The list of anime and manga franchises that can be considered genuine international successes is, sadly, not a particularly long one. However, Tite Kubo’s Bleach sits proudly on that metaphorical roll call alongside the likes of Dragon Ball and Naruto.
A Shonen-style action series, Bleach tells the story of a young boy named Ichigo Kurosaki who, aside from his ability to see spirits, is an ordinary teenager. Thanks to said ability, Ichigo is forced to take on the position of his town’s Soul Reaper after the usual holder of that position, Rukia, becomes incapacitated.
Ichigo’s new job takes him on a variety of crazy adventures, reveals shocking truths about his own past, and pits him against a plethora of despicable villains.
Running for over 350 episodes and almost 700 chapters, Bleach became a genuine phenomenon thanks to its blend of unique and interesting characters, visceral battle sequences and a strong, ever-evolving visual style.
Although the franchise’s popularity would wane towards the end of its run (more so domestically than worldwide), Bleach was, for a long time, considered part of Shonen Jump’s “Big Three” alongside Naruto and One Piece. Bleach retains a loyal fanbase and continues to live on in various forms to this day.
Covering fascinating facts about the series’ development, intriguing nuggets of character insight, and plans for the future, here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bleach.
15 There’s Another Arc After The End Of The Anime
Anime-only Bleach fans may have felt that the series ended on a somewhat anti-climactic note and this is because not all of the original manga has been adapted into animation. While the anime versions of series such as Dragon Ball and Naruto see their source material through to completion, the true final arc of Bleach remains in printed form only.
The anime currently ends with the Fullbringer arc but the manga story continues, finishing upon the conclusion of the Thousand Year Blood War. In this arc, Soul Society is attacked by a powerful group of Quincy seeking to assassinate the Soul King. The story tied up many loose ends and, naturally, delved deep into Ichigo’s past.
It’s currently unknown as to whether this final chapter will ever be animated, and while Bleach fans continue to hold on to hope, the series’ dwindling popularity towards the end of its run may mean that the episode count never moves past the 366 mark.
14 Rukia Was The Original Protagonist
In Tite Kubo’s original concept for Bleach, the series was called Snipe and Rukia – the first character Kubo designed – was the main character. Dressed in Shinigami robes and armed with a scythe, Rukia would be pitted against gun-toting enemies in this early draft.
As Kubo developed his new idea, the character of Ichigo became the lead protagonist and the presence of guns was replaced by the more traditional sword-based weaponry that Bleach has since become known for.
Rukia is one of the most popular characters in the Bleach series and it would’ve been very interesting to see how the story progressed with her as the lead character. With that said, it’s also difficult to imagine Bleach without the presence of Ichigo Kurosaki, as both he and Rukia make an effective duo, especially near the outset of the story.
13 The Reason It’s Called “Bleach”
Naruto takes its title from the name of the main character and One Piece is named after the item at the center of the plot, as are both Dragon Ball and Death Note. However, the connection between the word “Bleach” and a story about Death Gods battling undead foes in the afterlife is not quite as obvious.
As you would expect, this is something franchise creator Tite Kubo has been asked to explain on numerous occasions, and thankfully, the mangaka has shed some light on the issue.
According to Kubo, the original title for the manga was “Black” – a reference to the color of the Shinigami robes. After deeming this moniker unoriginal, the author switched to “White” but found this to be too obvious. Kubo eventually settled on “Bleach” for a title after deciding it evoked the color white but without being generic.
12 Ichigo’s English Voice Actor Was A Power Ranger
If any Power Rangers fans thought that the English dubbed voice of Ichigo Kurosaki sounded somewhat familiar, that’ll be because the character is voiced by none other than Johnny Yong Bosch.
Bosch portrayed Black Ranger Adam Park in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and continued playing the role into the franchise’s first live-action movie. Fans may remember Adam as the character who utters the famous line “I’m a frog...” after being assigned a new Zord.
The actor has carved out a niche for himself in the voice acting world since his days on Power Rangers and has voiced the likes of Sasori in Naruto and Kaneda in Akira. Bosch has also occasionally popped up in some of the more recent incarnations of the Power Rangers franchise.
