront until the mid-200s episode count. Even if you ignore all filler as I did with the Naruto reviews, Bleach is a chore to get through. The author keeps throwing a new line of enemies for Ichigo and friends to beat in the same formulaic manner. They’ve finally beaten them all; we can finally see the big bad again? Nope! Here’s another set of bland enemies. There’s always more a powerful villain around the corner (what were they doing before this?). This isn’t a story. It’s a grind.

All the good ideas ended in Soul Society. While the ultimate twist that ends this main thread is good, in no way is it worth having your brain liquefy on the way. And the series doesn’t end there either. Bleach, taken as a whole, is a terrible waste of potential.

When I chose to watch Bleach alongside Naruto back in the day, I made a grave mistake. If only I had picked One Piece…923 episodes and counting.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid it. When canon is indistinguishable from filler, you know drinking bleach is preferable.

21 thoughts on “Fairy Tail / Bleach – Quick Thoughts”

  1. Good thoughts. I haven’t seen Fairy Tail, but it looked like such generic shonen fare for me.

    Bleach started out good, but it got so bad with the filler and cheap powers. Aizen is one of the biggest villain stus out there and I stopped way before it got to the 70 episode range when it first came out. I’m not against shonen stuff on principle, but Bleach isn’t as good as some people make it out to be.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, and that’s definitely true. It’s also why I haven’t watched a lot of shonen series. Okay, I did re-watch a Shonen Jump -related series recently that is overlooked, but at least it was less than 100 episodes and only 2 episodes of filler in it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought Fairy Tail would be a Low or even Very Low! I hate stories where the main characters can never lose, and Fairy Tail is one of the worst offenders. There’s also far too much fanservice for my taste. The exposition on abilities is another headache, and rivals Seven Deadly Sins in how much it makes you want to punch your screen.

    I thought Very Low was a bit harsh on Bleach. Then I remembered how it ended and thought “no, Very Low suits it just fine”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought Bleach suffered from not being willing to ditch unnecessary characters. Once they reached Soul Society, there were thirteen captains, and thirteen lieutenants, and then there the Visored, and the various antagonists, almost all of whom needed to get their moments in the sun as the show progressed. Too many characters for too little plot.

    On the other hand, I thought you were a little harsh on Fairy Tail. Natsu has fire powers. Gray has ice powers. Erza fights with swords. Wendy has wind magic I agree that on a world-building level, magic is pretty incoherent (how do these people learn magic in the first place? They mostly seemed to grow up in the Guild, with nobody who has similar magic to teach them), but compared to something like Kenshin, where it was never clear what the protagonists could actually do with their various sword techniques, there was relatively little “pulling new tricks out of sleeves” that I recall. Having said that, I never did finish it. As a side note though, the author’s new manga is very similar in tone, and has reached I think about 80 chapters by now, so the era may still be at port after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is very true – a good point about ditching characters. Thinking back on the big assault against those super hollows, I swear every squad from the captain to the new guy on the team has to have their moment in battle. One is hoping for Thanos to show up a snap half the cast away.

      My criticism for lack of coherence with Fairy Tail’s magic isn’t related to the variety. Rather, it’s about the lack of rules. Have 50 different schools of magic, by all means, as long as you give them depth. But when one contradicts the rules of another, it looks like an “ass-pull”. To make up an example, lets say a guy with rock magic can manipulate rocks and levitate them around (like the Force in Star Wars). Then we introduce another guy who can manipulate people’s bodies, but he can’t levitate them for the explanation that “people can’t fly, so I can’t force them into the air”. Okay, which is it? Can we break gravity with magic or not? It’s made worse when characters can pull out a convenient new technique for the fight. As I said, “These wizards have exactly as many spells up their sleeves as the author needs for the fight.”

      It’s more interesting when you have fewer abilities, but find clever ways of using them (without breaking the pre-established rules, of course). Naruto does a good job of this. On the other hand, you don’t want to get too repetitive (I’ll be talking about this in an upcoming Get Backers review). You need to have that balance of quality vs variety. There is no hard rule – as long as it’s interesting, anything goes. But when new abilities come out of thin air every fight – coupled with long explanations to the enemy for how they work – it saps tension.

      Kenshin doesn’t suffer so much from this because each character has so few abilities. It’s a surprise the first time, but then we know what they can do.

      Like

      1. That’s probably fair. Fairy Tail was a distraction when not a lot was going right in my life, so my memories of it may be kinder than it deserves.

        Liked by 1 person

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