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Bleach (ブリーチ, Burīchi), 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, which ran for 366 episodes from 5th October 2004 until 27th March 2012, as well as two OVAs, four animated feature films, a rock musical, numerous video games and a Trading Card Game. A compilation of 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.

Plot

The story opens with the sudden appearance of Shinigami Rukia Kuchiki in Ichigo Kurosaki's house. 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 in a bid to halt Rukia's execution. It is then revealed that Rukia's execution and Ichigo's rescue attempt were both manipulated by a high ranking Shinigami who allies himself with the Hollows as part of a far-reaching plot against Soul Society. With his home town placed in jeopardy by this plot, Ichigo teams up with his former enemies in Soul Society to take on this new antagonist and subsequent threats.

Main characters

Ichigo Kurosaki

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 Kuchiki'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

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

Renji Abarai is an elite Shinigami bearing the rank of Lieutenant of a one of the thirteenth units of the main branch of the Shinigami's 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, Captain Byakuya Kuchiki.

Yasutora Sado

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.

Uryū Ishida

Though on the surface nothing more than the solitary class genius, Uryū Ishida is actually a Quincy, descendant of a line of powerful 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.

Orihime Inoue

Orihime Inoue is a long-time classmate of Ichigo, closely linked to him by mutual friend Tatsuki Arisawa. 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 abilities in the Bleach universe: the ability to "reject" what happened to an object or area, making it as if nothing ever happened. She is able to completely restore a body to its previous state regardless of how severely it is wounded.

Character types

  • Human: The humans of Bleach are much like the residents of modern Japan. Most cannot see or sense spirits in any way. Only one in 50,000 Humans has 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, like the Fullbringers, naturally have both the power to sense and the strength to fight with spirits.
  • Plus: Benign spirits in Bleach are known as Pluses. A plus is the spirit of a person who has died. They are distinguished by a chain, known as the Chain of Fate(因果の鎖, inga no kusari), that protrudes from the chest. This once bound the plus to its living body. Normally, Pluses are sent to Soul Society by Shinigami, but if this is not done before the Chain of Fate is corroded entirely, a hole will form in the chest of the Plus where the chain was once anchored. Such souls are driven mad, lose their heart and become evil spirits known as Hollows.[2][3]
  • 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. 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 their Zanpakutō and magic known as Kidō to fight Hollows.[2] A group of Shinigami known as the Visoreds have obtained Hollow powers, gaining removable masks and access to certain Hollow abilities.
  • Hollow: Hollows 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. Hollows 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 have Hollows in their chests where their heart once was and white masks cover their faces,[3] 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 new powers.[4]
  • 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.[5] Quincy absorb and channel energy from their surroundings to fight.[6] Unlike the Shinigami method of killing Hollows which cleanses the Hollow, allowing it to enter Soul Society, the Quincy simply destroy the Hollow's soul entirely.[5] This method can upset the balance between the number of souls entering and leaving Soul Society,[7] an issue which prompted the Shinigami to exterminate most of the Quincy about 200 years before the main storyline.[8]
  • Modified Soul: a series of experimental souls created by Shinigami researchers, 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, but not all were destroyed.[9]

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 realm called Soul Society; while 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.[10] In this world, Ichigo attends school and fights Hollows.
  • 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.[11] There are 360 districts in Rukongai, with those closest to Seireitei being peaceful and orderly, while the most distant districts are filled with criminals and have the poorest living conditions.[12]
  • Hueco Mundo: Hueco Mundo is the desert-like area between the Human World and Soul Society. It is where Hollows reside when not hunting in the Human world, where they are undetectable.
  • Hell: Hell is the destination of those who committed unforgivably evil acts during their lives in the Human world.[13]

Inception

Bleach was first conceived from Tite Kubo's desire to draw Shinigami in kimono, which formed the basis for the design of the Shinigami in the series and conception of the character Rukia Kuchiki and the world of Bleach.[14] Initially, 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, Tite Kubo 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.[15] When Shonen Jump initially turned down Bleach, Kubo grew discouraged, but a letter of encouragement from Akira Toriyama, the creator of the landmark hit "Dragon Ball", buoyed his spirits and Bleach was later accepted by WSJ.[16]

