Bleach: never read it, never watched it, the whole thing just sort of passed me by. Most long form manga and anime do that, to be honest just because of the sheer weight of effort getting caught up on it takes. However, when I saw the first fifteen or so volumes in a bundle at Oxfam for £10 I thought “Why not?”.
I'll be honest, the premise really grabbed me. There's a guy called Ichigo who can see ghosts and a spirit called Rukia whose job it is to slay Hollows, a kind of soul-eating demon that ghosts turn into if they stick around in this world for too long. Rukia should be invisible but Ichigo can see her and gets involved in her fight. Things go waaaaaaay south and he somehow absorbs her powers and she's reduced to mortality. They have an interesting relationship based mainly on annoying one another, though Rukia gets most of the truly great trolling moments.
And together they solve crimes!
Okay, no, seriously, she becomes his mentor because someone needs to fight the Hollows while she's basically up on bricks. This is all set against a steadily growing cast of the city's supernatural residents and Ichigo's schoolmates, not always separately.
It moved on at a fair clip, as well, at least for the first six books. Arcs were short and to the point, introducing new characters and bits of lore that flesh out the world. Funny jokes, too.
Then volume seven happened, starting a storyline that's still going strong in volume fourteen with no end in sight. Well, that's not quite true: there was an end in sight in volume fourteen but then a bigger bad guy appeared and the heroes had to retreat to get stronger to come back and fight that one, a process that has been repeated a time or two in the arc so far.
The thing is that I was looking forward to this arc when the premise became clear: Rukia's superiors come to take her home, none too pleased her powers were taken from her and Ichigo goes through hell to get her back (at times, literally). I was really looking forward to seeing how the “Soul Society” functioned but what I got was an almost stereotypical succession of manga fight scenes. Its not without its pleasure but its been going on for hundreds of pages now. True, it hasn't reached the level of gibbering stasis I've seen some mangas devolve into (oh, you wanted to know how that revelation will affect the heroes? Well, here's ten chapters of bloody Sasuke and his B-list goon squad doing sod all!) but I'm worried it might be getting there.
Still, time (and, hopefully, the remaining couple of volumes I bought), will tell.