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19 May 2011 @ 10:24 am
The Lost Readers Arc? Also, Kubo Tweets Translated.  

Feel better about the new arc yet? Have the pacing and storyline of the last two chapters won you over?

Looks to me like Sensei’s done his homework and pushed the pace like he said he would. Reader feedback and dire numbers and less than spectacular sales seem to be putting the pressure on to keep Bleach a success story.

WSJ rankings usually don’t get a lot of discussion but lately the Bleach Asylum thread for the WSJ rankings has been alive and kicking. People have been concerned about Bleach’s dropping popularity, and we discussed the matter here at bleachness  after I posted a new arc poll a couple weeks ago.

According to czeliate and others who follow 2ch, the Japanese have redubbed this arc "the lost agent arc" to be "the lost reader arc" (読者消失篇)--> meaning, an arc that losing the readers

The WSJ rankings, which are determined by reader feedback and editorial decision both, tell the story the most dramatically--ever since the current arc began, Bleach has had to struggle to win favor.

The link to that WSJ graph of the Big Three I posted weeks ago got lost, but I saved it when it was reposted at BA this time and uploaded it to my own LJ scrapbook. As you can see below, Bleach’s ratings have been ALL OVER. It hasn’t rated as high (2nd) since the end of the Arrancar Arc with the “Bleach My Soul” chapter. It rated low as 13th last week (for the Orihime vs Tsukishima face off) . The Valentine’s issue when Ichigo got his fullbring hubcab power was a healthy 5th place ranking.

Posted here by tatai who credits Tarouch for the graph:

Now, something of interest to those who follow Kubo-sensei's interviews and Twitter remarks and like to discuss his authorial intent and/or his responses to reader feedback and how audiences effect his work. A couple of his tweets this week interested me. mezzo_marinaio  translated. From the sound of things (and I realize I'm a fangirl), Sensei sounds endearingly insecure about feedback. Ah, if I only had a nickle for every artist I've sat up nights with talking about his or her perceived lack of talent. But from these vague statements, I also get the idea that idea that while Sensei doesn't like to hear judgements about his work, he's open to suggestions that include constructive criticism, that value judgements aren't worthwhile unless they include some help or encouragement on how to improve.

Anyway, judge for yourself:


When I talk about something and my tone doesn't imply the question 'Do you like it, do you hate it?', but instead something like 'Is it good, or is it bad?', hearing responses such as 'That's dull', or 'That's not pretty' - things that don't really present me with an alternate plan of the 'If it were me I'd do this' variety - makes me feel really dejected... even if those responses come from my friends. Like a certain writing style, or a certain design.


Since not immediately presenting me with an alternate plan in those moments is akin to saying 'I have no talent, but so what?'... well, you know. Inside myself I get dejected at that kind of attitude. Obviously.


Well, it's not as if I like the idea of talking about something with a tone of 'Is it good, or is it bad?' in the first place.
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descrimedescrime on May 19th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
I agree 100% with this comment. ^^
(no subject) - la_kalaka on May 20th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
Danielwdboldstar on May 19th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
The recent pacing is great, I just think Kubo needs to go back to familiar characters. I hate saying it, because I feel like sort of a traitor, and I do genuinely like some of the new characters, especially Rurika and Tsukishima. But most readers signed up for the Nakama and the Shinigami (And Rukia, dammit), and these constant year-long stretches where we don't see them are definitely going to take their toll.

