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April 24, 2008

Bleach

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Bleach (manga)

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Bleach
Cover of Bleach, Volume 1
ブリーチ
(Burīchi)
Genre Action; Fantasy supernatural fiction
Manga
Author Tite Kubo
Publisher Flag of Japan Shueisha
English publisher Flag of Canada Flag of the United States Viz Media
Demographic Shōnen
Serialized in Flag of Japan Weekly Shonen Jump
Original run August 2001 – ongoing
Volumes 33, containing 295 of 319 released chapters
TV anime
Director Noriyuki Abe
Studio Studio Pierrot
Licensor Flag of the United States Flag of Canada Viz Media
Flag of the United Kingdom Manga EntertainmentFlag of Australia Flag of New Zealand Madman Entertainment
Network Flag of Japan TV Tokyo
Original run October 5, 2004 – ongoing
Episodes 168 (as of April 23, 2008)
Related works
  • Bleach, musical based on manga
  • Bleach-related video games
  • Bleach: Memories of Nobody and Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, animated feature films

Bleach (ブリーチ Burīchi?, romanized as BLEACH in Japan) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated 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 a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki. The early parts of the story focus mainly on these characters. As events unfold, the story begins to delve deeper into the world of the gods of death.

The manga series has been adapted into an animated television series, two OVAs, two animated feature films, a rock musical, numerous video games, and a collectible card game. Compilation volumes of the manga have sold over 40 million copies in Japan, and have reached the top of manga sales charts in the United States. The manga received the Shogakukan Manga Award for its shōnen title in 2005, and the anime has been nominated for several American Anime Awards.

 

 

Synopsis

Ichigo Kurosaki as he faces an attacking hollow, Fishbone D.

Ichigo Kurosaki as he faces an attacking hollow, Fishbone D.

The story opens with the sudden appearance of Rukia Kuchiki in Ichigo Kurosaki’s bedroom. She is surprised at his ability to see her, but their resulting conversation is interrupted by the appearance of a “hollow”, an evil spirit. After Rukia is severely wounded while trying to protect Ichigo, she intends to transfer half her powers to Ichigo, hoping to give him the opportunity to face the hollow on equal footing. Ichigo unintentionally absorbs almost all her powers instead, allowing him to defeat the hollow with ease.

The next day, Rukia appears in Ichigo’s classroom as a transfer student. Much to his surprise, she appears to be a normal human. She theorizes that it was the unusual strength of Ichigo’s spirit that caused him to absorb almost all her powers, thus leaving her stranded in the human world. Rukia has transferred herself into a gigai — an artificial human body — while waiting to recover her abilities. In the meantime, Ichigo must take over her job as a Soul Reaper, battling hollows and guiding lost souls to Soul Society.

 

Characters

All Bleach characters are “souls”. Living humans contain souls within their bodies, while disembodied souls, or spirits, have a form composed of particles of spiritual energy called ectoplasm (霊子 reishi?), which mimics human anatomy but ages more slowly. 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.

 

