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 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 (Soul Reaper or, literally, "death god"). 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, two animated feature films, a rock musical, numerous video games and a TCG (Trading 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.
Ichigo facing an attacking hollow, Fishbone D.The story opens with the sudden appearance of the shinigami, 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 shinigami, battling hollows and guiding lost souls to Soul Society.
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 otherwise mimics human anatomy, aside from slowed aging. 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.
In addition to being a world of several species with supernatural ability, Bleach also has a great variety of characters, personalities, as well as power. At the beginning, the story focused largely on Ichigo and his beginnings as a soul reaper in his hometown of Karakura. Later on, the story centered around not only on Ichigo and his friends, but also a myriad of shinigami. Unlike the modern description of a "death god," the shinigami in Bleach have very eccentric characters with such variety that are only matched on how each of them look. Most of them play significant roles in Ichigo's quest to protect his loved ones and friends as well as providing motives for Ichigo's increasing power to truly live up to the meaning of his name: "the one who protects."
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 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 (朽木 ルキア, Kuchiki Rukia?) Voiced by: Fumiko Orikasa (Japanese), Michelle Ruff (English)
Rukia Kuchiki is a cool-tempered shinigami 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 shinigami 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 shinigami. Despite his sanguine nature he is one of the most significant figures in the Bleach universe, bearing immense knowledge of the spiritual realms which he uses to mastermind the operations of the protagonists.
ryū Ishida (石田 雨竜, Ishida Uryū?) Voiced by: Noriaki Sugiyama (Japanese), Derek Stephen Prince (English)
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.
Renji Abarai (阿散井 恋次, Abarai Renji?) Voiced by: Kentarō Itō (Japanese), Wally Wingert (English)
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 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.
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 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, or Soul Reapers as they are called in the official Viz English 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. 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 archrivals, the hollows. A group of shinigami 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 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 bows 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 (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 shinigami 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.