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Beginner's Guide to Bleach

An introductory course to the world of Bleach.

It has been nine long years since Bleach first began its run, and even now there are people who still haven’t taken the plunge into the world of the Soul Reapers. That is not a bad thing, since everyone has to start somewhere; worry not, I’m here to help ease this transition. The goal of this guide is to help introduce beginners who maybe have heard about Bleach or caught a couple episodes on TV, but don’t know if it's really up their alley.  


       

What You Need to Know

Bleach first started its wonderful life in Weekly Shonen Jump back in August 2001, and has currently racked up 44 manga volumes. Three years later in October of 2004, the anime version hit the airwaves all across Japan, and is currently at  271 episodes. The man responsible for this achievement is the 33-year-old Kubo Tite. His first hit was a manga called Zombie Powder, which ran for four volumes until it was cancelled. A year later he started work on Bleach; his plan was to initially not take longer than five years to write, but when things are good it is hard to step on the breaks.
 
 Ichigo
 Ichigo
The first thing most newcomers think about when they initially hear of Bleach is the title. I can assure you that this story has nothing to do with washing clothes or cleaning your bathroom. The reason why it is called Bleach is because Kubo originally wanted to name the manga either Black, or White, but saw them as being boring and generic names. So instead he named it Bleach, because of its association with the color white.
 

The Story   

The basic story of Bleach revolves around the world of the afterlife and the battles that rage within it. The main character Ichigo has a run in with a Shinigami (Soul Reaper in English) named Rukia, who ends up transforming him into one. Basically, the Shinigami act as the afterlife’s army that assist in making sure the circle of life is never broken.  
 
The reason why the afterlife needs an army is because sometimes after death the soul becomes corrupt, which transforms the corrupted soul into a monster called Hollow. Hollows can eat the flesh of regular people like you or me, so they must be destroyed; and by destroyed, I of course mean purified, because Shinigami do not kill (or so they say).  
 
Ichigo is now a substitute Shinigami, and takes it upon himself to protect his town from the constant invasion of hollows. Though he does not do this alone because some of his closest friends start to mysteriously develop powers as well. Ichigo does his job wonderfully as a substitute, but things hit the fan when the Shinigami themselves take away Ichigo's power and arrest Rukia for giving it away. Unfortunately, the sentence for this particular crime is execution.  
 
Ichigo is not the type of guy that would do nothing while his friends suffer, so he gathers a group of loyal followers and storms the afterlife. But he has to hurry, for Rukia's execution is swiftly approaching. 
 

What to Expect

 Shinigami Captains
 Shinigami Captains
Bleach’s story is told through long story arcs, which are usually accompanied by countless one on one battles that can take multiple chapters to resolve. These fights do not always follow our main character Ichigo, but side characters as well. Each side character has a special ability, and like any other Shonen Jump manga, the abilities grow better and better through the series. Especially for the Shinigami, who's swords can transform into other weapons or fantastic creatures. This is one of the ways Bleach bullies you to continue reading, it forces you to see what power-ups are in store for your favorite character. This is one of the reasons why Bleach is sometimes labeled Dragon Ball Z with swords. 

Like many anime series that are derived from Shonen Jump manga, Bleach too has its fair share of filler, or stories that are not found in the original source material. They either are silly one shot episodes, or multi-episode story arcs that can run for over ten episodes or more. Here is a list of the major filler arcs within the series, and whether you should skip them or not.

  • The Bount Arc (episode 64 - 109):  The Bount Arc introduces a couple characters that the anime actually makes use of throughout the remaining episodes. Because of this you might want to watch it so that you do not get lost in future episodes. Overall I would say it is average at best. 
  • The New Captain Shusuke Amagai Arc (episode 168 - 189):   Skip it, it isn’t worth it. 
  • Zanpakutō: The Alternate Tale Arc (episode 230 - 265):  For a filler arc, this one isn’t too shabby. If you had to watch any of them, I would give this one a shot. Though I do believe it went on for far too long. 
 

Characters

When you have a series this long, you are going to meet many characters on your journey. Bleach shoves tons of side characters at you through out the series, some you will see often, while others you will never see again. To pull this off properly it is important to have the side characters be as interesting as possible; sometimes becoming more popular than the main character himself. Here is a spoiler free list of 5 characters that you will learn to love as you come to experience Bleach.

