Genre: Action/adventure, Comedy
Fifteen year old Kurosaki Ichigo can see and interact with ghosts. Not a bad talent until evil ghosts called "hollows" seek to consume him for his spiritual energy. He is saved by Kuchiki Rukia, a "soul reaper." When Rukia is injured, Ichigo must temporarily take over her duties, which involve purifying the hollows. But what are the secrets and the history of the Soul Society?
Animation is clean, character designs are fairly typical anime style. The hollow monster designs are pretty scary/original but the designs of some of the normal main characters is annoying. It might be Orihime's big boobs, or Chad's big lips, or Ishida's white cape, or the kid with big thick eyebrows. They all look a bit ridiculously irritating. The opening theme has a nice up tempo, the ending themes are sweet, and the overall score is fine. Voices are generally appropriate but Orohime has one of those annoyingly high voices, while Rukia's seems rather too low.
Kurosaki Ichigo is a High School freshman whose family runs a medical clinic. His father is a doctor with ecchi issues and who enters into silly fights with his son and two daughters. Ichigo's two sisters have less spiritual energy but can also sense spirits. People with high spiritual energy attract hollows, ghosts who refused to move on and become evil and eat human souls. It is the duty of Soul reapers to vanquish/purify them. After Soul Reaper Kuchiki Rukia is injured while saving Ichigo, she temporarily transfers her powers to him. With her powers added to his own, he can manifest a huge sword. The first few episodes are episodic as Ichigo defeats one hollow after another and involve somewhat tragic, inspirational, touchy feely stories about helping ghosts cross over. The souls turn into butterflies and return to the Soul Society.
The premise is quite interesting where there is a hierarchal society (the Soul Society) in charge of the dead, but somehow this series is rather disappointing. There is some nice mythology and rules with interesting concepts such as "modified soul soldiers" (one gets trapped in a stuffed animal), and the Quincy (sworn enemies of the Soul reapers). The least annoying character with good potential is Rukia who has secrets of her own but not much is done with developing her character before she is given the damsel in distress role in the story arc where Ichigo and his friends storm the Soul Society to rescue Rukia.
The series tries to do too much yet ends up not doing quite enough. Soul Society is an interesting concept, but then it is left unexplored in favor of rather mediocre action scenes, much like Inuyasha swinging his big sword with minimal thought or strategy. The whole afterlife doesn't make much sense. Soul reapers appear to be chosen from the spirits of the dead, yet they bleed and can apparently die. The dead appear to be arbitrarily relegated to a caste system and don't get to be with their loved ones. Even worse is the inappropriate unfunny ecchi humor and forced comic scenes. A lesbian groping big boob Orihime is not funny, just stupid and distracting. The modified soul as Ichigo's replacement also has potential, but he ends up being just a patsy.
Ichigo is the typical reluctant hero who despite his bluster has a good heart. Although it's never clear why this series is called Bleach, I believed it had to do with the purification of souls rather than the color of his yellow hair, but then I read that the creator was influenced by a rock band. Ichigo is later joined by friends who also see spirits:
Orihime: naïve girl, object of boys' and girls' affections - fights with really stupid looking guardian fairies
Chad: a gentle giant with the personality of a wood plank, manifests special armor.
Ishida: a "quincy" who dresses in questionable attire, fires special arrows.
Rated PG-13 for some unnecessary and silly ecchi humor, and violence. Recommended for guys and action fans.