More than 3.5 million copies of the series have been read in 13 countries, and thousands of fan Web sites are dedicated to it. Fans submit artwork and original stories to these sites. They also dress-up (cosplay) as their favorite characters.
Additionally, Bleach has produced a media franchise, including an ongoing animated television series, two original video animations, four animated feature films, seven rock musicals, numerous video games and related merchandise.
The 33-year-old Kubo said his characters were based on a mixture of Japanese and Spanish culture. ”Spanish has always sounded bewitching and mellow to me,” he said in a Shonen Jump interview.
The story, set in Japan, is about the adventures of teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who can see dead spirits. He obtained these powers from a Soul Reaper, or Shinigami, called Rukia Kuchiki. She is the Death God of Japanese folklore, similar to the Grim Reaper. Ichigo’s improved vision and other new powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife.
Kubo is involved with the character designs. “Usually the character designs are done with manga artists just overseeing, but in my case I actually draw what all the characters should look like,” Kubo said. “I am essentially drawing all of the characters that appear in the anime. It is very rare for the artist to be involved this much.”
Another popular Bleach character is Kisuke Urahara, a strange robed man who wears geta, traditional Japanese wooden sandals, and whose face is partially covered by a hat. He is a local convenience store owner in the human world and a genius in the spirit world. He helps Ichigo save Rukia’s life and provides Ichigo with important information, inventions and guidance.
The series has been published in popular manga magazines Weekly Shonen Jump and Shonen Jump America since 2001 and 2007, respectively. With 50 volumes and more than 450 chapters, the manga shows no signs of coming to an end.
“I can’t really say how long this story will be by the time it ends, but I have a few more stories that I want to tell, so this series will go on for a while,” Kubo said.
He always keeps fans guessing with cliffhanger endings that have become his style. For example, in a recent chapter (spoiler alert), Ichigo is seemingly killed in battle by Sosuke Aizez’s General Espada Ulquiorra Schiffer. At the beginning of the next chapter, Ichigo is seen deep in thought. Then at the end of that chapter, he is resurrected into a more powerful form.
The surprising twists in the stories entwine the readers and leave them anxiously waiting to be Bleached once more.
Jackson is an anime artist living in Tokyo.