Bleach is a best-selling manga and anime series. The manga, authored by Tite Kubo (
久保 帯人), has been published in a Japanese magazine Shonen Jump since August 2001. It has grown to been very popular to many people around the world. The manga series has a very unique story to it.
The central character of Bleach is a fifteen years old schoolboy Kurosaki Ichigo, who has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts and spirits.
He accidentally gets supernatural powers and is forced to fight with evil spirits aka Hollows (
ホロウ), protect the people and send the souls of the dead in the afterlife ("Soul Society").
From U.S. anime webite:
...he meets Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper who shows up at Ichigo's house on the trail of a Hollow, a malevolent lost soul. Drawn to Ichigo's high level of spiritual energy, the Hollow attacks Ichigo and his family, and Rukia steps in to help, but is injured and unable to fight. As a last resort Rukia decides to transfer a part of her Soul Reaper powers to Ichigo... Ichigo, now a full-fledged Soul Reaper, and Rukia, minus her powers, join together to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Bleach was awarded with Shogakukan manga award as the best shonen ("for boys") manga. The anime series, based on the manga plot, ended with episode 366. In addition, two OVAs, four animated films and several video games were released. To know more about the series, please visit Wikipedia.
Aizen and Hirako, the characters from the series, share long and complicated history. They are former captains of shinigami ("Death Gods") in Soul Society (
尸魂界; Japanese for "dead spirit world").
Aizen Sousuke (
藍染 惣右介) is the main antagonist of the first half of the series. At first, he makes an appearance as the polite captain of the 5th Division. His evil intentions and the past are revealed much later.
Aizen seems to be one of the strongest shinigami in Soul Society, his strength is above an average captain level, as he has already reached the limits of shinigami powers and mastered all four froms of fighting: kido, hakuda, shunpo and zanjutsu. Aizen is shown as extremely powerful even in the early chapters, for example, he stops Ichigo's sword with a single finger and counterattacks by almost cleaving Ichigo in half.
Aizen has brown hair and brown eyes. A kind look and soft personality made him beloved among all shinigami in Soul Society. At first Aizen was seen as this gentle, warm-hearted guy with a comforting smile. Everyone in Soul Society like him for his kindness and sympathy. Later, without any warning, he was found dead. Hinamori Momo (
雛森 桃), his lieutenant, was overcome with grief.
She was later being held prisoner and she had found out Aizen’s will. The letter was actually a sham meant to blame Hinamori's friend Captain Hitsugaya for Aizen's "death". The content of the will really shocked Hinamori, but she blindly obeyed the will. She pointed her zanpakutou towards Hitsugaya, saying that he was Aizen’s murderer, according to the will. Hitsugaya had to knock her out. Later, he went to the Central 46 chamber to check on them, as in Bleach the Central 46 (
中央四十六) was an organization that served as the judiciary authority of the Soul Society. Hitsugaya found out that all 46 members were dead for at least two days. Furthermore Aizen was behind this. His evil plan was then revealed.
Apparently Aizen used Ichigo and company as pawns in a diversion from his own movements. His goal in all this was extracting a substance called Hougyoku (
崩玉; Japanese for "crumbling orb") from Kuchiki Rukia's body. Hougyoku was developed as a way to hybrid shinigami and hollows, which allows the person to achieve new limits of power. The creator of Hougyoku, Urahara Kisuke (
浦原 喜助), realized how dangerous his research was, so he tried to destroy it. Failing that, he decided to hide it in Rukia through the gigai (
義骸; an artificial body) he provided her. It was a special gigai that weakened a shinigami’s spiritual power until it transformed the shinigami into a human.
Aizen slaughtered the entire Central 46 as soon as he heard about Rukia being found in this gigai. Then he used his zanpaktou’s power to create the illusion that things were normal in there.
His Zanpakutou Kyouka Suigetsu (
鏡花水月; "Mirror Flower, Water Moon") is an illusion-type sword, released by the trigger word Kudakero (
砕けろ; "Shatter"). This zanpakutou controls all of the five senses and is able to show the enemy a different size, shape, weight, feeling, and smell of any object or situation. The condition required to enable its ability is to show the enemy the movement of Kyouka Suigetsu's awakening from then on they will be under complete hypnosis. This fooled all the captains.
So Aizen took Hougyoku from Rukia's chest. Fortunately for Rukia, the hole created by the procedure healed right after. He then escaped, claiming that he’ll now take his place in the heavens. He then lead an army of hollows against Soul Society.
Hirako Shinji (
平子 真子) is a Vizard (also pronounced "Vaizard" or "Visored"), a shinigami outlaw who obtained hollow powers through Hougyoku. He is a de facto leader of the Vizard group and a former captain of the 5th Division (Aizen's former captain). He is the first known Vizard to be introduced in the series.
After Ichigo and the others return from Soul Society and school begins again, Shinji appears in Ichigo’s class as an exchange student. Just before that he is seen hanging upside down in the air as Ichigo defeats a hollow. Less than a day after Shinji becomes a member of the class, and he attacks Ichigo when he’s out taking care of a hollow.
He tells Ichigo that he is a Vizard, and briefly explains what that means. He then asks Ichigo to join the Vizards, saying that he is wasting his time with the shinigami. Later Ichigo seeks the Vizards out in order to learn how to control his inner hollow.
Shinji and his associate Sarugaki Hiyori (
平子 真), the former lieutenant of the 12th Division and a fellow Vizard, appear to share responsibilities in being in charge of the Vizards. Shinji seems to like annoying Hiyori. Hiyori often beats Shinji with her sandal, and their relationship is one similar to that of a brother and sister.