Main characters

See also: List of Bleach characters
Ichigo Kurosaki (黒崎 一護 Kurosaki Ichigo?) Voiced by: Masakazu Morita (Japanese), Johnny Yong Bosch (English)
The primary protagonist of Bleach, the orange haired high school junior Ichigo Kurosaki is forced to become a substitute Soul Reaper 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 (朽木 ルキア Kuchiki Rukia?) Voiced by: Fumiko Orikasa (Japanese), Michelle Ruff (English)
Rukia Kuchiki is a cool-tempered Soul Reaper who was sent on a hollow extermination patrol in Ichigo’s hometown. Though her physical appearance is that of a teenage girl, in reality she is around 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 Soul Reaper in her place.
Orihime Inoue (井上 織姫 Inoue Orihime?) Voiced by: Yuki Matsuoka (Japanese), Stephanie Sheh (English)
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.
Yasutora “Chad” Sado (茶渡 泰虎 Sado Yasutora?) Voiced by: Hiroki Yasumoto (Japanese), Jamieson Price (English)
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 this changes when he witnesses a group of children being attacked by a hollow. He discovers a unique ability that strengthens and armors one of his arms, enabling him to fight hollows. He later develops the ability to shoot energy from his armored arm.
Kisuke Urahara (浦原 喜助 Urahara Kisuke?) Voiced by: Shinichiro Miki (Japanese), Michael Lindsay (English)
A mysterious and cheery man characterized by his hat that shadows his eyes and the geta (wooden sandals) he wears, Kisuke Urahara runs the Urahara Shop, a candy store that also sells supernatural items to Soul Reapers. Despite his sanguine nature he is one of the most significant figures in the Bleach universe, and bears immense knowledge of the spiritual realms which he uses to mastermind the operations of the protagonists.
Uryū Ishida (石田 雨竜 Ishida Uryū?) Voiced by: Noriaki Sugiyama (Japanese), Derek Stephen Prince (English)
Though on the surface he is 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 Soul Reapers, including Ichigo, but comes to view Ichigo differently over time, eventually becoming an ally and friendly rival.
Renji Abarai (阿散井 恋次 Abarai Renji?) Voiced by: Kentarō Itō (Japanese), Wally Wingert (English)
Renji Abarai is an elite Soul Reaper bearing the rank of 6th Division lieutenant, making him second in command of a sub-branch of the Soul Reaper armed forces. Although first introduced as a deadly enemy, he has conflicting loyalties between his duties and Rukia, with whom he grew up. A rash and driven man, he holds both a deep respect and animosity towards his immediate superior, 6th Division captain Byakuya Kuchiki.

 

Character types

  • 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.[1] Certain unique humans 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.[2]
  • 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.[3] 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.[4] The soul can move about freely if the chain is broken, but this also causes the chain to corrode.[4] Normally, pluses are sent to Soul Society by Soul Reapers 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.[4] If the Chain of Fate is torn out deliberately, this also leads to spiritual degradation.[5]
  • Soul Reaper: Soul Reapers, or shinigami as they are called in Japanese-language releases, 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. Soul Reapers use their zanpakutō, supernatural swords that are the manifestation of their owners’ power, to perform soul burials on pluses.[3] Soul Reapers also use zanpakutō and magic known as kidō to fight their archrivals, the hollows.[3] A group of Soul Reapers known as the vizard have obtained hollow powers, gaining removable masks and access to certain hollow abilities.
  • Hollow: The hollows are the major antagonists of Bleach. They are evil spirits who reside in Hueco Mundo but travel to the living world to feed on the souls of the living and dead alike. Like Soul Reapers, hollows are made of spiritual matter and cannot be detected by ordinary humans. While the majority of hollows can be overcome by the average Soul Reaper, there are some which surpass even the most elite Soul Reapers in strength. All normal hollows wear white masks,[4] 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 Soul Reaper powers.[6]
  • Quincy: The Quincy are a clan of spiritually aware humans who once fought against the hollows, using bows composed of spiritual energy to slay them.[7] As opposed to Soul Reapers, Quincy absorb and channel energy from their surroundings to fight.[8] Unlike the Soul Reaper’s method of killing hollows which allows the hollow to enter Soul Society, the Quincy technique simply destroys the hollow’s soul entirely.[7] 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.[9] This issue prompted the Soul Reapers to conduct a campaign to exterminate the Quincy about 200 years before the main storyline.[10] 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 Soul Reapers.[11] Issued in pill form, they are used to force Soul Reapers out of their gigai during protracted stays in the living world, and also to evict pluses that refuse to leave their bodies after death.[11] They come with a pre-programmed personality that animates the host body until the owner returns.[11] In addition to the mundane versions, a series of experimental souls authorized and created by Soul Reaper researchers exists.[12] 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).[12] The Soul Reapers decided to scrap the project due to the inhumanity of forcing dead bodies to fight, and ordered the destruction of all modified souls.[12] Only one modified soul exists in the manga (Kon), but there are three more such characters in the anime.
  • Bount: Exclusive to the anime, the Bounts are a clan of human beings with high spiritual energy and special powers. They were accidentally created by Soul Reaper scientists looking for a way to create eternal life. Bounts consume the souls of human beings to survive; theoretically, a Bount could live forever by doing so. Although the Bounts have a strict rule to consume only the souls of the dead, the final group of Bounts chose to drain souls from living humans in order to become more powerful. Each Bount uses a “doll” in combat, a type of familiar possessing its own special abilities. Every doll is unique and is a manifestation of the user’s power. If the doll is destroyed, its owner is destroyed as well.

