Ichigo Kurosaki as illustrated by Tite Kubo
|First appearance||Bleach manga chapter 1|
|Created by||Tite Kubo|
Yuki Matsuoka (child)
Johnny Yong Bosch
Mona Marshall (child)
|Relatives||Isshin Kurosaki (father)
Masaki Kurosaki (mother, deceased)
Yuzu Kurosaki (sister)
Karin Kurosaki (sister)
Ichigo Kurosaki (黒崎 一護 Kurosaki Ichigo?) is a fictional character in the anime and manga franchise Bleach by Tite Kubo. The main protagonist of the series, Ichigo receives Soul Reaper powers as a result of a run-in with Rukia Kuchiki, the Soul Reaper assigned to patrol his city, Karakura Town. These powers come at the cost of Rukia's own, and as a result, Ichigo concedes to work as Rukia's stand-in, fighting to protect people from evil spirits called hollows and sending good spirits, wholes, to Soul Society. In addition to the main series, Ichigo appears in many other pieces of Bleach media, including the four featured films in the series, the two original video animations, and several video games.
Ichigo's character was created to replace Rukia as the lead character from the series as Kubo noted that Rukia was unsuitable to be the protagonist.Ichigo's character has been well received among both fans and reviewers, and people all over the world. Ichigo is also featured in Weekly Shōnen Jump character popularity polls, consistently ranking as one of the most popular characters in Bleach, while the 2007 Japanese Newtype magazine polls ranked him as one of the top 100 most-loved anime characters. Reviewers of the series have also remarked favorably on his personality, though some consider him to be a stereotypical anti-hero. Merchandise based on Ichigo's likeness has also been released, including toys, clothing, and action figures.
Creation and conception
When creating the manga series, Kubo commented that Rukia Kuchiki, the first character he created, did not seem like a lead character, so he created Ichigo to be the series protagonist. When designing Ichigo's appearance, Kubo had thought of several types attributes of the character that were never added to the story. Initial design sketches show Ichigo wearing glasses, and having dark hair and kind eyes. When designing Rukia, however, Kubo modified Ichigo's appearance to contrast with hers, giving Ichigo orange hair, a trademark scowl, and removing the glasses. During the series' first chapter, Ichigo's wristwatch was based on one Kubo himself wore at that time. In latter chapters, his wristwatch was based on Naoto Fukasawa's W11K cellphone. Along with Orihime Inoue, Ichigo has the hardest face to draw for Kubo. When making illustrations featuring Ichigo, he found one weird as it featured him with a cheerful smile.
Kubo considered Ichigo's greatest strength to be that he is considerate and thoughtful as he always thinks about other people's needs. However, he also saw that as his greatest weakness, since worrying about his friends tends to put him in danger. Kubo was asked in an interview if he had any plans to focus in the love triangle between him, Rukia and Orihime, but Kubo chose neither to confirm nor deny it as he did not want to focus in romance. Kubo thinks Ichigo is very popular among fans because he "looks cool". He also mentioned that as fans read more about him they discover that underneath he is warm and kind hearted, which attracts them.
Following over fifty volumes of the manga released, Kubo believes that Ichigo was the character that was developed the most. He emphasized how every action Ichigo changes the course in the story as well as how he feels attached to the character. When the Arrancar arc ended, Kubo tried rebooting the series which resulted in Ichigo losing his Soul Reaper powers. In the same way Ichigo became a Soul Reaper during the series' first chapter, he starts searching for methods to recover his original powers.
Ichigo is voiced by Masakazu Morita in the Japanese anime, while as a child he is voiced by Yuki Matsuoka. Johnny Yong Bosch voices him in the English dub as a teenager, and Mona Marshall as a kid. While enjoying Ichigo as one his best roles, Morita notes that voicing him can be difficulty as a result of the character's thoughts before his actions. Bosch has liked Ichigo's character due to how he wants to protect people. However, he experienced difficulty voicing him in the episodes in which Ichigo shouts for a long time.
Ichigo Kurosaki is a 15-year-old boy who attends Karakura High School. At the age of nine, Ichigo witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of the Hollow Grand Fisher who later was killed by Ichigo. One day, Ichigo's family is attacked by a Hollow, and Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki gives her powers to him so he can save his family. For a few months, Ichigo acts as a Soul Reaper in protecting Karakura Town from Hollows. Byakuya Kuchiki and Renji Abarai from Soul Society come to take Rukia back because the transference of Soul Reaper powers to a human is a capital offense. Ichigo loses his powers in the process and trains with Kisuke Urahara to regain them. During his training, Ichigo learns the name of his zanpakutō, Zangetsu (斬月?, literally “Slaying Moon”). He regains his Soul Reaper powers but also indirectly gains Hollow powers then heads off to Soul Society with Orihime Inoue, Uryū Ishida, Yasutora Sado, and Yoruichi Shihōin to save Rukia.
