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Bleach, TV Tokyo
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Caution: Spoilers!

Season 1: The Substitute arc. We meet Ichigo Kurosaki, a 15-year-old high school student who lives in Karakura Town. He has naturally orange hair (though I've read that most people apparently don't believe he doesn't bleach it, which is where the show's title comes from, which is bizarre because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot). He lives with his widower father Isshin, who runs a medical clinic; and his little sisters, Karin and Yuzu. Ichigo can see ghosts, and often helps them out. Yuzu can sort of sense ghosts, but nothing more. Karin can see them, but claims not to believe in them. Anyway, there are different kinds of spirits. The disembodied spirits of those who have died- i.e., ghosts- are called Wholes. Then there are Hollows, evil spirits that wear masks, and who devour the souls of both humans and Wholes. Though Hollows were themselves originally Wholes, until they were driven mad. There are also Soul Reapers, who use swords called Zanpakuto to send Wholes to the Soul Society (the spirit world), as well as to fight Hollows. They purify Hollows so that they can also be sent to the Soul Society. And Soul Reapers can use "demon arts" spells called kido.

However, Ichigo didn't know any of these details, until one day a Hollow attacked, and while Ichigo was helping a ghost escape, a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki showed up and took care of the Hollow. Later she showed up at Ichigo's house looking for another Hollow, which was actually searching for Ichigo. Because of his high level of spirit energy, his soul would be especially tasty to Hollows. When Rukia was injured fighting the Hollow, she transfered her powers to Ichigo, who then dealt with the Hollow himself. So, he becomes a substitute Soul Reaper, while Rukia waits to regain her powers. And she sticks around to teach him such details about Wholes and Hollows, and all that goes along with the job.

Since Soul Reapers are no more visible to most humans than are ghosts, Rukia got herself an artificial human body called a gigai (though it looks just like her real body). Though she's actually much older than any human, she looks about Ichigo's age, so she's started attending his school. Meanwhile, to use his powers as a Soul Reaper, Ichigo's spirit has to leave his body. And so his body would seem unconscious, or dead, or something, so usually when he's out of his body, it's animated by a mod soul, which is stored as a pill (or soul candy) he swallows. Mod (short for modified) souls were an experimental line of artificial souls, all of which were supposed to have been destroyed by the Soul Society after creating them. But when Rukia ordered an artificial soul for Ichigo, an escaped mod soul called Kon was delivered by mistake. But they decide to keep him anyway, not thinking he deserves to be destroyed. Anyway, when not inhabiting Ichigo's body, he's in the body of a plush lion doll (he's really into girls like Rukia and Orihime, and mostly exists for comic relief, even if he's annoyed that no one ever takes him seriously).

Meanwhile, Ichigo has some human friends his own age at Karakura High School, like this really big guy called Yasutora "Chad" Sado, and a couple of girls named Tatsuki Arisawa and Orihime Inoue. There's another student at Ichigo's school named Uryu Ishida, who turns out to be a Quincy. They were a clan of humans who had a high spiritual awareness, and who fought Hollows centuries ago. But unlike Soul Reapers, they didn't believe Hollows deserved the peace of the Soul Society, so rather than purifying them, Quincys would destroy Hollows entirely. This led to Soul Reapers eliminating the Quincy clan 200 years ago, but it seems some remain. So of course, Uryu hates Soul Reapers, including Ichigo (though they eventually become allies, if not exactly friends). There are a few other students we sometimes see a bit of, but they're basically just there for comic relief (not that there isn't plenty of comedy with the main characters). But some of their minor friends include a couple boys named Keigo Asano and Mizuiro Kojima; and some girls named Chizuru Honsho (who has a crush on Orihime), Michiru Ogawa, Ryo Kunieda, and Mahana Natsui. We also occasionally see teachers, like Misato Ochi. Another important character is a man named Kisuke Urahara (who Ichigo calls "Mr. Hat and Clogs"), who runs a shop that sells items for Soul Reapers, and he's the one Rukia got Kon from, as well as her gigai, etc. And he shows up now and then. (Urahara has a few assistants, including a cute little girl named Ururu Tsumugiya, a boy named Jinta Hanakari, and a large man named Tessai Tsukabishi.)

