Hello, RPGJay here. I suppose I should start off by mentioning that I used to be a fan of Bleach. A few years back, I really got into anime and manga. One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach were really my first foray into the world of manga since my days of watching Dragon Ball Z reruns as a kid. After the Soul Society arc, something about Bleach changed. I kept reading though, slowly watching this series that I once loved become something different. It wasn’t until the Arrancar arc that I finally snapped. Bleach had become unequivocally awful. Worse yet, to this day, this series that was once splendid is still continually degrading. Now is the time for healing, let’s delve into The Heart of Bleach.
Ordinarily, I would be talking about the physical side of the Bleach manga in topics such as pacing, padding, panel structure, etc. I am postponing that future series of columns for today’s subject. To sum up the current arc of Bleach (as of June 21, 2011), the Fullbringer arc, it’s about a group of characters, one of the main characters having lost their powers before a time skip, having to team up with a new cast of characters with powers completely different to any powers seen previously, to fight an evil group with the same new powers and restore the powers of one of the main characters.
Which is not to be confused with the Chapter Black arc of YuYu Hakusho, which is about a group of characters, one of the main characters having lost their powers before a time skip, having to team up with a new cast of characters with powers completely different to any powers seen previously, to fight an evil group with the same new powers and restore the powers of one of the main characters.
Oh yeah, I went there.
The purpose of today’s article is to show not only how the current Bleach arc is plagiarizing YuYu Hakusho, but also how it rips off other manga. Warning, if you have not read the Chapter Black arc, you will be spoiled. I hope you enjoy this comparison.
A brief time skip occurs following the Dark Tournament arc, Yusuke and gang go back to their regular school life. Kuwabara, one of the main characters, as a result of fighting Toguro last arc has lost his spiritual powers (i.e. the ability to see ghosts and use his spiritual energy to fight). However, Yusuke is kidnapped by a group of three teenagers with unusual powers. Yusuke’s friends and Hiei all gather together to find the group’s hidden mansion and rescue Yusuke. After defeating the kidnappers, then revealed as Psychics, and rescuing Yusuke it is then revealed by a newly revived Genkai that the whole kidnapping was all an elaborate training regime to prepare the group for the real threat.
Sakyo’s plan from the last arc has not stopped; someone else is planning on opening a whole to hell in a nearby city, the effects of which are causing some citizens to obtain strange psychic powers. With the help of some evil Psychics (made evil by the eponymous tape Chapter Black), this unknown person is trying to destroy the world. Yusuke and gang team up with these Psychics to stop this evil team of Psychics led by a former spirit detective like Yusuke. Kuwabara’s lost powers are unknowingly restored by one of these Psychics along the way.
For sake of being fair, the Fullbringer arc is still ongoing so not all details on the plot are available yet. Given Bleach’s glacial pace though, they may not be available for awhile.
A lengthy time skip occurs following the defeat and capture of Aizen. Ichigo and his crew all return to their normal school lives. Ichigo, as a result of his fight with Aizen, has lost his spiritual powers (the ability to see ghosts, fight with spiritual energy, etc etc). Worse yet, the gang have no way to contact Soul Society for help, so Ishida Uryu is left to fight hollows in Ichigo’s place. Assuming you’ve read past volume 5 of Bleach, you should be wondering why anyone agreed to allow the Quincy to do that for the last few years.
However Uryu is badly damaged by a stranger with strange powers that no one has seen before. Ichigo, after a fashion, is enlisted by a group of people who have the same sort of powers (including Chad of all people), called Fullbring. They want to stop Tsukishima, a former member of their group X-Cution, and train restore Ichigo’s powers in their secret apartment so the Fullbringers can no longer have their abilities. X-Cution is also apparently led by a former substitute Shinigami, like Ichigo.
The two stories, aside from minor details, are nearly identical. It’s uncomfortably similar. But trust me, we're only getting started with the comparisons.
From left to right we have Yusuke’s new Psychic allies: Kaito, a student at Kurama’s school
that is nearly on par with Kurama’s intelligence, Kido, the unofficial leader of the group, Mitsunari, the man with the Polnareff/Guile haircut, and eventually Morota, who joined after Yusuke made the convincing argument of PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE.
