Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Modern Myth

As I sit here watching tonight's episode of Bleach I couldn't help but smile at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. Y'know, that one part of me that wants to fit in with the cool kids and see all the hyper popular series as lame, over-done, stupid noise? It was that part. That part of me that laughed at how ridiculously long the series, in all of its incarnations, had gone on for. I'm pretty sure that if I kept buying the Bleach comics back in the day, I wouldn't be able to fit them on a single bookcase. The anime is even worse. Not only does that cover every inch of the tale laid out by Kubo in the comics, but it adds even more to the story with "filler" seasons and story arcs. The cast was already unmanageably large, but these "filler" seasons practically double it. I doubt there is a single human alive who could tell you every individual character created throughout the Bleach franchise and their significance.

Then I realized something: Bleach, and many franchises like it, are not meant to be consumed the way a shorter show is. Bleach is not meant to be digested in an easily contained twenty-four episode season, because Bleach, like its characters, is larger than life. It is one continuous story composed of interlocking stories with a scope of characters rivaling the denizens of Mt. Olympus.

I've often criticized such unwieldy casts and critical changes to central characters, but then I realize what the artist behind it all is attempting to accomplish: they are creating a world, as rich in legend and lore and citizenry  as our own. Bleach, Naruto, and Dragon Ball, among many, many others, are fantasies on a scope of legend. These are modern epic fantasies, and I really want to put emphasis on the word "epic" here. These are tales which rival Homer's Odyssey

Which brings me to what has famously been one of my previous complaints: Everyone in these shows is too god damn strong. How am I supposed to relate to that? Well, let me tell you, I'll keep harping on that one for ages. But, that doesn't mean I can't understand it. There is a point in these tales where, like the past legends, it is no longer about mortal beings. Instead we are watching the affairs of gods, deities who command forces of which we could have no true understanding. With a flick of his wrist, Frieza can annihilate an entire planet. Battles take place across miles and miles on realms which mortals can never set foot. Sound at all like Zeus, Hercules, and Olympus to anybody else? How about Thor and Asgard? The parallels are insurmountable. Bleach and Dragon Ball, and a million other things like it are the grand epics of our generation.

Not only do these series reflect the grandiose elements of past mythologies, but when you take them and break them down into their own mythology (destructing them into many stories instead of one long story) you find common thematic elements as well. Kindness, courage, love, hope, good will always win. In many ways these modern epics reflect and reinforce the morals and lessons that the original mythologies were created to teach. And they all have one common lesson that is strongly presented in all tales from all times: Be the best that you can be.

Should we begin worshiping Ichigo Kurosaki as a god? No, don't be silly. However, it will be interesting to see if these stories are remembered, and how they will continue to be passed on through each generation.

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