Ichigo Kurosaki is a teenager gifted with the ability to see spirits. His life is drastically changed by the sudden appearance of a Soul Reaper—one who governs the flow of souls between the human world and the Soul Society—named Rukia Kuchiki, who arrives in search of a Hollow, a dangerous lost soul that absorbs energy from souls. When Rukia is severely wounded defending Ichigo from the Hollow, she transfers a part of her reiatsu ( "spiritual pressure") energy to Ichigo so that he can defeat the Hollow. However, Ichigo takes almost all of her energy, transforming him into a Soul Reaper and allowing Ichigo to defeat the Hollow with ease. With her powers diminished, Rukia is left stranded in the human world until she can recover her strength. In the meantime, Ichigo must take over Rukia's role as a Soul Reaper, battling Hollows and guiding souls to the afterlife realm known as the Soul Society.
As some time passes and Rukia has yet to return to the Soul Society, her Soul Reaper superiors learn about her whereabouts and actions and sentence her to death for performing the illegal act of transferring her powers. A confrontation due to this ends with two high ranking Soul Reapers (Shinigami) injuring Ichigo and taking Rukia to, their world, The Soul Society. Although he is unable to stop Rukia's departure to the Soul Society, Ichigo resolves to rescue her with the aid of several of his spiritually aware classmates, Orihime Inoue, Yasutora (Chad) Sado, and Uryū Ishida, and the ex-Soul Reapers Yoruichi Shihōin and Kisuke Urahara. Once in the Soul Society, Ichigo and company battle against the elites of the Soul Reaper military and strive to reach Rukia before her execution. It is revealed that Rukia's execution and Ichigo's rescue attempt both had been manipulated by a very high-ranking Soul Reaper, Sōsuke Aizen, who was previously believed to have been murdered, as part of a far-reaching plot to take control of the Soul Society. Aizen betrays his fellow Soul Reapers and allies himself with the strongest of the Hollows, the Espadas, whom he enhances. Aizen thus becomes the main antagonist of the series, and the Soul Reapers form an alliance with Ichigo.
At this point, Bleach chronicles the war between the Soul Reapers, the Espadas, and Aizen. After Aizen defeats the Soul Reaper captains, Ichigo undergoes intense training with his father Isshin, who turns out to be a former Soul Reaper, in order to become strong enough to battle Aizen alone. As Aizen is weakened by his battle with Ichigo, a spell that Urahara had previously hidden within him activates and seals him, thus ending the conflict and leaving the Soul Society to imprison him. As a result of using an incredibly powerful attack in order to defeat Aizen, Ichigo loses all of his Spiritual Pressure and becomes an ordinary human. Seventeen months later, Ichigo meets "Xcution", a group of humans possessing Fullbring powers based on Hollows and want Ichigo to absorb them. Ichigo starts training to regain his Soul Reaper powers by first developing his own Fullbring following the appearance of Shūkurō Tsukishima, the former leader of Xcution who is targeting his friends. After developing his Fullbring, Ichigo is betrayed by Xcution's current leader Kūgo Ginjō, a former Substitute Soul Reaper who had his memories rewritten to act as Tsukishima's enemy and help Ichigo gain powers to steal them. With help from Soul Society, Ichigo regains his Soul Reaper powers and starts fighting Ginjō's group alongside Soul Society's forces. The Soul Society forces end victorious with Ichigo defeating Ginjō and presumably killing Tsukishima.
Following these events, a group of Quincies called the "Vandenreich" declares war on the Soul Society. Ichigo once again ventures to Hueco Mundo, which has also been invaded by the Vandenreich; at the same time, the captains in the Soul Society battle a powerful group in the Vandenreich army known as the "Stern Ritter". During the invasion, several Captains had their bankai stolen by the Stern Ritter. Meanwhile Captain Yamamoto took revenge on the Quincy who stole Sasakibe's bankai and then immediately sought out their leader who he identified as "Yhwach" who up till now was referred to by the other Quincy as "His Majesty". Despite using his bankai to attempt to kill him, Yhwach surprises Yamamoto by stealing his bankai, then instantly kills him using his abilities. Ichigo then arrives to take on Yhwach and has his bankai subsequently destroyed and origins called into question. During the aftermath, the Royal Guard arrive to take Ichigo and several of his comrades to the Spirit Palace where they begin recuperation and training for the next fight against the Vandenreich. After the recuperation, Renji and Ichigo are given a test in order to have their Zanpakutō reforged. Renji passes. Ichigo fails and is sent back to Karakura Town. After being told he is not a Soul Reaper, his father reveals that Ichigo's mother was a Quincy. Then Ichigo's zanpakto is reforged to reveal two blades(one the manifestation of his soul reaper powers and the other of Quincy powers).
Bleach was first conceived from a desire on Tite Kubo's part to draw Shinigami 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 Tite Kubo's previous manga, Zombiepowder, but was 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 heritage.
