A List of Moderate Expectations for the Bleach Live-Action Movie
Decent live-action adaptations of anime series are hard to come by. Not only do producers have to make sure their actors don’t look goofy in their costumes and make-up, they also face the challenge of condensing deep lore and content in just over two hours. Even then, you can’t help but wonder if there’s something these big-time movie studios are missing when it comes to adapting your favorite anime series. More often than not, these live-action versions resemble checklists that do nothing more than tick all the boxes – training montage here, weepy backstory there, and a main boss fight to round things up – instead of trying to capture the spirit and essence of the show they’re adapting.
The Rurouni Kenshin films are still, for me, the best examples of live-action adaptations done right. There was a lot of material they took out for the movies, and some characters didn’t get the screentime they deserved. But the live-action movies were able to do the source material justice by getting the core meaning of the original series and translating it as best as they could for the big screen format.
I also actually liked the Ghost in the Shell live-action movie, but that’s supposed to be a controversial opinion in the anime community, so that’s all I’ll say about that.
As it stands, I admit I wasn’t the most excited of fanboys when I heard a live-action Bleach film was coming out – and given my grievances for the series and anime live-action adaptations in general, I guess it’s not hard to see why. Anyone who knows Bleach knows it didn’t end on a happy note. I stand by what I’ve been saying for years: Bleach deserved better. But that’s not to say it started on the wrong foot – despite it ending the way it did, Bleach still had one of the strongest and most promising starts in shonen.
So I guess it’s a good thing the live-action movie’s going to focus on the earlier parts that made this series great, and based on the trailer, it looks like they’re about to switch some things up too.
It’s also interesting to note that, of Shonen Jump’s Big Three, Bleach is the first to get its own live-action adaptation. That’s a big friggin’ deal, even if it ended up becoming the least popular of the trio. If it succeeds, then it’s safe to assume it could open the floodgates for more decent anime live-adaptations. If not, well… let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
In the meantime, we can talk about our hopes and dreams for the success of this live-action adaptation. The movie’s already been released in Japan and the feedback looks good so far, but as the international release dates haven’t been announced yet, here’s a short wishlist of expectations to keep ourselves entertained while we wait.
Action Girl RukiaOf all the characters set to make an appearance in this move, it’s Rukia I’m worried about the most. Ichigo’s already the main character, so you’re guaranteed some deep character development for him. For Ishida, Renji, and Byakuya, who are all secondary characters, the important thing for them is to make a quick impression and stand out immediately. Since they all have different personalities, this assignment should come easy for them.
But with Rukia, who’s almost as big a character as Ichigo is in Bleach lore, things are different. She looks like she’s going to be the only major female character in the movie, and she’s bound to be powerless for a great part of the story – what if she gets demoted to the role of distressed damsel? Her tomboy haircut’s been changed to a more traditional-looking ponytail. She looks like she’ll get her own time to kick ass when she trains Ichigo. But I’m still ultimately worried she won’t get to do anything else beyond that.
At least Hana Sugisaki’s facial expressions here don’t scream “Kurosaki-kun!”
Of course, the hope is for the movie to find the time to flesh her out as her own person the same way the series did, but given the fact that it’s only going to run for at least two hours, developing her at the same time as Ichigo doesn’t seem to be very practical. So I’m just going to settle with the small hope that she won’t turn into the typical action girl who’s all talk and bluster, only to fall very reluctantly in love with the main character. I always thought Rukia was a different kind of female protagnonist, so I hope her original fire and spunk don’t get written off in this adaptation.
Keep the Punk AliveThere’s one thing the trailers already get right, and it’s that punk vibe Bleach used to be known for. It looks like it’s a horror movie at first, but once the trailer gives you a glimpse of the fight scenes, it’s already made a slight, but noticeable, shift to a B-movie, slasher-type romp. It’s exactly the kind of charisma early Bleach was oozing with, so the prospects for this movie already look good. It looks like it’s going to be an all-out action fest too, so I’m hoping the movie doesn’t let the audience down in this department.
Hollow PowerBecause Bleach deals with a lot of supernatural beings and otherworldly powers, the need to rely on a strong visual game is already a given. It was the sharp, distinctive art that made the series stand out in the first place, and eventually became Bleach's only major redeeming factor by the time it ended.
When it comes to live-action treatments, adhering to this formula doesn’t sound so difficult at first. But as is the case with other live anime adaptations, there’s a very fine line these movies have to cross in order to avoid looking cartoony. Make the adaptation too realistic, and you defeat the purpose of bringing anime to the big screen. Make the adaptation too much like the source material, and you risk looking like a complete embarrassment, enough to make even the most die-hard fans cringe in second-hand shame.
In Lupin’s case, it wasn’t the characters’ appearances that made you cringe, it was the way they looked so bored and smug the whole time they were on screen.
The clips that have been released so far for Bleach already look promising. The Hollows don’t actually look half-bad, for one thing, while the actors don’t look like low-budget cosplayers waving cheap props in the air. That’s something, at least.
More importantly, the first impressions I’m getting from the trailer is, the movie knows when to take certain parts of the story seriously, and when to bust out and let loose in the rest. That’s a good sign, especially for a series that used to flip back and forth between its supernatural atmosphere and comedic nature.
Number OneFor anime fans, the Number One theme song was just about as memorable as the dynamic action scenes that it accompanied. I’m not going to get mad or anything if the movie chooses to pass on this, but if you’re going to pay tribute to the original series, then you gotta do it right, know what I’m saying?
And ain’t no other way of doing a proper homage than playing main man Ichigo’s theme song. Come on, producers, even just a brief snippet of this amazing power-up song won’t hurt.
There are many ways the Bleach live-action adaptation could go wrong, but if the trailers are any indication, there are also many things it looks like it’s getting right so far. While I’m not expecting this to be as good as the Rurouni Kenshin series, I can’t help but feel a little hopeful and optimistic about Bleach’s chances. Call it the old fanboy in me coming out in a fit of nostalgia. Call it the gullible part of me that’s always so quickly impressed with well-edited trailers. But whatever kind of vibe the trailers are showing off is the closest kind of vibe I’d always expected a Bleach live-action adaptation to have.
Needless to say, the latest visual materials released for the movie have me feeling a little excited. If this adaptation gives the series the fresh breath of life it needs, then I’ll leave the cinemas a happy fan. The movie may not be completely faithful to its source, nor will it include all the characters I’ve been hoping to see. But if it at least manages to capture the – heh – soul and spirit of the franchise, then that’s something I’d be completely okay with.
What wouldn’t be okay is if this guy made it to the big screen too.
Got Bleach? is Tonto-banchou’s four-part written series for Bleach, aka Shonen Jump’s Bastard Child and Long-Forgotten Member of Manga’s Legendary Big Three. This retrospective comes in the lead-up to the live-action movie, which comes out on July 20, 2018.
Be sure to check out the other parts of the series here, here, and here!
A List of Moderate Expectations for the Bleach Live-Action Movie
Because no matter how promising the trailer looks, it wouldn't hurt to set the bar a little lower for this movie, just in case. Part 4/4 in...
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