Friday, 20 May 2011

Your plot point has expired #2

Still thinking about a good logo.

For this first proper post, I’ll be taking a look at something that qualifies as both a blatant contradiction, and shoddy writing: The relationship of Byakuya and Rukia.

Now,as any Bleach fan would know, Byakya was presented as the main antagonist of the SS arc. Sure, Yamamoto was stronger by far, and Aizen stole the show completely in the end, but for the majority of the arc Mister Headress was the guy we all knew would be Ichigos final obstacle because of how hell bent he was on Rukias execution. And then, Byakuya became a protagonist, with a good relationship with his sister, whom he even rescues from certain death. But the problem is that Kubo basically has written two different Byakuyas.

The first Byakuya is the arrogant, haughty main antagonist of the Soul society arc, and was a major bastard through and through. He was hell bent on executing his own sister, personally, with no pity whatsoever, based on the flimsiest most ridiculously unjust of grounds- and if anyone tried to argue this point, he’d make a counterargument with a million pieces of flying shrapnel, former lieutenant or not. Rukia herself says that she’s confident that he of all people won’t hesitate to kill her, and that he’s never even properly looked at her since her inclusion into the family. He could hardly speak a sentence without making a snide remark about humans, and was overall an unsympathetic douche. This comes very well across in this particular scene, a flashback of Rukias:

Rukia has just finished her first day of duty, is understandably psyched, and Byakuya doesn’t even turn to face her, as he asks the sole question: “what seat did you get?”

Rukia tries to point out that making officer on your first day of service is a little optimistic and that she didn’t make it, which fits pretty well with Rukias less than impressive performance against Fishbone D in chapter 1.

This gets her a prompt “I see. You may fuck off now” from Byakuya.

What a total prick.

Of course, we all now what happened: Aizen was the true antagonist, freeing up Byakuya for a villain-come-hero instant turnaround. He was now absolutely 100% guiltless in the whole Almost Killing Rukia ordeal, and it instantly mended their relationship.

Look, he even saves her and everything!

“If anyone gets to execute this girl, it’s me! “

And then after Aizen splits and we enter the SS cooldown phase, we finally get some insight into Byakuyas character and reasoning. The Byakuya Redemtion Train is chugging along merrily. We learn that Byakya did what he did because, as a noble, he felt he absolutely have to obey orders to set an example. Ordnung Muss Sein. But he didn’t WANT to kill Rukia and that’s what counts, right? I mean, if the central chambers declared war on cats as an april fools joke, I’m sure we could all forgive Byakuya going on a feline massacre as long as he feels bad about it.


Byakuyas reason for wanting to execute Rukia so badly boils down to being not because he hates her, not because she’s charged with an extremely gruesome crime with ironclad evidence, not because he’s brainwashed or manipulated, but because “I was told to”. Now, I’m not saying that soldiers shouldn’t obey orders, but theres’ a difference between following sensible (Fall back! Thats’ an order!) and moronic (swap your grenades for rotten fish! That’s an order!) orders. And blindly following “Execute your own sister because of this absolutely insignificant felony she has committed, and please ignore the extremely unorthodox and suspicious progression of this trial, that’s an order!” falls firmly into the latter category.

But the redemption train keeps going, and eventually arrives at Supporting Character Central. Here we find the new and improved “mellowed out” Byakuya, the kind of guy who looks the other way as people invade Hueco Mondo unauthorized, who thinks the traditional captain garb is meaningless, gets pissed and serious if people lay a hand on his dear little sister, and likes to chill at the local starbucks. In the name of character development and “seeing the light” in the time post soul society this is acceptable, even if Rukias –and everyone elses- immediate acceptance of Byakuyas sororicidal behaviour is a bit jarring. However, things get iffy when New Byakuya starts invading the past and overwriting Asshole Byakuyas existence entirely.

The reason I’m saying this is because of this scene:

When Grimmjow and his posse attack karakura, we see Rukia One-shotting an arrancarized adjuchas. Should the reader remember that Rukia is not even a seated officer, that her jaw dropped upon seeing just a gillian, and that she couldn’t even sever the arm of a regular hollow, this should cause some raised eyebrows on the readers.But not to worry, Rukias soul mod explains It all: Rukia COULD easily have been a seated officer, but her big brother secretly prevented her from getting promoted, because of the danger a position like that would entail. Apart from this not addressing the two latter oddities in the slightest, just think about that explanation for a second.

Byakuya, the guy couldn’t even question orders when tasked with executing his own sister, screwed with the rules. In order to prevent a promotion. Because he wanted to protect that very same sister from harm. Whaaaaaat.

Apart from this clashing rather horribly with Byakyas entire SS characterization, allow me to remind you of the Asshole Byakuya example so cleverly placed earlier in this post. Indeed, it seems Byakuya chided Rukia for not making officer, when he in fact at the same time was keeping her from making officer.