Admittedly, aside from Kaito, most of the new Psychics aren’t particularly developed beyond their initial introduction (that is, after the “kidnapping”). However you get the impression that they’re all good natured people that just want to help their city and are willing to put their lives on the line to do it. Except Morota, whose list of accomplishments is getting shot in the head, getting horribly sick, and getting eaten. Their personalities are distinct though. Kaito is level headed and intelligent, Kido can be cocky but a nice guy, and Morota is arrogant and cowardly. The only one that is hard to get a grasp of is Mitsunari who is a stoic and doesn’t really contribute much to the story. Still 3 out of 4 isn’t bad.
As for their designs, they are alright for the most part. Each one is very distinct so you won’t get any of these characters confused with another. As for Mitsunari’s hair, I wouldn’t say it would more likely be a rip off of either JoJo’s Polnareff or Street Fighter’s Guile (the latter was inspired by the former). I’d be more inclined to call it an homage knowing the author’s passionate love of video games. Besides, it’s only one character that makes this reference. If I’m not mistaken, I believe a few other Street Fighter characters have made cameos in YYH previously, so Mitsunari’s hair isn’t so problematic in regards to plagiarism as it is problematic to the environment. Seriously, how many cans of hairspray does that man have to use every day just to keep that look? I think the cast needs to worry more about the hole in the ozone layer opening more quickly than they do about the hole to hell.
Count off the plagiarism squad!
From left to right we have Not-Aizen#1, Perona from One Piece, Bradley from Full Metal Alchemist, black Pakunoda from Hunter X Hunter, and Hitsugaya variant#9001.
I wish I was kidding.
As for their personalities, they’re Bleach characters. Aside from their powers it’s honestly hard to distinguish them apart. Giriko (Bradley) and Jackie’s (black Pakunoda) personalities are non-existant. I get Giriko is supposed to be a butler so maybe you could make the argument that he is supposed to be the stoic one (though Jackie seems to be stoic as well), but even when their
own apartment (aka the secret hideout) is blown up the only thing that troubles him is that he has to call the police and such. C’mon, emote for Christ sakes. Give me at least the impression that you are anything but a bunch of lines scribbled together.
Jackie though is exactly the same. Kids, let me tell you about what not to do when writing a character. Define a character by events, fights, or powers. In a good character, I can name their personality without ever mentioning what they have or haven’t accomplished. I can tell you what they are like, how they would react to situations, etc without ever actually describing their appearance, powers, or accomplishments. Even if they haven’t been around that long, in a good character I at least have the impression I can get into their heads and know what they’d likely think. If you’ve read Bleach, stop reading this article for a minute and answer this question:
Without mentioning their appearances (that includes gender), powers, and fights they’ve been in, name ONE difference between these two characters. Short answer is that you can’t.
Riruka (Perona) is…just terrible. She’s horrifically annoying, every other line of Riruka is of her shouting at something. Though I’ll be fair and say that I’ve read far more annoying characters in other series. I think what gets me though is her large amount of panel time. It gives off the impression that Tite Kubo is desperately trying to push this character down our throats. That, and she has one of the dumbest powers in this entire series (more on that later). Also I can't help but think she's basically Hiyori with longer pigtails.
Yukio (Hitsugaya Variant) is a character I’ll admit I initially liked if only because he openly dislikes Riruka. That’s always a good sign isn’t it? I immediately latch onto a character just because they have one thing in common with me, hating Riruka. Other than that there really isn’t much to his character, he’s lazy, rich, he is constantly playing a PSP, and doesn’t like Riruka. Not much else to say about him.
