The cover of the first DVD compilation released by Viz Media
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Fantasy|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Noriyuki Abe|
|Written by||Masashi Sogo|
|Music by||Shirō Sagisu|
|Original run||October 5, 2004 – March 27, 2012|
|Anime film series|
|Directed by||Noriyuki Abe|
|Written by||Masashi Sogo
|Music by||Shiro Sagisu|
|Released||December 16, 2006 – December 4, 2010|
|Runtime||380 minutes (total)|
Bleach (Japanese: ブリーチ Hepburn: Burīchi?) is a Japanese anime series based on Tite Kubo's manga of the same name. The series ran for a total of 366 episodes, including 111 episodes of original material not based on the manga. Bleach was produced by Studio Pierrot and directed by Noriyuki Abe. Bleach's Japanese and English voice actors include some of the most credited and well known voice actors, including Masakazu Morita and Johnny Yong Bosch. The music was composed by Shirō Sagisu, who also composed the music for Neon Genesis Evangelion. A total of fifteen opening themes and thirty ending themes were used throughout the series, featuring a diverse group of Japanese artists.
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. The anime adaptation includes original storylines not found in the manga; including repeated appearances and stories containing these original characters. Studio Pierrot produced the series from 2004 to 2012, consisting of 366 episodes. Viz Media obtained foreign television and home video distribution rights to the Bleach anime on March 15, 2004. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim began airing Bleach in the United States on September 9, 2006. The series' international release extends through dozens of countries in several languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Tagalog.
The anime adaptation of Bleach follows the story of the manga, although introducing several original storylines. In Karakura Town, Ichigo Kurosaki becomes a substitute Soul Reaper, when Rukia Kuchiki cannot fulfill her duties after engaging in battle with a particularly powerful Hollow. He later discovers several of his friends and classmates are spiritually aware and have powers of their own: Uryū Ishida is a Quincy, Orihime Inoue possesses a group of protective spirits known as the Shun Shun Rikka and Yasutora Sado ("Chad") has strength equal to the Hollows, later defined as being a Fullbringer. When Rukia is sentenced to death for her transgressions in the human world and taken back to the spirit world of Soul Society, Ichigo seeks out the assistance of Kisuke Urahara and Yoruichi Shihōin, unbeknownst to him as being two exiled Soul Reapers, to allow himself and his friends to save Rukia. After battling many Soul Reapers, it is revealed that high-ranking Soul Reaper Sōsuke Aizen framed Rukia for the crime and has been illegally experimenting on Soul Reapers and Hollows and he plans on taking over Soul Society via use of the Hōgyoku. He escapes into Hueco Mundo, the realm of the Hollows, and later abducts Orihime as she is instrumental in creating the Oken, a power that will allow him to kill the Soul King, the ruler of Soul Society. After Ichigo is trained by the Visards, other exiled Soul Reapers who began exhibiting Hollow powers, he and his friends travel into Hueco Mundo to save Orihime, facing Aizen's army of Arrancars, Hollows given Soul Reaper abilities, who are led by an elite group of ten known as the Èspadas that are composed of ten Arrancar with exemplary strength. Members of the Espada are given a number 1-10. Each Espada has a tattoo with their number somewhere on them, such as Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, whose tattoo is on his lower back and Coyote Starrk, whose tattoo is on the back of his left hand. Along with Sōsuke Aizen, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tōsen, the Èspada as a group possess comparable strength to Soul Society's Gotei 13 Shinigami captains. After finally reaching Orihime, Aizen reveals her kidnapping was a distraction to allow him to take Karakura Town, as its spiritual energy is what is needed for the Oken. After training from his father Isshin, another exiled Soul Reaper, Ichigo and the Soul Reapers face off against Aizen, Soul Reapers who aligned with his cause, and his most powerful Èspadas, resulting in Aizen's surrender and Ichigo loses all of his powers. Nearly two years later, Chad reveals to Ichigo that he has found people like him, known as Fullbringers, in a group known as Xcution. The Fullbringers can give up their powers to restore a Soul Reaper's powers and they plan on doing so for Ichigo, who begins to use Fullbring as well. However, it is all a ruse by their leader Kugo Ginjo, a Fullbring and former Substitute Soul Reaper, to steal Ichigo's powers to empower the rest of them. Ichigo ultimately has his Soul Reaper powers restored and defeats Ginjo and the other members of Xcution, and returns to his duty of protecting Karakura Town.
