The franchise juggernaut known as Bleach has become an anime staple nowadays. For the current generation of fans, this series, along with Naruto, has been their gateway into the medium. Like many long-running shōnen it gets compared to others of its kind-especially Dragon Ball Z. Despite the longevity of the manga and anime, the creator, Tite Kubo, has got everything planned for the better part of the next decade. Interestingly enough, Mr. Kubo started creating manga after seeing Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. His first series, Zombiepowder, finally made it to serialization after many failed attempts-only to get cancelled. Also, Bleach was originally rejected for publishing. A letter from Toriyama gave Kubo the inspiration to try again. The manga was even named “Black” and “White” at different points in creation.
The Bleach manga started being published in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump way back in August 2001. The manga is still ongoing with Chapter 435 being the latest. In 2004 Viz Media picked up the Bleach manga to publish for North America and Volume 33 was released December 2010. Viz also includes individual chapters in its Shonen Jump magazine (since 2004). The manga won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 2005 for a Shōnen series. The Bleach anime, produced by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, and Studio Pierrot, started airing in Japan in October 2004. The anime is ongoing as well with the most recent aired episode being 308. The English dub is far behind with Season 7 being the latest DVD release and episode 188 being the latest to air on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Bleach also has 4 feature length movies that have original storylines done by Tite Kubo and the same director as the TV series. Only two have been dubbed so far: Memories of Nobody (2006) and Diamond Dust Rebellion (2007). The other two, Fade to Black, I Call Your Name (2008) and The Hell Chapter (2010) have yet to be done but have been out in Japan. On top of the massive anime and manga phenomenon Bleach has become, there have also been a number of musicals, trading card games, light novels, and video games to please the franchise’s ever-growing fan base.
The StoryIchigo Kurosaki is a 15 year old with the ability to see and talk to spirits. One day a Soul Reaper (also coined Death God, Death Dealer, and Shinigami), Rukia Kuchiki, shows up. Her search for a Hollow brought her to Karakura Town. Rukia’s fight with the Hollow in question turns ugly and Ichigo jumps in to help her. Rukia gives Ichigo the power of a Substitute Soul Reaper to defeat the creature. From then on Rukia trains Ichigo in her stead. However, some if Ichigo’s friends have latent powers as well. Together they will protect wayward spirits and those they care for.
|Ichigo Kurosaki has a disposition to not care too much. He goes day to day acting like seeing annoying spirits is normal. His chance encounter with Rukia turns his world upside down and inside out when he gains the mysterious powers of a Soul Reaper and finds out there are other worlds besides his own. Now he must handle both school and protecting spirits. His weapon is a giant sword (Zanpakutou) similar to Cloud’s from Final Fantasy VII.|
|Rukia Kuchiki is a Soul Reaper from the Soul Society. Despite her appearance she is actually well over 100 years old. She lost her Soul Reaper powers when Ichigo helped her so now she must wait in the Human world to regain them. In the meantime, she trains Ichigo to fight Hollows. She also starts attending his school and sleeps in his closet. Her weapon is a sword zanpakuto as well.|
|Orihime Inoue is a long-time friend of Ichigo’s. She is an orphan. After her brother’s death she became more spiritually aware and soon undergoes training of her own to develop her powers. She’s quite the ditz but she is always prepared to help a friend in need and hates seeing people get hurt. Her weapon is a pair of hair clips.|
|Yasutora “Chad” Sado is another of Ichigo’s friends from school. He is originally from Mexico and very tall and muscular. He was unaware of his powers until he unknowingly protected Ichigo’s sister, Karin, from a Hollow. He is also very respectful and dutiful. His weapon is a transformed armored right arm.|
|Uryū Ishida is a Quincy. He is one of the last of the race and Quincy’s are hated enemies of Soul Reapers. While starting off as a rival to Ichigo he gradually becomes a valuable ally. He is very prideful. His weapon is a bow and arrow.|
This series is very long and contains a lot of filler from time to time. Over the course of the series Ichigo and his friends go through many trials that test their resolve and abilities. There is a lot of action and a good bit of comedy with only a tiny bit of fan service. A whole new world of powers varying to each character brings along an interesting and exciting ride to the typical Shōnen “save the day” method. There are eventually a lot of characters and many are very cool and different. Bleach includes blood and violence, language, and some suggestive themes for a TV-14 rating. However, the DVD boxsets are released uncut but there is little, if any, difference than when shown on TV. The animation is very suiting the style of the series. The dub versus sub debate rages on as both include talented voice actors. However, the highlight of the dub is Johnny Yong Bosch (Lelouch Lamperouge, Vash) as Ichigo.
The series starts slow but picks up after Season 1. The cast is variable and the powers they portray are out of this world. Literally! The story is not complicated, either. The downside is the time dedication but the series as a whole is entertaining. Shōnen lovers rejoice!
-Will McQuigg (sotyfan16) is your everyday anime/manga enthusiast. You can also find him on Twitter (bildo_88).