Bleach (ブリーチ Burīchi) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. Bleach follows the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki after he obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper (死神Shinigami, literally, “Death God”) —a death personification similar to the Grim Reaper—from another Soul Reaper, Rukia Kuchiki. His newfound powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife.
Bleach has been serialized in the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump since August 2001, and has been collected into 57 tankōbon volumes as of December 2012. Since its publication,Bleach has spawned a media franchise that includes an animated television series that was produced by Studio Pierrot in Japan from 2004 to 2012, two original video animations, four animated feature films, seven rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise.
Viz Media obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime on March 15, 2006. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim began airing Bleach in the United States on September 9, 2006. Viz Media has licensed the manga for English-language publication in the United States and Canada, and has released 51 bound volumes as of November 2012 as well as published chapters of Bleach in its Shonen Jump magazine since November 2007. Viz Media released the first Bleach film, Bleach: Memories of Nobody, on DVD in North America on October 14, 2008. The second film,Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, was released on September 15, 2009. The third film, Bleach: Fade to Black, was released on November 15, 2011. In addition, Hulu released subtitled versions of the anime a week after each episode aired in Japan.
Volumes of the manga have sold more than 80 million copies in Japan, and is one of the most sold manga in the United States. The anime adaptation has been similarly received; it was rated as the fourth most popular anime television series in Japan in 2006 and held a position amongst the top ten anime in the United States from 2006 to 2008. The series received the Shogakukan Manga Awardfor the shōnen demographic in 2005, and is among the best-selling manga issues in both Japan and the United States. In 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Bleach has been ranked 5th, 3rd, 5th and 8th in the top-selling charts of manga volumes in Japan.
Ichigo Kurosaki is a teenager gifted with the ability to see spirits. His life is drastically changed by the sudden appearance of a Soul Reaper—one who governs the flow of souls between the human world and the afterlife—named Rukia Kuchiki, who arrives in search of a Hollow, a dangerous lost soul that absorbs energy from souls. When Rukia is severely wounded defending Ichigo from the Hollow, she attempts to transfer a part of her reiatsu (霊圧, literally, “spiritual pressure”) energy to Ichigo so that he can defeat the Hollow. However, Ichigo takes almost all of her energy, transforming into a Soul Reaper and allowing him to defeat the Hollow with ease. With her powers diminished, Rukia is left stranded in the human world until she can recover her strength. In the meantime, Ichigo must take over Rukia’s role as a Soul Reaper, battling Hollows and guiding souls to the afterlife realm known as the Soul Society (尸魂界 (ソウル·ソサエティ) Sōru Sosaeti).
As some time passes and Rukia has yet to return to the Soul Society, her Soul Reaper superiors learn about her whereabouts and actions and sentence her to death for performing the illegal act of transferring her powers. This however had ended with two high ranking Soul Reapers (Shinigami) injuring Ichigo and taking Rukia to their world The Soul Society. Although he is unable to stop Rukia’s departure to the Soul Society, Ichigo resolves to rescue her with the aid of several of his spiritually aware classmates, Orihime Inoue, Yasutora (Chad) Sado, and Uryū Ishida, and the ex-Soul ReapersYoruichi Shihōin and Kisuke Urahara. Once in Soul Society, Ichigo and company battle against the elites of the Soul Reaper military and strive to reach Rukia before her execution.
It is revealed that Rukia’s execution and Ichigo’s rescue attempt both had been manipulated by a very high-ranking Soul Reaper, Sōsuke Aizen, who was previously believed to have been murdered, as part of a far-reaching plot to take control of the Soul Society. Aizen betrays his fellow Soul Reapers and allies himself with the strongest of the Hollows, the Espadas, whom he enhances. Aizen thus becomes the main antagonist of the series, and the Soul Reapers form an alliance with Ichigo.
At this point, Bleach chronicles the war between the Soul Reapers, the Espadas, and Aizen. After Aizen defeats the Soul Reaper captains, Ichigo undergoes intense training with his father Isshin, who turns out to be a former Soul Reaper, in order to become strong enough to battle Aizen alone. As Aizen is weakened by his battle with Ichigo, a spell that Urahara had previously hidden within him activates and seals him, thus ending the conflict and leaving the Soul Society to imprison him. As a result of using an incredibly powerful attack in order to defeat Aizen, Ichigo loses all of his Spiritual Pressure and becomes an ordinary human.
