The Bleach anime is based off of a manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. The anime is produced by Studio Pierrot, and is directed by Noriyuki Abe. Anime films are also part of the Bleach franchise. Four films were produced for the franchise.
Viz Media holds the North American rights for Bleach.
The protagonist of Bleach is a 15-year-old high school student named Ichigo Kurosaki who is able to see ghosts. After witnessing a girl attacking a strange creature in the middle of his neighborhood, the girl visits him one night in his bedroom. She says she is a Soul Reaper, and is surprised that Ichigo is able to see her. At first, Ichigo doesn’t believe her, but his mind is changed when another strange creature, which he learns is called a “hollow,” attacks his house and terrorizes his sisters.
The Soul Reaper is severely wounded when she tries to protect Ichigo. When things look bleak, she introduces herself as Rukia Kuchiki, and she says she will transfer some of her powers to him so Ichigo can protect his sisters. However, in the process of the power transfer, Ichigo unintentionally absorbs almost all of Rukia’s powers. With his new power, Ichigo defeats the hollow.
The next day, Rukia suddenly appears in Ichigo’s classroom as a transfer student. She has transferred herself into an artificial human body, which she must stay in until she can recover her abilities. Without her powers, she is stranded in the human world. Ichigo must now take over Rukia’s job as a Soul Reaper, and it’s up to him to battle hollows and guide lost souls to Soul Society, which is what we would think of as “Heaven.”
In Bleach, all of the characters are “souls.” Living human beings have souls contained within their bodies. Spirits have a form that is composed of particles and spiritual energy that is called ectoplasm. The ectoplasm can mimic human anatomy, but it ages more slowly. For the spirits, there is no distinction between spirit and body.
Most humans cannot see or sense the spirits; however, spirits can inhabit artificial human bodies that can be seen by humans. One in 50,000 humans is a medium with some degree of awareness of nearby spirits. But of those, only about a third of them are able to see them clearly; and only the strongest of the mediums can speak with or touch the spirits.
There are benign spirits, called pluses in the Japanese version or wholes in the English version. This is a spiris of someone who has died, and they have a chain (called the Chain of Fate) protruding from their chest. The chain binds the spirit to a location, object or person they felt close to in life. The spirit can move around freely if the chain is broken, but this also causes the chain to erode. Most of these spirits are sent to Soul Society by the Soul Reapers before the corrosion becomes significant. If not, then a hole will form in the chest of the spirit where the chain had been anchored.
The Soul Reapers are souls with inner spiritual power, and are recruited from the ranks and nobility of Soul Society. They use supernatural swords that manifest their owners’ powers to perform soul burials on the pluses/wholes. They are also charged with eliminating hollows, which are evil spirits that feed on the souls of the living and the dead, and reside in an area called Hueco Mundo. The Soul Reapers also have access to artificial souls, which are in pill form and mass-produced by the Soul Reapers. The artificial souls are used to force Soul Reapers out of their artificial human bodies, and they can also be used to evict pluses/wholes that refuse to leave their bodies after death.
Bleach is a very interesting anime, and it includes a lot of compelling characters. From what I’ve seen of the series up to this point, I have also enjoyed a lot of the storytelling that has been presented. There were occasional “filler” episodes in the first three seasons, and most of them were somewhat enjoyable. There was the filler story arc about the Bount, and most of this arc was enjoyable. However, the end of the Bount arc was a little disappointing, because the ending was ultimately anticlimactic.
I also have to say that the animators were also able to perfectly capture Tite Kubo’s art style and bring it to life.
Overall, from what I’ve seen up to this point, I’ve enjoyed Bleach and am happy to own several box sets of the series in my anime collection.
I would recommend this series to viewers who enjoy anime with supernatural elements and compelling characters.