Bleach (ブリーチ Burīchi) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. 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.
Bleach has been serialized in the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump since August 2001, and has been collected into sixty two tankobon volumes as of March 2014. Since its publication, Bleach has spawned a media franchise that includes an animated television series that was produced by Studio Pierrot in Japan from 2004 to 2012, two original video animations, four animated feature films, seven rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise.
Viz Media obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime on March 15, 2006. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim began airing Bleach in the United States on September 9, 2006. Viz Media has licensed the manga for English-language publication in the United States and Canada, and has released 59 bound volumes as of February 2014 as well as published chapters of Bleach in its Shonen Jump magazine since November 2007. Viz Media released the firstBleach film, Bleach: memories of nobody, on DVD in North America on October 14, 2008. The second film, Bleach: Daimond Dust Rebellion, was released on September 15, 2009. The third film, Bleach: Fade to Black, was released on November 15, 2011. In addition, Hulu released subtitled versions of the anime a week after each episode aired in Japan.
Bleach has sold more than 82 million copies in Japan, and is one of the best-selling manga in North America. The anime adaptation has been similarly received; it was rated as the fourth most popular anime television series in Japan in 2006 and held a position amongst the top ten anime in the United States from 2006 to 2008. The series 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.
Ichigo Kurosaki is a teenager in Karakura Town who is gifted with the ability to see spirits and has his life changed by the sudden appearance of a girl named Rukia Kuchiki. Rukia is a Soul Reaper—one of many entrusted with the preservation of flow of souls between the World of the Living and the Soul Society (尸魂界 (ソウル·ソサエティ) Sōru Sosaeti) from where she originates from by fighting Hollows, dangerous lost souls who consume other souls. When she is severely wounded defending Ichigo from a Hollow she is pursuing, Rukia transfers a part of her Spirit Pressure (霊圧 Reiatsu) energy to enable Ichigo to fight in her stead as a substitute Soul Reaper while she is forced to remain in the World of Living until she can recover her strength. As some time passes, she and Ichigo meet a Quincy named Uryu Ishida who attends the latter's school, Rukia finds herself being taken by her Soul Reaper superiors back to the Soul Society and sentenced to death for the illegal act of transferring her powers into a human.
Although he is unable to stop Rukia's departure to the Soul Society, Ichigo resolves to rescue her with the aid of Uryū and several of his other spiritually aware classmates Orihime Inoue and Yasutara Chad Sado. Prior to reaching the Soul Society, Ichigo meets ex-Soul Reapers Yoruichi Shihoin and Kisuke Urahara, with the latter enabling Ichigo to become a full Soul Reaper. As Ichigo and his friends faced them, dissension occurs among the Soul Reaper captains over both the incident as well as Rukia's sentence and the death of a high-ranking Soul Reaper captain named Sosuke Aizen. But in reality, having faked his death, the events were all staged by Aizen to obtain an item called the Hōgyoku from Rukia. Once having the Hōgyoku, Aizen and his conspirators leave for Hueco Mundo, the Hollow World, to enact his scheme by recruiting humanized Hollows called Arrancars to serve him.
From there, the Soul Society recognizes Ichigo and his friends as allies when they find themselves attacked by Aizen's elite Arrancar servants, the Espadas. By then, Aizen's scheme is revealed to create the Oken and use it to reach the Soul King and kill him. At this point, Ichigo learns his transformation into a Soul Reaper also created an inner Hollow that attempts to take over his body. With that knowledge, Ichigo receives the means to control his Hollow powers with the aid of the Visards, Soul Reapers who were nearly turned into Hollows by Aizen. When Aizen kidnaps Orihime, Ichigo and his friends pursue. However,though he lost a majority of his Espadas, Aizen reveals Orihime's abuction was a lure to cripple resistance from stopping him from turning the souls of Karakura's Town residents into an Oken.
Though the strongest of his forces are defeated, Aizen reveals he absorbed the Hōgyoku and uses its power to transform and defeat the Soul Reaper captains. As Aizen enters Karakura Town after revealing that his tribulations were his doing, Ichigo undergoes intense training with his father Isshin, revealed to be former Soul Reaper, and becomes an equal to Aizen. Eventually, the battle ends with Aizen defeated and imprisoned after being weakened by Ichigo's final attack. But the attack has a side effect with Ichigo eventually becoming a normal human. However, seventeen months later, Ichigo regains his Soul Reaper powers after encountering Xcution, a group of humans possessing "Fullbring" powers like Sado who serve a former Substitute Soul Reaper named Kūgo Ginjō. Helping the Soul Society defeat Xcution, Ichigo then regains his title as the Substitute Soul Reaper.
Following these events, a group of Quincies called the Wandenreich declares war on the Soul Society. Ichigo once again ventures to Hueco Mundo, which has also been invaded by the Wandenreich; at the same time, the captains in the Soul Society battle the Wandenreich's elite "Sternritter" generals. During the invasion, several Soul Reapers are killed; with Head Captain Yamamoto killed off by the Wandenreich's leader Yhwach, an ancient Quincy revived in the present. During the aftermath of the invasion, 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 Wandenreich. During the Soul Society's recovery, Ichigo learns about his heritage from his father and that his mother was a Quincy whose death was caused by Yhwach's revival. Meanwhile, Yhwach recruits Ishida to be his successor and prepares for the final war.
Soon, Yhwach causes Soul Society to disappear and replace it with the Wandenreich's kingdom, and commences his last assault on the Shinigami. It is revealed that the sole reason Yhwach is waging war is to keep himself alive. The Shinigami Captains who had their Bankai stolen were able to fight off their foes after Kisuke Urahara sends them a pill that temporarily hollowfies their Bankai, theorizing that the powers of a hollow are considered poison to Quincies, therefore causing the Bankais to return to their former owners.