Bleach is a Japanese anime television series based on Tite Kubo’s manga of the same name. The series ran for a total of 366 episodes. Bleach was produced by Studio Pierrot and directed by Noriyuki Abe. Bleach’s Japanese and English voice actors include some of the most credited and well known voice actors, including Masakazu Morita and Johnny Yong Bosch. The music was composed by Shirō Sagisu, who also composed the music for Neon Genesis Evangelion. A total of fifteen opening themes and thirty ending themes were used throughout the series, featuring a diverse group of Japanese artists.
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. The anime adaptation includes original storylines not found in the manga; including repeated appearances and stories containing these original characters. Studio Pierrot produced the series from 2004 to 2012, consisting of 366 episodes. Viz Media obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime on March 15, 2004. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block began airing Bleach in the United States on September 9, 2006. The series’ international release extends through dozens of countries in several languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Tagalog.
The anime adaptation of Bleach adapts Kubo’s manga, but also introduces several original, self-contained story arcs. In Karakura Town, a 15-year-old high school student Ichigo Kurosaki becomes a substitute Soul Reaper when Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper, cannot fulfill her duties after engaging in battle with a particularly powerful Hollow. Although initially reluctant to accept the heavy responsibility, he begins eliminating Hollows in Rukia’s place and during this time discovers that several of his friends and classmates are spiritually aware and have powers of their own: Uryū Ishida is a Quincy who can utilise spirit particles, Orihime Inoue possesses a group of protective spirits known as the Shun Shun Rikka and Yasutora Sado (“Chad”) has strength equal to the Hollows encased in his tough right arm.
When Rukia is sentenced to death for her transgressions in the human world and taken back to the spirit world of Soul Society, Ichigo heads there to seek out the assistance of Kisuke Urahara and Yoruichi Shihōin, unbeknownst to him as being two exiled Soul Reapers, to allow himself and his friends to save Rukia. After Ichigo and his friends battle many Soul Reapers, it is revealed that high-ranking Soul Reaper Sōsuke Aizen framed Rukia for the crime and has been illegally experimenting on Soul Reapers and Hollows. Aizen plans on taking over Soul Society via use of the Hōgyoku, a legendary substance that can turn Hollows into half Soul Reapers and vice versa, increasing their powers greatly. He escapes into Hueco Mundo, the realm of the Hollows, and later abducts Orihime as she is instrumental in creating the Oken, a power that will allow him to kill the Soul King, the ruler of Soul Society.
After being trained by the Vizards, other exiled Soul Reapers who were unwittingly subjects of Aizen’s experiments and developed Hollow powers, Ichigo and his friends travel into Hueco Mundo to save Orihime, facing Aizen’s army of Arrancars, Hollows given Soul Reaper abilities, who are led by an elite group of ten known as the Èspadas that are composed of ten Arrancars with exemplary strength. Along with Aizen, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tōsen, the Èspada as a group possess comparable strength to Soul Society’s Gotei 13 Soul Reaper captains. After finally reaching Orihime, Aizen reveals her kidnapping was a distraction to allow him to take Karakura Town, as its spiritual energy is what is needed for the Oken. After training from his father Isshin, another exiled Soul Reaper, Ichigo and the Soul Reapers face off against Aizen, Soul Reapers who aligned with his cause, and his most powerful Èspadas, resulting in Aizen’s surrender and the loss of Ichigo’s Soul Reaper powers as he uses a sacred technique to seal Aizen away for good.
Nearly two years later, Chad reveals to Ichigo that he has found people like him, known as Fullbringers, in a group known as Xcution. The Fullbringers can give up their powers to restore a Soul Reaper’s powers and they plan on doing so for Ichigo, who begins to use Fullbring as well. However, it is all a ruse by their leader Kugo Ginjo, a Fullbringer and former Substitute Soul Reaper, to steal Ichigo’s powers to empower the rest of them. Ichigo ultimately has his Soul Reaper powers restored when he finally earns proper trust from the Soul Society. The captains and lieutenants then share their powers with Ichigo who defeats Ginjo and the other members of Xcution, and returns to his duty of protecting Karakura Town proudly as a Substitute Soul Reaper.
Several original story arcs are presented. The Bount arc in season 4 focuses on spiritually aware humans who are immortal so long as they absorb souls. Their leader Jin Kariya seeks to destroy Soul Society for the constant hunting of the Bount, and he and Ichigo battle for the fate of Soul Society. Another storyline is the introduction of captain Shūsuke Amagai, the replacement for Gin Ichimaru after he joined Aizen in his betrayal. Amagai seeks revenge against Commander Yamamoto for the death of his father, and uses the Kasumiōji family’s Bakkōtō weapons in his plans. Ichigo battles Amagai, who acknowledges the shame of his actions and commits suicide. The third original arc features the evil Zanpakutō Muramasa, which has the ability to turn itself and other Zanpakutō into spiritual beings to take revenge on Soul Society for imprisoning its master Kōga Kuchiki. After he is successful, he is double-crossed and transforms into a monstrous creature that Ichigo defeats, but not before Muramasa reveals the intention was to have Soul Reapers and Zanpakutō communicate on equal terms. The fourth and final original arc features an event in which Kagerōza Inaba creates modified soul copies of many members of the Gotei 13, placing them in Reigai bodies. Inaba sought to capture Nozomi Kujō in order to fuse with her and once again become their original being Ōko Yushima. Upon fusion, Yushima sought to destroy the Soul Society.