Seventeen months later, Ichigo meets “Xcution”, a group of humans possessing Fullbring powers based on Hollows and want Ichigo to absorb them. Ichigo starts training to regain his Soul Reaper powers by first developing his own Fullbring following the appearance of Shūkurō Tsukishima, the former leader of Xcution who is targeting his friends. After developing his Fullbring, Ichigo is betrayed by Xcution’s current leader Kūgo Ginjō, a former Substitute Soul Reaper who had his memories rewritten to act as Tsukishima’s enemy and help Ichigo gain powers to steal them. With help from Soul Society, Ichigo regains his Soul Reaper powers and starts fighting Ginjō’s group alongside Soul Society’s forces. The Soul Society forces end victorious with Ichigo defeating Ginjō and presumably killing Tsukishima.
Following these events, a group of Quincies called the “Vandenreich” declares war on the Soul Society. Ichigo once again ventures to Hueco Mundo, which has also been invaded by the Vandenreich; at the same time, the captains in the Soul Society battle a powerful group in the Vandenreich army known as the “Stern Ritter”. During the invasion several Captains had their bankai stolen by the Stern Ritter. Meanwhile Captain Yamamoto took revenge on the Quincy who stole Sasakibe’s bankai and then immediately sought out their leader who he identified as “Juha Bach” who up till now was referred to by the other Quincy as “His Majesty”. Despite using his bankai to attempt to kill him, Juha surprises Yamamoto by stealing his bankai, then instantly kills him using his abilities. Ichigo then arrives to take on Juha Bach and has his bankai subsequently destroyed and origins called into question. During the aftermath, the Royal Guard arrive to take Ichigo and several of his comrades to the Spirit Palace where they begin recuperation and training for the next fight against the Vandenreich.
Bleach was first conceived from a desire on Tite Kubo’s part to draw Shinigami in a kimono, which formed the basis for the design of the Soul Reapers in the series and the conception of Rukia Kuchiki. The original story concept was submitted to Weekly Shōnen Jump shortly after the cancellation of Tite Kubo’s previous manga, Zombiepowder, but was rejected. Manga artist Akira Toriyama saw the story and wrote a letter of encouragement to Kubo. Bleach was accepted for publication a short time later in 2001, and was initially intended to be a shorter series, with a maximum serialization length of five years. Early plans for the story did not include the hierarchical structure of the Soul Society, but did include some characters and elements that were not introduced into the plot until the Arrancar arc, such as Ichigo’s Soul Reaper heritage. The series was originally meant to be named “Black” due to the color of the Soul Reapers’ clothes, but Kubo thought the title was too generic. He later tried the name of “White,” but came to like “Bleach” more for its association with the color white and that he did not find it too obvious.
Tite Kubo has cited influences for elements of Bleach, ranging from other manga series to music, foreign language, architecture, and film. He attributes his interest in drawing the supernatural and monsters to Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe no Kitaroand Bleach‘s focus on interesting weaponry and battle scenes to Masami Kurumada’s Saint Seiya, manga that Kubo enjoyed as a boy. The action style and storytelling found in Bleach are inspired by cinema, though Kubo has not revealed any specific movie as being an influence for fight scenes. When pressed, he told interviewers that he liked Snatch but did not use it as a model. Kubo has also stated that he wishes to make Bleach an experience that can only be found by reading manga, and dismissed ideas of creating any live-action film adaptations of the series.
Bleach‘s creative process is focused around character design. When writing plotlines or having difficulties generating new material, Kubo begins by thinking of new characters, often en masse, and rereading previous volumes of Bleach. Kubo has said that he likes creating characters that have outward appearances that do not match their true nature—an element that can be found in many Bleach characters—as he is “attracted to people with that seeming contradiction” and finds an “urge to draw people like that” when he works. The terminology used in Bleach has a variety of inspirations, with each category of characters bearing a different linguistic theme. Many of the names for swords and spells used by Soul Reapers were inspired by ancient Japanese literature. Hollows and Arrancars are often associated with Spanish terms because the language sounded “bewitching and mellow” to him. As for Fullbringers, their Fullbring is associated with the Englishvocabulary when either releasing or already have released their Fullbring. Finally, Quincy and Bounts have been known to associate with the German language, making Kubo’s world of characters diverse in race and language as well.
North American licensor Viz Media has been serializing the individual chapters in Shonen Jump in North America since November 2007. As of December 2012, 53 volumes have been released, the first of which was released on June 1, 2004. On August 5, 2008, the company released a hardcover “collector’s edition” of the first volume that came with a dust jacket, followed by a box set that was released on September 2, 2008, containing the first 21 volumes, a poster, and a booklet about the series.