Toward the end of season 1, Rukia gets in trouble with the Soul Society for having transferred her powers to a human, and she's taken back home and sentenced to be executed. In the Soul Society, there are 13 squads of Soul Reapers, each led by a captain and a lieutenant. Rukia (who was in the 13th squad) was taken back by Captain Byakuya Kuchiki of the 6th squad, and his lieutenant, Renji Abarai. Renji is a childhood friend of Rukia's, having grown up together in the Rukon district of the Soul Society. They were part of a group of kids who lived on the streets, before Rukia and Renji were recruited to study at the academy to become Soul Reapers. Rukia was later adopted by the Kuchiki clan, one of four noble families in the Soul Society, which means Byakuya, the current head of the clan, became like her older brother, though he doesn't seem to care for her. Anyway, when Byakuya and Renji came to take Rukia back as a prisoner, Ichigo and Uryu both tried to stop them, and failed. And Byakuya removed Rukia's Soul Reaper powers from Ichigo.

Ichigo wants to rescue her (in spite of her telling him not to), so he spends the last few eps of the season training with Urahara. This involves awakening Ichigo's own latent Soul Reaper powers, since he no longer has Rukia's. He also has to learn the name of his Zanpakuto, to call on its full power. All Zanpakuto have their own names and special powers. (Ichigo's is Zangetsu, who sometimes appears to him in human form, in a sort of dream world that represents Ichigo's mind or spirit, where Zangetsu tries to sort of advise Ichigo.) When Urahara opens the gateway to the Soul Society, Ichigo will be joined by Chad and Orihime, who both turn out to have some spiritual powers of their own. (Some kind of armor appears on Chad's arm, which reminds me of Kazuma from s-CRY-ed. Orihime's varied powers come from six fairies known as the Shun Shun Rikka, which reside in the hairpins her late brother, Sora, gave her years ago. Each fairy has its own name, personality, and power, but ultimately they're all manifestations of Orihime's own spirit. There are three females: Shun'o, Lily, and Ayame; and three males: Tsubaki, Hinagiku, and Baigon.) Also joining in the rescue mission are Uryu, and a talking cat named Yoruichi Shihouin (who knows a great deal about the Soul Society, for reasons that will become apparent later on). While Ichigo was training with Urahara, Chad and Orihime received training from Yoruichi, while Uryu trained on his own.

Season 2: The Entry arc. Ichigo and the others enter the Soul Society, where they're helped by a woman named Kukaku Shiba to enter the Seretei (the part of the Soul Society where the Soul Reapers live, which is protected by a barrier). Kukaku's younger brother, Ganju, joins the party on their mission. He has his own reasons to hate Soul Reapers, since one of them killed his older brother, Kaien, who had been lieutenant of the 13th squad of Soul Reapers. When he first met Ichigo, he hated him, since he now appeared to be a Soul Reaper, and they would fight sometimes, but ultimately they became allies in the mission to rescue Rukia, even though Ganju had never met her. When he eventually does meet her, well... a bitter irony is revealed. But meanwhile, the group of Ryoka (the term for intruders who do not belong in the Soul Society) gets separated. Chad is on his own, while Uryu and Orihime are together, and Ichigo and Ganju are together. And um... actually I forget who Yoruichi was with initially. Anyway, they'll all have to face plenty of Soul Reapers in battle, while trying to find each other again, as well as trying to find where Rukia is being held. Ichigo and Ganju will be assisted by Hanataro Yamada of the 4th squad, who mainly provide medical services for the other squads, since they're not good at battle. While Hanataro is technically the enemy, he likes Rukia and wants them to rescue her.

