Bleach is an ongoing Japanese Manga series written and illustrated by Noriaki "Tite" Kubo. Bleach follows the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki, a 15 year old freshman in high school who has the power to see spirits and Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper. The story chronicles their adventures battling enemies who threaten the safety of the world.
The story of Bleach begins with the introduction of Ichigo Kurosaki, a high school student in Karakura town (fictionally west of Tokyo). He is different than most because of his unique ability to see spirits, a trait that Ichigo doesn't gloat about. In the beginning of the series, Ichigo becomes more aware of his power when he encounters a Soul Reaper (Shinigami) named Rukia, who was sent by the Soul Society to protect his town. He learns that she is hunting down an evil Spirit known as a Hollow. The same Hollow attacks Ichigo's family and badly injures Rukia, causing Ichigo to feel guilt at not being strong enough to protect anyone. It is at the same moment that Rukia offers to transfer some of her Soul Reaper powers into Ichigo in order to save them from the Hollow. Ichigo agrees and gains her full power and defeats the Hollow. The next day however, Ichigo wakes up to find the Soul Reaper gone, and his family having forgotten about the whole ordeal. Not questioning what happened, Ichigo arrives to school to find Rukia posing as a new transfer student. She explains to Ichigo that she has lost her Soul Reaper powers and that they now reside within Ichigo thus making him a "Substistute" Soul Reaper in her place. This is what jumpstarts the tale with Ichigo taking on Rukia's job while she slowly regains her own powers while masquerading as a student in Ichigo's school but also stays in his closet-much to his annoyance.
The series continues with little adventures featuring Ichigo and Rukia facing new paranormal problems within Karakura Town occasionally revolving around Ichigo's associates and classmates. Two in particular, Orihime Inoue-a ditzy large chested girl with a big heart-and Yasutora "Chad" Sado-a Mexican-Japanese student and Ichigo's best friend-gain their own special abilities and fight alongside Ichigo against the threat of the Hollows. This becomes prominent when Ichigo also battles another student Uryu Ishida who happens to be a member of a spiritually aware race of humans called "Quincy" who were eradicated by the Soul Reapers. Ichigo and Ishida battle while Ishida draws bait for hundreds of Hollows to invade Karakura including a rare Hollow called a "Menos Grande" which could destroy the city. Putting aside their differences Ichigo joins forces with Ishida and defeats the Menos Grande much to Rukia's surprise. The story then takes an interesting turn when Rukia leaves Ichigo to return to the Soul Society but is rather kidnapped by her adoptive brother Byakuya Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper Captain, and his lieutenant Renji Abarai. Ichigo appears to briefly battle Byakuya and Renji but is beaten by their overwhelming strength and left for dead while Rukia is taken back.
The next phase of the series begins with Ichigo meeting a mysterious man named Kisuke Urahara who is knowledgeable of Soul Reapers and decides to train Ichigo in order to rescue Rukia. Ichigo agrees and after one month goes to the Soul Society with his friends and Urahara's black cat associate Yoruichi-revealed to be a former Soul Reaper captain along with Urahara-to battle the Soul Reapers. The group is later joined by Ganju Shiba, a resident of Soul Society's outer district, and Hanataro Yamada, a young Soul Reaper and member of the medical division, while Ichigo battles several of the Soul Reaper Captains and Lieutenants. During the course of these battles Ichigo becomes much stronger than before and manages to save Rukia from execution, now with a remorseful Renji, while a Civil War breaks out among the Soul Reaper captains until finally it is revealed that all the events prior were manipulated by the powerful Soul Reaper Captain Sousuke Aizen. Aizen used the events to get to Rukia and steal a powerful relic created by Kisuke Urahara-whose role was a scientist in Soul Society-which was stored in her body. After this he and two other captains, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen, defect from Soul Society to the land of Hollows Hueco Mundo in order to launch an invasion of Soul Society. After this Ichigo is heralded as a hero and made a full Substitute Soul Reaper recognized by the Captains along with his friends. They leave soon after with Rukia remaining in Soul Society but not before thanking Ichigo as a friend.
