The Fall 2022 anime season will herald the much-anticipated return of the long-running Bleach anime, which ran from 2004 to March 2012 for a total of 366 episodes. The story was ultimately finished in author Tite Kubo’s original manga, so anime-only fans are in for a real treat this fall — and this is an opportunity to make a soft reboot of the Bleach anime along the way.
Ultimately, this new season is a continuation of the classic Bleach anime, but in some ways, it feels like a soft reboot or sequel, from the updated animation techniques to a new soundtrack and the fact that this new arc is a self-contained story. Another way the new Bleach anime can set itself apart from the 2004-2012 run is to eliminate most or all of the censorship.
Why the New Bleach Anime Should Be More Graphic
The original Bleach anime featured plenty of high-octane action sequences lifted directly from the source manga, such as Ichigo Kurosaki’s final duel with Captain Kuchiki in the “Soul Society” arc and Ichigo’s final duel with his Espada rival Grimmjow in the “Hueco Mundo” story arc. However, in countless scenes, the original Bleach anime toned down the graphic content of all these fights, such as eliminating a great deal of blood or not showing characters having body parts hacked off in battle. This certainly made the Bleach anime a bit more kid-friendly, but by now, the overall Bleach anime has outgrown that visual censorship, and many fans would argue that it always held the Bleach anime back.
The new season of Bleach will be an all-out war pitting the Soul Reapers and Ichigo’s squad of friends against their greatest threat yet: the mighty Quincy empire, called the Wandenreich. The original “Thousand-Year Blood War” arc in Bleach‘s manga was a bloody, brutal and drawn-out affair with many casualties and tragedies on both sides, and the gore, violence and destruction helped drive that point home. Bleach has always been a manga with top-tier, highly detailed artwork, and Tite Kubo made the war painfully but also excitingly real for readers with these cool action scenes and graphic content.
It’s not quite on Berserk‘s level, nor should it be, but this visual brutality set the TYBW arc apart, and the new anime is Studio Pierrot’s perfect opportunity to ditch the original anime’s censorship and make this shonen war feel real. Besides, most of Bleach‘s fans are much older now, and seeing characters suffer bruises and light burns instead of serious injuries almost feels like an insult, or at least a waste of Bleach‘s potential. The story and fans alike have grown up, and they’re not afraid of some R-rated action to help this wayward anime put itself back on the map.
Among the “big three” of shonen, Bleach felt like the runt of the litter, especially anime-wise, so a visually brutal, censorship-free war is just what Bleach needs to grab modern viewers’ attention. In so doing, studio Pierrot may prove why Bleach is an equal to Naruto and One Piece, not a wannabe of them. The Bleach anime will need every tool at its disposal to overcome its iffy reputation and remind everyone why it’s truly a big three series.
The Mature Graphics of Modern Shonen Anime & Manga
On one hand, graphic violence in shonen action manga is hardly new, and even modern shonen anime tend to have at least light censorship with graphic and sexual content. Then again, Bleach‘s PG-style censorship feels highly dated, as though the Bleach anime didn’t trust viewers with some truly visceral and bloody combat.
By contrast, modern shonen titles such as Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen and certainly Attack on Titan don’t shy away from gore, and for each series, the gap between the manga’s and anime’s graphic content is relatively small compared to Bleach. These series trust viewers to handle graphic scenes of demons getting hacked apart, Eren getting beaten half to death or Junpei Yoshino getting blown apart as a mutated human, so Bleach‘s new anime must do the same. The original Bleach anime did have some hardcore moments, but not quite like this.
As a whole, it seems that shonen anime is trending toward darker, more serious and more graphic storylines, contrary to author Eiichiro Oda’s call for a return to cartoon-style storytelling, and Bleach‘s manga, at least, is keeping pace with that trend. In the spirit of the times, the returning Bleach anime must do the same, or else it may feel defanged, or worse, like a poser. If there’s too much censorship in the new Bleach anime, it will feel like a tame wannabe, so that should be kept to a minimum. It is time for Tite Kubo’s inspiring but brutal original story of Soul Reaper and Quincy to burst onto the scene in true, bloody style and show everyone what a real shonen war arc looks like.