This is probably going to be one of, if not the most controversial article that I will ever write on this site. This is not really a positive or negative article, I consider it more of a reflection of the Bleach fandom and pretty much my opinion of fandom overall.
First of all, like it or hate it, a fandom is essential to any story or collective works, without it no ideas spread, no love no nothing. In theory, a fandom is supposed to be a community of people who share a common interest who spread their love over a series or story that brings joy into their lives. In theory, it's supposed to be a pleasant experience, however, the reality is at times far from that. Every fandom, like community, has its issues, but often fandoms, especially Bleach, lose focus of this and create unwanted stress for those who want to discuss and enjoy the series. Now, Am I saying you can't criticize Kubo's storytelling, no, I believe it is healthy for a fandom to have an adult discussion about the story. Personally, I think it shows true love for a series to identify it's faults , but also showing that IT IS POSSIBLE, to love a series, while still acknowledging its faults. The truest and most mature fans know this and basically I'm just beating around the bush.
Unfortunately, a good majority of not only the Bleach fandom, but Shonen fandoms in general are...immature to put it lightly. Am I saying all anime and manga fans are immature, no, but over the years a good amount of the immaturity in the anime culture I have seen come from the shonen sub-culture. There are many varying factors to this such as age, home environment, etc., but the long of the short of it is that Bleach fans, which a majority of them are over the age of 16, are very socially immature.
One theory of mine is that a lot of this individuals don't have much cultural experience or mental enlightenment to totally "get" Bleach. This really is no fault of their own, and to be fair although I am not legally monetarily rich, I still grew up in a more privileged environment than most and have had the honor of being presented more unique opportunities than the average person, but they simplify are not very "educated" in various arts, literature, and culture. Now, I am not saying that's the fans are stupid, but they simply have a "more limited knowledge base." In otherwords, a lot of bleach's meanings and what Kubo is trying to get across reads like a picture book for me, while for others, they just completely miss it and its just over their heads. When this happens, we get the stereotypical fan-brat who writes "fan fiction" (which by that I mean dollar store smut novels, not actual people who create stories with original characters and try to bring something new to the fandom) in the hope that they get their shipping agent across so that the author makes their deluded dreams a reality, has an orgasm every time something explodes or dies, and puts a fictional katana to Kubo's head if he dares to even contemplate killing a fan favorite off. Now what does this all mean? My first point.
Bleach is the story of Ichigo NOT THE SHINIGAMI
Easily the easiest and most missed point of Bleach. Bleach is the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, Kubo says it, hell the description for Bleach on TV Guide says it. Sure, there are side characters, who have their story told, but at the end of the day, Bleach is the story of a young man who protectives others and questions his morality and the morality of society. One of the main reasons Kubo gave Bleach its name is because its ironic. Society has a general black and white view of society, it is even more ironic in both Japanese and western cultures, because in Japanese culture, black is thought to be good and white evil, and in western culture it is the polar opposite. Bleaching "purifies the stain," so Shinigami (black) are purifying Hollows (white), which leads me up to the point that Kubo is stating that society has no defining good or evil, society is grey.
Also, people forget that the Shinigami were originally antagonists, hellbent on destroying him and his friends. Although they are no longer trying to kill Ichigo, you can't call them protagonists either. In the literary sense, the Shinigami are foils to Ichigo's character. They are very structured, highly militaristic, and follow protocol and orders regardless of the moral implications, in contrast to Ichigo who is rebellious and will disregard rules and orders if he feels they are morally wrong. If anything we have learned in this current arc, like all governments and societies, the Gotei 13 have done things that have not really been morally sound, hell you can say they have done things that are downright evil.
The governmental structure of the Gotei 13 is a representation of Kubo's views of real life government. Their overall agenda is to protect the people, but sometimes policy and laws are not always in the best interests of the people, and social plagues still occur such as poverty and violence. The Shinigami's persona are human, they are subject the faults just like you and me, and it's ridiculous to treat them like infallible gods who can do no wrong.
Also, on a personal note, a majority of the shinigami, especially the captains, I don't find very emotionally captivating as characters. In fact, none of the current captains are in my top-10 favorites list. Part of this I believe links to my first point about Bleach being about Ichigo. In general if any of the shinigami don't have even a remote connection to Ichigo, they are generally not developed. Now, I'm going to get a lot of hate for this, but I'm going to say it, I think Hitsugaya is a more interesting character than Yamamoto. Now am I saying Hitsugaya is a better character in terms of personality, no, but we have spent time with Hitsugaya, we have gotten to know him, therefore I am more emotionally invested in him than other members of the Gotei 13. I am one of those people who becomes involved and socializes once I get to know someone. If I know someone for awhile and become more intune with their personality, I am more likely to spend time with them. Now we are speaking about fictional characters, but the same principles apply. If I don't get to know a character, then why should I care about them? If they do not "open up," then why should I invest my time and energy into them? The answer is I don't. I don't force my self into likely something, just because they have cool powers and what not, if I don't get to know them, then I don't care nor should I care. That being said, the whole Unohana and Kenpachi thing doesn't bother me, because I could never get into to them, so why should I care now? The point is I generally don't care for the shinigami as characters, does it mean they are horrible characters, for the most part no, but with a few a few exceptions, I just am not emotionally attached to them like a majority of Bleach fans, which in my opinion is a good thing because bleach is about Ichigo, NOT THE SHINIGAMI!
So, what's the problem with liking the Shinigami?
I honestly could debate all day about characters, stories, fans, etc. But, I don't have the time nor the energy to do that, because I do have a life, other interests, and responsibilities outside of Bleach, which in itself is ironic, because I have Aspergers and am supposed to be fixated/completely obsessed on things. As someone who has a condition that can lead to fixation on certain subjects, I can say that it's mentally unhealthy to focus on just one aspect of interest. There nothing wrong with liking certain characters, however it is an issue to become over obsessed of certain characters and completely discard everything else. The other reason the shinigami exist is because they are easy to market. You have the shinigami who have all these weapons and cool powers that are much easier to replicate in real life, than characters with energy powers such as Chad and Orihime. Other than costume pieces and action figures, what else can you honestly create merchandise from? With the Shinigami, fans can buy action figures, sword replicas, candy dispensers, the list is endless. The same thing goes to the arrancar, it's easy to replicate so it sells. The more merchandise that is available of said character, the more popular the character will become (in theory). With so much product available, it's easy to see how one can get carried away. My main point that I want everyone to walk away with is that you can have too much of something to the point were obsessions make the story and the fandom suffer. The fandom is supposed to be pleasant not something you feel to be disgusted with just because you have the misfortune of being associated with people who are emotionally immature.
-- 21:20, February 13, 2013 (UTC)