1. Grimmjow Jaegerjaques

First of all he has an amazing name. Second he has a Hollow’s jaw on his jaw. And third and most importantly, he doesn’t take shit from no one--be it friend or foe. Grimmjow is one of Ichigo's biggest rivals.

2. Rangiku Matsumoto

A woman who’s breasts are so big that she can never find a shirt that can contain them. That's reason enough for her to be on this list. She is a Shinigami Lieutenant, and friend to Ichigo. 

3. Uryuu Ishida

In a land where everyone fights with swords, Ishida is the kind of guy who fights with a bow and arrow. However, his bow and arrow are made of pure energy. Ishida joins Ichigo and gang into the afterlife to help rescue Rukia.

4. Byakuya Kuchiki

Byakuya is Rukia's brother who will do anything to uphold Justice, no matter what his personal feelings happen to be. Every anime needs an aristocratic badass. 

5. Kenpachi Zaraki

All this man cares about is fighting. Picture the Hulk, but instead of getting angrier and angrier, he gets happier and happier. Kenpachi is truly in love with slicing enemies up, even if it is his friend Ichigo.

                             

Should I Read the Manga, or Watch the Anime?  

Now if you are interested in watching/reading Bleach, you are probably wondering whether you should read the manga, or watch the anime. Reading the manga will get you through the story faster, but on the flip side you will miss some of the better animated battles of the anime. The anime also features a great soundtrack, especially the recognizable soul song that plays every time Ichigo does something great. Basically, if you have plenty of time on your hands and you don't care how long it takes you to catch up, then go with the anime. But if you like to cover lots of ground in one sitting, go with the manga.
 

Buying Guide  

Want to give it a shot before you commit to anything?Don't enjoy reading, hate subtitles, and like your Ichigo to sound like the Green Ranger?Still unsure if you will enjoy this, but still want to give it a chance? Like your dialogue small and your explosions big?
  Bleach manga volume 1 would be your best bet, if you like it you can continue with the next manga or go on to the anime. Bleach  Season 1 Box Set is what you need. It contains episodes 1 - 20.I would give Bleach Movie 2: The DiamondDust Rebellion a  shot. The second film features almost every character in the anime; a Bleach sampler platter if you will. 
   

Hopefully now you know a little more about Bleach, and are able to make an educated decision about taking the plunge. Bleach is definitely not high art, but it is entertaining. Sometimes, you just need to turn your brain off and enjoy two or more men swinging giant swords at each other.
wwfunderakeron May 24, 2010 at 7:55 a.m.
A bit of advice to people who have not seen it, WATCH IT. Its awesome.
ShadowKnight508 moderator on May 24, 2010 at 8:05 a.m.
I love Bleach....I own Season One (all 20 Episodes) on my PS3 and at the moment I am stuck in the darn Bount Arc (currently at Episode 86). 
 
I highly recommend Bleach to all who like a little action in their lives.
Naruto79on May 24, 2010 at 8:51 a.m.
Guide was definitely on point. Fillers are to avoided at all cost. Unfortunately for Bleach they cannot handle them the way Naruto can and thus they end up pointless. If anything, they should take a hint from the way One Piece uses theirs to build up the plots of their movies. 
 
But I digress... good beginners guide.
sickVisionz moderator on May 24, 2010 at 9 a.m.
Nice guide.  I'd definitely suggest anyone who starts at episode one to keep watching at least until Renji shows up.  The tone of the show before that and after that are really different. 
 
Ughh @ any suggestion of that soul song being good.  It's a scene ruiner every time it comes up for me.  It's about as out of place as the Benny Hill song popping up during a serious scene.
Chengyon May 24, 2010 at 9:04 a.m.

You forgot the latest filler arc the Sword Fiend Arc which should be skipped no matter what.
GodLen staff on May 24, 2010 at 9:16 a.m.
@Chengy: I actually stopped watching there. Was it really that bad?
Chengyon May 24, 2010 at 9:52 a.m.
@GodLen:
yeah it was an abomination of filler lol, you should try it. 
 
You can tell the animators just gave up on the story and character designs at that point and was mainly working on the Ichigo vs Ulq fight while the random lame new guy was thrown in a side room and told to do w.e he wanted lol.
sotyfan16on May 24, 2010 at 11:24 a.m.

