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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.
newaveon May 25, 2010 at 12:22 a.m.
that whole bount story killed the bleach anime for me...i ended up just converting to the manga. once i heard that it wasn't a part of it.
Brenderouson May 26, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.
This show was good until he went to soul society. Than it got fucking BOORRRING.
PenguinDuston May 27, 2010 at 8:02 a.m.
I watched the Lurichiyo (Rurichiyo?) stories (168-189 & 204-205) and didn't mind them.  The problem is that they seem to take place concurrently with the main story but they still involve all the main characters.  It's like some parallel universe storyline.  So, I chose to treat them like movies in that they take place somewhere but not specifically anywhere.  Maybe I am wrong in thinking this way, but that's how I got through them and the reason why I enjoyed them.  Oh, they aren't as compelling as the main plot, but they aren't as bad as some folks say.   
 
I'm not current with my viewing though.  I paused watching at around 210-220 when another side-story was previewed.  I'll pick it up again later this year.  I like the show but don't hold it in as high regard as One Piece or Naruto Shippuden as far as long running series go.  I think it shares a lot of similarities to Naruto and Dragon Ball actually and there is nothing wrong with that, however I kind of wish some fights lasted fewer episodes. 
ethan staff on Sept. 22, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.
@Brenderous said:
" This show was good until he went to soul society. Than it got fucking BOORRRING. "

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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