Finally there’s Ginjou (Not-Aizen#1). He’s another hard character to get a mental grasp on, but for different reasons than 99% of the other characters in this series. Nothing about him is really consistent. He runs a secret hideout with absurdly difficult phone instructions, yet he can’t figure out that anyone with Reiatsu tracing powers can easily find his apartment. He wants to recruit Ichigo into his ranks, but despite having met him more than once he barges into someone else’s apartment to eat ramen so Ichigo will notice him (I still don’t know what the hell happened). He says he’s going to train with Ichigo but then starts randomly talking about whether Ichigo has ever wanted to be in a video game. He says he is someone Ichigo should trust yet he insists that Ichigo doesn’t know anything about Urahara and his own father Isshin. I don’t get it. Is Ginjou supposed to be a hero or a villain? Is he an anti-hero that’s only using Ichigo to his own “benefit” (when you plan to lose your powers for helping someone, I use the term benefit very loosely)? I can’t tell what Ginjou is supposed to be, and this eerily similar panel didn’t help:
This is just atrocious. Bleach is blatantly ripping off multiple character designs and reusing some old designs as well. This is just inexcusable. If it were maybe just limited to one character, MAYBE two, I’d be more inclined to call it an homage, like YYH. Instead we have this random mish mash of characters that likely won’t contribute much to the story beyond maybe one or two fights with their power.
In sake of fairness since Bleach hasn’t gotten around to introducing any other characters besides the main villain of this current arc and his lackey, I will only focus on the main villain and lackey of Chapter Black.
The enemy team during the Chapter Black arc was composed of 7 different characters, 5 of them Psychics, each with a codename (Black Angel, Gatekeeper, Gamemaster, Gourmet, Seaman, Sniper, and Doctor). Their goal is to have the world destroyed by powerful demons since they feel humans no longer have the right to live. That was the initial plan anyways before things got really weird. In either case, let’s get started.
Sensui (codename: Black Angel) is the leader of the group and definitely a gigantic threat. He was the former spirit detective prior to Yusuke before retiring due to going absolutely insane. Sensui reemerges years later with his partner and admirer Itsuki (Gatekeeper) to open a hole into hell, and then brainwash a team of psychics that would eventually be created along the way using Chapter Black, a video tape that’s the highlight reel of humanity’s worse accomplishments. Apparently it’s so bad that watching even 5 minutes of it will make any human consider genocide of their entire race by super demons the right thing to do. Ouch.
Sensui, despite the many misgivings I have against him by the end of the arc, is a very interesting character. For starters, he is a former spirit detective, which makes for a great villain to have against Yusuke. In addition to having similar powers to Yusuke, Sensui also has multiple personality disorder in order for him to deal with the horrible things he’s seen. While I don’t think that aspect worked well in execution, it was still an interesting idea in concept at least. It certainly makes this villain memorable. His design is alright, it definitely gives off a creepy vibe. I don’t know, maybe it’s the dot between his eyes or his permanent rape-face, but every time you see this guy, you know shit just got real.
Itsuki is one of the few gay characters I can recall in shounen that isn’t made out to be a joke. While other than his homosexuality and love for Sensui there really isn’t a whole lot to Itsuki other than the fact that he is the one that’s opening up the hole to hell. So we shall move on.
Our villain is the bastard lovechild of Aizen and Hiramaru from Bakuman.
Seriously, how does Tite Kubo get away with that? Who’s the editor that approved this?
Anyway this is Tsukishima (Not-Aizen#2). His plan has something to do with Ichigo and his friends but I honestly don’t have a single clue as to what’s going on. Tsukishima wants to fight Ichigo or at least stop him from gaining Fullbring powers for some reason. I have no idea what Tsukishima’s plan is. He also knows Ichigo’s friends and has targeted them and stabs them with his power (more on that later), but nothing he seems to do makes sense. He apparently did not want Ichigo to meet Ginjou and develop his powers, yet now he seems interested in Ichigo developing his powers and is willing to let him go. He just seems to be the obligatory villain and does everything for the sake of being evil. As of this current writing, the Fullbringer arc has been over 25 chapters long. That’s more than enough time to establish a villain and his motivations.
Also I would limit the comparison between Tsukishima and Aizen to only physical appearances if Tsukishima didn't also apparently have illusion abilities like Aizen. UGHHHH.
