ABSTRACT

This essay explores Tite Kubo's hit manga series Bleach (2001–2015) as a forerunner for a contemporary revival of Japanese supernatural narratives, often referred to as yōkai shōnen (“spiritual adventures”). Specifically, this exploration approaches Kubo's manga series as a philosophically enriched text, one aware of and in dialogue with various theological, political, and phenomenological strands of thought. This essay asserts that in this aesthetic and philosophic bricolage, Bleach approaches complex theories on death, subjectivity, politics, and ethics that vibrantly resonate in the backdrop of a critique of Japanese modernization. This critique is nuanced, pinpointing problems of technological and political progression to ideological superstructures inherited by the West. Bleach is multifaceted in Tite Kubo's critique of modern Cartesian thought, one that not only approaches the problems in philosophically and prosaic arguments, but often through the reflexive nature of the media he utilizes in manga and anime culture. In a Levinasian survey of Kubo's vast universe, this essay hopes to illustrate that Kubo's solution to twentieth- and twenty-first-century Japan resides in an ethics of the nonhuman, the yōkai, or as he calls them in his series, the Hollow.

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