You might say that he was just putting up a front to hide his secret, but this hardly flies.

Because why did he even bring up the damn topic then?

And how big a secret can it be if freaking MOD SOULS knows what a big softie Byakuya really is?

Byakuya and Rukias rank advancement, I hereby deem you a certified PLOTHOLE.

But why did this have to happen?

The reason for this glaring contradiction is simple: Kubo could get two birds with one stone with this little retcon. Firstly, after having her be unimpressive/powerless/damsel in distress for the first 200 chapters, Kubo realized that Rukia needed a major credibility boost to be relevant against the new standard of enemy powerlevels. Solution: he makes her an unofficial officer courtesy of her brother, who gains several redemption points in the process.

I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that Kubo hasn’t done a flashback chronicling Mayuris admirable Test Subject treatment policy…yet.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Your Plot Point Has Expired #1

Mr. Ixolite here, whom some of you may know as The Daz of Apforums. Being overly analytical and rational in my way of thinking, I’ll be concerning myself with the fields of contradictions, plot holes, and less than stellar writing. I too started out genuinely liking this series; after getting hooked on One Piece and Naruto, checking out Bleach came naturally, and I’d heard stuff about an awesome twist and a menacing villain. I quickly made it through the Substitute and Soul Society arcs with a sense of satisfaction, though I frowned a bit at the Aizen twist. Come the arrancar arc I caught up and lost interest due to the slow pacing, and I put the series on hold for a while. When I picked it up again I could read all the way to the “winter wars” beginning, and though I was considerably less invested in the series now, my hazy memory concerning earlier events made me resolve to reread the series. Older, more observant, and with a knowledge of future events in the series, this reread caused quite a few more frowns, and catching up again just around THE HEART I was reading the series for very different reasons than before.

Now, for this first post I thought we’d take a look at the writing style of the man behind the white, Kubo Tite.

Writing a long running series is hard, and writing it on a weekly basis is very hard. The longer it keeps going the bigger baggage the series has; characters, relationships, plot points and explanations pile up, and the writer needs to keep track of it all—you need only look at Marvel and DC, with their franchises spanning as many as 50 years, including different writers, continuities and crossovers, to see how this can get messy. Though compared to American comics, a manga artist has the advantage of not having to share his work with any other writer, and having significantly fewer years of continuity to remember, in addition to the slower pacing and fewer story arcs than the average shounen fare found in Bleach.

That still doesn’t mean that writing a coherent weekly series isn’t difficult, however, and authors have several ways to counter rampant plot holes and contradictions to keep a logical story flow.

The most exhaustive and taxing way would be to plan every single event in minute detail, which is probably only feasible with shorter or non-weekly series. More plausible is creating a general outline of the story, most importantly the ending and the major events leading up to it. By having a skeleton to put the narrative meat on, you ensure that you always have something to work towards.

The author may take time off to get an overview of the story, and plan ahead.

If your series is made up of loosely connected “episodes,” then not only are arcs shorter and easier to write, it’s also easier to discard unneeded plot elements and characters.

Or you could just make a gag series, where nothing is required to add up.

And finally you could just give up and reboot the whole damn thing.

So what does Kubo opt for? How does he overcome?


Bleach may feature a hefty amount of reality bending illusions, but the universe hasn’t been reshaped just yet. It could be called episodic for the first few volumes, but 95% of the series is currently made up of two inseparable arcs with the exact same villain and cast. Kubo very rarely takes breaks, and often has more pages per chapter of Naruto and One Piece (the amount of content found on those pages, on the other hand, is a topic for another day). And although some of the other writers on this blog may disagree, Bleach isn’t officially a gag manga. Yet.

This just leaves us with the standard method of good old fashioned planning ahead. Sure, Kubo has stated that there’s no ending of Bleach he’s aiming for, and there’s no theme or message that he’s trying to convey, but at the very least you’d be safe assuming the current arc having some direction and structure. But you’d be wrong, because this is where Kubo sets himself apart from other mangaka.

TK: I think it (Bleach) maintains a freshness because when I create manga, I don’t think about what’s going to happen—I just come up with an idea and let it flow. It’s a weekly installment, so I have a very short time to create manga, but the good thing is that because it’s short, I can come up with the idea and start creating it.

(From the Anime Insider interview)

Now, a little improvisation has never hurt anyone, but it’s a bit overwhelming that he seems to do it on a weekly basis. So how does he ensure that these improvised decisions don’t conflict with the past? Maybe he just has a really good memory? After all, Bleach’s pacing has resulted in it having just two major arcs of plentiful fighting and limited story to remember.

PWCW: Have you ever gotten yourself into a situation that made you say, “Uh-oh”?

TK: I don’t really face that kind of situation because it’s a long story and sometimes I forget what’s happened in the past, but I read the previous volumes of Bleach and that usually helps me to create and have a new idea.