The stories are broken down into arcs. The first original arc is Bount arc, focusing on spiritually-aware humans who are immortal so long as they absorb souls. Their leader Jin Kariya seeks to destroy Soul Society for the constant hunting of the Bount, and he and Ichigo battle for the fate of Soul Society. Another storyline is the introduction of captain Shūsuke Amagai, the replacement for Gin Ichimaru after he joined Aizen in his betrayal. Amagai seeks revenge against Commander Yamamoto for the death of his father; and uses the Kasumiōji family's Bakkōtō weapons in his plans. Ichigo battles Amagai, who acknowledges the shame of his actions and commits suicide. The final original arc features the evil Zanpakutō Muramasa, which has the ability to turn itself and other Zanpakutō into spiritual beings to take revenge on Soul Society for imprisoning its master Kōga Kuchiki. After he is successful, he is double-crossed and transforms into a monstrous creature that Ichigo defeats, but not before Muramasa reveals the intention was to have Soul Reapers and Zanpakutō communicate on equal terms.
Morita tries to recreate the mood that he feels when he reads the comment and imagines hearing the dialogue. In an interview with Elicia O'Reilly of the Japan Foundation, Morita said that in order to get into character, he will say a line that epitomizes that character.
Studio City, Los Angeles-based Studiopolis was hired to dub the anime and its English-language cast was assembled from experienced industry actors with many having roles in dozens of credits in other anime series, films and video games. Originally, Johnny Yong Bosch, Ichigo's English voice actor, found pronouncing the names of the characters to be difficult and tried to do the deep gruff voice of the Japanese Ichigo. Bosch acknowledges that the directorial control was loosened as the work progressed; stating around episode 10, as he was guided into the role of Ichigo and it the growth of the character. Bosch noted that the long scenes of screaming and panting, in particular the scene in episode 18, have nearly made him pass out. Stephanie Sheh noticed the difference in the tone of Orihime's voice in the English adaptation and described it as being higher pitched and "innocent-sounding". The dub's producers wanted to make Orihime sound tough, and comedic, but not "ditzy". Sheh relates to her character's unusual creations for food, but believes she is better. Derek Stephen Prince likes to play Uryu because he is the black sheep of the cast and he is a complex character. Throughout the production, Prince acknowledges his role as the English voice actor of Shino Aburame from Naruto and sets them apart by taking a Clint Eastwood tone for Uryu.
For the voice acting, one of the difficulties was stating Japanese phrases while maintaining pronunciation and inflection. The duality of the story was hard to keep up with, and the cast had to juggle the challenges of performing under the different lifestyles of the characters. The voice actors often made suggestions for the scenes that differ from the approved script and results in rewriting and additional takes that were put into the dub.
Bleach was first conceived from a desire on 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 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. Kubo influences include other manga series, 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. Bleach's creative process is focused around character design, with Kubo created characters en masse and looking through earlier chapters of the manga.
Noriyuki Abe was chosen as director of the series while Masashi Sogo acted as head writer for Episodes #1-212. Tsuyoshi Kida was head writer for Episodes #230-265. Kento Shimoyama held the title of head writer for Episodes #317-366. Masashi Kudo provided the character designs, occasionally providing key animation or acting as an animation supervisor himself.
The music of Bleach was composed by Shiro Sagisu. Sagisu's musical score for the television series was released in four CD sets. Four additional CDs were released for the music composed for the four Bleach animated films.
During the production and broadcast of the first 167 episodes the screen size was in 4:3; episodes 168 through 366 were produced and broadcast in 16:9 wide screen.
In a 2009 interview, Kubo and Masashi Kudo discussed the upcoming Zanpakutō: The Alternate Tale, with Kubo wishing that he could draw the events into the manga. Kubo also revealed that his art style varies in the production of the work and only became cemented after the airing of the anime. He acknowledges his art style having changes as a result of his work and gave an example that he no longer draws hair growing from behind the ears of characters.
The soundtrack of Bleach was composed by Shiro Sagisu, released in 4 volumes and an anniversary box set. A series of character song albums, the "Bleach Beat Collection" albums, and best-of albums composed of the theme songs have also been released, all by Sony Music Entertainment Japan.
Five volumes of Bleach Soundtracks have been released. Bleach Original Soundtrack 1 was released on May 18, 2005, and features 25 songs credited to Shiro Sagisu. Bleach Original Soundtrack 2 was released on August 8, 2006 and features 46 songs covering up to episode 64 of the Bount Arc. Bleach Original Soundtrack 3 was released on November 5, 2008, and includes 54 songs from the anime. Bleach Original Soundtrack 4 was the last OST and it was released on December 16, 2009 and included 30 songs. The fifth anniversary box set released July 29, 2009, includes a CD that includes 21 previously unreleased songs.
The Bleach Beat Collections is an ongoing set of CDs published by Sony Music featuring recordings by the original Japanese voice actors that provide a look at the personalities of the characters they play, as well as the voice actors themselves. The first CD was released on June 22, 2005, twenty-one volumes followed across four named sets called Sessions.
