Bleach came out in 2001 during the anime explosion on the edge of the new millennium where Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece took over. Shounen Jump’s future was clear then, which is a sharp contrast to today where the majority of Jump’s series’ are going to be ending next year. It’s an exciting time where new top shounens will be crowned but it’s also a little sad. Bleach’s manga is finally ending after more than 650 chapters and bringing to a close the era that set the groundwork for the global anime industry of today where anime is shown on Netflix, Scarlett Johansson is about to star in an anime live action, and Japan is actively exporting shows to the whole world.
As we say goodbye, let’s look back on the days when Bleach reigned king since they were special days for global anime fans in many ways.
Musicians surprisingly came out in a big way, releasing anime shorts as official music videos
It wasn’t cool to like anime during this time. Anime was Pokemon and Pokemon was for kids (though Pokemon Go proved that wrong in 2016.) In 2004, Linkin Park challenged the thought that anime is for kids with their music video that featured death, blood, and violence.
Daft Punk released an anime short for every song in their Discovery album, which added up to be a full movie called: Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. The Discovery album featured kidnapping, brainwashing, and some violence. It made such an impact that Kanye remixed one of the songs in his 2007 hit “Stronger” and the accompanying music video was a love letter to the anime movie Akira.
Fans lived on forums and entire communities didn’t try to kill each other
Bleach © Studio Pierrot
Social media of today is great but let’s be honest – “Ani-Twitter” is cancer and most of the anime Twitter community agrees. Every type of fan is mashed on one network, which causes groups to brigade against each other. Older internet forums had some of this fighting but for the most part, each forum had a slightly different community and if you wanted to be a troll, you lived on 4chan. Although, even 4chan started out as a place to share anime and manga in 2003 before it grew bigger, bolder, and a beautiful place to troll people.
Toonami was EVERYTHING
Toonami © Cartoon Network
Cartoon Network replaced Power Zone, their average afternoon cartoonblock, with Toonami in 1997. In 1999, they pushed the animation block later, added a midnight run and started showing anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball Z, Gundam Wing, and Outlaw Star. People went crazy, ratings grew like crazy, and a new generation of anime fans were born.
No one was asking if someone was a “real” anime fan
Kingdom Hearts © Square Enix
As anime has become more popular online in recent times, there has been a rise of people aiming to cash in on the fan’s passions to grow their personal following online. During the Bleach age, everyone was a mega nerd and no one was faking staying up until 5am watching anime to get “insta-famous” or “cosplay famous.”
Fan clubs were hardcore
In the past, managing a fanclub was considerably harder whether it was online or offline. Easy tools to keep in touch with others weren’t widespread and many clubs were run by email or a standalone topic in a forum. Gathering fans, planning events, or mailing membership cards took hundreds of hours of organizers time.
The cosplay community was smaller and more accepting
In the late 90’s to early 00’s, cosplay culture was still finding its legs. At most anime conventions, cosplayers were just excited to meet another fan and there was much less unsolicited criticism from the community on ways a cosplay could be improved. There were fewer hate blogs, social media bashing, and public in-fighting between members of the community.
Deviantart was the only real option for fanart and comics
Today, we have so many options for ways to discover great fanart that it can sometimes get overwhelming. Back in the day, you just had to search in one place to feed your growing obsession with fanart and doujinshi.
AMVs were crazy good
Or maybe they weren’t but back then they were novel and new! Everyone finally had some access to video editing tools and it was so cool to be able to show off your personal love of a show with your favorite songs and scenes. Looking back, they were definitely cheesy but no one escaped that era without finding at least one AMV they secretly still love.
Walter White dubbed anime
Eagle Riders © Saban Entertainment, Breaking Bad © Sony Pictures Television
Bryan Cranston, hit star from Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle, did anime dubbing during this era. He didn’t get into any major shows but he did appear in Armitage III: Poly-Matrix, Macross Plus (OAV), and starred in the limited adaptation of Gatchaman as Joe Thrax in Eagle Riders.
After 15 years, we find ourselves at looking back at Bleach and the end of an era, but that doesn’t mean we need to let go. The free mobile game Bleach: Brave Souls let’s you return to relive Bleach’s greatest moments, only this time, you’re in control of the characters and the fight. You start by meeting Rukia to become a Soul Reaper and go on to battle iconic foes like Grimmjow and Nnoitra Gilga in over 200 chapters.
Brave Souls has recently celebrated its One Year Anniversary and is now thanking players for helping them reach the 15 Million downloads milestone. During this time, they’re showering all players with tons of rare goodies, some of which can summon really powerful characters, like this 5-Star White Ichigo.
Bleach: Brave Souls © Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot
You can get these rewards even if you make a fresh account, but the event isn’t going to last too long, so this is a good time to try the game out.
Bleach’s creator Kubo doesn’t seem ready to part with Bleach either. He’ll be making a special announcement along with the release of Bleach’s last chapter, set to release on August 22. So rewatch Bleach’s moments or play through them with Brave Souls, and let’s look forward to the end of Bleach and hopefully the start of something new.