The recent pacing improvements really do excite me though, so I'm optimistic that Kubo-sensei is, at least, proving he still has the creative chops, whether or not it brings back readers.
Kim!spartydragon on May 19th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'd say maybe Kubo should hang around for some of our long, drawn out technical discussions but that might scare him half to death. XD
_debbiechan_: Ulqui enjoys your despair_debbiechan_ on May 19th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)

Tough love. It's good for the soul. But if I were him I'd stay away from some forums yeah. XD
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Danielwdboldstar on May 19th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
I would like to second this.
(no subject) - qwirky on May 19th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Adam Eppadam_epp on May 19th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
Lost reader arc sounds accurate. Well, Kubo can increase the pacing all he wants, but it won't help much when the things that are happening lack tension and tend to be less than interesting. I liked the time skip and all, but the more this arc goes on, the more I grow convinced that this arc simply shouldn't be happening. Bleach should be in its final arc, plain and simple, and not be taking a detour with filler characters. I'm not surprised that its popularity is dropping.
The Main Gauche of Enlightenment: Kneesocks is pissed (stairs)velvetsword on May 19th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
Kubo needs to shit or get off the pot.

I knew the moment we stopped seeing Ichigo's inner thoughts/monologue that the story had gone off the rails, and this whole rehash debacle just kind of proves it. This story isn't about "Ichigo is determined to do something/save someone and this is his journey" anymore, it's "Ichigo is buffeted about by a series of unpredictable and nonsensical events beyond his imagination and/or control".

Someone needs to translate all these comments and like...airmail them to him or something with some liquor, a box of red editing pens and a big sign that points to a copy of the HM arc that says "SEE THIS SHIT? STOP IT."
_debbiechan_: aim high_debbiechan_ on May 19th, 2011 05:16 pm (UTC)

Y'know, all artists want to improve and all parents want the best for their kids. A strong editor and honest feedback NEVER HURT ANYONE. He knows this. But I'm sure the sort of crazy criticism he's probably being dogpiled with since Bleach went downhill in ratings and whatnot took their toll.

He'll pull himself up. He's just like Ichigo. He won't emo out forever because he's got a damn big crazy sword and he's been swinging it for years and he'll win because he has to, damn it!
(no subject) - conquistadora on May 22nd, 2011 06:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
jpblackjpblack on May 19th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
There's no doubt in my mind that Kubo's editor offers zero (helpful)feedback and Kubo is stuck writing the series himself, because Bleach is popular and no one wants to rock the boat. Now, it seems with that mantle waning, the editor has to get up off his ass and do something, if he is even competent enough to help. This is actually a major concern for a lot of mangaka, from what I've heard. Editors who land a big series and don't have the stones to mess with what's working an making money, and then when it ends or they leave, they don't have the skills to help new artists and the cycle continues.

Also, I believe it's important to mention Bleach maintained healthy rankings well into the HM arc. It seems to be a Western fanbase collective that that arc suXX0rz 3ggz.
qwirky on May 19th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
Rankings for the volumes on Amazon.co.jp are pretty bad for HM arc, ranging from 2 through 3 for the most part, with some volumes at 3.5, one at 1.5, and most at 2.5. SS arc's volumes are ranked 4-5 stars on Amazon.co.jp.

Not to mention, if you're implying that there wasn't a decline in sales and fans as HM arc progressed, and that everyone left this arc, I think that's a mistaken assumption. It's not just a "Western fanbase collective" feeling of the arc; it's the Japanese fandom's perception as well.

A lot of people stayed with HM arc at the end because the arc was finally, finally coming to a close, and they were hopeful the new arc would be a chance to start a new plot and not repeat the mistakes of the HM arc. I think that's motivated by loyalty to the greatness that was SS arc, the overall potential of the series, and/or to favorite characters. But when it became clear that this arc wasn't going anywhere fast in terms of character development or lingering plot threads from HM arc, and was simply repeating what we already knew, people become frustrated and disappointed. I think that frustration is what's driving bad rankings and readers dropping out.

Edited at 2011-05-19 06:27 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on May 19th, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
hinodeh: gazille has his thinking cap onhinodeh on May 19th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
My main impression is that it was very unwise of KT to declare that Bleach will go on for ten more years, because I don't think he has enough plot to fill out such a long time span, even if he now decideds to resolve all dangling plot threads one after the other. I'd say that would take four years max. And mind you, this comes from a reader who likes the current arc despite all it's short-comings.