A number of additional collections have been released. Two volumes were released as "The Best", with each volume containing 24 songs each on two discs; the first volume released March 21, 2007 and the second on March 18, 2009. The "Bleach Breathless Collection" contains six releases featuring five tracks of the individual Soul Reaper. The six volumes feature Ichigo, Rukia, Renji, Toshiro, Shuhei, and Byakuya, respectively. Three Radio DJCD Bleach 'B' Station season CD sets, each containing six volumes, have been released in Japan.
Bleach is divided into sixteen seasons, five of which are filler arcs of side stories not found in the original material.
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 the Bleach 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 in 2006 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.
Seventy-six DVD compilations were 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.
The Spanish-language adaptation of the anime is done in two different versions, one in Mexico for transmission in the rest of Latin America and one in Spain. The dubbing in Spain is made in the CYO Studios, and by Sound Art in Mexico. Bleach was broadcast in Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia on Buzz. Broadcasting in Brazil and Latin America was provided by Animax.
In Russia, the anime is distributed by "Mega-anime" (Мега-Аниме), which announced the acquisition of licenses on October 12, 2007. Production began in the autumn of 2008. The broadcast first airing was on December 21, 2010 on 2x2. In Singapore, Odex is the licensor of Bleach.
Von Feigenblatt notes that "in terms of demographics, Bleach appeals to a narrower international audience than Naruto due to the higher complexity of its plot as well as due to the religious aspects of the story."
The anime has been featured various times in the top ten from the Japanese TV Ranking. DVDs have also had good sales having commonly appeared in the Japanese DVD Ranking. The anime was nominated in the 2007 America Anime Awards in the fields of "best manga", "best actor", "best DVD package design", and "best theme", but failed to win any awards. In a 2006 Internet poll by TV Asahi, Bleach was ranked as Japan's seventh-favorite anime program. The previous year, it was ranked as the twenty-seventh favorite program. During February 2009, Bleach ranked as the 9th most viewed animated show from Hulu.
Anime News Network's Carlo Santos praised the anime adaptation, describing it as "...one incredibly entertaining anime that will grab you and refuse to let go." Animefringe's Maria Lin liked the varied and distinct characters, and how well they handle the responsibilities increasing powers give them. She also complimented the series for its attention to details, well paced script, and balance of seriousness and comedy. In summary, she notes "Bleach the anime deserves its popularity. It has something for everyone: the supernatural, comedy, action and a little bit of romance, all tied together with excellent animation and a very enthusiastic sounding bunch of voice actors." Adam Arseneau of DVD Verdict, felt Bleach was a "show that only gets better with age" and was "surprisingly well-rounded and appealing" with well-developed characters and pacing. Active Anime's Holly Ellingwood praising the anime for perfectly capturing "the excitement, the caustic humour and supernatural intrigue" of the original manga. She felt that the series "does a wonderful job of building on its continuity to provide increasingly tense and layered episodes involving not only Ichigo and Rukia, but the secondary characters as well". She also praised the series for its striking visual effects, intriguing plot and its "brilliant blend of action, off the wall comedy." In reviewing the series for DVD Talk, Don Houston felt the characters surpassed the usual shōnen anime stereotypes and liked "the mixture of darker material with the comedic". Another Fellow reviewer John Sinnott felt series starts out as a boring "monster-of-the-week program" that becomes more epic as the stories build and the characters are fleshed out. Otaku USA's Joseph Luster wrote that "the storylines are consistently dramatic without hammering it home too heavily, the characters manage comic relief that's not as eye rolling as one would expect, and the action (in classic fighting series form) has only gotten more ridiculous over the years; in a good way, of course". Mania.com's Bryce Coulter praised the series for its plot twists and "the quirky and amusing characters". In comparing the series with Naruto, Mania.com's Chris Beveridge felt Bleach was less childish and "simply comes together surprisingly well in its style and execution of what is fairly standard material".
All four feature films based on the Bleach series were directed by Noriyuki Abe, director of the Bleach anime series. 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. Bleach: Memories of Nobody, was released in Japan on December 16, 2006 and had a limited release in American theaters in June 2008. The second film, Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, was released to Japanese theaters on December 22, 2007. The third film, Bleach: Fade to Black, was released in Japan on December 13, 2008. The fourth movie, Bleach: Hell Verse, was released in Japan on December 4, 2010. In 2010, Warner Bros. confirmed that it is in talks to create a live action movie adaptation of the series with Peter Segal and Michael Ewing have been lined up to produce the movie.
The popularity of the Bleach anime resulted in the 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.
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