Hello Again! This is a little piece I have had in the deranged forest of Ni that is my noggin for quite awhile now. I have finally found the time in my busy schedule to write it. I thought now would be better than ever, because I think we need something a little positive in our minds right now, so what could be better than reminiscing about the Soul Society Arc. As for the review for episode 313, according to crunchyroll, the episode will air tomorrow(March 16th) at 5:30 am Eastern Standard Time, so I will still do that whenever I get a moment. So many of you may be asking from my title "The Soul Society Arc Is Awesome! What's Wrong With It? Why Don't You Complain About The Arrancar Arc?" While the Soul Society Arc is an AMAZING Arc, it still has it's flaws, like the Arrancar Arc. I often get tired of people saying the "That Bleach sucked after SS arc, and the Arrancar Arc sucked." While the Arrancar arc did have it's moments that made you want to invest in hallucinogenic drugs, it still had various improvements from the Soul Society Arc. However, it also magnified problems in the Soul Society Arc to a greater (and less positive)degree. So sit back and relax as I break down the various, non-speculative aspects of the Soul Society Arc, and make parallels of similar situations in the Arrancar Arc. Let's Begin!
Ok lets break things down. I know a major complaint people have with Bleach is the length of its arcs and pacing. While I agree Tite Kubo is no speed demon when it comes to pacing, let's just be thankful he's not "War and Peace" slow! So we all know the Arrancar Arc was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from late 2005 to October 2010. So roughly the Arrancar Arc ran for about five years. Now, we can break down the Arrancar arc down into four parts, not including Turn Back The Pendulum: the arrival, Hueco Mundo, Fake Karakura Town, and Soul Society Invasion. So using that principle, I consider the Soul Society arc to be the from Bleach chapter 1 until chapter 182. The reason I consider it to all be one arc is because I consider Ichigo becoming a "true" Soul Reaper to be the plot through "part 1" of Bleach. At first Ichigo is reluctant to fulfill the duties of a Soul Reaper, but by the end of the Soul Society Arc, he understands that this is what he is meant to do, and fulfills his duties and becomes an "official" Substitute Soul Reaper. Ichigo learns the name of his Zanpakutō, masters Shikai and Bankai, and saves the day. Ichigo comes out as a much stronger person and the deep personal issues he had not being able to protect his mother seem to fade away. So if you look at the Soul Society Arc that way, it ran in Weekly Shonen Jump from August 2001 until late 2005. So the Soul Society Arc ran a little over four years. So if we break it down further Soul Society Arc(182 chapters) Arrancar Arc(240 chapters). So if you look at it that way, the Arrancar Arc was only slightly longer than the Soul Society Arc/Saga.
So in reality Bleach's pacing issues have been there since day 1, and I don't understand why in the last 2 1/2 years people are finally noticing this. While sometimes I do admit I wish I could go to Kubo and say "Hey Buddy! Mind speeding this up a bit?" I understand the method to his madness. Since Kubo loves to make these big, cinematic style panels, people often complain that they are too big, not enough story, and say be more like Oda! First of all both Oda and Kubo have two VERY different styles and stories and it is not fair for either to be compared to one another(same thing goes with Kishimoto and Naruto). The "Big Three" are all unique and are interesting stories in their own right, and each have its own unique art and writing style. Kubo likes to tell his stories more with pictures than with dialogue, they say "a picture's worth a thousand words," so Kubo must be trying to say a hellava lot. So, if Kubo needs more time to express what he is trying to say fine, take how long you think is appropriate.
Another major complaint of the Arrancar Arc is some characters lack of development(i.e. Orihime). Ok stopping myself before I go into a huge, unnecessary rant. The Arrancar arc provided character development for the main Bleach cast(Ichigo, Rukia, Orihime, Uryū, and Chad) as well as development for many minor or secondary characters. In my opinion Orihime is often criticized for a lack of character development, because of people's dislike of her(I like her, because she is like my twin from a parallel universe in a very creepy way, and I can relate to her a lot). But Orihime did have significant character development. We found out that Orihime isn't always Ms. Happy Goofy McGiggles, and that she has deep underlying emotional issues. I think people often forget with Orihime, is that she is a teenage girl, and she is trying to figure out who she is as a person, and is making that transition from a girl to an adult. She is trying to be independent and often is too down on herself. Many people wanted "super kung-fu action goddess" Orihime character development, and bashed her(Kubo) when that didn't happen. People need to understand that Orihime is really the essence of innocence and has a very non-violent persona, while I still hope major a%$ kicking will happen(I still think it will in due time), having her suddenly for no reason to go super nova would have been completely out of character. While at times the O accursed "Kurosaki-Kun" can get on people's nerves, it PALES in comparison with the oh so famous "INUYASHA! KAGOME!" Kurosaki-Kun WILL NEVER BEAT THAT AMOUNT OF WANTING TO SHOVE A PENCIL INTO YOUR EARDRUM!
