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August 2001 - Ongoing
October 5, 2004 - Ongoing
Bleach (ブリーチ, Burīchi; romanized as BLEACH in Japan) is an ongoing manga series authored by Tite Kubo that has appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine since August 2001.
Bleach follows the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki, a high school student with the ability to see ghosts, and Rukia Kuchiki, a Shinigami. The early parts of the story focus mainly on the characters. As events unfold, the story begins to delve deeper into the world of these gods of death.
The manga series has been adapted into an animated television series, two OVAs, four animated feature films, a rock musical, numerous video games and a Trading Card Game. Compilation volumes of the manga have sold over 50 million copies in Japan, and have reached the top of manga sales charts in the United States. The manga received the Shogakukan Manga Award in 2005, and the anime has been nominated for several American Anime Awards.
See also: Chapters and Episodes The story opens with the sudden appearance of Shinigami Rukia Kuchiki in Ichigo Kurosaki's bedroom. She is surprised at his ability to see her, but their conversation is shortly interrupted by the appearance of a "Hollow", an evil spirit. After Rukia is severely wounded while trying to protect Ichigo, she attempts to transfer half her powers to Ichigo in order to let him face the Hollow on equal footing. Ichigo instead unintentionally absorbs almost all her energy, allowing him to defeat the Hollow with ease. The next day Rukia appears in Ichigo's classroom as a seemingly normal Human, and informs Ichigo that his absorption of her powers has left her stranded in the Human World until she recovers her strength. In the meantime Ichigo shelters Rukia in his home and takes over her job as a Shinigami, battling Hollows and guiding lost souls to Soul Society.
After a few months of this arrangement, in the sixth volume of the series, Rukia's Shinigami superiors interpret her disappearance as desertion, send a detachment to arrest her, and sentence her to death. Ichigo is unable to stop Rukia's capture, but with the help of several of his classmates who also possess spiritual abilities and ex-Shinigami Kisuke Urahara, he sets off for the Shinigami base, located in the afterlife realm known as Soul Society. Once there, Ichigo and company battle against the elites of the Shinigami military, and are ultimately successful in halting Rukia's execution.
It is then revealed that Rukia's execution and Ichigo's rescue attempt were both manipulated by Sōsuke Aizen, a high ranking Shinigami previously believed to be murdered, as part of a far-reaching plot to take control of Soul Society. Aizen betrays his fellow Shinigami and allies himself with the Hollows, becoming the main antagonist of the series, and Ichigo teams up with his former enemies in Soul Society after learning that the next step in Aizen's plan involves the destruction of his home town. The Gotei 13 unite to defeat Aizen and the Arrancar but are unable to stop Aizen in the Fake Karakura Town they created. Ichigo eventually defeats Aizen in Soul Society at the cost of his Shinigami powers. At this point, Bleach chronicles Ichigo's attempt to regain his lost powers. According to Tite Kubo, the ending of the series is not yet planned out or written.
All Bleach characters are "souls". Living Humans contain souls within their bodies, while disembodied souls, or spirits, have a form composed of particles of Reiryoku called Reishi (霊子, Spirit Particles), which otherwise mimics Human anatomy, aside from incredibly slowed aging (Rukia appears to be in her teens, yet is over 150 years old.). This form encompasses all of the spirit's being; there is no distinction between spirit and body. There are a variety of different types of spirits in Bleach, each with a different visual theme and approach to combat.
See also: List of Bleach Characters
- The primary protagonist of Bleach, orange haired high school freshman Ichigo Kurosaki is forced to become a Substitute Shinigami after unwittingly absorbing most of Rukia's powers. His cynical nature at first makes him ill-disposed towards the duty, but with the passage of time he comes to accept and welcome it, recognizing that even if he is not able to save everyone, he can at least use his skills to protect those close to him.
- Rukia Kuchiki is a Shinigami who was sent on a Hollow extermination patrol in Ichigo Kurosaki's home town. Though her physical appearance is that of a teenage girl, in reality she is over 150 years old. Rukia is forced to transfer her power to Ichigo and assume a temporary lifestyle as a regular human. She registers at the local high school and takes up residence in Ichigo's closet, while teaching him how to be a substitute Shinigami in her place.
- Renji Abarai is an elite Shinigami bearing the rank of 6th Division Lieutenant, making him second in command of a sub-branch of the Shinigami armed forces. Although first introduced as a deadly enemy, he has conflicting loyalties between his job and Rukia, whom he grew up with. A brash and driven man, he holds both a deep respect and animosity towards his immediate superior, 6th Division Captain Byakuya Kuchiki.