Since Bleach‘s premiere, over 500 chapters have been released in Japan. Most chapter names are written in English and have katakana above them to indicate how they are read in Japanese, similar to the usage of furigana ruby characters with advanced kanji characters. In addition to the main series chapters, some chapters are published with a negative chapter number. These “negative” chapters are side stories that involve events that precede the main plot of the series.
On October 19, 2012, Shueisha released the first 37 volumes (Soul Society arc) in full color digital-only in Japanese ebook stores.
Viz Media obtained the foreign television, home video, and merchandising rights to the Bleach anime from TV Tokyo Corporation and Shueisha on March 15, 2006. Viz Media has later licensed its individual Bleach merchandising rights to several different companies.
The adaptation of the Bleach anime premiered on Canada’s YTV channel in the Bionix programming block on September 8, 2006. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim began airing Bleach in the United States the following evening. Adult Swim stopped broadcasting new episodes of the English adaptation on October 20, 2007 after airing the first 52 episodes of the series. It was replaced with another Viz Media series, Death Note, to provide Studiopolis more time to dub additional episodes of Bleach. The series began airing again on March 2, 2008, but went back on hiatus on November 21, 2009, after the airing of its 167th episode.
In the United Kingdom, Bleach premiered on Anime Central on September 13, 2007, with new episodes airing weekly. The English dubbed version of Bleach premiered on Animax Asia on 18 December 2009 with the first 52 episodes and season 2 premiered on 18 March 2011 this time with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
As of January 2012, 76 DVD compilations have been released by Aniplex in Japan. Viz Media has released 32 DVD compilations of the English adaptation of the anime, along with seven season boxsets that contain the first seven seasons of the anime. On July 29, 2009, Aniplex released a “TV Animation Bleach 5th Anniversary Box” that includes 15 DVDs and three bonus discs.
Episode 366, which aired March 27, 2012 was the last episode of Bleach to air on TV Tokyo.
Composed and produced by Shirō Sagisu, 11 CD soundtracks have been released for the Bleach anime series and movies. Bleach Original Soundtrack 1 was released on May 18, 2005, which contains 25 tracks, including the first opening and ending themes in their original television lengths. Bleach Original Soundtrack 2 followed on August 2, 2006 with an additional 23 instrumental tracks. Bleach Original Soundtrack 3 later followed on November 5, 2008 with 27 instrumental tracks. Bleach Original Soundtrack 4 was released on December 16, 2009 with 30 instrumental tracks. Bleach: Memories of Nobody Original Soundtrack was released with 25 tracks from the Bleach: Memories of Nobody film. Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion Original Soundtrack was also released for the Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion film, with 29 tracks from the movie, followed by Bleach: Fade to Black Original Soundtrack for the Bleach: Fade to Black film, with 29 tracks, followed by Bleach: Hell Verse Original Soundtrack for the Bleach: Hell Verse film, with 21 tracks. Bleach: The Best contains 12 of the opening and ending themes from the series in their full length versions, later followed byBleach: Best Tunes, which contains 12 more opening and ending themes.
Three Radio DJCD Bleach ‘B’ Station season CD sets, each containing six volumes, have been released in Japan. The third season is still ongoing in Japan. Eight drama CDs have been produced for the series as well, featuring the original voice actors from the series; these drama CDs have only been included as part of the DVD releases.
The Bleach Beat Collections is an ongoing set of CDs published by Sony Music featuring recordings by the original Japanese voice actors that provide a look at the personalities of the characters they play, as well as the voice actors themselves. The first CD was released on June 22, 2005, and as of March 2009, 21 volumes have been released across four named sets called Sessions.
There are four feature films based on the Bleach series, all of which are directed by Noriyuki Abe, director of the Bleach anime series. The films have been released in December of each year starting in 2006. Each movie features an original plotline along with original characters designed by Tite Kubo, which is contrary to the normal practice for anime-based films, as the original author usually has little creative involvement.
The first film, Bleach: Memories of Nobody, was released in Japan on December 16, 2006 and had a limited release in American theaters in June 2008. The movie is centered around the activities of the “Dark Ones,” who were banished from the Soul Society and are subsequently trying to destroy both the Soul Society and the World of the Living. Memories of Nobody was released in North America on Region 1 DVD by Viz Media on October 14, 2008.
The second film, Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, was released to Japanese theaters on December 22, 2007. Its plot focuses on 10th Division captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya’s efforts to clear his name after an artifact belonging to Soul Society’s king is stolen while under his care. The DiamondDust Rebellion was released in North America on Region 1 DVD by Viz Media on September 8, 2009.
