This list of favorite characters from Bleach is based off of the anime and not on the manga. At the time I’m writing this list, I have seen all of the anime but have not read all of the manga.
But, as usual, this list is not a Top 5 list. Instead, my choices are being presented in alphabetical order by first name.
Not surprisingly, protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki makes it onto the list. He’s established as an interesting character from the get-go, when its shown that he can see spirits. He starts out as a bit of a punk, yet he still has a caring heart. His life changes when he encounters Rukia, and he unintentionally absorbs most of her Soul Reaper powers when he saves his family from a Hollow. It’s just amazing to see how Ichigo goes from being a cynical guy who really doesn’t want to be a Soul Reaper to a character that accepts and welcomes the strength that the Soul Reaper powers give him.
As he develops a circle of friends, both human and Soul Reapers, around him, he becomes even more considerate and thoughtful of others. One of the biggest things in his character development, though, is avenging his mother’s death when he faces the Hollow that killed her. I honestly think this was the moment in the series when Ichigo really started to evolve as a character.
Orihime starts out as the sweet, yet sometimes naïve, classmate of Ichigo Kurosaki, who has a crush on him. She lived with her older brother until he died in an accident when she was in middle school. When her late brother turns into a Hollow, Ichigo is able to save her with his Soul Reaper powers.
When the series starts, Orihime doesn’t have spiritual powers. However, she develops spiritual awareness early on, and later obtains an ability to warp reality by rejecting past phenomena. As a character, Orihime continues to be sweet and kind, but she slowly starts becoming less naïve. She ultimately becomes a driving force, not only for Ichigo’s character development, but also for the story itself.
Rukia is a Soul Reaper who introduced early on in the series, when she breaks into his house. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize that Ichigo can see her. She ultimately sets the story in motion when she transfers some of her Soul Reaper power to Ichigo, but he accidentally absorbs all of it. She takes on a temporary life of a regular human, living in Ichigo’s closet, and going to school with him. She spends her time teaching Ichigo how to be a Soul Reaper. One of my favorite scenes from early on in the series is seeing Rukia attempt to draw, but she lacks any real artistic ability. Her drawings are actually quite amusing.
But when Rukia is taken to Soul Society to be punished for giving her Soul Reaper powers to a human, Ichigo and his friends go to Soul Society to save her. By the end of that arc, Rukia becomes an important friend and ally to Ichigo. While her purpose for her to be around Ichigo changes over the course of the series, she continues to be a character that the audience cares about.
Yasutora Sado (aka Chad)
Chad is of mixed Japanese and Mexican heritage, and is also incredibly tall in comparison to his classmates. Even though he has an imposing appearance, he’s actually meek and he refuses to fight unless it’s for the sake of another. He also shows little emotion, except when someone or something he cares about is in danger. This dichotomy is one of the first things that grabbed my attention when it came to Chad.
While trying to protect Ichigo’s sister Karin from a Hollow, Chad discovers that he has an ability that allows him to strengthen and armor his right arm. This power makes sense for Chad, even though he’s not much into fighting. This at least gives him a way to protect those he cares about and is loyal to.
When it comes to Chad, my favorite storyline that he features in is the one where he accepts a cursed cockatiel. Seeing this imposing guy taking care of a cute little bird was amusing, but what happens by the end of this particular story is actually rather sad. Chad definitely got his best stories early on in the series. I still liked him a lot later on, but he just never quite got as good of stories as he did in the early episodes.
Yoruichi’s cat form actually made an appearance on an earlier list I wrote about my favorite anime cats. So it really shouldn’t be surprising that she would make it onto this list as well.
I really like Yoruichi’s personality. She’s intelligent and witty, but she can also kick some serious ass when she’s fighting. In addition to her personality, I admire her for how much of a loyal ally she is to Ichigo and his friends. The ability to transform into a cat also adds to her awesomeness. She’s a great character all around, and it’s a shame that she wasn’t necessarily utilized as well as she could have been in the anime.