Media information & Reception

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.[17] The first volume of the manga has sold over 1.25 million copies in Japan,[18] and the manga series as a whole has sold over 40 million volumes.[19] In 2005, Bleach was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in the shōnen category.[20] Viz Media have released the first three volumes of Bleach in a single book, Bleach (3-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1.[21] 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.[22] In 2005, Bleach was awarded the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award in the shōnen category.[23][24] North American sales of the manga have been high, with Volume 16 placing in the top 10 graphic novel sales in December 2006[25] and Volume 17 being the best-selling manga volume for the month of February 2007.[26][27]

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[28]. 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.[29]

The Bleach animated TV series was broadcast on Wednesdays by TV Tokyo and affiliated stations throughout Japan. It was 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.[30] 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 interest was high enough for four animated films to have been released since December 2006. In a 2006 internet poll by TV Asahi, Bleach was ranked as Japan's seventh-favorite anime program.[31]

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[32] and Volume 17 being the best-selling manga volume for the month of February 2007.[33][34] 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.[35] Subsequently, Viz Media contracted Studiopolis to create the English dub of the anime,[36] and has licensed its individual Bleach merchandising rights to several different companies.[37]

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.[38]

References

  1. Bleach manga; Chapter 1, page 9
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bleach manga; Chapter 1, pages 19-21
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bleach manga Chapter 28, pages 10-12
  4. Bleach manga; Chapter 187
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bleach manga; Chapter 36, pages 12-14
  6. Bleach manga; Chapter 49, page 2
  7. Bleach manga; Chapter 46, pages 1-6
  8. Bleach manga; Chapter 46 page 9
  9. Bleach manga Chapter 15, pages9-10
  10. Bleach Official Character Book SOULs
  11. Bleach manga; Chapter 71, page 18
  12. Bleach manga Chapter 98, page 5
  13. Bleach manga; Chapter 12, pages 8-13
  14. San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Interview
  15. [1] in Shonen Jump Magazine. Accessed 2008-11-22.
  16. LA Times Article, 28 August 2008: Creator Tite Kubo surprised by 'Bleach' success http://web.archive.org/web/20090423115417/http://articles.latimes.com/2008/aug/28/entertainment/etw-kuboweb28
  17. Template:Cite web Access Date = 2008-01-15
  18. 2ch Jump Log. Accessed 2007-03-27.
  19. 2ch Jump Log. Accessed 2007-07-12.
  20. Shogakukan Manga Award. Accessed 2006-12-14.
  21. ISBN: 1-4215-3992-6
  22. 2ch Jump Log, accessed 2008-03-28; Toho Co. coverage of December 2007 film opening, accessed 2008-03-28.
  23. Template:Cite web Access Date = 2007-08-19
  24. Shogakukan Manga Award. Accessed 2006-12-14.
  25. Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual--December 2006 on ICv2. Accessed 2007-03-28.
  26. Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual--February 2007 on ICv2. Accessed 2007-03-28.
  27. 'Civil War' Finale Tops the Charts on ICv2. Accessed 2007-03-28.
  28. Template:Cite web Access Date = 2008-01-08
  29. NYCC 07: The top five finalists for the first American Anime Awards on American Anime Awards. Accessed 2007-07-04.
  30. TV Tokyo's Bleach staff listing Accessed 2007-03-27
  31. "Japan's Favorite TV Anime" on Anime News Network. Accessed 2006-12-14.
  32. Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual--December 2006 on ICv2. Accessed 2007-03-28.
  33. Top 100 Graphic Novels Actual--February 2007 on ICv2. Accessed 2007-03-28.
  34. 'Civil War' Finale Tops the Charts on ICv2. Accessed 2007-03-28.
  35. "Viz Media named master licensor for hit Japanese action manga Shonen Jump's Bleach" (press release) on Viz Media.com. Accessed 2007-04-01.
  36. Studiopolis on Anime News Network. Accessed 2006-12-14.
  37. "Viz Announces Bleach Merchandise Licenses" on Anime News Network. Accessed 2007-03-24.
  38. NYCC 07: The top five finalists for the first American Anime Awards on American Anime Awards. Accessed 2007-07-04.

External links

Official sites
English
Japanese

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