The third film, Bleach: Fade to Black, was released in Japan on December 13, 2008. In the film, members of Soul Society are struck with amnesia, caused by a parasitic Hollow causing them to lose their memories of Ichigo and Rukia. When he goes to the Soul Society to investigate, Ichigo discovers that Rukia has not only forgotten him, but has forgotten her own identity as well. The film was released on DVD on September 30, 2009. The English Dub release of Fade to Black was released on Region 1 DVD by Viz Media on November 15, 2011.
The fourth movie, Bleach: Hell Verse, was released in Japan on December 4, 2010. In it Ichigo is heading into the Gates of Hell, which is where Hollows who had committed evil during their lives as humans are sent. Tite Kubo did oversee the production of the film.
In March 2010, Warner Bros. (USA/Canada/International) confirmed that it is in talks to create a live action movie adaptation of the series. Peter Segal and Michael Ewing have been lined up to produce the movie. The live action movies were confirmed to be made in February 2012 with Dan Mazeau hired to write the screenplay of the movie.
Bleach has been adapted into a series of rock musicals, jointly produced by Studio Pierrot and Nelke Planning. There have been five musicals produced which covered portions of the Substitute and Soul Society arcs, as well as three additional performances known as “Live Bankai Shows” which did not follow the Bleach plotline. The initial performance run of the Bleach musical was from August 17–28, 2005 at the Space Zero Tokyo center in Shinjuku.
The musicals are directed by Takuya Hiramitsu, with a script adaptation by Naoshi Okumura and music composed by playwright Shoichi Tama. The songs are completely original and not taken from the anime soundtrack. Key actors in the series include Tatsuya Isaka, who plays Ichigo Kurosaki, Miki Satō, who plays Rukia Kuchiki, and Eiji Moriyama, who plays Renji Abarai.
Trading card game
Bleach TCG was introduced in the United States by Score Entertainment in May 2007, but ceased publication April 2009, just before the planned launch of its seventh expansion, Bleach Infiltration. This cancellation was attributed to theongoing recession, which has heavily affected TCG sales. Designed by Aik Tongtharadol, the TCG is a two-player game in which each player starts with at least 61 cards: a “Guardian” card, a 60-card “main deck,” and an optional 20-card “side deck.” A player loses if his or her power, as dictated by the Guardian card, is reduced to zero, or if he or she is unable to draw or discard a card from his or her deck. The cards for the game have been released in named sets with each set released in three formats: a 72-card pre-constructed box set containing a starter deck and two booster packs, a 10-card booster pack, and a 12-pack booster box. As of December 2008, six named sets have been released.
Tite Kubo and Makoto Matsubara have co-authored two novelizations of the Bleach series, which were published by Shueisha under its Shounen Jump Books label. The first volume, BLEACH-letters from the other side: The Death and The Strawberry, was published on November 15, 2006, and the second, Bleach: The Honey Dish Rhapsody, was published on October 31, 2008.
A single Bleach artbook, All Colour But The Black, has been released in Japan, the United States, and Europe. The artbook compiles a selection of color spreads from the first 19 volumes of the series, as well as some original art and author commentary.
Four databooks have also been released about the series. The first two, Bleach: Official Character Book SOULs. and Bleach: Official Animation Book VIBEs., were released on February 3, 2006. Bleach: Official Character Book SOULs.was later released in English by Viz Media on November 18, 2008. The third databook, Bleach Official Bootleg: KaraBuri+ (BLEACH OFFICIAL BOOTLEG カラブリ プラス?), was released on August 3, 2007. In addition to character guides and articles on other fictional aspects of the series, it compiles the various short comics, Tedious Everyday Tales Colorful Bleach (徒然日常絵詞 カラフル ブリーチ Tsuredure Nichijou Ekotoba Karafuru Buriichi), that were published in V Jump. Theomake-style panels are similar to those included in the main series, but reveal more of the daily lives of characters. The fourth book, Bleach: Official Character Book 2: MASKED, was released on August 4, 2010. This book covers details about characters that appear 100 years prior to the story, such as former captains and lieutenants, along with the Arrancars and Visoreds. It should be noted that while it was released on the same day as Volume 46, Back From Blind, the book only covers material up to Volume 37, Beauty Is So Solitary. A fifth book Bleach: Official Character Book 3: UNMASKED, was released on June 3, 2011, the same day as the Volume 50 of the series. However it only covers material up to Volume 48, God is Dead.
