By Ragna Cook
One of the most popular manga series in the world, Bleach has been around since August 2001, where it is serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan and Shonen Jump in the US through Viz Publications. The author is Noriaki “Tite” Kubo, and it follows the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, a young man who becomes a substitute shinigami, or Soul Reaper as it is referred to in English language publications, who originally fought Hollows, creatures who came into existence when souls would not depart the world of the living to go to Soul Society.
Other characters include Rukia Kuchiki, the shinigami who accidentally gives Ichigo all her powers when she was supposed to give him only part of them to save her family; Orihime Inoue, a fellow classmate of Ichigo’s who has control of six fairy-like creatures who can do things like attack enemies or give her fate defying powers with the ability to reject things, such as death itself; Sado “Chad” Yasotura, another classmate who has powerful armor attach to his arms, allowing him attack and defense capabilities; and Uryu Ishida, another classmate who is a member of the Quincy race, who also fight Hollows but have different methods than Soul Reapers.
With the introduction of the second arc, where Rukia was brought back to Soul Society to be executed and Rukia’s fellow shinigami were introduced, the focus shifted from Ichigo battling Hollows in Karakura Town to a much larger focus of the betrayal of three Captains in Soul Society’s military force (Sosuke Aizen, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tousen) and their plans to mobilize Hollows and create Arrancar, or Hollows who have adopted human forms. The next arc dealt with Orihime’s kidnapping and Ichigo and his friends, including Rukia and another Soul Reaper named Renji Abarai, rescuing her. The following arc dealt with Aizen’s attack on the fake Karakura Town that had been constructed to keep him away from the real town.
The story of Aizen and his plans were completed with the Deicide arc in Japan, and currently the manga is in the middle of the Lost Substitute Shinigami Arc, which takes place seventeen months after the end of Deicide and introduces the new group Xcution and a new villain. In the US, the current arc in the Shonen Jump manga is in the middle of the Turn Back The Pendulum arc, which explains the back story of Kisuke Urahara, Ichigo’s mentor, and the fate of the Vizard, who Ichigo has trained with. The newest volume of the manga to be released in the US is volume 36, which is that arc collected in a single volume.
There is also an anime that has been in production since 2006. In the US it airs on the Adult Swim anime block on Cartoon Network. The next episode, which airs at midnight on August 7th and again at 4 a.m., is set in the Fake Karakura Town arc. In Japan there is currently the Gotei 13 Invasion Army Arc, a “filler” arc that is not set in manga continuity. These episodes are available on a twenty-four hour delay from the Crunchyroll website for paid subscribers, and other episodes are available in Japanese with English subtitles on Hulu, with episode 331 being the newest.