Bleach is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. Bleach follows the adventures of the hotheaded teenager Ichigo Kurosaki who inherits his parents destiny, 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 new-found powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife, and set him on journeys to various ghostly realms of existence.
Bleach was serialized in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from August 2001 to August 2016, with its chapters collected into 74 tankōbon volumes. The series has spawned a media franchise that includes an anime television series that was produced by Studio Pierrot from 2004 to 2012, two original video animations, four animated feature films, ten rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise. A live-action film adaptation is scheduled for release in 2018. English-language releases of Bleach are coordinated by Viz Media, which has released several volumes of the manga each year since 2004, and published chapters of Bleach in its Shonen Jump magazine since November 2007. Viz Media secured foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime in 2006. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim began airing dubbed episodes of Bleach in the United States that Fall, and Hulu later began to stream subtitled versions of the anime a week after each episode aired in Japan. Viz Media has also released each of the Bleach feature films in English.
Bleach received the Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōnen demographic in 2005, and is among the best-selling manga in both Japan and the United States. Bleach has sold more than 90 million copies in Japan since its publication, and continued to perform commercially despite significant downturns in both the Japanese and English manga markets. Among critics, Bleach is most commonly praised for its action scenes and art but criticized for its plot elements.
Bleach was first conceived from Tite Kubo’s desire to draw a Shinigami (Soul Reaper) in a kimono, which formed the basis for the design of the Soul Reapers in the series and the conception of Rukia Kuchiki. The original story concept was submitted to Weekly Shōnen Jump shortly after the cancellation of Kubo’s previous manga, Zombiepowder, but was at first rejected. Manga artist Akira Toriyama saw the story and wrote a letter of encouragement to Kubo. Bleach was accepted for publication a short time later in 2001, and was initially intended to be a shorter series, with a maximum serialization length of five years. Early plans for the story did not include the hierarchical structure of the Soul Society, but did include some characters and elements that were not introduced into the plot until the Arrancar arc, such as Ichigo’s Soul Reaper parentage. The series was originally meant to be named “Black” due to the color of the Soul Reapers’ clothes, but Kubo thought the title was too generic. He later tried the name of “White,” but came to like “Bleach” more for its association with the color white and that he did not find it too obvious. In the series’ eighteenth volume, Kubo commented that both chapters 150 and 151 were the first consecutive pair of colored chapters to have been published in the Weekly Shonen Jump. This brought happiness to the author.