- Yasutora Sado, better known as Chad, is one of Ichigo's few friends at school. He is a biracial (Japanese/Mexican) student who towers over his classmates. Despite his imposing appearance he is quite meek, and refuses to fight unless it is for the sake of another. He does not have awareness of ghosts at first, but can still touch Hollows, and eventually is able to see them when he witnesses a group of children being attacked by a Hollow. He later discovers a unique ability that strengthens and armors his right arm, enabling him to fight hollows.
- Though on the surface nothing more than the solitary class genius, Uryū Ishida is actually a Quincy, descendant of a line of priest-like Hollow-hunting archers. He bears a deep grudge against all Shinigami, including Ichigo, but comes to view Ichigo differently over time, eventually becoming an ally and friendly rival. His father refuses to have anything to do with the Quincy, so he receives training from his grandfather, until his grandfather is killed. He wears a special glove that helps to focus and strengthen spirit particles. However, it is never to be taken off, for while you would temporarily gain unparalleled power, one loses all his or her Quincy powers. Ishida does take it off by breaking it to defeat a powerful enemy while trying to save Rukia, but the enemy escapes, and Ishida is left powerless. He is surprised when his father shows his Quincy powers and offers to restore Ishida's as long as he promises to no longer deal with Shinigami. He regains his Quincy powers the only way possible: While mentally and physically exhausted, he is shot with a medium strength Quincy arrow 19 millimeters to the left of his heart.
- Orihime Inoue is a long-time classmate of Ichigo, closely linked to him by mutual friend Tatsuki Arisawa. She is effectively an orphan, as she and her elder brother Sora ran away from their abusive home at a young age, and her brother later died. Though initially devoid of spiritual powers, she begins to develop spiritual awareness and later obtains one of the most powerful healing abilities in the Bleach universe, able to completely restore a body to its previous state regardless of how severely it is wounded. It is not technically a healing ability, however. She has the ability to "reject" or "deny" what happened to an object or area, making it as if nothing ever happened. It can also restore power, as witnessed when she healed an Arrancar, Grimmjow. After healing his marking, he defeated with ease an opponent who had usurped his position through battle previously.
- Human: The humans of Bleach are much like the residents of modern Japan, and most cannot see or sense disembodied spirits in any way. Spirits can, however, inhabit artificial Human bodies called Gigai which are visible to ordinary humans. One in 50,000 Humans is a medium with some awareness of nearby spirits, but only a third of these are able to see them clearly, and only the strongest of mediums are able to speak with or touch spirits. Certain unique Humans, like the Fullbringers, naturally have both the power to sense and the strength to fight with spirits. Ordinary Humans can gain the ability to interact with spirits by spending time around a large source of spirit energy.
- Plus: Benign spirits in Bleach are known as Pluses (wholes in the official English editions). A plus is the spirit of a person who has died. A chain, known as the Chain of Fate (因果の鎖, inga no kusari), protrudes from the chest and binds the plus to a location, object or person that they felt close to in life. The soul can move about freely if the chain is broken, but this also causes the chain to corrode. Normally, Pluses are sent to Soul Society by Shinigami in a ritual called Soul Burial (魂葬, konsō) before this corrosion becomes significant. If the Chain of Fate is corroded entirely before a soul burial can be performed, a hole will form in the chest of the soul where the chain was once anchored. Such souls are driven mad and become evil spirits known as Hollows. If the Chain of Fate is torn out deliberately, this also leads to spiritual degradation.
- Shinigami: Shinigami (Soul Reaper in the official English editions, Death Gods in most subtitled versions) are the psychopomps of Bleach. They are souls with inner spiritual power, recruited from the ranks of the residents and nobility of Soul Society. Like all spirits, they cannot be detected by normal Humans. Shinigami use their Zanpakutō, supernatural swords that are the manifestation of their owners' power, to perform soul burials on pluses. Shinigami also use Zanpakutō and magic known as Kidō to fight their arch-rivals, the hollows.
- Visored: A group of Shinigami known as the Visoreds have obtained Hollow powers, gaining removable masks and access to certain Hollow abilities.
