Bleach (ブリーチ Burīchi) is a Japanese anime series based on the manga of the same name by Tite Kubo. The anime ran for a total of 366 episodes including 111 episodes of original material not based on the manga. Bleach was produced by Studio Pierrot and directed by Noriyuki Abe. Bleach’s Japanese and English voice actors include some of the most credited and well known voice actors, including Johnny Yong Bosch. The music was composed by Shirō Sagisu, who also composed the music for Neon Genesis Evangelion. A total of fifteen opening themes and thirty ending themes were used throughout the series, featuring a diverse group of Japanese artists.
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. The anime adaptation includes original storylines not found in the manga; including repeated appearances and stories containing these original characters. Studio Pierrot produced the series from 2004 to 2012, consisting of 366 episodes. Viz Media obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleachanime on March 15, 2006. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim began airing Bleach in the United States on September 9, 2006. The series international release extends through dozens of countries in several languages including Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Tagalog.
The anime adaptation of Bleach follows the story of the manga, although introducing several original storylines. In Karakura Town, Ichigo Kurosaki becomes a substitute Soul Reaper when Rukia Kuchiki cannot fulfill her duties after engaging in battle with a particularly powerful Hollow. He later discovers several of his friends and classmates are spiritually aware and have powers of their own: Uryū Ishida is a Quincy, Orihime Inoue possesses a group of protective spirits known as the Shun Shun Rikka, and Yasutora Sado (“Chad”) has strength equal to the Hollows, later defined as being a Fullbringer. When Rukia is sentenced to death for her transgressions in the human world and taken back to the spirit world of Soul Society, Ichigo seeks out the assistance of Kisuke Urahara and Yoruichi Shihōin, unbeknownst to him as being two exiled Soul Reapers, to allow himself and his friends to save Rukia. After battling the many Soul Reapers, it is revealed that high-ranking Soul Reaper Sōsuke Aizen framed Rukia for the crime and has been illegally experimenting on Soul Reapers and Hollows and he plans on taking over Soul Society via use of the Hōgyoku. He escapes into Hueco Mundo, the realm of the Hollows, and later abducts Orihime as she is instrumental in creating the Oken, a power that will allow him to kill the Soul King, the ruler of Soul Society. After Ichigo is trained by the Visards, other exiled Soul Reapers who began exhibiting Hollow powers, he and his friends travel into Hueco Mundo to save Orihime, facing Aizen’s army of Arrancars, Hollows given Soul Reaper abilities, who are led by an elite group of 10 known as the Èspadas.The Èspada are composed of ten Arrancar with exemplary strength. Members of the Espadaare given a number 0-9.Each Espada has a tattoo with their number somewhere on them, such as Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, whose tattoo is on his lower back, and Coyote Starrk, whose tattoo is on the back of his left hand. Along with Sōsuke Aizen, Gin Ichimaru, and Kaname Tōsen, the Èspada as a group possess comparable strength to Soul Society’s Gotei 13 Shinigami captains. After finally reaching Orihime, Aizen reveals her kidnapping was a distraction to allow him to take Karakura Town, as its spiritual energy is what is needed for the Oken. After training from his fatherIsshin, another exiled Soul Reaper, Ichigo and the Soul Reapers face off against Aizen, Soul Reapers who aligned with his cause, and his most powerful Èspadas, resulting in Aizen’s surrender and Ichigo losing all his powers. Nearly two years later, Chad reveals to Ichigo that he has found people like him, known as Fullbringers, in a group known as Xcution. The Fullbringers can give up their powers to restore a Soul Reaper’s powers and they plan on doing so for Ichigo, who begins to use Fullbring as well. However, it is all a ruse by their leader Kugo Ginjo, a Fullbring and former Substitute Soul Reaper, to steal Ichigo’s powers to empower the rest of them. Ichigo ultimately has his Soul Reaper powers restored and defeats Ginjo and the other members of Xcution, and returns to his duty of protecting Karakura Town.
The stories original to the anime are often referred to as filler arcs to allow the manga to move forward. The first original arc is Bount arc, focusing on spiritually-aware humans who are immortal so long as they absorb souls. Their leader Jin Kariya seeks to destroy Soul Society for the constant hunting of the Bount, and he and Ichigo battle for the fate of Soul Society. Another storyline is the introduction of captain Shūsuke Amagai, the replacement for Gin Ichimaru after he joined Aizen in his betrayal. Amagai seeks revenge against Commander Yamamoto for the death of his father; and uses the Kasumiōji family’s Bakkōtō weapons in his plans. Ichigo battles Amagai, who acknowledges the shame of his actions and commits suicide. The final original arc features the evil Zanpakutō Muramasa, which has the ability to turn itself and other Zanpakutō into spiritual beings to take revenge on Soul Society for imprisoning its master Kōga Kuchiki. After he is successful, he is double-crossed and transforms into a monstrous creature that Ichigo defeats, but not before Muramasa reveals the intention was to have Soul Reapers and Zanpakutō communicate on equal terms.