Bleach Volume 1: Strawberry and the Soul Reapers by Tite Kubo centers on Ichigo Kurosaki who unwillingly becomes a Soul Reaper when a spirit attacks his family one night. Soul Reapers are tasked two things. First, they help wholes (good ghosts) reach the Soul Society. (I'm not really sure whether the Soul Society refers to heaven though, but it's probably similar to it.) Second, and more importantly, Soul Reapers vaporize hollows (bad ghosts). When a hollow attacks Ichigo's family one night, Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper, finds herself in the Kurosaki household to vaporize it. Unfortunate things happen though, which has Rukia giving half of her Soul Reaping powers to Ichigo. But during this transfer of power, however, Ichigo unintentionally manages to absorb all of Rukia's powers.
The chapters in Bleach Vol. 1 focuses on Rukia teaching Ichigo the tools of the trade of becoming a full-fledged Soul Reaper, since Ichigo must now do her hollow-killing responsibilities. Some of the chapters are engaging, especially those that provide further insight into the lives of Soul Reapers and how they can't discriminate as to who to save or not. Eventually, Ichigo surprises Rukia with his intuitiveness as a rookie Soul Reaper. Some episodes and panels, however, I couldn't completely comprehend. They're just plain weird.
And, since this was my first manga read ever, it took me some time before I got used to flipping the pages from the left, and reading the panels from right to left. There's even a warning at the start of the first page that says you're reading in the wrong direction if you opened the book the same way you would open your usual novel. Still, it's a fun experience learning to read the Japanese way.
The first volume of Bleach is one light read that is engaging, quirky, and funny at times. Ichigo provides comedic touches throughout this graphic novel with this sarcastic one-liners to Rukia. Rukia is your fish-out-of-water character with her naivete and clumsiness. These main characters, to Kubo's credit, are well-developed.
Tite Kubo's artwork is so beautifully rendered and detailed, although I think this is typical of manga. The result is a graphic novel with panels that seem to jump from the page. The appearances of the characters are also distinct, even though Kubo switches once in a while to chibi form. One doesn't wonder why there are now more than 20 books in the Bleach series.
Read this book if:
- You believe that there are good ghosts and bad ghosts.
- You feel that bad ghosts are out to get you.
- You've always imagined yourself hunting ghosts for a living.