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What is Bleach?

on Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:29 am
The planes of existence in the Bleach universe broadly correspond to the life and afterlife of Human belief systems. The living Humans of Bleach reside in a world resembling present-day Japan; buried souls live in a kind of Heaven called Soul Society; evil souls are sent to Hell. Once in Soul Society, a spirit is able to live longer than Humans in the living world, with many aging into the thousands of years. Once a spirit dies in Soul Society, its soul is sent back to the living world and reborn as a new human. This provides the two worlds with balance.

* Human World: The Human World of Bleach is modern Japan, specifically, a fictional area of Western Tokyo called Karakura Town. In this world, Ichigo attends school and fights Hollows. Places of note are the high school, the Urahara Shop, the river where Ichigo's mother was killed, the cemetery, Karakura Hospital, and Ichigo and Orihime's homes.
* Soul Society: Soul Society consists of an expansive walled city, Seireitei (瀞霊廷, Court of Pure Souls) in the center and four regions, each with 80 districts, outside of it. The districts outside of the Seireitei are known as the Rukongai (流魂街, Town of Wandering Spirits) and are the place where non-Shinigami and commoners live. The district number of the Rukongai (ranging from 1 to 80) also describes its conditions. District 1, the closest to Seireitei, is peaceful and orderly, while the most distant District 80 is filled with criminals and has the poorest living conditions. A king resides in another realm within Soul Society.
* Hueco Mundo: Hueco Mundo is the desert-like area between the Human World and Soul Society. Literally meaning "hollow world" (the word hueco can also mean "empty"), it is where hollows reside when not hunting in the human world, where they are undetectable. Entrances to Hueco Mundo are created by ripping the dimensional fabric between the two worlds (Garganta).
* Hell: Hell is the destination of those who committed unforgivably evil acts during their lives in the human world. When a hollow whose mortal soul is too wicked to enter Soul Society is slain by a Zanpakutō, the gates of hell (giant doors held by skeletons) appear and begin to open. A giant, laughing spiritual being with a blade spears the wicked spirit and drags it down into hell.

Bleach characters move from world to world by several means. Shinigami open passages between worlds by means of their Zanpakutō. Butterflies created during Soul Burial, called Jigokuchō, make these routes safe. Human souls usually cross between planes only through birth into the Human World or soul burial by Shinigami. Living humans can also use special portals to move between worlds, but this is dangerous. While hollows are portrayed as able to move between planes at will by opening rifts in space, they usually remain in Hueco Mundo due to the risk of discovery in Soul Society or the Human World. Encounters between characters crossing realms are a driving plot force in Bleach.

The story opens with the sudden appearance of Shinigami Rukia Kuchiki in Ichigo Kurosaki's bedroom. She is surprised at his ability to see her, but their conversation is shortly interrupted by the appearance of a "Hollow", an evil spirit. After Rukia is severely wounded while trying to protect Ichigo, she attempts to transfer half her powers to Ichigo in order to let him face the Hollow on equal footing. Ichigo instead unintentionally absorbs almost all her energy, allowing him to defeat the hollow with ease. The next day Rukia appears in Ichigo's classroom as a seemingly normal Human, and informs Ichigo that his absorption of her powers has left her stranded in the Human World until she recovers her strength. In the meantime Ichigo shelters Rukia in his home and takes over her job as a Shinigami, battling Hollows and guiding lost souls to Soul Society.

After a few months of this arrangement, in the sixth volume of the series, Rukia's Shinigami superiors interpret her disappearance as desertion, send a detachment to arrest her, and sentence her to death. Ichigo is unable to stop Rukia's capture, but with the help of several of his classmates who also possess spiritual abilities and ex-Shinigami Kisuke Urahara, he sets off for the Shinigami base, located in the afterlife realm known as Soul Society. Once there, Ichigo and company battle against the elites of the Shinigami military, and are ultimately successful in halting Rukia's execution.

It is then revealed that Rukia's execution and Ichigo's rescue attempt were both manipulated by Sōsuke Aizen, a high ranking Shinigami previously believed to be murdered, as part of a far-reaching plot to take control of Soul Society. Aizen betrays his fellow Shinigami and allies himself with the Hollows, becoming the main antagonist of the series, and Ichigo teams up with his former enemies in Soul Society after learning that the next step in Aizen's plan involves the destruction of his home town. The Gotei 13 unite to defeat Aizen and the Arrancar but are unable to stop Aizen in the Fake Karakura Town they created. Ichigo eventually defeats Aizen in Soul Society at the cost of his Shinigami powers. At this point, Bleach chronicles Ichigo's attempt to regain his lost powers. According to Tite Kubo, the ending of the series is not yet planned out or written.
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