Bleach is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. Bleach follows the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki after he accidentally obtains the power of a shinigami from Rukia Kuchiki. A shinigami is a Japanese death personification similar to the Grim Reaper. Gaining these abilities forces him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife.
Bleach has been continuously serialized in the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump since August 2001 and has been collected in 36 tankōbon volumes as of December 2008. Since its publication, Bleach has spawned a substantial media franchise. The manga has been adapted into an animated television series produced by Studio Pierrot which is still ongoing in Japan as it adapts the story from the manga. The series has also spawned two original video animations (OVAs), three animated feature films, seven rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as prompted the release of many types of Bleach-related merchandise.
Viz Media licensed the manga for English-language publication in the United States and Canada and has released 24 volumes as of September 2008. In addition, it has been publishing the chapters in Shonen Jump since November 2007. On March 15, 2006, Viz obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime. Cartoon Network began airing Bleach as part of its Adult Swim block on September 9, 2006 in the United States. The first film, Bleach: Memories of Nobody was released in North America on Region 1 DVD by Viz on October 14, 2008.
Compilation volumes of the manga have sold over 50 million copies in Japan and reached the top of manga sales charts in the United States. The anime adaptation has been similarly received, rating as the 7th most popular anime television series in Japan in 2006, and in the top ten anime for America from 2006 to 2009. The series received the Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōnen demographic in 2005, and is among the best-selling manga properties in both Japan and America
The story opens with the sudden appearance of Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki in Ichigo Kurosaki’s bedroom. She is surprised at his ability to see her, but their conversation is 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 Soul Reaper, 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 Soul Reaper superiors find out about her giving her powers away (which is illegal in Soul Society) and 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-Soul Reaper and captain Kisuke Urahara, he sets off for the Soul Reaper base, located in the afterlife realm known as Soul Society. Once there, Ichigo and company battle against the elites of the Soul Reaper military, and are ultimately successful in halting Rukia’s execution.
It is then revealed that Rukia’s execution and Ichigo’s rescue attempt were both manipulated by Sōsuke Aizen, a high ranking Soul Reaper previously believed to be murdered, as part of a far-reaching plot to take control of Soul Society. Aizen betrays his fellow Soul Reapers and allies himself with the hollows, becoming the main antagonist of the series, and Ichigo teams up with his former enemies in Soul Society after learning that the next step in Aizen’s plan involves the destruction of his hometown. At this point, Bleach chronicles the war between Aizen and the Soul Society, a plotline which has not yet been resolved. According to Tite Kubo, the ending of the series is not yet planned out or written