ANIME & MANGA - Article
08:25 - 6th April 2013, by Matt Kamen

Bleach Season One: The Substitute

Hold onto your hats, because NEO is about to take you on a tour of the first four seasons of the Bleach anime - think of this as a refresher course for veterans, and a catch-up session for newbies!

Bleach is the improbably-named afterlife adventures of Ichigo 'Strawberry' Kurosaki (teased in his youth for his naturally light hair, a pun that explains the series' title), who becomes an urgently deputised harvester of souls when the 'real deal' grim reaper, Rukia Kuchiki, is injured protecting him from a rampaging Hollow - a human soul lead astray after its death. Stuck on the material plane until she can recover her strength, Rukia guides Ichigo through his early adventures as a soul reaper, hiding out as a regular student at his school while she trains him in the use of his new but unusually strong spiritual powers.
Season one is where it all began! In addition to main characters Ichigo and Rukia, we're also introduced to the optimistic and friendly - not to mention buxom - Orihime Inoue; silent man-mountain Chad; ethereal archer Uryu Ishida; mysterious shopkeeper Kisuke Urahara and the modified soul-in-a-pill, Kon. After initially stealing Ichigo's body and damaging his reputation, Kon gets a body of his own, a plush lion toy, making him the cute mascot of the show - a ploy he uses to get up close and personal with the ladies!

This 20-episode season is all about introductions, origins and mysteries, and unlike many shonen adventures, it spends considerable time exploring the histories and motivations of the cast. Uryu's initial churlish nature towards Soul Reapers becomes clear when you learn how his people, the Quincies, were treated by them, and there's a real sadness that lurks behind Orihime's cheerful nature. The biggest secrets lie with Ichigo himself though, and we get the first hints of his family's connections to the Soul Society.

Meanwhile, we learn that all is not right in the afterlife, with otherworldly machinations affecting the power balance and ruling factions of Rukia's home - the kind of machinations that lead to betrayal and murder.

Other Soul Reapers appear towards the end of the season to arrest Rukia for sharing her powers with Ichigo. Taking her back to their home of Soul Society - the closest Bleach offers to an idea of Heaven - she unfairly faces the death penalty. Unable to prevent her abduction, the charge falls on Ichigo and the others to continue protecting the world from Hollows, while honing their burgeoning abilities in order to mount a rescue mission for their friend...

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