 

Setting

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, and evil souls are sent to Hell. Once a spirit dies in Soul Society, its soul is sent back to the living world and reborn as a new human.[13] This provides the two worlds with balance.

A view of Seireitei in Soul Society.

A view of Seireitei in Soul Society.

  • Human world: The human world of Bleach is focused on modern Japan; specifically, a fictional area of Western Tokyo called Karakura Town.[14] In this world, Ichigo attends school and fights hollows.
  • Soul Society: The spirit world called Soul Society (尸魂界(ソウル・ソサエティ) Sōru Sosaeti?) consists of two portions: the expansive walled city of Seireitei (瀞霊廷 Court of Pure Souls?), where the Soul Reapers and nobility reside, and the eighty-district residential area of Rukongai (流魂街 Town of Wandering Spirits?).[15] The number of the district describes its conditions, such that lower-numbered districts are more peaceful.[16] Living conditions resemble those of feudal Japan. A king resides in another realm within Soul Society. [17] Souls in the Soul Society are much like normal humans, but age at an extremely slowed rate, such that lifespans of several centuries are commonplace. Children can even be born as they are in the human world.
Hueco Mundo is a sparse, white-sanded desert.

Hueco Mundo is a sparse, white-sanded desert.

  • Hueco Mundo: Hueco Mundo (虚圏(ウェコムンド) Weko Mundo?) is a dimension between the human world and Soul Society. It is where hollows reside when not hunting humans, and they are undetectable as long as they remain inside. Entrances to Hueco Mundo are created by ripping the dimensional fabric between the two worlds. On the surface of Hueco Mundo is a desert-like realm, covered in perpetual night. Few hollows reside on the surface, and the landscape is dominated by the imposing Las Noches palace. Directly underneath is the Forest of Menos, where the hollows mainly reside until provoked to leave.
  • Hell: Hell is the destination of those who have committed unforgivable 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 into hell.[18]

Bleach characters move from world to world by several means. Soul Reapers open passages between worlds by means of their zanpakutō. Butterflies created during soul burial, called hell butterflies (地獄蝶 jigoku-chō?), make these routes safe. Human souls usually cross between planes only through birth into the human world or soul burial by Soul Reapers. 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.

 

Reception

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 46 million copies.[19] In 2005, Bleach was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in the shōnen category.[20][21]

In a 2006 internet poll by TV Asahi, Bleach was ranked as Japan’s seventh-favorite anime program.[22] The previous year, it was ranked as the twenty-seventh favorite program.[23]

North American sales of the manga have been high, with Volume 16 placing in the top 10 graphic novel sales in December 2006[24] and Volume 17 being the best-selling manga volume for the month of February 2007.[25][26]

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.[27]

Anime News Network describes the series as “..one incredibly entertaining anime that will grab you and refuse to let go. For classic adventure with a slick, modern attitude, go no further than Bleach…”[28] MiniTokyo praised the series as being “very original” and the presentation “..is very promising..”[29] The reviewer for Pop Culture Shock gave his views on the series. He first said that the series’ storyline “sets others apart” and the characters are “well crafted, animated and voiced”, but later added saying that some scenes “weren’t balanced out” and that some characters “could’ve been more developed”. None the less, he gave the series an “A” grade for Volume 1, and then “A-” for Volumes 2-6.[30][31]

An early review by Auphan Online said the series was “..to be a mediocre anime series at best…” adding on the animation was “standard, yet sometimes kiddy”, and the storyline was “the only thing that sets this apart from other shows” and gave it 2.5 out of 5.[32]

 

Media

 

Manga

Main article: List of Bleach chapters

Since its first appearance in August 2001, the Bleach manga has appeared weekly in Shueisha’s Shonen Jump magazine. Shueisha also compiles the chapters into bimonthly tankōbon volumes; currently 33 have been released. Viz Media has released 22 English volumes of the manga in North America, and numerous scanlation groups continue to release unofficial English translations of new chapters.

