As you all know by now, the Bleach anime series ended it's 7 1/2 year run this past Tuesday. Now the question on everyone's mind is why did the series end? Was it the ratings? Was it money? Was the anime too close the manga? Honestly it could be any of those things, possibly a number of different factors, but there really isn't any single conclusive answer as to why the anime ended. I know for many of you this is a very difficult time, but as bleach fans we will get through this. Today, I am going to see the little more informed behind the scenes look into the factors that in my opinion could have led to the series eventual cancellation. My information comes from many well-documented sources, which if any of you are curious, I will leave citations for at the end of the article.
First, let's start with how exactly is the anime made. Now, when I talk about “made,” I'm not talking about animation, voice acting, I am talking about how anime is financed. Anime News Network’s Justin Sevakis, recently wrote an informative three part series on how anime is made, so most of my information will be cited from that. Here is how an anime is born:
You have something that is very extremely popular, such as a card game, previous TV series or movie, or manga, and it's popular enough in Japan, then the next logical step is to create an animated series. Basically anime or any other TV show for that matter is basically a well produced infomercial for the products that are advertised during the show's timeslot, or the very products that the show is based on. Although a lot of us don't like it is, the reality is be publishing companies and media companies goal is to make money. Sevakis notes that, “Anime production is an extremely labor-intensive proposition, employing the services of up to 2,000 people per episode around the world ” Of course with the rising digital technology, producing an animated has become a lot cheaper over the years, but it is still very expensive. According to Sevakis, “a single anime episode costs about US$100,000-300,000 per episode…” While anime does get expensive, its still not as expensive as US Television shows like American Horror Story or Big Bang Theory, but still one episode costs more than what many of us probably make in a year. In order to cover those costs, a production committee is started. Basically what production committee is a small group of companies, for example Sony, TV Tokyo,Aniplex,and Shueshia come together with an anime studio like Studio Pierrot and basically start sort of a small Corporation just for one particular show. Each of these individual companies pitch in a little money here and a little money there, and each company has a specific task in order to make the show a success. For example, TV Tokyo would air the anime, Sony would sponsor some products and throw some money there and have rights to make believe games out of the TV show, and other financial companies like Dentsu would also supply as financial backing.
Without getting too complicated that is basically how an anime is produced and financed. In Bleach’s case, in early 2004, the Bleach manga was one of the most popular titles in Weekly Shonen Jump, and was increasing in popularity overseas, so in order to help capitalize on that popularity, an animated adaptation was commissioned and would premiere in the Fall 2004 season. The anime initially met with mixed reviews, but overall it was a financial success. Bleach mania soon invaded the world and Bleach became a fan favorite. Of course in an adaptation it is understandable that some things will be cut, added, or changed in order to accommodate to a differing media format and bleach was no different in that respect.
In order to get to the highly popular “Rescue Arc”, at a much faster pace,the show's production team cut out material from the "Substitute Arc" in order to capitalize on the popularity of Soul Society Arc. In the studio’s mind, it would be a good thing, the long-time fans would be able to see their favorite action scenes animated much sooner, and kids would be hooked on this brand-new action adventure series. Sounds good right? Well yes and no.
The first season of bleach, which was adapted from the first eight volumes of the manga (or chapters 1-70), was 20 episodes long and ran from October 2004 until February 2005 . To make the math simple, over the course of 20 episodes, approximately 380 pages of content were used. In your head you must be thinking “Wow almost 400 pages of content was adapted into 20, 21 minute (minus opening and ending credits) episodes seems kind of rushed.” Yeah, that is exactly what happened, things were rushed. One of the major downfalls in the bleach animated adaptation in my opinion is the lack of early character development. Many background and supporting characters in the early parts of the manga, were far more fleshed out, and many key moments were cut out of the adaptation in order to get the Soul Society arc. This became problematic for two reasons: One being, the fact that many key developmental moments between the characters were missed out on, and therefore many later plot points became confusing. The second being, due to the studio skipping past a lot of content, with some episodes covering almost four chapters of content, it accelerated the need for filler.
Filler is really what killed Bleach, and “he who shall not be named,” was the final straw. Previously, I have stated that the main problem with Bleach fillers is that they try too hard at developing a plot and fan service that the studio fails to realize that Bleach is a character driven plot and many tradition forms of filler simply cannot work. There are 205 canon episodes and 161 completely anime-only episodes, so with a series where nearly half of your episodes are anime-only, you are going to have many problems. Other than the obvious fan displeasure, filler arcs are much more of a financial risk. When dealing with canon episodes, the anime team already has the material written, so all they really have to do is animate it. However, with filler, the studio actually has to write episodes and promote it and try to sell the DVDs to consumer. It is easy to see the difficulty right there. The studio has either two options: Either to end the anime when they run out of material and risk loosing their timeslot permanently (when new material is available) or lose fans, or take a huge financial risk in creating their own arc and hope viewers turn in and buy the DVDs. This is a difficult situation with any series, even more so with a long-running series like Bleach. Over time with the drama behind the scenes with Kubo, and Bleach’s decline in popularity, it became more and more difficult to sell the DVDs, and filler further led to the decline in interest in the anime.
However, I know many of you have noticed over the last few months, Bleach has had a resurgence in popularity, and the manga entered the final arc, so why did the anime get canned? As I stated previously, I don’t believe anyone has an exact answer, but I can tell you that I firmly believe some animated adaptation of Bleach will return in the “not-too distant” future. Posted bellow is some additionally commentary, which I could not find I place to fit appropriately in this article, and please post any comments below.
-- 20:47, March 31, 2012 (UTC)