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. Tite Kubo has cited influences for elements of Bleach, ranging from other manga series to music, foreign language,architecture, and film. He attributes his interest in drawing the supernatural and monsters to Shigeru Mizuki's GeGeGe no Kitaro and Bleach's focus on interesting weaponry and battle scenes to Masami Kurumada's Saint Seiya, manga that Kubo enjoyed as a boy. The action style and storytelling found in Bleach are inspired by cinema, though Kubo has not revealed any specific movie as being an influence for
fight scenes. When pressed, he told interviewers that he liked Snatch but did not use it as a model. Kubo has also stated that he wishes to make Bleach an experience that can only be found by reading manga, and dismissed ideas of creating any live-action film adaptations of the series. Bleach's creative process is focused around character design. When writing plotlines or having difficulties generating new material, Kubo begins by thinking of new characters, often en masse, and rereading previous volumes of Bleach. Kubo has said that he likes creating characters that have outward appearances that do not match their true nature—an element that can be found in many Bleach characters—as he is "attracted to people with that seeming contradiction" and finds an "urge to draw people like that" when he works. The terminology used in Bleach has a variety of inspirations, with each category of characters bearing a different linguistic theme. Many of the names for swords and spells used by Soul Reapers were inspired by ancient Japanese literature. Hollows and Arrancars are often associated with Spanish terms because the language sounded "bewitching and mellow" to him. As for Fullbringers, their Fullbring is associated with the English vocabulary when either releasing or already have released their Fullbring. Finally, Quincy have been known to associate with the German language, making Kubo's world of characters diverse in race and language as well.
The Bleach anime series aired in Japan on TV Tokyo's Tuesday 6pm timeslot from October 5, 2004, to March 27, 2012, excluding holidays. The series was directed by Noriyuki Abe and produced by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, and Studio Pierrot. Viz Media obtained the foreign television, home video, and merchandising rights to the Bleach anime from TV Tokyo Corporation and Shueisha on March 15, 2006. Viz Media has later licensed its individual bleach merchandising rights to several different companies. The adaptation of theBleach anime premiered on Canada's YTV channel in the Bionix programming block on September 8, 2006. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim began airing Bleach in the United States the following evening. Adult Swim stopped broadcasting new episodes of the English adaptation on
October 13, 2007 after airing the first 52 episodes of the series.
It was replaced with another Viz Media series, Death Note, to provide Studiopolis more time to dub additional episodes of Bleach. The series began airing again on March 2, 2008, but went back on hiatus on November 21, 2009, after the airing of its 167th episode. Adult Swim is now airing new episodes at 12am on Saturday in their animated programing block Toonami. In the United Kingdom, Bleach premiered on Anime Central on September 13, 2007, with new episodes airing weekly. The English dubbed version of Bleach premiered on Animax Asia on 18 December 2009 with the first 52 episodes and season 2 premiered on 18 March 2011 this time with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
As of January 2012, 76 DVD compilations have been released by Aniplex in Japan. Viz Media has released 32 DVD compilations of the English adaptation of the anime, along with seven season boxsets that contain the first seven seasons of the anime. On July 29, 2009, Aniplex released a "TV Animation Bleach 5th Anniversary Box" that includes 15 DVDs and three bonus discs. Episode 366, which aired March 27, 2012 was the last episode of Bleach to air on TV Tokyo.
There are four feature films based on the Bleach series, all of which are directed by Noriyuki Abe, director of the Bleach anime series. The films have been released in December of each year starting in 2006. Each movie
features an original plotline along with original characters designed by Tite Kubo, which is contrary to the normal practice for anime-based films, as the original author usually has little creative involvement.
The first film, Bleach: Memories of Nobody, was released in Japan on December 16, 2006 and had a limited release in American theaters in June 2008. The movie is centered around the activities of the "Dark Ones," who
were banished from the Soul Society and are subsequently trying to destroy both the Soul Society and the World of the Living. Memories of Nobody was released in North America on Region 1 DVD by Viz Media on October 14, 2008.
The second film, Bleach: The Diamond Dust Rebellion, was released to Japanese theaters on December 22, 2007. Its plot focuses on 10th Division captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya's efforts to clear his name after an artifact
belonging to Soul Society's king is stolen while under his care. The Diamond Dust Rebellion was released in North America on Region 1 DVD by Viz Media on September 8, 2009.
The third film, Bleach: Fade to Black, was released in Japan on December 13, 2008. In the film, members of Soul Society are struck with amnesia, caused by a parasitic Hollow causing them to lose their memories of Ichigo and Rukia. When he goes to the Soul Society to investigate, Ichigo discovers that Rukia has not only forgotten him, but has forgotten her own identity as well. The film was released on DVD on September 30, 2009. The English Dub release of Fade to Black was released on Region 1 DVD by Viz Media on November 15, 2011.
The fourth movie, Bleach: Hell Verse, was released in Japan on December 4, 2010. In it Ichigo is heading into the Gates of Hell, which is where Hollows who had committed evil during their lives as humans are sent. Tite Kubo did oversee the production of the film.
In March 2010, Warner Bros. (USA/Canada/International) confirmed that it is in talks to create a live action movie adaptation of the series. Peter Segal and Michael Ewing have been lined up to produce the movie.
The live action movies were confirmed to be made in February 2012 with Dan Mazeau hired to write the screenplay of the movie. Segal and Ewing are confirmed to produce the live action film.
Bleach has been adapted into a series of rock musicals, jointly produced by Studio Pierrot and Nelke Planning. There have been five musicals produced which covered portions of the Substitute and Soul Society arcs, as well
as three additional performances known as "Live Bankai Shows" which did not follow the Bleach plotline. The initial performance run of the Bleach musical was from August 17–28, 2005 at the Space Zero Tokyo center in
Shinjuku. The musicals are directed by Takuya Hiramitsu, with a script adaptation by Naoshi Okumura and music composed by playwright Shoichi Tama. The songs are completely original and not taken from the anime soundtrack. Key actors in the series include Tatsuya Isaka, who plays Ichigo Kurosaki, Miki Satō, who plays Rukia Kuchiki, and Eiji Moriyama, who plays Renji Abarai.