 

Anime

Main article: List of Bleach episodes

The anime version of Bleach is produced by Studio Pierrot and directed by Noriyuki Abe. It began broadcasting in Japan on October 5, 2004, on TV Tokyo.

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.[33] Subsequently, Viz Media contracted Studiopolis to create the English dub of the anime,[34] and has licensed its individual Bleach merchandising rights to several different companies.[35] The English version of the Bleach anime premiered on Canada’s YTV channel in the Bionix program block on September 8, 2006. Cartoon Network began airing Bleach the following evening as part of its Adult Swim block. The show went on hiatus on October 20, 2007 after airing the first 52 episodes of the series. It was replaced with another Viz series, Death Note, while additional episodes of Bleach were being dubbed. YTV began showing reruns of the anime from October 20, 2007 to February 22, 2008. On March 2, 2008 at 1:00 am EST, the series returned from hiatus and air with the next 52 episodes.[36] In the UK, Bleach premiered on AnimeCentral on September 13, 2007, with new episodes airing daily at 11:00 pm.

 

CDs

Eight CD soundtracks, produced by Shiro Sagisu, have been released for the Bleach anime series and movies. Bleach Original Soundtrack 1 was released on May 18, 2005 and contains twenty-five tracks including the first opening and ending themes, in their original television lengths. Bleach Original Soundtrack followed on August 2, 2006 with an additional twenty-three instrumental tracks. On December 16, 2006, Bleach: Memories of Nobody Original Soundtrack was released with twenty-five tracks from the Bleach: Memories of Nobody anime film. A soundtrack was also released for the Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion film, with nearly thirty tracks from the movie. Bleach: The Best contains twelve of the opening and ending themes from the series, in their full length versions.

An eighteen volume CD set, The Bleach Beat Collections were released from June 22, 2005 through March 5, 2008. These albums feature recordings by the original Japanese voice actors that provide a look at both the personalities of the characters they play, but also of the voice actors themselves.

Two “Radio DJCD Bleach ‘B’ Station” CD season sets, each containing six volumes, have also been released in Japan as well. Five drama CDs have been produced for the series, featuring the original voice actors from the series, however they have only been released as part of the DVD releases.

 

Novels

Tite Kubo and Makoto Matsubara have co-authored two novelizations of the Bleach series, which were published by Shueisha under their Jump Books label. The first volume, BLEACH-letters from the other side: The Death and The Strawberry was published in 2004, and the second, BLEACH: The Honey Dish Rhapsody, was published in 2006.[37]

# Release date ISBN
1 December 15, 2004 ISBN 4-08-703149-7
2 October 30, 2006 ISBN 4-08-703173-X

 

Films

Bleach: Memories of Nobody is a film that was released in Japanese theaters on December 16, 2006. It is set after the events of the Soul Society arc with Ichigo back in the living world fending off hollows. The movie is centered around the activities of a strange group called the “Dark Ones,” who are trying to destroy both the Soul Society and the living world. This movie is apocryphal to the Bleach storyline. These events are not perfectly continuous with the canon plot and all participating characters lose their memory of these events in order to explain the retcon.

Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, is a film that was released in Japanese theaters on December 22, 2007. This film centers around 10th Squad captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya, who is sentenced to execution by Soul Society after losing “the King’s Seal”.[38]

 

Musical

Main article: Rock Musical Bleach

A rock musical, Rock Musical BLEACH, was jointly produced by Studio Pierrot and Nelke Planning and directed by Takuya Hiramitsu, with a script adaptation by Naoshi Okumura. The music is written by playwright Shoichi Tama; the music in the show is completely original and not taken from the anime soundtrack. The initial performance run of the Bleach musical was from August 17 to August 28, 2005 at the Space Zero Tokyo center in Shinjuku. To date, there have been five musicals and a “Live” Bankai Show, two musicals are coming in the spring of 2008.

 

Other

A single artbook, All Colour But The Black, has been released for Bleach so far. Two databooks have also been released, SOULs: Official Character Guide Book and VIBEs: Official Animation Book.

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