11 Each Character Has Their Own Theme Song
Tite Kubo is a huge fan of rock and punk music and this passion worked its way into the creation of Bleach. As well as musical-themed chapter titles and numerous opening and closing songs, Kubo assigned each main character with their own theme song.
This information was revealed in the franchise's various manga collections and data books, and gives some insight into how Kubo saw each of his creations. For Ichigo’s theme, Kubo chose Bad Religion’s “News From The Front”, Chad was assigned “No Song Unheard” by The Hellacopters, and Ichigo’s Dad is represented by Social Distortion’s “Don’t Drag Me Down”.
Not every character’s theme is taken from the world of punk rock, though. Ishida’s chosen song is “Idioteque” by Radiohead, which perfectly captures his solitary and intelligent personality, and Renji’s theme is a Japanese hip-hop tune with traditional Oriental touches.
10 There’s A Series Of Bleach Musicals In Japan
Although you wouldn’t expect an anime adaptation to grace the stages of Broadway or London’s West End, the popularity of Bleach in Japan has led to the production of a rock musical series based on the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki.
Centered on the Soul Society arc and featuring completely original music, the musicals stay relatively faithful to the original story – aside from the bursting into song part – and have proven incredibly popular. The production brings all of the main figures to life, including Ichigo, his high school friends, and popular Shinigami, such as Aizen, Gin and Hitsugaya.
The shows have gone on tour around Japan and estimates indicate that the musicals have been seen by around 130,000 people since the opening night. As popular as it is, however, there’s something inherently odd about the thought of Aizen singing and dancing his way around Soul Society.
9 Dragon Ball Author Akira Toriyama Championed The Series
The Bleach manga didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts. After Shonen cancelled his previous series, Tite Kubo quickly pitched the concept for Bleach but the publishing company rejected his initial concept. Luckily, this early idea wasn’t completely done away with.
The story goes that Kubo’s initial Bleach draft found its way into the hands of legendary Dragon Ball author Akira Toriyama. Impressed with what he read, Toriyama wrote to Kubo personally to express his admiration for the series and to encourage the upcoming young author.
Whatever Toriyama said certainly worked, as Bleach was accepted for publication at Shonen Jump shortly after. Whether the suits at the company got wind of Toriyama’s letter and decided to trust his wisdom or whether the legendary author’s encouragement simply spurred Kubo to not give up on his new creation, we’ll likely never know.
8 A Live Action Movie Is Due In 2018
Understandably, live-action adaptations of anime and manga series are treated with no small amount of skepticism. After the failure of movies such as Dragonball Evolution, Ghost In The Shell, Attack on Titan and, if early reviews are to be believed, Netflix’s Death Note, Bleach is also due for a live-action makeover.
Produced by Warner Bros. Japan, the Bleach movie is due for release in 2018 and will seemingly interpret the Soul Society arc from the anime and manga. Reassuringly, original author Tite Kubo has been involved in the production.
A Western movie adaptation has also been discussed by Warner Bros. with Peter Segal, Michael Ewing, and Masi Oka producing, but news on that front has been suspiciously quiet of late, suggesting that the project may be dead in the water.
7 Almost Half Of The Anime Is Filler
Every anime series has filler episodes, whether it be Dragon Ball Z’s famous driving test escapade or Naruto’s various mini-arcs. Bleach, however, took filler material to an entirely different level and some fans have calculated that as much as 45% of the entire series is comprised of non-canon material.
To make matters worse, rather than spreading filler episodes out like many anime series do, Bleach opts for entire non-canon arcs that can span multiple seasons. One example included the Bount and Zanpakutō material.
Featuring original material that doesn’t appear in the original manga wouldn’t actually be a problem in itself if only the episodes maintained the same level of quality as the rest of the series, but generally speaking, this isn’t the case. The drop-off in quality between the Soul Society and Bount arcs in particular is very noticeable.
6 Kubo Incorporated His Love Of Fashion Into Bleach
Outside of writing manga, one of Tite Kubo’s foremost passions is fashion design and the author used his knowledge in this area to create memorable and striking clothing designs for his characters-- Ichigo in particular.