In the Soul Society, Ichigo is joined by Ganju Shiba and fights Ikkaku Madarame, the 3rd seat of the 11th Division. Ichigo defeats Ikkaku and learns that Kenpachi Zaraki, the captain of the 11th Division, intends to fight him. Along the way, Ichigo and Ganju take Hanatarō Yamada hostage and he shows them the way to Rukia. Ichigo fights Renji for a second time and defeats him in order to continue on. After the fight, Ichigo is healed by Hanatarō and then encounters Kenpachi Zaraki. Ichigo struggles to cut the captain at first but then Zangetsu helps him find his resolve and defeat Kenpachi. Yoruichi tends to Ichigo’s injuries then Ichigo goes to save Ganju and Hanatarō from Byakuya Kuchiki. Yoruichi, knowing Ichigo cannot win, incapacitates him and promises Byakuya that she’ll make Ichigo stronger in three days. Ichigo learns his bankai, Tensa Zangetsu (天鎖斬月?, literally “Heaven Chain Slaying Moon”) and saves Rukia before she is executed. Ichigo fights Byakuya with temporary help from his inner Hollow, resulting in a tie and the realization of Byakuya that what Ichigo had been truly fighting is laws of Soul Society instead of him. While Soul Society is in chaos, Sōsuke Aizen reveals himself as a traitor and steals the Hōgyoku from Rukia’s body. Ichigo learns that Aizen was the mastermind behind the events going on in Soul Society and then is easily defeated by the former captain. After Aizen escapes, Ichigo is made a Substitute Soul Reaper by Jūshirō Ukitake and returns to the Human World.
Eventually, with the Hōgyoku, Aizen employs an army of Arrancars with his Espadas attacking Ichigo and his friends in the human world. In order to fight the Espada, Ichigo is taught how to control his Hollow powers with the aid of the Visards that were members of the Soul Society until Aizen's actions forced them to live among humans. As a result of defeating his inner Hollow, Ichigo can call upon his Hollow powers at will for a limited time. Although they fend off the Arrancars with the bolstered defenses, they are unable to prevent the abduction of Ichigo's friend, Orihime Inoue. When Soul Society refuses to save her, Ichigo and his friends go to Hueco Mundo to rescue her on their own. Ichigo manages to keep her safe after several fights against the Arrancars, leaving that it was distraction as he almost became a complete Hollow during his battle with the Espada Ulquiorra Schiffer. Going to Karakura Town to protect it from Aizen, Ichigo is disillusioned to learn that Aizen knew of him from the beginning and everything he went through was arranged. However, snapped out of it by his father Isshin, revealed to be a Soul Reaper, Ichigo learns a technique called Saigo no Getsuga Tenshō (最後の月牙天衝?, literally “The Final Moon Fang Heaven-Piercer”) that weakens Aizen at the expense of his Soul Reaper powers. As Ichigo's powers fade away, Urahara seals Aizen within a kidō barrier.
Seventeen months later, Ichigo becomes a senior in high school. He meets Kūgo Ginjō from the group Xcution who presents Ichigo with a chance to regain his Soul Reaper powers in return of helping Ginjō and his group be free of their own "Fullbringer" powers. With their help, Ichigo unlocks his own Fullbring powers through his Substitute Soul Reaper Badge. However, when Ichigo is attacked by Shūkurō Tsukishima, one of Ginjō's allies who changed his memories to trick Ichigo, his Fullbring powers are stolen. The Soul Society's forces then restore his Soul Reaper powers as an act to repay Ichigo's deeds to the Soul Society. Ichigo then engages Ginjō in combat, killing him in the aftermath.
Following these events, while assisting a Soul Reaper named Ryūnosuke Yuki in a fight with some Hollows, Ichigo is attacked by an Arrancar with Quincy abilities. He is then informed of Chōjirō Sasakibe's death at the hands of the Wandenreich, a group of Quincies who have invaded Hueco Mundo. Ichigo returns to Hueco Mundo with his friends to liberate it from the Wandenreich's Kirge Opie before learning that the organization is now attacking the Soul Society. Arriving just after Head Captain Yamamoto's death, his Zanpakuto damaged in the process, Ichigo encounters the Wandenreich's leader Yhwach as he reveals to the youth that his mother was a Quincy.