- Hollow: Hollows are the central antagonists of the Bleach franchise. They are evil spirits that reside in Hueco Mundo, but travel to the Human World to feed on the souls of the living and dead alike. Like Shinigami, Hollows are made of spiritual matter and cannot be detected by ordinary Humans. While the majority of Hollows can be overcome by the average Shinigami, there are some which surpass even the most elite Shinigami in strength. All normal Hollows wear white masks, but a small group of hollows have broken them, becoming Arrancar. By shattering their masks, these Hollows regain the ability to reason, sometimes obtain a humanoid form, and gain access to Shinigami powers.
- Quincy: The Quincy are a clan of spiritually aware Humans who once fought against the Hollows, using weapons composed of spiritual energy to slay them. As opposed to Shinigami, Quincy absorb and channel energy from their surroundings to fight. Unlike the Shinigami method of killing Hollows which allows the Hollow to enter Soul Society, the Quincy technique simply destroys the Hollow's soul entirely. This method has the propensity to shatter the balance of the universe, because when souls are destroyed, the number of souls entering and leaving Soul Society cannot remain equal. This issue prompted the Shinigami to conduct a campaign to exterminate the Quincy about 200 years before the main storyline. At least two Quincy still remain.
- Artificial soul: Artificial souls (also known as Modified Souls, or Mod Souls) are a type of soul mass-produced by the Shinigami. Issued in pill form, they are used to force Shinigami out of their Gigai during protracted stays in the living world, and also to evict pluses that refuse to leave their bodies after death. They come with a pre-programmed personality that animates the host body until the owner returns. In addition to the mundane versions, a series of experimental souls authorized and created by Shinigami researchers exists. Known as modified souls, these were meant to hunt Hollows by possessing soulless Human bodies and supercharging a particular aspect of them (for example, strength or speed). The Shinigami decided to scrap the project due to the inhumanity of forcing dead bodies to fight, and ordered the destruction of all modified souls. Only one modified soul exists in the manga, but there are three more such characters in the anime.
- Bount: They are a vampiric like race created when an experiment in Soul Society (conducted by Ran'Tao) has gone horribly wrong, and the Bount souls got mixed up with normal souls which caused Bounts to be born from normal Humans. Because of the Bounts' powers, they where despised by Humans as well. They were easy prey for Hollow, because of their massive reiatsu, which caused Soul Society to take action in exterminating the Bount which happened when the Bount battled the Quincy. The Soul Society used the opportunity to destroy the Bounts. They only appear in the anime.
- Fullbringer: The Fullbringers are rare spiritually aware Humans who are born with an ability called a Fullbring, in which they can manipulate the "soul" of matter for a variety of effects. Their powers are defined by Hollow Reiryoku.
The planes of existence in the Bleach universe broadly correspond to the life and afterlife of Human belief systems. The living Humans of Bleach reside in a world resembling present-day Japan; buried souls live in a kind of Heaven called Soul Society; evil souls are sent to Hell. Once in Soul Society, a spirit is able to live longer than Humans in the living world, with many aging into the thousands of years. Once a spirit dies in Soul Society, its soul is sent back to the living world and reborn as a new human. This provides the two worlds with balance.
- Human World: The Human World of Bleach is modern Japan, specifically, a fictional area of Western Tokyo called Karakura Town. In this world, Ichigo attends school and fights Hollows. Places of note are the high school, the Urahara Shop, the river where Ichigo's mother was killed, the cemetery, Karakura Hospital, and Ichigo and Orihime's homes.
- Soul Society: Soul Society consists of an expansive walled city, Seireitei (瀞霊廷, Court of Pure Souls) in the center and four regions, each with 80 districts, outside of it. The districts outside of the Seireitei are known as the Rukongai (流魂街, Town of Wandering Spirits) and are the place where non-Shinigami and commoners live. The district number of the Rukongai (ranging from 1 to 80) also describes its conditions. District 1, the closest to Seireitei, is peaceful and orderly, while the most distant District 80 is filled with criminals and has the poorest living conditions. A king resides in another realm within Soul Society. 
- Hueco Mundo: Hueco Mundo is the desert-like area between the Human World and Soul Society. Literally meaning "hollow world" (the word hueco can also mean "empty"), it is where hollows reside when not hunting in the Human world, where they are undetectable. Entrances to Hueco Mundo are created by ripping the dimensional fabric between the two worlds (Garganta).
