Thursday, 5 January 2012

Attack from Behind: Filler Arc Spectacularama Numero Prima

Drumroll, please. It's filler arc mocking time. IT'S OUR

Wherein we discover that vampires are afoot.

Most BLEACH detractors are actually rather nice about the anime, and with canonglasses off it’s easy to see why the anime continuity is superior to the manga. The anime writer team is forced to spin fun and exciting arcs based around concepts that Kubo himself introduced earlier in the series, but has essentially neglected after the fact. As such, the filler is, for the most part, far more entertaining than the manga, with its glacial pacing and insanely prolonged stretches of nothingness. Furthermore, in the unique case of BLEACH, the main faults of filler arcs--the absence of character development for canon characters and the unimportance of events to the main storyline--happen also to be the main faults of the manga anyway.
And fans of BLEACH who might object that the filler just uses characters that Kubo created—yes, granted, but that’s denying that Kubo is not exactly an anime adaptation team’s wet dream. Imagine being in charge of storyboarding episodes based on manga material (all while the studio is breathing down your neck urging you not to burn up too much canon in a single episode) with the following to work with: the huge panel wastage, negative space, entire pages devoted merely to the chapter title, pages that are just close ups of faces, and panels that are just close ups of mouths.

How about this one that’s just teeth? Teeth, that thing of Kubo’s a guy from the anime team will soon be complimenting while coincidentally holding a baseball bat

That being said, it’s practically child’s play to take the piss out of BLEACH filler arcs, especially in hindsight. According to anime continuity (for which I’ll count the movies as well), Soul Society has been in mortal peril on the order of five or six times between the beginning of the series and the timeskip (so, less than the space of a year or two for Ichigo). And, inevitably, it’s up to Ichigo to fight and defeat the big bad. I think we can all admire the poor kid’s patience putting up with such preposterously rotten luck. Apparently, God and the universe waited for Ichigo to be turned into a substitute shinigami, and then gleefully struck Soul Society, Earth, and every plane of existence besides with calamity after calamity. Compounding Ichigo’s worries is the fact that the writers always have to come up with new ways to threaten Ichigo’s “friends” (thereby livening up the conflict with higher, more personal stakes)—you know, those other kids with whom we sort of have to take it on faith that Ichigo interacts on a regular basis. Often, the writer team will arrange things so that Soul Society will have cause to doubt Ichigo again (that way the extremely strong elite captains won’t just reduce the enemies to cinders on first blush). You’d think that after the hundredth time he saved their hides, his friends up in Soul Society would stop trying to detain or kill him on the slightest suspicion.

“Really, guys? I saved the world, like, yesterday. In point of fact, I saved three worlds yesterday, but hey, who’s counting?”

In any case, the first filler arc of the anime(coming right after the end of Soul Society Arc) is one of the notable exceptions to the “filler is better” rule of thumb. The Bount arc is the adorably retarded but admirably imaginative redheaded stepchild of the filler family. He’s the kid in the corner that draws epic sagas of intrigue, murder and pathos entirely in crayon.
The Bount arc, while a noble effort, is just too damn goofy to take seriously.  Back when I counted myself a BLEACH fan, I had endless fun mocking this arc with my friends. The anime-only characters are so different in style and tone from Kubo’s typical stuff, (even back then when there wasn’t that much canon material yet), that the contrast is hilariously glaring. The prior arc had Ichigo face off against the likes of elite shinigami like Byakuya,  Kenpachi, and even Aizen himself. This time he crosses swords with... 80s-looking vampire dudes.


With a face like that you can understand why they decided to call them “Bounts.” These derps are what is spawned when Europop artists are allowed to breed. The following is a brief rundown of the main Bounts, “main” meaning they get all the final fights in Soul Society.

 If Ichigo lets Kariya get his way, he'll pop THOUSANDS of innocent collars!

Here’s our illustrious big bad and backstabber par excellence, Kariya Jin. He can paralyze you by touching you with his index finger, which is only the second reason you’d never want him to finger you.  He’s also got a wind sword. I’m not gonna say all vampires would be cooler with wind swords, but think about it.

According to the BLEACH wiki: “Despite his size, this man is kind.”

Here’s Koga Gou. He is fat and also kind of good, so I will call him John Goodman. Also, with headphones that size he must have trained his ears to deadlift. Dude, I know you’re like hundreds of years old, but that… that’s not how it’s done. It’s too late to trust yourself to dress hip, man.

What's he doing here, shouldn't he be leading his Pokemon gym

He’s the rebellious one! All the Bounts are supposed to have fierce independent streaks, so gathering them together under one plan is like herding cats. But Mabashi here is the really rebellious one, as he thinks they shouldn’t eat human souls while the human prey is still alive. Until Kariya hops him up on bug juice made of human souls. Haha, yeah, that happens. Wait for it~

 My doll is a talking sword and fan. TREMBLE
Ah yes, the single token female antagonist, Yoshi. Let’s use this space to talk about the primary weapon of a Bount, his or her “doll,” which is like a talking familiar they order around to fight; the stronger Bounts can fuse with their dolls (Kariya’s fused with his wind doll). Yoshi’s doll is a talking sword and fan.