Sometime after Ichigo and friends are drawn back into battle when Hollows that have gained Soul Reaper powers, dubbed "Arrancars", invade Karakura Town under the orders of Aizen and a group of powerful Arrancar called the Espada. When Orihime is kidnapped by Aizen Ichigo, Rukia, and the rest of their friends go to Hueco Mundo to rescue her while battling several of the Espada and other Arrancar. This is however a ruse as Aizen and the top Espada alongwith their loyal subjects attack a Fake Karakura Town where the Soul Reapers and a group of Soul Reapers with Hollow Powers called "Vizards" face him. But Aizen defeats them despite this and Ichigo, after defeating several Espada with the help of Byakuya and other Captains, goes to fight Aizen in Fake Karakura. Later on Urahara, Yoruichi, and Ichigo's father Isshin Kurosaki-revealed to have been a former Soul Reaper Captain all along- appear to aid Ichigo in facing Aizen and defeat him. Through a series of attempts to kill Aizen-even by Gin who is killed-Ichigo manages to defeat Aizen with a final attack that wipes out his Soul Reaper powers and Aizen himself is captured and imprisoned. With this battle over Ichigo returns to living a normal life without any powers while Rukia returns to the Soul Society.
17 months later Ichigo encounters a group of humans with special abilities called "Fullbringers" who are seeking to be rid of their powers. Ichigo is coerced into helping them by regaining his own powers and then taking theirs, but this is revealed to be a ruse by the groups leader Kugo Ginjo who uses another Fullbringer, Shukuro Tsukishima, and his ability to manipulate memories to brainwash Ichigo's friends and family. However Ichigo is saved by Rukia who returns from Soul Society with Byakuya and other Soul Reapers and restores Ichigo's powers to face Ginjo, then revealed to actually be the First Substitute Soul Reaper before Ichigo. Ichigo faces Ginjo in a final sword duel in which Ginjo is killed through a stab to the heart and dies questioning whether Ichigo would have taken his path if he'd been the first or remained loyal to Soul Society. After this Ichigo takes Ginjo's corpse from Soul Society to bury it in the living world as a sign of respect to his predecessor while the General Captain acknowledges him once again as a Soul Reaper and continue on with his duty supported by his friends, family, and Rukia.
Bleach itself is not without flaw, it is somewhat imperfect that having a large cast of characters of different races and abilities can get rather confusing. Also the length of each chapter released weekly is short of content leading for viewers for more story in anger. But it does good on somewhat interesting characters overall and really interesting themes presented such as in the early arcs them of dealing with death and how an individual handles it. As time passed on with each arc evolving and the universe expanding the story focused on action rather than plot with character motives and actions seeming rather odd or just confusing. Such could be said for Aizen who continued to just be a seemingly impossible character to defeat and one who should have died given all he'd done but was left alive for the continuing story while the new villain Ginjo was made more interesting but his background never actually explained in depth and was just killed off to jumpstart a new arc. One could argue Ginjo was not a villain at all as his full background was never properly told nor were his exact actions ever shown via images rather just spoken of by other characters. If his full past was shown Ginjo would have made a better villain than Aizen who to this time just remains overly complex and intriguing.
The series does earn points however with it's character relationships presented throughout the story. As early as the first chapter Bleach presents how important a relationship with family is such as with Ichigo and his young sisters wanting to protect them since his mother died. Or the third chapter with Orihime Inoue who is an orphan and who lost her brother in a fatal car accident right before not saying goodbye. The resolution to that particular situation is also very beautifully written as Orihime has a final chance to tell her brother to "Have a good day" right before he passes on to the other side. Many characters are interestingly enough either orphaned or have one parent, or no parents leading to many to consider their close friends as family leading to strong bonds between many characters which grow over time. This focus on relationships does somewhat lessen as the series progresses focusing on the supernatural instead but these strong concepts remain with the characters even still. Such as when Orihime states to an Arrancar named Ulquiorra that her friends would rescue her and that she knew so because she would do the same for them, thus she was not afraid of him which also affects Ulquiorra's character in turn. This occurs for many other characters as well who are influenced by these ideals and change from their cold or brash selves to be more tolerable and cherish those around them. Even with all the extra elements and otherwise odd humor these themes remain central to the characters and reaches out to even the viewer who may relate at least with one soul in this story.
Bleach I would say is a good manga/anime series. It is not the best out there, there are millions of them to choose from even within the shonen/action genre. But Bleach does have it's moments and a colorful cast of characters to like. You would have to dig past it's sometimes out of place humor, action, complicated storylines, and even slow chapters to grasp the deep themes but once you have you like the tale and that is good. I would say to check out the series,, it may not be your cup of tea or it just may. The manga is currently ongoing with a final long arc while the anime has just recently ended concluding with the Fullbring arc from the manga. Several bonus data books relating to the characters and little stories have been released in North America while several have yet to be translated from Japanese. Four movies were also released for the anime while a rumored live action version is being proposed by Warner Bros. studios, though I pray not with what happened to Dragon Ball and Avatar.