It's just that the stalled character development is a very obvious symptom of stretching what plot their is way beyond its limits. The characters aren't moving forward because tension and conflict will be largely gone once they resolve their personal issues, and that would be a problem given that we have ten more years to go. The better solution to this would be, of course, to think up new inner conflicts for the characters to overcome, but I've noticed that many shounen mangaka seem fond of having their characters be each concentrated on one big issue which they only resolve in the end. I guess this is motivated by a fear of the characters changing too much, or at least more than the audience is willling to accept.

Adam Eppadam_epp on May 19th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
Hell yeah, that's exactly what I think. Just contemplating another ten years of Bleach makes me wonder: how? Rather, how can the series stretch out that much longer and still be good?Sure, there's a few plot holes, but I haven't seen them being filled up this arc (if anything, there's more plot holes since the Fullbringers showed up). Bleach has already lasted much longer than most other shounen manga, and it's got to end sooner rather than later, or that's how I feel about it.
Shinigami_Lucia: cute girl 03shinigami_lucia on May 19th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
Plot and pacing could be factors of the low ratings..However, I personally believe that the main reason why it's going down-hill is because of the lacked of Rukia & IchiRuki moments/interactions in the manga. Call me biased or whatever, but that's what I think. A majority of Bleach fans are Rukia & IchiRuki fans. Don't show them for so long and of course the series will suffer. That's what I think.
Kim!spartydragon on May 19th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
When the shipping community is at least half the fandom at large this is a very big factor, I think. X)
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peca_06peca_06 on May 19th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
I'm enjoying the present pacing as supposed to HM and the like prior to this one, but maybe some just got too tired and decided to abandon ship... I know it hurts me to read his words (and can you believe it, I cried T___T), because as an artist I can relate to his statements. I hate when someone just flat out says that they dislike something and doesn't give me a "why" or a constructive critique about coming to that conclusion in the first place and yes, you start to question if you have any talent at all and be flooded with insecurities and whatnot :(((((( . Somebody needs to give him decent feedback -____-.


We all know Kubo has talent and he is tons better than the artists that draw One Piece and Naruto (in my opinion), but they seem to be more consistent on their ratings, when Kubo's is making huge hikes ups and downs.
He needs to keep doing what he is doing now and well... That shinigami better be Rukia, because obviously her absence hurts badly too.
Back to basics and back to what people loved about Bleach in the first place will definitely bring it to where it should be... Specially to see some real development on the characters that seemed to give 2 steps forward and then 3 steps back :P .
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(no subject) - _debbiechan_ on May 19th, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - peca_06 on May 19th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on May 19th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, flaws and all, I have to applaud Kubo for having the balls to do what he's done. When most manga do a timeskip, they usually just redesign the characters, but go back to the story's status quo very quickly. Kubo redesigned the characters too, but he also redesigned the whole damn series. While he could be doing a better job of it, it takes guts to tinker with a sure thing. We should all at least appreciate that he's gone and tried something new. I rather see someone try something new and fall flat on their face (which he hasn't, stumbled sure, but not fallen), then stick to what works. That's something an artist would do, and Kubo has done just that. Change is good. Unfortunately the readers of Jump seem to want things to stay the same as before(shinigami), but oh well.

(This isn't to say the complaints above aren't valid, but for now, I'm enjoying Bleach exploring something different).
self-proclaimed cookie monsterxxboo_radleyxx on May 19th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
I f*cking agree so moch. He's the only manga artist that entertains me because I feel that is work is always changing. He jumps off the boat instead of wondering if it's proper to swim.
descrimedescrime on May 19th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
This is the third training sequence we've had for Ichigo's fullbringer powers. I feel like I'm watching a video game. Ichigo's Shinigami training was more spread out and always directly related to one new skill he was trying to learn. I honestly don't know what he's trying to learn here or what his fullbringer does.