Well, there are a ton of Soul Reapers to meet in the course of this (and the next) arc of the series, mostly captains and lieutenants, though there are some lower ranking ones, as well. It's really kind of hard to keep them all straight, though some of them are of more importance to the story than others, and so we learn more about them. The head captain of the 13 court guard squads is Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryusai, captain of Squad 1. His lieutenant is Chojiro Sasakibe. We don't really get to know them well, but of course they're the most powerful Soul Reapers around. Squad 2's captain is Soi Fon, who is also the head of the Stealth Force. Yoruichi Shihouin (who we eventually learn is actually a woman, and neither cat nor male, despite the male voice she uses in her cat form) had previously held this position. Anyway, I don't recall ever getting to know Soi Fon's lieutenant at all. Squad 3's captain is Gin Ichimaru, who has a devilish smile, and his eyes are always shut. His lieutenant is Izuru Kira, who's friends with various other lieutenants. Squad 4's captain is Retsu Unohana. Her lieutenant is Isane Kotetsu. As I mentioned earlier, Squad 4 is the medical squad, and another of its members is Hanataro Yamada. Squad 5's captain is Sosuke Aizen. His lieutenant is Momo Hinamori. I already mentioned Squad 6 Captain Byakuya Kuchiki and his lieutenant, Renji Abarai. Squad 7's captain is Sajin Komamura, who looks like an anthropomorphic dog, for some reason. His lieutenant is Tetsuzaemon Iba. Squad 8's captain is Shunsui Kyoraku, who is pretty laid back. His lieutenant is Nanao Ise. She's often rather frustrated by his behavior. Squad 9's captain is Kaname Tosen. His lieutenant is Shuhei Hisagi. Squad 10's captain is Toshiro Hitsugaya, who was a childhood friend of Momo Hinamori. Even though he's an adult now, he still looks rather like a child. He's also the youngest captain ever (though most Soul Reapers look younger than they are, anyway, and may be centuries old). His lieutenant is Rangiku Matsumoto. Hitsugaya is often frustrated by her behavior. Also, she's an old friend of Gin Ichimaru. Squad 11's captain is Kenpachi Zaraki, who loves fighting more than anyone else. His lieutenant is the adorably childlike Yachiru Kusajishi, who is really goofy, and calls her captain "Kenny." The 3rd Seat of the squad is Ikkaku Madrame, who likes fighting almost as much as his captain. The 5th Seat is Yumichika Ayasegawa, a friend of Ikkaku's who is mostly concerned with his own looks. The captain of Squad 12 is Mayuri Kurotsuchi, who looks and sounds just crazy. And he kinda is. He's head of the Research and Development division (which maybe that's also Squad 12, I dunno). His lieutenant is Nemu Kurotsuchi, who Mayuri created artificially. Kisuke Urahara was formerly captain of that squad. Squad 13's captain is Jushiro Ukitake, who suffers from tuberculosis, but he's about the nicest guy in the Soul Society. His lieutenant was Kaien Shiba, but since his death, the squad hasn't gotten a new lieutenant. There are two Soul Reapers who share the position of 3rd Seat, Kiyone Kotesu (Isane's sister), and Kentaro Kotsubaki. They also share the duties of a lieutenant, though they're constantly squabbling with each other. As I mentioned, Rukia is also a member of squad 13. I think that's all the major Soul Reapers, for now, though I'm sure I'm leaving some minor ones out....

Anyway, in the midst of the ryokas' intrusion into the Seireitei, Captain Aizen is murdered. Since there's so much confusion, it doesn't seem like there's much time for a proper investigation, and many wonder if the intruders are responsible, though Momo thinks the real culprit is Captain Ichimaru. Meanwhile, our heroes have to battle tons of Soul Reapers as they search for Rukia.

Season 3: The Rescue arc. It really seems to me like the same story arc as season 2. There are more battles, and we continue to learn more about various Soul Reapers (including the truth about what happened to Kaien Shiba), and Yoruichi trains Ichigo to unleash Zangetsu's bankai (every zanpakuto has its own unique high-level attack called a bankai, but usually only Soul Reapers of captain-level or possibly lieutenant-level strength can use bankai). As for how the arc ends, I must warn you there's a major spoiler coming up. Eventually a number of Soul Reapers who had battled our heroes end up joining them in the attempt to rescue Rukia. But in the end, we learn that Sosuke Aizen had staged his own death. We also find that the members of the Central 46, the governing body of the Soul Society, had all been killed (which leaves the 13 court guard squads, under head captain Yamamoto, in charge; though there's still a royal family, I'm not sure they actually do much governing). Aizen had two accomplices: Captains Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen. Aizen obtained an invention of Urahara's called the Hogyoku, which he and his accomplices take with them to Hueco Mundo, the world of Hollows. We'll learn more about their plans in a later arc. Anyway, Rukia's life is spared, but she remains in the Soul Society when her friends return to the human world. And Ichigo is accepted as a substitute soul reaper. We also learn that Byakuya actually cares about Rukia, after all.