The manga series has sold over 1.2 million copies in North America, and the original Japanese version of the manga series as a whole has sold more than 80 million copies. In 2005, Bleach was awarded the Shogakukan Manga Award in the shōnen category. As of May 2007, the manga has sold a total of 40 million copies, ranking as the 14th bestseller series from Weekly Shōnen Jump. During 2008, volume 34 of the manga sold 874,153 copies in Japan, becoming the 12th best-seller comics from the year. Volumes 33 and 35 have also ranked 17 and 18, respectively. In total the manga has sold 3,161,825 copies in Japan during 2008, becoming the year’s 5th best selling series. In the first half from 2009,Bleach ranked as the 2nd best-selling manga in Japan, having sold 3.5 million copies. Having sold 927,610 copies, Volume 36 ranked 7th. Volume 37 was 8th with 907,714 sold copies, and volume 38 at 10th with 822,238 copies. North American sales of the manga have also been high, with Volume 16 placing in the top 10 graphic novel sales in December 2006 and Volume 17 being the best-selling manga volume for the month of February 2007. In a 2010 interview, Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Viz, listed Bleach as one of six Viz titles that continue to exceed expectations in spite of the harshening manga market. The English version of the manga was nominated for the “best manga” and “best theme” awards at the 2006 and 2007 American Anime Awards, but did not win either category.
Deb Aoki from About.com considered the series as the Best Continuing Shōnen Manga of 2007, along with Eyeshield 21, praising the “compelling stories, dazzling action sequences and great character development”. She also placed the title on her list of “Top 10 Shōnen Manga Must-Reads”. The artwork and the character designs received positive response by IGN’s A.E. Sparrow. He also commented on the several storylines going on in the series at the same time due to the large number of supporting characters which make the manga appealing in response to fans’ claims about a “lack of a story” in Bleach. Leroy Douresseaux from ComicBookBin agreed with Sparrow in the number of storylines, but also praised the fighting scenes finding them comparable to the ones of popular films. On the other hand, Mania reviewer Jarred Pine criticized the series as being plagued with stereotypes from the genre. He felt it was a rough start for the series with unimpressive battles, overused gags, and a bad introduction for central character Ichigo that causes him to come across “as a frowning punk” whose one good trait is his desire to protect. Despite this, Pine notes that he loves the series, particularly its quirky, lovable characters.
The anime has been featured various times in the top ten from the Japanese TV Ranking. DVDs have also had good sales having commonly appeared in the Japanese DVD Ranking. The anime was nominated in the 2007 America Anime Awards in the fields of “best manga”, “best actor”, “best DVD package design”, and “best theme”, but failed to win any awards. In a 2006 Internet poll by TV Asahi, Bleach was ranked as Japan’s seventh-favorite anime program. The previous year, it was ranked as the twenty-seventh favorite program. During February 2009, Bleach ranked as the 9th most viewed animated show from Hulu.
Anime News Network’s Carlos Santos praised the anime adaptation, describing it as “…one incredibly entertaining anime that will grab you and refuse to let go.” Animefringe‘s Maria Lin liked the varied and distinct characters, and how well they handle the responsibilities increasing powers give them. She also complimented the series for its attention to details, well paced script, and balance of seriousness and comedy. In summary, she notes “Bleach the anime deserves its popularity. It has something for everyone: the supernatural, comedy, action and a little bit of romance, all tied together with excellent animation and a very enthusiastic sounding bunch of voice actors.” Adam Arseneau of DVD Verdict, felt Bleach was a “show that only gets better with age” and was “surprisingly well-rounded and appealing” with well-developed characters and pacing. Active Anime’s Holly Ellingwood praising the anime for perfectly capturing “the excitement, the caustic humour and supernatural intrigue” of the original manga. She felt that the series “does a wonderful job of building on its continuity to provide increasingly tense and layered episodes involving not only Ichigo and Rukia, but the secondary characters as well”. She also praised the series for its striking visual effects, intriguing plot and its “brilliant blend of action, off the wall comedy.” In reviewing the series for DVD Talk, Don Houston felt the characters surpassed the usual shōnen anime stereotypes and liked “the mixture of darker material with the comedic”. Another Fellow reviewer John Sinnott felt series starts out as a boring “monster-of-the-week program” that becomes more epic as the stories build and the characters are fleshed out. Otaku USA”s Joseph Luster wrote that “the storylines are consistently dramatic without hammering it home too heavily, the characters manage comic relief that’s not as eye rolling as one would expect, and the action (in classic fighting series form) has only gotten more ridiculous over the years; in a good way, of course”. Mania.com’s Bryce Coulter praised the series for its plot twists and “the quirky and amusing characters”. In comparing the series with Naruto, Mania.com’s Chris Beveridge felt Bleach was less childish and “simply comes together surprisingly well in its style and execution of what is fairly standard material”.