Moving on.

 By the looks of him, he read ahead in the script.

Sawatari is the crotchety old bastard of the bunch. Just as every big bad needs an underling that wants nothing more than to kill the big bad, Kariya recruited Sawatari, presumably in order to be a proper big bad. Sawatari looks like an old fuck because he ate too many living human souls, even though eating human souls is what makes Bounts ageless. I dunno.

There are other Bounts, but we’ll get to them later.

Then there’s the trio of modsouls that, surprisingly, have become mainstays in the anime past this arc. Urahara supposedly created these gigai humanshape soul receptacle dolls to be spirit energy detectors in anticipation of a threat like the Bounts appearing, but I think that’s a power he only stumbled upon while trying to create the perfect body pillow for his unique tastes.

The most memorable of the anime staple modsouls is definitely Noba, because… Well, just see for yourself.

 One man believed that the best addition to BLEACH would be a gay ninja.

And take a look at Eccentric McPedostache, also known as Kuroudo (on the left).

 Urahara needs to stop being creative.

Ririn is the little girl modsoul with a precocious crush on Ichigo, your typical annoying tsundere (standoffish, but with tender moments once she opens up to PROTAGONIST!!) spam character that millions of otaku can’t get enough of. Thankfully no fanservice here, and it’s difficult for even the most determined pervert to fantasize over a little girl that spends the majority of her screentime as a plush chicken.

Her chicken form is cute, but there’s only one word to describe Noba and Kuroudo’s character designs in either gigai or plushy form, and that is “fruity.”

Noba certainly looks cooler as a plushy, but Kuroudo there on the right… Egads.

Each of them has a special power that comes in handy later on. Ririn can cast illusions, Kuroudo can shapeshift and Noba can make portals.

 Renji Owned Count: Already broken

I suppose that would make Kon’s special modsoul power… super legs? Kinda lame in a nifty sort of way. Though considering Rukia’s modsoul was able to pin Ichigo to the floor rather effortlessly (in one of the only genuinely funny moments in the entire series), one could conclude super strength is the standard for modsouls, and that Urahara’s own creations have special powers (either because he’s a genius or because he has THAT much free time).

Let’s start at the beginning. Soul Society’s over, Ichigo and friends are back to high school. In a gag that I’m sure will never become done to death, there’s someone new on school grounds/in class who’s really weird-looking, turns out it’s Renji in a gigai. Ichigo demonstrates he still has a semblance of a personality at this point by chewing Renji out, but it seems Renji has been assigned as the shinigami overseer of Karakura for the time being. Then a hollow appears, but Renji has trouble removing his gigai, so Ichigo’s off to save the day. This is mostly unimportant, save for the opportunity to show this gif, which I will now shamelessly exploit.

 I'm starting to suspect Renji is a bit useless.

He and Renji sense a strange presence near Orihime. Orihime welcomes a doppelganger of her dead brother Sora into her house, and the Sora simulacrum drags her into a portal in the sky before our heroes can stop him. The next day they find out that no one besides Ichigo, Renji, Chad, and Ishida remember her. Then they get a call on their soul phone from a little girl (Ririn) who says she kidnapped her, and if they want her back they’ll have to win a circuit of games; after enlisting Urahara’s help investigating the caller’s voice, the successfully win her back safe and sound (though mind wiped) by finishing races to various buildings in time.

However, it’s not Orihime at all, but Kuroudo disguised as her. Chad is the next to be kidnapped, carried through another portal. It would seem that to these new enemies, it really is just a game!!

Just a reminder that Chad is strong enough to bend steel girders and lift telephone poles.

Goddamn that chin is huge. Sorry, where was I?
So our manly badass protagonists have been jobbed at all turns by an emo with poor fashion sense, a cosplay failure, and a Swedish children’s programming star. I like this arc so far.

The silliness continues apace: Chad and Orihime are returned when the gang solves a warp room puzzle at the Karakura Town Museum, which evidently exhibits dinosaur fossils. All throughout the heart pounding action, I wondered about the lives of those dinosaurs. The next game has the gang endeavoring to find out who among them is the impostor before the clock strikes noon and everyone in their school is eliminated—and their friends are disappearing one by one. There’s a gag wherein Renji starts flippantly pestering Ichigo in class, and Ichigo figures he’s the impostor so he throws him on the floor and yells “take it off,” struggling with him to remove his gigai.

 Guys... kind of a crisis, is there really time for fanservice gags?
They can’t figure out who the impostor is, and they can’t contact SS for help, so Ririn tells them either to take a 20% chance guess or to save everyone by giving up their own lives. This is pretty twisted. Keep that in mind. Ichigo manages to guess correctly that it’s Chad when his doppelganger acts surprised and afraid by Yoruichi’s arrival (who came along with Soi Fong to investigate an unrelated occurrence), revealing that the impostor had never seen her outside of cat form. This is pretty amusing considering that in the manga we’ve never seen her IN cat form after she first transformed back to normal. I bet the next filler arc will be about animal transformations.

The last game forces them to destroy a gigantic modsoul portal before thirty minutes’ time.