Season 4: The Bount arc and season 5: The Assault arc. This is considered filler, because it's not based on the manga. Bounts are people who feed on souls rather like vampires feeding on blood. Before we meet any of them, however, Ichigo and his friends face a few mysterious enemies, mod souls named Ririn, Noba, and Kurodo. They, however, are not what they seem. Anyway, their story wraps up quickly enough, and leads into the Bount arc. There's a mystery about just what these Bounts are up to. All I can say is that their plans could have devastating consequences for the whole world. Or worlds. And in season 5, the Bounts invade the Soul Society. Ichigo and his friends are helped in defeating the Bounts by an exiled Soul Reaper named Ran'Tao. I don't really feel like mentioning any of the Bounts by name at all, or detailing the events of these two seasons. In spite of the arc being filler, I liked it reasonably well, though a lot of fans didn't. And even I will admit the filler is not as good as the stuff that's based on the manga. Though, of course, I've never read the manga, so I can't really compare it anyway. Well, eventually the Bount arc is wrapped up, and nothing really changes for the regular characters, though they will occasionally mention stuff that happened. And the mod souls continue staying with Urahara.

Season 6: The Arrancar arc. Finally, we return to the main story from the manga. So, we'll get to see more of Aizen, in Hueco Mundo. I should say there are various types of Hollows, the most powerful being Menos. And there are three different levels of Menos: Gillian (aka Menos Grande), Adjucha, and Vasto Lorde. Vasto Lordes are the most powerful (supposedly stronger than soul reaper captains), and look the most human. (Lower-level Hollows, especially Gillians, tend to be much larger, and come in various shapes, though Gillians all seem to look like giant noh-mask wearing, black-cloaked creatures, like a much bigger version of No-Face from Spirited Away). Anyway, some Vasto Lordes become Arrancar, which are Hollows who have awakened Soul Reaper powers within themselves. Aizen's plan involves improving this transformation to make them especially powerful, using the stolen Hogyoku. The ten most powerful Arrancar are called the Espada, each designated by a number, 0-9 (the Espada may each have two-digit Arrancar called Fracciónes as their direct subordinates). At the start of the Arrancar arc, there are some Arrancar making trouble in the world of the living. So, Ichigo and his friends (including Rukia and a few other Soul Reapers, led by Captain Hitsugaya, along with Rangiku, Renji, Ikkaku, and Yumichika) will have to deal with the Arrancar threat. Um... there are lots of Arrancar I should mention, particularly the Espada, but I actually don't feel the need to mention them all, necessarily. There's one named Grimmjow Jaegerjaques (Espada 6), who defeats Ichigo at one point, but leaves him alive.

Meanwhile, we have known for quite some time that there is a Hollow within Ichigo, because when he was first training with Urahara, there was a chance that he'd become either a Soul Reaper or a Hollow. The Hollow version of Ichigo is more powerful than he is, and it's constantly trying to take control of Ichigo, who must fight to prevent this, even when releasing it would help him win battles he might otherwise lose. And now it seems there are a number of Soul Reapers who have released their inner Hollows (kind of the opposite of how the Arrancar came to be), and they call themselves Visoreds (or Vizards). And they want to recruit Ichigo, who wants nothing to do with them. At least, not until after he's defeated by Grimmjow; after that he, begins training with them, and eventually learns to release and control his inner Hollow, which greatly increases his strength, albeit for a limited time period in any battle. The main Visored is Shinji Hirako. The others include girls named Mashiro Kuna, Hiyori Sarugaki, and Lisa Yadomaru, and guys named Love Aikawa, Kensei Muguruma, Rojuro "Rose" Otoribashi, and Hachigen Ushoda.

