Bleach (stylized as BLEACH) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. It follows the adventures of the hotheaded teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who inherits his parents’ destiny after he obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper—a death personification similar to the Grim Reaper—from another Soul Reaper, Rukia Kuchiki. His new-found powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife, and set him on journeys to various ghostly realms of existence.
- Bleach (2004–2012)
- Bleach (2018)
Bleach was serialized in Shueisha‘s shōnen (teenage males) manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from August 2001 to August 2016, with its chapters collected in seventy-four tankōbon volumes. The series has spawned a media franchise that includes an animetelevision series adaptation that was produced by Tokyo-based studio Pierrot from 2004 to 2012, two original video animation (OVA) episodes, four animated feature films, ten stage musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise. A Japanese live-action film adaptation produced by Warner Bros. was released in 2018.
In North America, the manga was licensed for English release by Viz Media in 2004. They have released its seventy-four volumes and published its chapters in their Shonen Jump magazine from November 2007 until the magazine’s final issue in April 2012.
Bleach received the 50th Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōnen category in 2005. Despite significant downturns in both the Japanese and English manga markets, Bleach continued to perform well commercially, and had over 120 million tankōbon volumes in circulation worldwide as of 2018, making it the eleventh best-selling manga in history.
Ichigo Kurosaki is a teenager from Karakura Town who can see ghosts, a talent which lets him meet supernatural trespasser Rukia Kuchiki who enters Ichigo’s room in search of a Hollow, a kind of monstrous lost soul who can harm both ghosts and humans. Rukia is one of the Soul Reapers (死神, Shinigami, literally ‘Death Gods’), soldiers trusted with ushering the souls of the dead from the World of the Living to the Soul Society (尸魂界 (ソウル・ソサエティ), lit. “Dead Spirit World”)—the afterlife realm from which she originates—and with fighting Hollows. When she is severely wounded defending Ichigo from a Hollow she is pursuing, Rukia transfers her powers to Ichigo so that he may fight in her stead while she recovers her strength. Rukia is thereby trapped in an ordinary human body, and must advise Ichigo as he balances the demands of his substitute Soul Reaper duties and attending high school. For aid in hunting the Hollows, the pair ally with a trio of other spiritually empowered teenagers: Ichigo’s high school classmate Orihime Inoue, best friend Yasutora “Chad” Sado and the Quincy—humans who have the ability to control spirit particles—Uryū Ishida.
Eventually, Rukia is arrested by her Soul Reaper superiors and sentenced to death for the illegal act of transferring her powers into a human. Ichigo and friends enlist the help of ex-Soul Reaper scientist Kisuke Urahara, who also enables Ichigo to access his own Soul Reaper powers, to enter Soul Society and rescue Rukia. Shortly after the party’s arrival in the Soul Society, conflict arises among the captains of the 13 Court Squads when the captain of the fifth company, Sōsuke Aizen, is apparently murdered, which causes the Soul Reapers to begin fighting amongst themselves. There after the Captain Commander Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto issues a wide spread search for Ichigo and his friends as being responsible for the murder of Aizen. However, as Ichigo is almost successful in rescuing Rukia, and Soul Society is on the verge of civil war, Aizen reappears and reveals his intention to obtain the Hōgyoku (崩玉, lit. “Crumbling Orb”)—an orb of immense power—that Kisuke planted in Rukia’s human vessel by faking his death and arranging Rukia’s execution. Aizen is accompanied by his fellow conspirators, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tōsen who are the third and ninth company’s captains, as they use Hollows to cover their escape into the Hollows’ realm, Hueco Mundo (虚圏 (ウェコムンド), lit. “Hollow World”). Afterwards, Ichigo and Rukia reconcile with the Soul Reapers, who view the former as a powerful ally and designate him as an official substitute Soul Reaper.
Ichigo soon finds himself and his friends in escalating skirmishes with Aizen’s army of humanoid Hollows, the Arrancar, as they are joined by the Vizards—Soul Reapers who were victims of Aizen’s experiments in creating Soul Reaper/Hollow hybrids. When Ulquiora one of the Espada—Aizen’s 10 most powerful Arrancars—kidnaps Orihime, Ichigo and his allies enter Hueco Mundo to invade Aizen’s palace. However, as Ichigo rescues Orihime, Aizen reveals her abduction was a distraction as he launches an attack on Karakura Town in order to sacrifice the souls of the living and create a key to the Soul King’s Palace so he can kill the Soul King who reigns over the Soul Society. Already anticipating Aizen’s attack, the 13 Court Squads had already been waiting for him by moving the entire Karakura Town to Soul Society prior to his attack. When the Vizards join the remaining Soul Reapers to face their mutual enemy, Gin reveals his own agenda of assassinating Aizen. However, the latter then uses the Hōgyoku to become a Hollow-like being and overpower everyone. Ichigo ultimately succeeds in subduing Aizen at the cost of his powers and reverts to a normal human.
Months later, preparing for life after high school, Ichigo is called back into action when Xcution, a gang of Fullbringers—supernaturally aware humans like Chad—manipulate him and his loved ones in a scheme to siphon his Fullbring abilities. After his Soul Society allies restore his Soul Reaper powers, Ichigo learns that Xcution’s leader, Kugo Ginjo, was his predecessor. It is revealed that Soul Society did not fully trust the substitute Soul Reapers, so they used the Substitute Soul Reaper Badge given to the Substitute Soul Reaper to monitor and restrict his power output. Ginjo felt betrayed and swore vengeance to all Soul Reapers. Despite knowing the truth, Ichigo decides to continue to trust his Soul Reaper friends and kills Ginjo. With his power return, Ichigo once again is reinstated as Substitute Soul Reaper.
After Ichigo regained his powers, an army of Quincies known as the Wandenreich (見えざる帝国 (ヴァンデンライヒ), lit. “Invisible Empire”) appear and declare their own war on the Soul Society, having already enslaved many Arrancars in Hueco Mundo. The group is led by Yhwach, the ancient progenitor of the Quincies who seeks to kill the Soul King and rid the world of the fear of death. In their first invasion, the Wandenreich kill many Soul Reapers including the Captain Commander. Uryū joins the Wandenreich as a means to get close to Yhwach, who was responsible for the death of his mother among other Quincies. Later on, Ichigo and his friends aid the Soul Society in fighting the Wandenreich’s second invasion, but Yhwach proceeds to slay the Soul King and fully absorb it. In the final battle, Yhwach returns to the Soul Society to conquer it, but with the help from Renji, Aizen, and Uryū, Ichigo finally defeat the Quincy leader.
10 years later, Rukia becomes the new captain of the thirteenth company and has a daughter, an apprentice Soul Reaper named Ichika, with her childhood friend Renji Abarai. Meanwhile, Ichigo and Orihime have a son named Kazui, who is also training to become a Soul Reaper.