- Hell: Hell is the destination of those who committed unforgivably evil acts during their lives in the Human world. When a Hollow whose mortal soul is too wicked to enter Soul Society is slain by a Zanpakutō, the gates of hell (giant doors held by skeletons) appear and begin to open. A giant, laughing spiritual being with a blade spears the wicked spirit and drags it down into hell.
Bleach characters move from world to world by several means. Shinigami open passages between worlds by means of their Zanpakutō. Butterflies created during Soul Burial, called Jigokuchō, make these routes safe. Human souls usually cross between planes only through birth into the Human World or soul burial by Shinigami. Living humans can also use special portals to move between worlds, but this is dangerous. While hollows are portrayed as able to move between planes at will by opening rifts in space, they usually remain in Hueco Mundo due to the risk of discovery in Soul Society or the Human World. Encounters between characters crossing realms are a driving plot force in Bleach.
Since its first appearance in August 2001, the Bleach manga has appeared weekly in Shueisha's Shonen Jump magazine. The individual chapters are collected by Shueisha in a series of tankōbon volumes, which also include a poem by the character of the cover. The first volume of the manga has sold over 1.25 million copies in Japan, and the manga series as a whole has sold over 40 million volumes. In 2005, Bleach was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in the shōnen category. Viz Media have released the first three volumes of Bleach in a single book, Bleach (3-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Bleach series, the first twenty-one volumes were compiled into six omnibus collections under the name Bleach: Resurrected Souls.
The first volume of the manga has sold over 1.25 million copies in Japan, and the original Japanese version of the manga series as a whole has sold over 50 million copies. In 2005, Bleach was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in the shōnen category. North American sales of the manga have 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.
The distributing company Viz Media has been releasing the Bleach manga volumes in English in the United States. Viz releases the chapters in their Shonen Jump magazine as well as in tankōbon format; the first volume was released on June 1, 2004. The English version of Bleach was nominated for the "best manga" and "best theme" awards at the 2006 American Anime Awards, but did not win either category. It was nominated again in 2007 in the fields of "best manga", "best actor", "best DVD package design", and "best theme", but failed to win any awards.
The Bleach animated TV series is broadcast on Wednesdays by TV Tokyo and affiliated stations throughout Japan. It is co-produced by TV Tokyo, Dentsu and Studio Pierrot and directed by Noriyuki Abe, with character designs by Masashi Kudō and music by Shiro Sagisu. The series premiered on October 5, 2004. The first 63 episodes were based on the manga, and they were followed by 46 original episodes. Beginning with episode 110, the anime has returned to the manga storyline, incorporating elements from the filler episodes. In addition, two OVAs have been produced and an animated film, Bleach: Memories of Nobody, premiered in Japan on December 16, 2006. A second Bleach film was released in December 2007. A third movie, titled Bleach: Fade to Black - I Call Your Name came out in December 2008.  In a 2006 internet poll by TV Asahi, Bleach was ranked as Japan's seventh-favorite anime program.
Viz Media has released 27 English-language volumes of the manga in North America, and numerous scanlation groups continue to release unofficial English translations of new chapters. North American sales of the manga have 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. On March 15, 2006, Viz Media obtained foreign television, home video, and merchandising rights to the Bleach anime from the TV Tokyo Corporation and Shueisha. Subsequently, Viz Media contracted Studiopolis to create the English dub of the anime, and has licensed its individual Bleach merchandising rights to several different companies.
The English version of the Bleach anime premiered on Canada's YTV channel in the Bionix program block on September 8, 2006. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim began airing Bleach the following evening. In the UK, Bleach premieres new episodes every day at 21:30 on AnimeCentral, premiering episode one on September 13, 2007. The English version of Bleach was nominated for the "best manga" and "best theme" awards at the 2006 American Anime Awards, but did not win either category. It was nominated again in 2007 in the fields of "best manga", "best actor", "best DVD package design", and "best theme", but failed to win any awards.
- The title wasn't Bleach when Tite Kubo decided to draw a story about Shinigami. This was before he drew the one-shot manga that appeared in Akamaru Jump. The weapon wasn't a sword, but a scythe. Only Rukia had a scythe and the other characters used guns. At that point, the title was Snipe (as in "Sniper"). Right before he started drawing, he began to think that a sword would be better and realized he couldn't use Snipe as a title anymore. He began looking for a title that grasped the bigger picture. Shinigami are associated with the color black, but it would have been boring to use "black". "White", on the other hand, can suggest black as a complementary color. So Tite Kubo chose "bleach" to evoke the impression of the color white.
- Official sites