And there are plenty of other things going on, including a surprising revelation about Ichigo's father, Isshin, though so far in my viewing, Ichigo hasn't learned the truth about this. Meanwhile, Uryu learns something surprising about his own father, who will help him regain his lost Quincy powers, if he promises never to associate with Soul Reapers again. (I forgot to mention before that he'd lost his powers, didn't I? I think that was during the Rescue arc, though in the interrim he had other ways of helping his friends.) At one point, Keigo meets Ikkaku and Yumichika, when they were battling an Arrancar. (It's weird that he could see them, but throughout the series we occasionally see that some of Ichigo's friends, most notably Tatsuki but apparently also the less important ones, have a certain degree of spiritual awareness.) This leads to some comic relief, including the fact that Keigo's sister Mizuho develops a crush on Ikkaku (she likes bald guys). Also, we learn that Aizen wants to overthrow the king of the Soul Society. There are several filler episodes at the end of season 6 and start of season 7.

Season 7: The Hueco Mundo arc and season 8: Arrancar: The Fierce Fight arc. After a few filler episodes, there are more battles against Arrancar in the human world. Later, Orihime is taken to Hueco Mundo by Ulquiorra Schiffer (Espada 4), as Aizen's prisoner in his fortress, Las Noches. And Tatsuki begins to become more suspicious about the secrets being kept by Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, and Uryu. She gets mad at Ichigo for lying to her, but he's just trying to protect her by not involving her in his Soul Reaper activities. Meanwhile, Ichigo, Uryu, and Chad go to Hueco Mundo to rescue Orihime (against the orders of Head Captain Yamamoto). They're befriended by an Arrancar named Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck (Nel), who looks like a little girl, and her "brothers," hollows named Dondochakka Bilstin and Pesche Guatiche. Those three are all pretty goofy, and not particularly powerful. Ichigo's group is then joined by Rukia and Renji. Our heroes will eventually get split up, and they all have to fight lots of powerful Arrancar and other Hollows, including various Espada (but even the lower levels tend to be quite powerful, especially the Privaron Espada, who were former members of the Espada). I don't feel the need to detail all the different battles, but I'll say that Nel went with Ichigo, Pesche went with Uryu (who fought a Privaron Espada named Cirucci Sanderwicci, which I mention only because I really liked her), and Dondochakka went with Renji. Chad and Rukia were each alone, and their fights didn't exactly go well. After defeating Cirucci, Uryu and Pesche join Renji and Dondochakka, and Uryu helps Renji in his ongoing battle against Szayel Aporro Granz (Espada 8). Eventually, Ulquiorra confronts and nearly kills Ichigo, but then Grimmjow brings Orihime to heal Ichigo, so he can fight Ichigo himself (while Orihime and Nel watch). We also see Tia Harribel (Espada 3), along with her Fracciones, watching the fight from elsewhere. Season 8 ends with a flashback to Grimmjow's past, before we finally see Ichigo defeat him and reunite with Orihime and Nel.

Season 9: The New Captain Shusuke Amagai arc. The Hueco Mundo story hasn't actually been concluded, but it's interrupted by this filler season. Ichigo and his friends are all back home in the world of the living, but I'm not sure when exactly it's set (though presumably it must be after the still unfinished Arrancar storyline), or if it's even canonical. Anyway, there are still three squads in the Soul Society without captains, ever since Aizen and the others went to Hueco Mundo. One of those positions is finally filled this season, by Shusuke Amagai, who replaces Ichimaru as Squad 3's new captain. He brings with him Makoto Kibune, as his 3rd Seat. Meanwhile, Ichigo meets a young princess from the Soul Society named Rurichiyo Kasumioji, who is protected by two Soul Reapers called Kenryu and Enryu. The three of them move into the house next to Ichigo, and become students at Karakura High (even though Rurichiyo looks too young and her bodyguards look too old). There are assassins who are trying to kill Rurichiyo, and Ichigo and Rukia end up helping protect her. They eventually learn the assassins are being sent by Gyokaku Kumoi, one of the leaders of the Kasumioji clan (one of the noble clans of the Soul Society). He wants Rurichiyo dead so he can take over the clan. Another important plot point is that some of the assassins wield swords called bakoto, which feed on the user's power, and may eventually consume the user. Chad, Uryu, and Orihime also get caught up in the battles against the assassins. Meanwhile, Kumoi installs Rurichiyo's fiance, Shu Kannogi, as head of the clan. Rurichiyo returns to the Soul Society by herself, but Ichigo, Rukia, Kenryu, and Enryu follow, to rescue her. They end up at odds with pretty much all the Soul Reapers, as Head Captain Yamamoto has ordered that the Kasumioji clan cannot be interfered with. However, Shu does what he can to help Ichigo and the others. And eventually, Captain Amagai also lends his help, after Lt. Kira discovers that 3rd Seat Kibune is somehow involved with Kumoi. But... there's a twist ending which I won't say anything about. Except that by the end of the season, Squad 3 will once again be without a captain.