We've had so much freaking training already for Shinigami powers and regaining his Shingami powers and his bankai and his Hollow powers, etc. In Naruto (which I don't like as much as Bleach), they showed some training in the beginning so that you could get an idea of how they trained, but then it's just assumed they train offstage. I honestly do not need to see every moment of Ichigo's training. It seems like some of this could have been condensed.
jpblackjpblack on May 20th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
Can these even be called "training sequences"? Okay, it's a little early for Yukio, and the Dollhouse certainly was training, but that stint with Jackie was pretty damn short, and it wasn't even the main focus while it was going on; Tsukishima was. I'm predicting the same pattern with Invaders Must Die; we're gonna be looking at Isshin and Urahara equally or more.
nivek01nivek01 on May 19th, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
As the arc continues, I start to think I'm being overly optimistic.

Maybe it's the way I read Bleach. I've always read it the same way I read most novels. I've never really looked at it as a weekly series. I get overly excited over big moments, and then just let it go for the in between moments. It's worked for me so far as a fan, but not really as a critic.

Don't get me wrong; I don't always like where the story is going. I could break the character limit with all the flaws that I dislike as a reader. I feel that with this arc, we've hit the end of 'number of characters before things get crowded'. Unfortunately, I can see at least one more new batch is going to have to come along, so that makes me worried.

The stagnation that each of the core characters have been hit with really bothers me, too. Then again, from the shonen's I've read, there seems to be a fine line between 'no development' and 'bad development'. It seems like most mangaka don't want to develop their main characters, and very rarely do I hear of a dynamic shonen lead that people like (Just look at Naruto-he's grown and matured, and Naruto hate seems to be a popular sport among the bored and confused. And then theirs Luffy, who hasn't changed at all over 600 chapters of his story.). So I don't exactly blame Kubo for being careful with how he makes Ichigo grow...just as long as we see some PERMANENT growth at the end of this arc.

Besides, if I had to choose, I would prefer a stagnant character to a badly developed one. If/When Ichigo, Rukia, Orihime, Uryuu, Chad, and whoever else develop, I want the development to make sense, and to be natural. I don't want any "I'll put my faith in Urahara because of principle" crap. I want Ichigo to have a solid reason to get over his mistrust.

So, eh, I'm an overly loyal fan. I also can't speak japanese, and don't agree with many of the criticisms I see floating around, so I don't know how much help I'll be anyway. I'll just keep reading an hold on to my faith that this arc is building towards really bad shit, that'll lead to some nice retrospection, which will give us SOME character development.

But who knows?
self-proclaimed cookie monster: pic#101490570xxboo_radleyxx on May 19th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Honestly I'm disheartened to see the polls, truly. And Kubo's tweets, they really hit a nerve for me.

The guy is trying his absolute hardest doing what he's always done best and then now it's all blowing up in his face in the form of bad ratings. Kubo may need to work the plot a bit for some readers but honestly, I enjoy the fact he's doing what he wants. It's just sad not as many people enjoy Bleach now. If what Kubo wants is constructive criticism, I agree. Constructive Critism is dandy, as long as it's constructive instead of just plain rude or useless.

This is not directed at anyone in specific, just people who can't help but complain:
I don't know how many times I've seen people criticize or bash Bleach because of pacing, or too many characters or too many plotholes. If you feel that Kubo needs criticism that BADLY, tell him YOURSELF instead of expecting Kubo to know the flaws of his own work. Don't blame anyone but yourself for not taking action. If you don't like Bleach or are sick of the flaws, simply put the series down.

Bleach is such an awesome series, that it doesn't deserve to be put down all the time by people who are not going to do anything to absolve their complaints.

Sorry if this sounds harsh. Again this was not directed at anyone here; you're all cool.
sleepwalkersleepwalkerrrr on May 19th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC)
I really feel it for Kubo. But I think these recent happenings will bring back some popularity; This arc has been brilliant to this point IMO on other things except the very essential, which is continuing the original plot with original characters and plot points. And with the recent chapters I can see this happening now; Kubo has already improved his writing and Bleach will return to the original stuff that is incomplete, and/or connect this new stuff to it most likely. I have a feeling that things will get better for Bleach soon.