Back To the Soul Society Arc. One of the main problems I have with the Soul Society Arc, is a lack of major character development until near the end of the arc. Rukia I believe got the brunt of this. Rukia is first introduced as a stereo-typical "slightly b*&chy" female lead who helps the male lead on his journey. Rukia maintains this persona throughout most of the substitute arc, and she does not really have any major character development until her flashback of her memories with Kaien and Squad 13. The Kaien memory reveals that Rukia has some very deep psychological issues, and explains why she had a very cold persona. Rukia carries over a half-century worth of guilt in something that clearly was not her fault in any way, shape, or form. Kaien was doomed the moment he was possessed, and if Rukia did not kill him, someone else would have. There is also a parallel between Rukia running away from Kaien/Metastacia and Orihime's "what should I do" inner monologue on the dome of Las Noches. Rukia thinks to herself as she is running away "why did this have to happen...why...Kaien!" Rukia just did not know what to do and she ended up killing Kaien in self-defense. Rukia eventually resolves her issues with the Shiba's and throughout the Arrancar Arc, she maintains a much more happy persona. The development between Orihime and Rukia is made much more clear in the Arrancar Arc. Both Rukia and Orihime have had less than spectacular childhoods, Orihime having abusive parents, and the death of her brother, Rukia being abandoned and living in poverty, where many of her childhood friends died. It is because of these hardships that Rukia and Orihime really get along together and become wonderful friends. Rukia understands Orihime and some of the issues she is going through, and they both have a "true" friendship that transcends worlds. However as I mentioned, most of this development occurred post Soul Society Arc. For the most part, the Soul Society Arc was just "fight,fight,fight!" While I do like a good fight, a lot of development of Team Karakura suffered. While some character development did happen in the Soul Society Arc, I feel a lot of it was shoved in the last 20 or so chapters of the arc. During the Arrancar arc this was improved and paced a little. It felt much more natural, and the characters become far more realistic for me.
In all honesty for the most part, the Soul Society Arc was pretty standard shonen fare. Our heroes fight to save a friend, fight many battles, and save the day. This has been done many times before. What really made this arc memorable was...drumroll please...Aizen! Let's be honest with ourselves here, do you think Bleach would have become as big of an international smash hit without the Aizen-twist? I am inclined to say that I don't think it would have. Without going into hindsight, no one expected Aizen to turn around from Mr. Super Wonderful Guy to a class A S.O.B! I reread some old forums and I read how everyone's jaw basically dropped and said "WTF JUST HAPPENED!" Aizen was set up as the captain you thought would be most likely to help Ichigo and before his "death," I can imagine people predicting that Aizen would help Ichigo save Rukia. But, when it turns out to be quite to opposite, it left everyone awestruck and very confused. Like him or hate him, you can't deny that Aizen has had a great influence of Bleach's popularity.
The main reason I think that the Arrancar Arc didn't have that same spark as the Soul Society Arc is that there was not surprise villain, so some of the shock was taken away. But, at the same time, it left the expectations for mind-blowing plot twists, and when that was not met, it often left disappointment in fans. Plus problems with having so many fights and not enough story became more apparent in the Arrancar Arc.
I also believe the scope of the Arrancar Arc is far larger than the Soul Society Arc. While the Soul Society Arc had its dark points, it still had a rather whimsical feel to it, and almost a sort of child-like wonder. When we get to the Arrancar Arc we have what I call the "Harry Potter" effect. When we start the journey of Bleach, we are sucked into this fantasy world and everything seems wonderful and we defeat the bad guys and move on. As the story progress, that "magic" starts to chip away, and we end up becoming disenchanted at some point. So when we get closer to the climax of the Arrancar Arc, the series has become quite dark, and a lot of the innocence is gone. The real horrors of fighting are shown, and it becomes very disheartening. We also have many major characters die during the arrancar arc. We did not have any major deaths in the Soul Society Arc, so really this is the first time that major characters die. Although all the characters that died were villains, they were still significant deaths regardless of which side they were fighting for.
All in all both arcs had their ups and downs, but overall I both think they were both amazing arcs. Bleach is my favorite series (other than Harry Potter, which I love equally) and I love everything about it faults and all. I will remain a fan for many wonderful years to come.