Season 10: Arrancar vs. Shinigami arc. The season picks up where season 8 left off, with a quick recap of Ichigo's battles with Ulquiorra and then Grimmjow. But then Nnoitora Jiruga (Espada 5) shows up, and starts fighting Ichigo, who hasn't had time to recover from his battle with Grimmjow. Nnoitora informs Ichigo that Nel isn't what she appears: she is actually a former Espada. In spite of this, Ichigo protects her from Nnoitora, but then Nel transforms into her former, adult form, and protects Ichigo from Nnoitora. (Nel's old number was 3, so she was originally stronger than Nnoitora, though he says her number is meaningless, since the Espada have all gotten stronger in the years she's been gone.) At some point during the battle, Nel unexpectedly reverts to her child form. Meanwhile, Uryu, Renji, Pesche, and Dondochakka tried to escape Granz, so they could look for Chad and Rukia, but ended up having to face Granz yet again. But eventually Mayuri and Nemu Kurotsuchi show up and take over that fight. In fact a number of soul reapers show up in Hueco Mundo and begin fighting various Arrancar. Kenpachi Zaraki shows up to fight Nnoitora, and Byakuya Kuchiki fights Zommari Leroux, who had been about to kill Rukia (who was already nearly dead after her previous fight with another arrancar in season 8). Also, Retsu Unohana and Isane Kotetsu of squad 4 show up to heal various people. But after Kenpachi defeats Nnoitora, another arrancar shows up and takes Orihime away, once again delivering her to Aizen. Then Aizen, Gin Ichimaru, and Kaname Tosen head to Karakura Town, to destroy it, though Head Captain Yamamoto and other soul reaper captains appear to oppose them. Before fighting can get underway, the season ends with a couple of filler episodes involving Rurichiyo Kasumioji returning to Karakura after an argument with Kenryu, which Ichigo and his friends get caught up in.

Season 11: The Past arc. This season is only seven episodes long, but it's wicked awesome. It flashes back to 110 years in the past. It's important to learn about things that happened in the past, to help understand what's going on in the present, but it's also just really fun to see familiar characters in a different light... and sometimes not so different. Aizen is still a lieutenant. We also get to see a number of characters we first met as Visoreds when they were still Soul Reapers, including Shinji Hirako, who was Aizen's captain. We also see Kisuke Urahara when he was 3rd seat of squad 2, who then becomes the captain of squad 12, per Yoruichi Shihouin's recommendation (she was still captain of squad 2 at the time). And we get to see another future Visored, Hiyori Sarugaki, who was lieutentant of squad 12 at the time, and doesn't like Kisuke becoming her new captain. And we learn of Kisuke's plan to start the Department of Research and Development, as well as offering Mayuri Kurotsuchi (who was a dangerous prisoner at the time) the position of second in command of this new department. We also get to see a young Byakuya Kuchiki (who is playfully taunted by Yoruichi, much to his annoyance). And we see captain Jushiro Ukitake talking with his lieutenant, Kaien Shiba, about a young prodigy who just graduated from Soul Reaper academy. It turns out to be a young Gin Ichimaru, who is befriended by Lt. Aizen. After three episodes, the season flashes forward to 101 years before the present....

As always, I look forward to learning more about everything and everyone in the show. It's all very cool, and interesting, and funny, and I like the characters, and all the different opening and closing themes are really great, and the episode previews are always pretty funny (though they don't always do that, especially in the filler arcs), and of course all the girls are quite attractive, and... I dunno what else to say right now.

There have also been some movies, including Memories of Nobody and The DiamondDust Rebellion.


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