(From the Anime Insider interview)

I guess not. “Oh, but he does say that he rereads Bleach! This doesn’t mean his writing makes no sense!” I can hear some people saying already, but that’s not the real issue here. Aside from the obvious danger of contradicting yourself by writing on the fly while forgetting the past, take a look at Kubo’s actual answer:

He never runs into problems with writing his story because he forgets the old stuff. Ooookay.

Still, the constant improvisation and forgetting could just refer to minor, unimportant things, and not affect the story progression itself. And even if some story elements are improvised, it doesn’t automatically cause contradictions.

But when the improvised events are some of the most pivotal moments in the entire series, and you combine it with a lacking memory of your own work, you have a recipe for disaster. When Ichigo was Rukia’s subsitute, there was no such thing as Captains in Kubo’s mind. When Ulquiorra and Yammy appeared, there were no Espada. Kubo had no idea who the murderer would be when he killed Aizen off. Aizen’s escape from Soul Society only occurred because Kubo “felt he wouldn’t die”—not because he’d already thought of the Arrancar arc. Up until the very end, Kubo didn’t know how the Arrancar arc would draw to a close. He doesn’t know how the current arc will end.

And so on. It has even reached a point where there is no such thing as true foreshadowing in Bleach.

To draw or not to draw. Some foreshadowing lines and such, will for sure be tied together one day. That is, closer to "coming around (the idea)", and "remembering it" than "thinking of it". In the beginning, I myself do not know the reason but "this is best for this", "there's nothing but this", those thoughts run through my head and (I) decide on drawing that for the character. If I do that, while drawing the following [next/future] story, I'll definitely come across that scene thinking "was this thing I drew from that time for this?"

(Masked interview)

There is only Kubo introducing incomplete concepts, maybe remembering concepts later, and maybe explaining them even later. Well, that’s assuming he even intends to do as much as that, and not just leave it to the readers’ imaginations.

So the answer to how Kubo maintains Bleach’s continuity is simple: He doesn’t, really. Now this post doesn’t prove that Kubo creates plot holes, but it exposes the series’ propensity for plot holes. To see the plotholes themselves you have to stay tuned, but thankfully the great insectoid overlord Aizen has given me a true bounty of material to work with.

BTW, I apologize for not having pictures or drawings in this wall O’ text, but my laptop is down and my options are limited.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Attack From Behind: The Top Disappointments of BLEACH So Far

Welcome to the first post of my new column, Attack from Behind! By this point I've spilled even more ink ragging on BLEACH than Kubo has splashed all over his manga, so I figured I'd capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to disseminate my snark to the masses. The people must be warned; or, if it's too late and they're stuck on the BLEACH train until it finally crashes like the rest of us, they must be entertained.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

IAWT # 0 : Introduction

Lustmord - Zoetrope

A creature, refferred to here as Hypothetical Species A, when faced with a survival endangering obstacle , has one of two options. Either it mans up to the problem and promptly evolves to save it's hide, or it has the fully legitimate option to choose extinction. I'm sure certain members of the species doing their best to evolve would have something to say against the latter, but what can you do ?

But then, what will you do if that danger or circumstance cease to be present ? You can of course boldly move forward and continue on you path to become galaxy conquering space aliens, or you can just get rid off whatever it took your race countless generations to achieve. The species' elders might protest, but young people, being the slackers they are, woudn't see anything wrong with shedding a useless limb or two. Or in the case of the Kauai cave wolf spider, their eyes.

Now , you might think this only applies to living things, but then you'd be mistaken. This Blog shall be dedicated, in most part, to the scientiffic examination of the singular phenomenon of literary de-evolution known amongst the youth of America as "Bleach".

There was, indeed, a time when necessity to achieve reader popularity forced this series to achieve certain levels of artistic performance, as well as storytelling competence, to create a premise that the young, impressionate minds of Jump readers could be absorbed with and secretly identify themselves with in some way.

But, and this is a statement we of this blog all agree upon, once this popularity was achieved, a certain choice was made, which sent this series down an ever more steep slope of shedding all things "excesive" and unecessary. This choice lies in the belief that it was purely the artistic pizzaz of the series, the wide angle shots and prety poses, that had made the readers interested.

And this is the problem. For though we all believe that at one time or another the series had promise, it has since turned into little more than a collection of reaction shots, alternate angles and pages with sprawling dust clouds, both literal and figurative.

Our mission is to present our own analysis of the extent of this phenomenon, as well as to try and present whatever is actualy good about the series in the best light possible. We hold no malice towards those wanting to read this series, we simply offer a different point of view, and try to invite them to stand aside and try to look at Bleach from a different angle, to see if there may not be something burried underneath that they might have been ignoring, and might even have a chuckle at.

We also promise that on the day that the major faults we find in this series have been disposed of, we shall gladly end this project.

With that said, we welcome you to applied logic, our tribute to Bleachs unique form of entertainment, and proudly proclaim: In Aizen We Trust