Kubo has drawn several of his characters in fashion model-esque style for splash pages, bonus art, etc. and got to live his fashion designer dream for real earlier this year when he teamed up with a real-life clothing brand to design Bleach inspired T-shirts.
With the Bleach manga series now finished, Kubo will obviously have a lot more time on his hands, and with no other long-term projects announced, maybe it’s finally time for the mangaka to take inspiration from Kayne West and live out his fashion fantasies for real.
5 Bleach’s Worlds Are Inspired By Various Nationalities
Bleach utilizes some interesting and unique inspirations for the series’ various factions, and author Tite Kubo adopts languages and customs from real-world countries to make his fictional groups more convincing. For instance, the Arrancar have a distinctly Spanish theme; their titles and attacks are all based on Spanish words, as are the various locations in their realm.
Similarly, the Wandenreich take their cues from the German language and wear uniforms that have much in common with designs from German military history. You could also argue that the pragmatic and organized nature of the Quincy echoes the stereotypical qualities often associated with Germany.
This attention to detail helps the fictional worlds of Bleach feel real and believable and closer to civilizations that could plausibly exist. It also aids viewers in remembering which characters belong to which faction in Bleach’s ever-growing world.
4 Yoruichi’s Name Was Altered To Avoid Criticism
Bleach fans will remember Yoruichi as the black cat that turned out to be an attractive woman, and although the character was certainly very popular, she also generated some controversy. Most of the time, this was due to her regularly appearing completely naked, however, the character was actually changed early on in order to avoid more serious criticism.
Originally, Yoruichi was named “Kuroneko” which translates from Japanese as “black cat.” Although this is obviously a reference to the character’s animal transformation, there were concerns that it could be interpreted as a comment on Yoruichi’s darker skin tone, so, in order to avoid any possibility of offending readers, the change was made.
It’s unlikely that much fuss would’ve been made of this issue -- considering that Yoruichi literally transforms into a black cat -- but many fans can understand why Shonen and Kubo would want to avoid any possibility of such an offense.
3 Ichigo Only Truly Killed One Major Enemy
Although Bleach may have a reputation for being a violent and bloody series, the truth is that characters rarely actually die in the story and often make a triumphant reappearance later on. As such, protagonist Ichigo has only actually killed one major enemy: the Fullbringer Ginjo.
Some fans would argue that he also bumped off Espada member Ulquiorra, but since this occurred while Ichigo was in an uncontrollable rampage that he later didn’t remember, Ginjo remains the only villain that was killed intentionally by Bleach’s protagonist.
Such a low kill count is quite common for Shonen series, even in those where violence is prevalent. The company prefers evil characters to be given the chance to redeem themselves later on, and so permanently dispatching baddies is a rare occurrence.
2 Kubo Was Encouraged By A Tragic Fan Letter
After the Bleach manga ended, Tite Kubo revealed a tragic story regarding the series’ creation process. Kubo claimed that, after a decade of serialization, he began to struggle with the intense schedule of producing a weekly manga and was also suffering from some serious health problems that impacted his productivity.
Around this time, Kubo received a letter from a terminally ill boy that had become a huge Bleach fan while bedridden, with the manga becoming one of the child’s few sources of joy. The note ended with the child making a plea to Kubo to keep on writing Bleach the way the author wanted to write it.
From that point on, Kubo approached his manga writing with a renewed sense of energy that kept him motivated right through to the end of the series, and the mangaka has since made attempts to contact the youngster’s family.
1 The Inspiration For Kon Is Pretty Depressing
Kon is Bleach’s token cute character. A modified soul stuffed into the physical form of a toy lion, the character manages to perform the dual function of merchandise shifter and series pervert in one fell swoop. Despite the character’s largely comic presence, however, the actual inspiration for the character is quite sad.
Kubo was inspired to create the Kon character after he witnessed a young boy throw a tantrum when his father refused to buy him an expensive stuffed toy. In his moment of rage, the child took the cuddly toy he currently owned and threw it aside in protest, abandoning the stuffed animal for good.
Although it may have been a display of ultimate petulance on behalf of the brat, the youngster unknowingly contributed to one of the most popular manga and anime series of all time.
Do you have any more fascinating facts about Bleach? Let us know in the comments!