(From the 20th Anniversary Special Edition of Bleach Volume 1)
- Story and Art by: Tite Kubo
- Translation: Joe Yamazaki
- English Adaptation: Lance Caselman
- Touch-up Art & Lettering: Andy Ristaino
- Cover, Graphics & Design: Sean Lee
- 20th Anniversary Cover Design: Jimmy Presler
- Editor/s: Kit Fox
- Published by: Viz Media
- Chapters in this volume: 7
Bleach was one of the first anime I ever got into back in my days at secondary school. However, I never fully watched it all the way through because of my constantly changing hyper-fixations due to what I now know is autism. I have, however, always loved the show and the story so a while back I bought the first few volumes of the manga…then I sold them to a friend, so now I’m buying them again.
Whilst I ordered the first 3-in-1 volume of the Bleach manga I also picked up the special 20th Anniversary edition of volume 1, which is nothing truly special besides a different cover print but it’s a cool collector’s item for the manga collection either way. So whilst I wait for my 3-in-1 to arrive, I decided to dive back into the world of Bleach, and here is my review.
Ichigo Kurasaki is a 15-year-old boy who has always had the ability to see ghosts, but the veil between life and death expands far beyond what he originally could have imagined, but he soon learns the truth when he meets a soul reaper, a being from the soul society that cannot be seen by regular humans, and whose job it is to reap and cleanse the souls of the deceased.
When a monster soul, known as a Hollow, attacks Ichigo’s family, an injured Rukia, the soul reaper, offers to grant Ichigo her soul-reaping powers for the time being, but when his body consumes all of her power, Ichigo must take up the mantle of Substitute Soul Reaper, until Rukia can regain her powers and return to the Soul Society.
It is now Ichigo’s job to defeat any Hollows that wander into the world of the living, whilst learning what it truly means to be a soul reaper, as well as the harsh truths about death. Not all souls pass on easily, and some are consumed by monsters.
The story of Bleach caught my attention from the very first episode of the anime when I first watched the show, and has remained a fond favourite of mine ever since. With so many different aspects on such a grim topic as death, it really makes for an entertaining, action-packed, and heartwarming journey, as we the reader, along with Ichigo and his allies, learn more and more about the differences between the world of the living, the Soul Society, and the world of the Hollows, as well as how they all interact with one another.
The stories told within the first volume are of course introductory stories, but that’s not to say they are slow. The action and the humour are present from the very beginning and we get a glimpse of the good guy that Ichigo is, whilst also seeing that he is not someone to mess with, which in my mind is always a good way for a protagonist to be.
It eases the reader into the rules of this fictional world by introducing us to a soul reaper, as well as a summary of their jobs, hollows and what they truly are, Ichigo’s friends, who get slowly introduced one by one, and more importantly, it gives us a glimpse of Ichigo’s hidden power that will be revealed as the series of stories continue.
It’s safe to say that author Tite Kubo has created a jam-packed world full to the brim with lore and possibilities, but instead of ramming it down our throats and expecting us to follow aimlessly, he has gracefully penned a story that eases the reader in and allows us to go on the journey with Ichigo, learning as the protagonist learns which really helps the reader to relate and sympathise with the protagonist, making this a new experience for all.
As well as penning a great story, Tite Kubo also penned some incredible designs for his characters. Each individual is unique and no two characters look the same, making it easy to see who’s in the scene. Ichigo, like many other manga/anime characters, has spikey hair but Kubo has maintained a design that fits more to Ichigo’s character rather than having over-the-top spikes like in other anime/manga such as Dragon Ball for example. Ichigo’s hair is more of a scruffy look that suits his character well.
The costume changes for Ichigo and Rukia are a nice touch, as it helps to identify what scenario is playing out depending on their costumes. When Ichigo is enduring everyday life such as school or home, he is in a slim-fitting shirt and trousers, making it easy to see that he is just hanging around doing whatever, but when he transitions into a soul reaper, he wears a black uniform similar to what Rukia was wearing when she is introduced to us in the first chapter. These robes are worn by all soul reapers which makes it easy to tell them apart from the other characters, and if you see Ichigo wearing his, you as the reader become aware that his soul is no longer in his body, as we see when Rukia uses a special glove to separate the two.
The design of the Hollows is also rather terrifying but cool. Each Hollow wears a white mask, which usually captures part of the human they once were, whilst mixing that with the form of an animal. The masks of each Hollow are as unique as each human character’s design, making you realise that each Hollow was once a unique, individual human, rather than just another monster.
The art featured on the cover of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Volume 1 was apparently used as the cover art during the launch of the series on August 20th, 2001, in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, as stated on the back of the book. It features Ichigo, Rukia and Ichigo’s youngest sibling, Yuzu.
Though I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps it is simply a concept the artist had or maybe just a design drawn up for splash pages that don’t add to the story in any way (which you’ll find a few of in the volume), Ichigo is wearing a very loud costume, with 2 plasters (band-aids) on his face, which are never part of the story as far as I’m aware, especially this early on. Ichigo is pretty much never seen wearing such flamboyant designs so perhaps it’s simply for the sake of art with a certain character. Either way, it’s really fun and cool to see these designs.
If you love supernatural action stories then Bleach is one I recommend. When one of my friends wanted to start watching anime, I introduced them to Bleach because it feels like it’s an easy story to delve into and the more complicated elements don’t happen until later in the series, by which point you’ll have already gone over the basic rules a few times so that they’re as much a second nature understanding to you as they are to Ichigo at that point.
It’s a story full of action, drama, and hilarious comedy that resides in both the manga and the anime. Tite Kubo has created a world that has so much to offer during what feels like an emotional rollercoaster.