His lackey is named Shishigawara. His job seems to be failing at his job. He’s so bad that during his failed assassination attempt of Orihime (he can’t hit women) Tsukishima tries to kill him…only for Shishi to apparently forgive him completely later since he picked up groceries. Man the employment benefits must be nice if your boss trying to kill you is easily shrugged off by you later. As of current writing he doesn’t seem to actually have any powers so why Tsukishima sends him off to do anything is anyone’s guess. Maybe his power is to change his hair style between panels?
I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt with Bleach, really I would, but there is no way anyone could read through an issue of Shonen Jump and not see the obvious rip off of Hiramaru. This is a disgrace and a terrible villain with no real or consistent motivations. What a joke.
The Psychic powers were created as a result of the change of energy when a gigantic hell hole is being widened, though not everyone in the area receives them. It’s literally ordinary humans with powers that aren’t necessarily spiritual or demonic created from the unusual energy fluctuations. Though even if the hole is sealed the powers that the humans have will still continue to exist. The powers are very JoJo esque in the sense that the powers are very niche but usually have a set of rules of what the user can and can’t do within their psychic territory.
The Psychic powers do make sense in how the power is manifested, as the powers reflect the user’s personality. Though not everyone is developed well enough to make perfect sense, you can still see a common pattern. Kaito doesn’t like violence and is a master at language so his ability is to set up a territory where no violence can occur and if anyone says a taboo word their soul is forfeit. Gamemaster does nothing but play video games so he can set up a territory using his game system to apply video game logic onto his territory. Gourmet is always seen stuffing his face every other panel he’s in so he can engulf anything (or anyone) and receive the abilities of who he’s eaten. Doctor can use a psychic scalpel, chemically adjust his body, and release a virus into demon bugs that turns people into Muscle Man from Regular Show.
Truly a fate worse than death
When a parent is attacked by a hollow, survives, and the wife gives birth, their child will become a Fullbringer, a human with the ability to pull the souls out of objects they have affection towards to use as weapons. At least I think they’re human.
Do I really need to point out how nothing about that explanation makes sense? Even if I’m willing to accept that having your mother being attacked by a hollow makes her children have powers, why would those powers have anything to do with objects? Wouldn’t they be more hollow-like?
Even if you were willing to accept the origin of these powers, the Fullbring powers themselves don’t have any consistency. Okay so you have to particularly like an object to utilize it, like a favorite necklace. Fair enough. How then are they able to fullbring asphalt to super jump or fullbring the air in order to flash step? Do you have to really enjoy the air or ground in order to do it? That’s just broken. Even the objects where it would make sense don’t necessarily have limitations. Riruka can fullbring literally any object she finds cute. That’s so vague it hurts. Not to mention it makes her status as a Perona ripoff much easier to identify (dream of cute things anyone?).
The powers themselves are what I like to call “because I said so powers”, how do they work? Because the author said so. The powers themselves barely have any connection to the objects anyways. Giriko can set timers for indefinite amounts of time on any object that will explode if the vaguely defined condition is not met before the timer goes off using his pocket watch (which totally isn't at all like a taboo word rule from Kaito). Riruka can shrink anyone or anything she finds cute and she permits to accommodate the object she’s sending them into. Oh, and she deactivates the power by sneezing on them. Yukio's powers revolve around his PSP (WHICH TOTALLY ISN'T AT ALL LIKE GAMEMASTER NO SIR). Tsukishima’s power is that he can create a sword that can cut anything out of a bookmark. But even that’s up for debate since he may or may not be able to turn people against others by illusion cutting them. Sure why not? Aizen's illusion powers weren't at aaaaall annoying right?
Bleach’s Fullbring powers, unlike the Psychic powers, don’t make any sort of sense. I also can’t help but feel Bleach is also ripping off JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure since more than a few Fullbrings are named after bands (Invaders Must Die, Time Tells No Lies, etc). I know JoJo is not the only manga that had music-themed naming schemes, but it's still uncomfortably similar.
I can’t say I’ve liked Bleach intentionally for a long time. However even I think Tite Kubo can do much better than plagiarism. This is proof that Kubo ripped off YuYu Hakusho’s Chapter Black arc among many other series all in the course of this current arc.