Bleach

Bleach cover 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.

Kurosaki Ichigo

As the central character of the series, Kurosaki Ichigo's (黒崎 一護) background and character has recieved the most detail and explanation. His tough guy attitude, combined with martial arts training and naturally gifted physique, gives him the power to fight to defend himself and those he deems important to him. As a shinigami (aka a Soul Reaper), he possesses more endurance than experience, which has led to him toppling the very same people who would scold him for his lack of skill. It is seen that his determination is his true strength, forcing him to push onward where anyone else would quit, and even to surpass his own limitations when the need arises. He also possesses high levels of reiatsu (spiritual energy) which makes him a strong fighter, and carries a powerful Zanpakutou (a sword) called Zangetsu. The homeland of shinigami Soul Society played a key role in his development, forcing him into deadly confrontations with opponents of increasing power. He had entered Soul Society as below the level of a lieutenant, and left as a shinigami of high renown, having defeated four lieutenants, as well as two captains (Kenpachi included), in his short time there.

Zaraki Kenpachi

Zaraki Kenpachi (更木 剣八) is ruthless, strong, fierce, and scary. He is the captain of the 11th division. Captain Zaraki is an interesting guy, because unlike any other shinigami he never uses his Zanpakutou's special abilities. The main reason is that he is enormously strong already, even without any abilities. He fights for himself, and wants to become stronger as well. Even though he doesn’t know his sword's name, this doesn't mean his power is to be taken lightly. His astonishing spirit force is more than enough to make him part of the Gotei 13 (護廷十三隊). His spirit force is so grand that he can't control it, which is why he wears the eyes patch: it eats his spirit force so he doesn't go all out on his opponents. He has shown that he loves to fight. Fighting is everything to him, the stronger his opponent the better. Even if he’s at risk of dying he won't back up on a fight. Zaraki has a funky hairdo: he spikes his hair and at the tips he adds bells, so his opponents can stand a better chance when they fight him. Hearing the bells according to him will make it easier to hear him coming. Despite eveything, Zaraki is a good captain. If needed he will aid his division members. Zaraki anf Kusajishi Yachiru (草鹿 やちる), his vice captain, seem to have a strong bond since they are always together. He met this cute little girl before he entered the Gotei 13 and became a captain. Although they seem like complete opposites they get along well. She gets away with calling him Ken-chan, and he doesn't mind it either.

The meeting

Ichigo rushes to Soul Society, the world of Soul Reapers (or shinigami), because his friend Rukia is going to be executed for giving up her powers. There he meets Kenpachi Zaraki who intentionally arrives to fight Ichigo.

The scene starts with Ichigo, Ganju, and Hanataro climbing the stairs. The three head down the courtyard and encounter Kenpachi. Ichigo senses his enormous reiatsu and announces that they have to escape.

Kenpachi is already on to them, however, and listening very carefully to their movements. He evaluates all three and decides Ichigo is worth the fight. Ichigo's teammates have been floored from Kenpachi's raietsu, and suddenly, Yachiru jumps from behind Kenpachi to note Hanataro's poor condition.

Ichigo is amazed at her and asks who she is. She introduces herself, and Ichigo urges Ganju to take Hanataro and run. Ganju reluctantly complies, and Ichigo stands to face the captain.

Their first fight

Kenpachi announces that all he wants to do is fight, and doesn't care about anything else Ichigo may be trying to defend. Ichigo prepares, and Kenpachi notes the many flaws in his stance, and finally offers Ichigo a chance at a free cut. Ichigo is unsure of what's going on, but Kenpachi holds to his offer. Kenpachi taunts him, and Ichigo finally strikes. His cut didn't hurt Kenpachi at all, but in fact wounded Ichigo's hand.

Kenpachi is disappointed, and pushes Ichigo back by Zangetsu's sharp edge with his bare hands. Kenpachi explains that when two reiatsu's collide, the one that is stronger repels the weaker one. Kenpachi's raietsu is too strong for Ichigo, so no damage was done. Ichigo decideds to run. He remembers his first cut on Kenpachi and the failure it ended in. Ichigo grasps his wounded hand and tells himself to calm down.

