BleachStrawberry and the Soul Reapers: Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn’t change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family; but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia – who is slowly regaining her powers – it’s Ichigo’s job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.

If Naruto is currently leading the pack in terms of anime popularity, then Bleach must surely be placed squarely in second place. Almost as famous as it ninja rival, Bleach tells the story of on Ichigo Kurosaki, a hard-headed, stubborn brawler with the heart of gold and a desire to do the right thing. Plus, the ability to see spirits comes in pretty handy when he becomes inadvertently sucked into the world of the Soul Reapers or Shinigamis, beings responsible for maintaining the order in the spirit world.

Bleach was first serialized in 2001 and volume 1 introduces us to our orange haired protagonist and his head-on collision with the Soul Society, more specifically with that of Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki as she enters our world to combat a Hollow that has made its vile appearance in our plain of existence, specifically targeting a close friend of Ichigo. It wraps up this first tale before teasing us with the beginnings of a second, leaving us panting for more in anticipation of the second volume.

Tite Kubo is both the writer and artist on this title, and as Bleach is primarily a Shonen story, his writing follows this well established sort of story pattern. That said, Bleach’s unique setting, unique monsters and badass attitude makes for an intriguing read and the heavy doses of action sequences are enough to get any boy’s blood pumping. The story tends to lean to the dramatic side of things, but this is tempered with lots of humour, particularly in the form of the interactions that take place between Ichigo and his dad and Ichigo and Rukia.

The writing isn’t going to win any awards for drama, intrigue or depth, but there are enough emotions, humour and action flowing through it to make it an instant hit.

On the artistic side of things, Kubo certainly isn’t an artist with the cleanest of lines, and sometimes his heads and facial expressions don’t seem to come out quite right, but he does have a flair for style and design, evident in the numerous action shots and monsters he crams into the pages.

His drawings are sometimes simple but extremely expressive which makes it easy to pick up on the various emotions and tones of the book and indeed, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and immersive read. Just note that he does seem to take quite a few shortcuts when it comes to backgrounds, so don’t expect too much on that front.

Overall Bleach is a thoroughly enjoyable, funny and action-packed adventure that will excite any teenage boy (or young at heart adult) and certainly should not be missed. Its popularity speaks for itself – Bleach is simply something you can’t miss out on!

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