When the Royal Guard arrive, they take Ichigo, Renji, Rukia and Byakuya with them. After Ichigo and Renji are healed they meet Ōetsu Nimaiya, inventor of the Zanpakuto, to have their broken Zanpakuto reforged. However, feeling that Ichigo must know his roots first, Nimaiya sends Ichigo back to the Human World. There, Ichigo learns of how his father and mother, respectively a Soul Reaper captain and a Quincy, met. Ichigo also learns that Masaki's near Hollowification is the reason for his abilities as a Visard and a Fullbringer. Afterwards, Ichigo passes Nimaiya's test before learning his Inner Hollow is the real Zangetsu and that the Zangetsu who guided him is actually a personification of his Quincy power. Soon after, Ichigo gains his reforged Zanpakuto and its new split shikai form.
In other media
Ichigo appears in the featured films of series; protecting a Soul Reaper named Senna in Memories of Nobody, aiding in the search for Tōshirō Hitsugaya in The DiamondDust Rebellion, and investigating a mysterious incident, involving Rukia Kuchiki being erased from everyone's memory in Fade to Black, and going into Hell in order to rescue Yuzu in Hell Verse. He also appears in both of the original video animations; fighting against a hollow called the Grand Fisher in the first one and combating the rogue Soul Reaper Baishin in the second one. In the Bleach video games, Ichigo is a playable character in every game, including the Heat the Soul and Blade Battlers series. In some games, his hollow form and bankai state are available as separate characters. In Rock Musical Bleach, a musical based on the Bleach series, he is played by Tatsuya Isaka. His character is featured in two volumes from the Bleach Beat Collection CD soundtrack series which features themes composed by his Japanese voice actor, Masakazu Morita. These include the first of them in which he is the only character and the fourth season's fourth volume along with Rukia.
Amongst the Bleach reader base, Ichigo has been highly popular, having always ranked within the top 5 in the Weekly Shōnen Jump popularity polls for the series. He has usually taken first place, though in early 2008 he dropped to 3rd place. His zanpakutō, Zangetsu, also ranked 3rd in the zanpakutō popularity polls. His character also appeared in the 2007 Japanese Newtype magazine polls ranked him as one of the best anime male characters. In the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation Awards from 2008, Ichigo ranked as the third best male character. The Japanese music distributor Recochoku has made two annual survey of which anime characters that people would like to marry. Ichigo ranked tenth in the category "The Character I Want to Be My Groom" from the 2008 survey and eight in the 2009 poll in the same category. Wizard Entertainment considered Ichigo the best hero from 2007, commenting that he does not try to be a hero as he just fights in order to protect his friends or to return a debt. He was also 20th in IGN's Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time with comments focused on his design and personality. Ichigo has also appeared twice in the Anime Grand Prix polls, ranking as one of the most popular male anime characters.
At the first Seiyu Awards in March 2007, Masakazu Morita won in the category "Best Rookie Actor" for his role as Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo's voice actor in the English adaptation, Johnny Yong Bosch, has also been praised for his voice work on Ichigo's character by Anime News Network (ANN), which favorably compared Bosch and Morita's work. Various merchandise based on Ichigo's appearance has been created, including action figures, plush toys and key-chains. Since the series was released, replica models of Ichigo's zanpakutō and bankai have been produced for purchase by collectors and fans.
Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media have provided praise and criticism on Ichigo's character. Mania Entertainment reviewer Chris Beveridge commented that Ichigo's history about how he becomes a Soul Reaper in the series could be "obvious", but it is avoided by how Ichigo tries to avoid his role. Additionally, he commented that Ichigo does have "awkward moments" when fighting with hollows or handling his zanpakutō, making him a more normal person. ANN's Melissa Harper commented that Ichigo's initial rebellious actions make him almost a stereotypical anti-hero, but note that he is soon revealed to be a more complex character with a sad past. Los Angeles Times's Charles Solomon comments Ichigo's persona has little in common with protagonists from other series due to his bad temper and how he tends to fight. However, he added that readers from the series still "love" Ichigo. Although the way Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper was found to be relatively common by Carlos Alexandre from popcultureshock.com he noted that was unimportant, and then added Ichigo's character of a "tough guy with a heart of gold" had already been done in several series. Charles White from IGN praised Ichigo's climactic fight against Byakuya Kuchiki as one of the best fights in the Bleach series, and later Ramsey Isler gave additional praise to both the design and voice acting for Ichigo's inner hollow. Ichigo's development during the story arc in which he sets to rescue Rukia Kuchiki from being executed have been praised by ANN's Theron Martin with the scenes in which he manages to stop her execution and his subsequent demonstration of his bankai as one of the "eminently satisfying landmark moments in the series". Wired News's Corrina Lawson stated that she liked Ichigo's strong sense of responsibility, and commented it was one of the reasons of the series' popularity.
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