Kenpachi bursts through the wall, still telling Ichigo to stop running. Ichigo clashes with the captain, who blocks all the attacks with no effort. Ichigo is winded, but Kenpachi is still fine. The two clash. Ichigo lands a hit to no avail and runs again. Pausing to catch his breath, he still tries to figure out why his hits don't work.

He tries to bring his fear under control, and with a new found resolve, he plots to attack. Ichigo decides that everyone is counting on him and he must fight on. Kenpachi arrives right on cue, asking if Ichigo is done running. Ichigo attacks, delivering a blow on Kenpachi that causes blood. Kenpachi seems quite pleased at this, as does Yachiru.

Kenpachi attacks, and is blocked. After a small acrobatic feat, Kenpachi vanishes only to resurface behind Ichigo. Ichigo senses the bells on his head and blocks. Ichigo asks why Kenpachi hasn't released his Zanpakutou, but the captain simply says that his sword can't be resealed, so it's already unsealed. Ichigo says it's a relief that his sword can't get stronger.

Kenpachi attacks and says that Ichigo's wrong and that he can get stronger. His zanpakutou then easily cuts through Zangetsu and cuts Ichigo. He rebukes Ichigo's temporary lack of guard. Zangetsu splits in two and Ichigo collapses.

Kenpachi turns to leave, but Ichigo's resolve prompts his sword Zangetsu to take a human-like form, stopping time and approaching Ichigo. While talking to Zangetsu, Ichigo notes that he never did try to commune with his zanpakutou, and recalls Kenpachi being the same way. He asks Zangetsu for forgiveness. Back to reality, Kenpachi feels a sudden disturbance and turns.

Ichigo is standing in a storm of reiatsu, Zangetsu whole again, his bleeding stopped. Ichigo attacks with unreal speed, cutting Kenpachi's shoulders badly and pushing him back. Kenpachi is winded finally.

Ichigo wants to end the fight soon, but Kenpachi seems determined to fight. Ichigo cuts his face, and Kenpachi trips him back.

The more cuts he recieves, the more insane with bloodlust Kenpachi seems to become. Ichigo suddenly notes that Kenpachi seems to have gotton stronger as well.

Kenpachi gives a speech on the joy of fighting. He seems to enjoy the bloody mess and suddenly rips his eyepatch off. A shockwave and a surge of energy follows. Kenpachi explains to Ichigo that his eyepatch infinately eats away at his spirit energy to keep it under control. He is now infinately stronger. With one slash, he cuts a nearby building in half.

Ichigo calms himself and talks with Zangetsu for a moment. Zangetsu announces that Kenpachi and his sword are working against each other because they are not in tune. Ichigo places his trust in Zangetsu, and Ichigo also explodes with reiatsu. Kenpachi is pleased and amazed, but mocks Ichigo's trust in his sword. Their reiatsus call out to eachother in bloodlust and the two attack.

In one fatal, deciding blow, an explosion occurs, leveling all nearby structures.

The relationship

I would like to stress that Kenpachi lives for battle and enjoys a good fight more than anything, therefore he always holds back in an effort to make the enjoyment of fight last longer. That said, he truly enjoyed the battle with Ichigo. It looked like he had fought an equal for the first time in life. Although the captain said he'd lost, but seems to me there was a draw. Later, after their wounds were healed, Kenpachi wanted to pay back, but Ichigo decided to run for his life:

Kenpachi had often shown a great respect towards those who can fight him on equal grounds, Ichigo in particular. I firmly believe they could even be friends (if only Zaraki didn't want a rematch more than a decent relationship).

During Hueco Mundo arc Kenpachi rescued Ichigo from an arrancar and defeated "uncuttable" Noitora, who kicked Ichigo's ass a moment ago. He also scolded Ichigo for being "beat to hell" by every opponent. In The Lost Substitute Shinigami arc he helped yet again, easily killing one of Ichigo's enemies.

Anime screencaps

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