Bleach (ブリーチ Burīchi, romanized as BLEACH in Japan) is a Japanese shōnen manga series written and illustrated by Noriaki "Tite" Kubo. 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.
Bleach has been serialized in the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump since August 2001, and has been collected into 48 tankōbon volumes as of December 2010. Since its publication, Bleach has spawned a media franchise that includes an ongoing animated television series that is produced by Studio Pierrot in Japan, two original video animations, four animated feature films, seven rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise.
Viz Media obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime on March 15, 2006. Cartoon Network began airing Bleach in the United States as part of its Adult Swim block on September 9, 2006. Viz Media has licensed the manga for English-language publication in the United States and Canada, and has released 34 bound volumes as of March 2011 as well as published chapters of Bleach in its Shonen Jump magazine since November 2007. Viz Media released the first Bleach film, Bleach: Memories of Nobody, on DVD in North America on October 14, 2008. The second film, Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, was released on September 15, 2009.
Volumes of the manga have sold more than 50 million copies in Japan, and have reached the top of manga sales in the United States. The anime adaptation has been similarly received; it was rated as the fourth most popular anime television series in Japan in 2006 and held a position amongst the top ten anime in the United States from 2006 to 2008. The series received the Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōnen demographic in 2005, and is among the best-selling manga properties in both Japan and the United States.
Ichigo Kurosaki is a teenager gifted with the ability to see spirits. His life is drastically changed by the sudden appearance of a Soul Reaper—one who governs the flow of souls between the human world and the afterlife—named Rukia Kuchiki, who arrives in search of a Hollow, a dangerous lost soul. When Rukia is severely wounded defending Ichigo from the Hollow, she attempts to transfer half of her reiatsu (霊圧?, literally, "spiritual pressure") energy to Ichigo so that he can defeat the Hollow. However, Ichigo takes almost all of her energy, transforming into a Soul Reaper and allowing him to defeat the Hollow with ease. With her powers diminished, Rukia is left stranded in the human world until she can recover her strength. In the meantime, Ichigo must take over Rukia's role as a Soul Reaper, battling Hollows and guiding souls to the afterlife realm known as the Soul Society (尸魂界 (ソウル·ソサエティ) Sōru Sosaeti?).
As time passes and Rukia has yet to return to the Soul Society, her Soul Reaper superiors learn about her whereabouts and actions and sentence her to death for performing the illegal act of transferring her powers. Although he is unable to stop Rukia's departure to the Soul Society, Ichigo resolves to rescue her with the aid of several of his spiritually aware classmates, Orihime Inoue, Yasutora Sado, and Uryū Ishida, and the ex-Soul Reapers Yoruichi Shihōin and Kisuke Urahara. Once at the Soul Society, Ichigo and company battle against the elites of the Soul Reaper military and strive to reach Rukia before her execution.
It is revealed that Rukia's execution and Ichigo's rescue attempt both had been manipulated by a high-ranking Soul Reaper, Sōsuke Aizen, who was previously believed to have been murdered, as part of a far-reaching plot to take control of the Soul Society. Aizen betrays his fellow Soul Reapers and allies himself with the strongest of the Hollows, the Espadas. Aizen thus becomes the main antagonist of the series, and the Soul Reapers form an alliance with Ichigo. At this point, Bleach chronicles the war between the Soul Reapers, the Espadas, and Aizen. After each of the involved's eventual defeats, Ichigo undergoes intense training with his father Ishin who turns out to be a former Soul Reaper to become strong enough to battle Aizen alone. As Aizen is weakened, a spell that Urahara had previously hidden within him activates and seals him, thus ending the conflict and leaving the Soul Society to imprison him. As a result of using all of his Soul Reaper powers to defeat Aizen, Ichigo loses them and becomes an ordinary human once again.
Seventeen months later, Ichigo meets "Xcution", a group of humans possessing Fullbring powers based on Hollows and want Ichigo to absorb them. Ichigo starts training to regain his Soul Reaper powers by first developing his own Fullbring following the appearance of Shūkurō Tsukishima, the former leader of Xcution who is targetting his friends. After developing his Fullbring, Ichigo is betrayed by Xcution's current leader Kūgo Ginjō, a former Substitute Soul Reaper who had his memories rewritten to act as Tsukishima's enemy and help Ichigo gain powers to steal them. With help from Soul Society, Ichigo regains his Soul Reapers powers and starts fighting Ginjō's group alongside Soul Society's forces.
The chapters of the Bleach manga are written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. In Japan, they have been published in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump since 2001, with individual chapters collected in a series of tankōbon volumes, each of which includes a poem based on the cover character. The first volume was released on January 5, 2002, and as of December 2010, 51 volumes have been released.
North American licensor Viz Media has been serializing the individual chapters in Shonen Jump in North America since November 2007. As of September 2011, 36 volumes have been released, the first of which was released on June 1, 2004. On August 5, 2008, the company released a hardcover "collector's edition" of the first volume that came with a dust jacket, followed by a box set that was released on September 2, 2008, containing the first 21 volumes, a poster, and a booklet about the series.
Since Bleach's premiere, over 400 chapters have been released in Japan. Most chapter names are written in English and have katakana above them to indicate how they are read in Japanese, similar to the usage of furigana ruby characters with advanced kanji characters. In addition to the main series chapters, some chapters are published with a negative chapter number. These "negative" chapters are side stories that involve events that precede the main plot of the series.
The Bleach anime series is directed by Noriyuki Abe and produced by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, and Studio Pierrot. The episodes have aired on TV Tokyo in Japan since October 5, 2004. Viz Media obtained the foreign television, home video, and merchandising rights to the Bleach anime from TV Tokyo Corporation and Shueisha on March 15, 2006. Viz Media has later licensed its individual Bleach merchandising rights to several different companies.
The English adaptation of the Bleach anime premiered on Canada's YTV channel in the Bionix programming block on September 8, 2006. Cartoon Network began airing Bleach the following evening as part of its Adult Swim block. Adult Swim stopped broadcasting new episodes of the English adaptation on October 20, 2007 after airing the first 52 episodes of the series. It was replaced with another Viz Media series, Death Note, to provide Studiopolis more time to dub additional episodes of Bleach. The series began airing again on March 2, 2008, but went back on hiatus on November 21, 2009, after the airing of its 167th episode. The series returned from hiatus on August 28, 2010, on Adult Swim. In the United Kingdom, Bleach premiered on AnimeCentral on September 13, 2007, with new episodes airing weekly.
As of August 2009, 49 DVD compilations have been released by Aniplex in Japan. Viz Media has released 31 DVD compilations of the English adaptation of the anime, along with three DVD collection boxes that contain the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth seasons of the anime, respectively. On July 29, 2009, Aniplex released a "TV Animation Bleach 5th Anniversary Box" that includes 15 DVDs and three bonus discs.
- Ichigo Kurosaki
- Orihime Inoue
- Uryū Ishida
- Yasutora Sado
- Rukia Kuchiki