This does get to the point for explaining Bleach to beginners. I actually didn't start watching Bleach until a couple summers ago when the dub was only up in the 80s (I started with the dub and I'm sticking to it because I really like it (Johnny Yong Bosch)). The fillers are pretty boring but I've only been through the Bount Arc and it sucked major balls. From what friends say the story just keeps going and no one knows where it will end. I like the animation and the soul song is awesome and I want to download it! <(can anyone help me with that?) In addition to the soul song, what about that tune that also plays when Ichigo powers up? I own seasons 2 and 3 on DVD (season 1 seemed too boring and I don't want the Bount Arc that is season 4). 
 
If only we didn't have to wait til August now for the next set of dubs :'(

Lemegeton300on May 24, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.
great guide. never seen an episode of bleach but keep meaning to check it out
reinon May 24, 2010 at 12:37 p.m.
I used to enjoy bleach but for some reason i lost interest around the battle with grimjow. I have never been able to get back into it.
agila61on May 24, 2010 at 1:08 p.m.
Great, thanks! With the skiplist, if Crunchyroll succeeds in their petition to simulcast Bleach, I'll only need a year to catch up, instead of a year and a half.
Rokujoon May 24, 2010 at 1:37 p.m.
The filler episodes were too much for me really. I only follow the manga now.
Kuma_From_Argentinaon May 24, 2010 at 3:06 p.m.
Watch it until Grimjow Vs Ichigo, after that it goes downhill
Sombreon May 24, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.
Good timing. Now make a one piece one!
Mikenon May 24, 2010 at 4:57 p.m.
Has it really been that long? Oh wow...  Thinking about it, I picked up the manga and anime at the same time when the anime itself was around episode 60. So add a year and 2 odd months to October 2004 and that gets me to...About 4.5 years of following this series? Granted, it has the advantage of being the first long running manga/anime I picked up after my "gateways" of Rurouni Kenshin and Yu Yu Hakusho. It might not be the best, but it remains entertaining no matter what "twist" Kubo Tite tries to pull outta nowhere (in a bad way) nowadays.
 
On the topic of the filler:
The Zanpakuto arc has to be one of my favorite filler arcs in anime yet (granted, this is only looking at filler arcs). It pulled some twists that surprised me quite a bit, allowing for a nice handful of characters to develop through its aftermath...or as much development as you'll ever get in a Shonen series -- which really isn't that much. The Zanpakuto were also used well enough to act as foils for their masters instead of mostly silly throwaways as seen with characters in the previous filler arcs...though the one-shot episodes and the sword fiend arc afterward? Well, I can't exactly say the same, they were pretty damn bad. The Bount arc was okay at first and then it had me ramming my head into my desk repeatedly...as for the Amagai arc? Well, I liked it at first because one of the characters was voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa (his presence is an automatic thumbs up from me *is a fangirl*) but after his character bowed out, I lost all interest.
miva2on May 24, 2010 at 5:50 p.m.
despite what almost everyone says, i thought the bounto arc was pretty good. the best part of bleach are still the first 20 episodes. after that it becomes too predictable, especially the main story (with the exception of a few plottwists every 50+ eps?). the bounto arc had some pretty good fights. imo it has the highest "awesome fights in a short timespan"-ratio in the bleach episodes. the latest fillerarc of the zanpakutou was kinda cool on it's own but doesn't really fit into he larger storyline which is why it was uninteresting.
hitsusatsu11on May 24, 2010 at 6:13 p.m.
i loved when byakuya had that little fight with ken in the last filler, that was epic to see those to go at it.
FoxxFireArt moderator is online on May 24, 2010 at 8:34 p.m.
Bleach is a good series, but it became a bit boring for me. It has some really cool action, but that's about all it has going for it.  It's fallen into the same lull that Naruto has for me. It's just become a series of Action, Action, Action.
 
Remember that span of two years straight of Naruto filler animes?
 
It's really too bad there aren't more One Piece movies out. Here's hoping that Strong World is given a swift release to the US.
AgentJon May 24, 2010 at 9:29 p.m.
I'm surprised you recommended the anime over the manga. IMO the manga is by far the best way to take in Bleach. Kubo's art is a lot of fun to look at (though there is definitely some great animation in Ichigo's special fights)
GodLen staff on May 24, 2010 at 11:33 p.m.
@AgentJ: Yeah i definitely agree, and should of been stated better. I almost always recommend the manga over the anime.  Better yet, read and watch them both 

Dig Deeper into Bleach

Bleach tells of the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo's a fifteen year old that could see ghosts. One day he obtain the power of a Shinigami and now protects the spirits on Earth that have yet to move on.

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