There are six known Vizards aside from Shinji and Hiyori:
Shinji is an interesting character, to say the least. He dresses in very slim fitting, trendy clothes, often accompanied by a hat. He looks very youthful, frivolous and carefree, yet seems to be sad that the vaizards are rejected by both humans and shinigami. He is very wiry and has medium length straw-blond hair. He also has a very wide mouth with very straight teeth. Shinji's hollow mask resembles a pharaoh's mask.
While he was holding a captain's position, Hirako used to dress into a standard shinigami uniform. His hair was considerably longer, reaching the middle back. Despite his usual demeanor he has always been cool-headed, observant and very intelligent. He said this to the newly-appointed captain Urahara Kisuke, who could not see eye to eye with with his lieutenant:
Shinji: When ya find yourself in a position of command, even if ya sympathize with 'em, ya can't be too sensitive to your subordinates' feelings. You do things how you wanna do 'em. An' if doin' it your own way doesn't work out, then that just means the job ain't for you.
As a captain, Shinji was worried about one person, and that person was his duplicitous subordinate Aizen Sousuke. From the very beginning Shinji did not trust him. The sole reason why he made Aizen the lieutenant was to keep an eye on him at all times, which unfortunately was a mistake, because Aizen was able to use the situation to his advantage and manipulated his captain while the latter suspected nothing.
His Zanpakutou is called Sakanade (
逆撫; "counter stroke") and is an illusion-type sword, released by the trigger word Taorero (
倒れろ; "Collapse"). When the sword is released, up and down, left and right, forward and backward are reversed, the sense of direction is changed; the opponent's eyesight, direction of incoming attacks, and injury locations are also inverted. Being a Vizard, a shinigami that have acquired hollow powers, Shinji also has access to some of the common hollow abilities, such as cero blasts.
Although Aizen in Bleach eventually became a villain, approximately 100 years ago he innocently surved as a lieutenant in Shinji's 5th Division. The relationship was explored in the Turn Back The Pendulum arc, which sheds some light on the characters that had remained so mysterious throughout the earlier arcs. Turn Back The Pendulum is the 36 volume of the manga series. It explains how Aizen's experiments on shinigami/hollow hybrids involved using an unknown method to cause spirits to transform into hollows, eventually culminating in the creation of the Vizards.
The story begins with Urahara Kisuke being promoted to the captain of the 12th Division. Urahara is a humble scientist and the future creator of Hougyoku. Sarugaki Hiyori reluctantly becomes his lieutenant. Lieutenant Aizen takes an interest in Urahara, which at first glance may seem to be unrelated.
There are major events looming on the horizon over the coming years, but for now people are going about their business as usual. Life goes on. Shinji and Aizen seem to have fairly standard captain-lieutenant relationship, and they are often seen together.
Nine years after Urahara's appointment to captain, souls start disappearing from Rukongai (
流魂街; "wandering soul city"), the residental area of Soul Society.
The clothes they were wearing were found lying on the floor. No suspect is found. Several officers are sent to investigate, but they never return. The list of mysterious disappearances now includes Muguruma Kensei (
六車 拳西), then-captain of the 9th Division, and his lieutenant Kuna Mashiro (
The Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13 decides to send a rescue team which consists of three captains of the shinigami' Gotei 13 (our guy Shinji, his colleagues Love and Rojuro), and the lieutenants Yadomaru Lisa (
矢胴丸 リサ) and Ushoda Hachigen (
有昭田 鉢玄) of the Kido Corps.
They arrive at the scene only to be attacked by their mindless friends Kensei and Mashiro, who shockingly look exactly like hollows. The shinigami's faces are hidden behing horrifying hollow masks.
Aizen shows up with his subordinates Ichimaru Gin (
市丸 ギン) and Tousen Kaname (
東仙 要), and reveals his plan.
He performed cruel experiments on Soul Society's captains and lieutenants, trying to turn them into hollows. Apparently Shinji and others were used as guinea pigs in the experiment.
All of them are slowly transforming into hollows via the process called Hollowification (
虚化). Shinji is the last man standing. However when he fully realizes the dephts of Aizen's betrayal the hollow mask appears on his face, too.
They exchange a few words.
Shinji: I though you were dangerous, that you couldn't be trusted. That's why I chose you as my lieutenant... So that I could keen an eye on you, Aizen!
Aizen: Yes. Thank you for that, Captain Hirako. Your distrust of me blinded you...
Aizen goes on to explain that Shinji's immense suspicion and skepticism of him were perfect for his plan.
Aizen: If you'd treated me the way other captains treat their adjutants, you might've figured it out. But you didn't. Because you didn't trust me, you maintained a cetrain distance from me. You never opened yourself up. You never divulged any information. You never tried to get to know me. That is why you never saw the truth.
In the end Shinji realizes he failed to stop Aizen. As a matter of fact, Shinji was so buried in doubts that he did not even notice the real danger when Aizen replaced himself with an illusion, which allowed him to finish the experiments without hindrance.
Shinji tries to put up a fight but is quickly defeated due to his weakened state. Aizen thanks Shinji for being easily manipulated and observes his hollowfication.
Shinji almost dies in the process. Luckily, Urahara Kisuke saves him and his friends.
He forces Aizen to retreat, collects the bodies, stops the hollowfication process and turns the team into what they are now: the Vizards (
仮面の軍勢; Japanese for "masked army"), i.e. hollow-like shinigami hybrids able to control their powers.
Aizen frames Urahara for the hollowfication process and forces him to leave Soul Society, because evidently the justice system is broken there and there's no real investigation. Urahara takes the Vizards and disappears. As Shinji himself said, he owes Urahara a lot. Shinji is indebted, in a more sarcastic way, to Aizen for getting the Vizards kicked out of the Gotei 13 and giving them the power to kick Aizen's ass.