Just how is it they're able to summon colossal dimensional portals? When in doubt, Urahara did it.

Over in Plot B, Yoruichi and Soi Fong find a desiccated corpse of crumbly dust and send it to SS for analysis, a plot point oft recycled in filler arcs for much needed padding. They track down a chick who was going to eat a fresh new soul by luring a train conductor in with a siren song, but the two stop her and she gets away.

Ichigo tries to bankai, but, it’s explained, it’s not as easy to bankai in the human world. Still better than Renji, whose major contribution while everyone gets sucked into the portal is “avoiding getting hit by a truck.”

Inside the alternate dimension, while Renji leanrs how to play with portals, Ichigo must fight against copycat Kuroudo while Chad is imprisoned in a tube of ever rising sands, which will suffocate him in 5 minutes.

You know, they're not katanas. You can just sort of... slice upwards.

They actually lose, upon which time Urahara comes to the fore and reveals it was all just trolling on his part. It was secretly training to develop their battle hardiness, teamwork and tactical skills. Urahara, you just offered the gang a heartfelt apology over the Hougyoku/Rukia gigai fiasco, maybe don’t embroil them in warped, mostly pointless mind games so soon afterwards. For one, I don’t really think “trapped in a spatial loop!” is ever going to come up again. Also, remember how you had the modsouls lead the gang to believe that everyone in their school was going to die and it was all their faults, you sadistic

Urahara tells Ichigo to work at getting his bankai back, unless he wants to get kicked seven ways to Sunday by all the baddies whose powers he doesn’t know. Don’t fret it, Urahara, explaining powers has proven to be the first priority of any BLEACH enemy.

And then a Bount shows up.

I like how the titanically powerful soul reaper death god can’t get out from under real world rubble

I can’t tell you how much I love the next Bount, Utagawa, the guy with the snakes. Suffice it to say, he turns shit into snakes. Somebody thought up of a mincing vampire that turns things into snakes for this shinigami series. That made it to air. Utagawa makes me cherish life.

 I'd forgotten the dub was this half-assed

Clearly this man is a god. He managed to fend off Ichigo, Chad, Orihime, and Urahara and friends through the awesome might of his snake whip. What does he do when his first wave of snakes is defeated? Why the obvious solution, more snakes. This invincible strategy will help him towards his goal of defeating Kariya and obtaining his crest!!

That incantation Bounts say to release their dolls is “zeige dich,” gratuitous German for “show yourself!” Speaking of gratuitous German, the plot thickens as Bounts need themselves a Quincy for some sinister purpose, and Ishida’s unable to defend himself since he lost his powers. Yoshino, the fire Bount Ichigo lost against, saves Ishida. Believe it or not, this arc pairs Ishida and Yoshino. I guess the writer really wanted a romance between Ishida and his OC, but seeing as this is a filler arc, it’s a creative decision that's more than a little baffling.

The next Bounts to try to kidnap Ishida are Hou and Ban, the water twins.

 This arc is a tad strange

These kids present us with a bit of a puzzle. Did both of their dolls just happen to be the same, or what? Then again, Movie 2 had the retarded plot point of the main antagonist having the same sword as Hitsugaya, so.

 And so the water went up the spiritual being's nose

Yes, Ganju, of all people, bails them out. I think the sentence "Well, they had to write Ganju in somehow." will be appearing again before long.

Dalk, I’m sure you can find someone to accept your love once John Goodman is done browsing the mohawk section of Craig’s List

 John Goodman’s doll is named Dalk, and boy is she overpowered. It sure is convenient that John Goodman is sort of good, or else they’d all be screwed. She’s probably the coolest doll.

 Just like when Ichigo fought Kenpachi, I wanted Utagawa’s true power to be unleashed only after removing his soul patch

Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest exchange in all of fiction:

“Sorry, no snakes allowed!”

“How dare you.”

 Jeez, guys, I know she hasn’t got her sword back yet, but give Rukia something else besides that one spell

Meet Ichinose, shinigami defector and loyal underling of Kariya, the one man Ichinose has ever encountered who practically lives and breathes betrayal. As former Vice-Captain of Squad 11, he claims to be butthurt over Kenpachi just waltzing in and killing the former captain to take his place, but what he’s actually smarting from is the fact that Ichigo, Ikkaku, and Yoruichi are all more likable characters with the character “Ichi” in their names, and because his name sounds like Itchy Nose

We’ll close out this part of our overview with a pivotal moment and an immense tragedy as Ichinose reveals his true contemptible colors and uses his vague light powers to kill Utagawa.

 Ichinose, dread slayer of lulz

How will this heinous Bieber-cut malcontent get his just desserts? Find out, next time!


  1. Did you notice that the beginning of this arc has quite the similarity to the beginning of the Chapter Black arc in Yu Yu Hakusho?

    1. Just like the start of the Fullbring arc is similar to the Chapter Black arc.

  2. I thought I had skipped this arc after it got boring or something in the beginning but I apparently watched almost the whole thing.

  3. I thought I had skipped this arc after it got boring or something in the beginning but I apparently watched almost the whole thing.