Boruto: Naruto Next Generations has officially concluded with its 293rd episode, marking the conclusion of the narrative, at least for the time being. One Piece, on the other hand, is still far from done; the anime series now has more than 1,700 episodes with no ending in sight. The last of the Big 3, Bleach, still hasn’t concluded—in fact, according to Flix Patrol, the anime is currently conquering streaming, thanks to the renewed interest in the animated series. Those interested can watch it on Hulu.
The Big 3
For those that aren’t in the know, the Big 3 anime refers to specific anime series that were incredibly popular in the 2000s and early 2010s, especially in the West. They are Naruto, which subsequently gave birth to Boruto; One Piece, which recently received a live-action adaptation at Netflix; and Bleach, an anime whose production continued last year following a decade-long hiatus—much to the anime fandom’s content.
Bleach is a classical tale of a boy meets a girl, except for the fact that the girl is actually a Soul Reaper. Our protagonist, a teenager named Ichigo Kurosaki, rushes to aid a Soul Reaper damsel in distress—named Rukia Kuchiki—in her battle against a Hollow, which is a giant evil spirit.
In the heat of the moment and due to unfortunate circumstances, Rukia decides to make Ichigo a Soul Reaver, which actually reveals Ichigo’s own innate and immense Soul Reaver powers, and together, they defeat the Hollow spirit.
The whole narrative of Bleach revolves around Soul Reavers escorting the souls of the dead to the afterlife, called Soul Society. They also battle Hollows, the aforementioned evil spirits, who are purified by the Soul Reapers when defeated so that the tormented soul may be reborn in the Soul Society once again.
Anyone looking for some good anime fun with great character development, plot twists, fantastic narrative, and some of the most epic battles in anime should enjoy Bleach.
Through a series of events, Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper, then a Hollow, then a Hollowfied Soul Reaver. After that, he learns that he’s a child of a Soul Reaper and a Quincy (Soul Reapers’ sworn enemies) and gets involved in a thousand-year blood war.
Admittedly, all of this is actually spread over nearly 400 episodes of action- and emotion-packed anime, and sure, there are some filler arcs related to some in-universe concepts and some arcs that only appeared as fillers, but became quite contextually important down the line. All in all, anyone looking for some good anime fun with great character development, plot twists, fantastic narrative, and some of the most epic battles in anime should enjoy Bleach.
As for the anime itself, Bleach was immensely popular during its broadcasting years, starting in October 2004 through March 2012, during which it spans 366 episodes. During that time, Bleach was featured various times in the top ten of the Japanese TV Ranking, with fantastic DVD sales.
The anime was a massive success in the West as well, receiving several nominations in the 2007 America Anime Awards in the categories of Best Manga, Best Actor, Best DVD Package Design, and Best Theme. In 2009, the anime was ranked as the 9th most viewed anime show on Hulu.
However, while the anime apparently concluded its narrative in 2012 with the conclusion of the Fullbring arc, the manga was actually far from over. It’s not uncommon for anime series to take a break or insert a filler arc—a narrative segment that deviates from the source material—when it catches up to the manga. And while that might’ve been the case back in 2012, the manga continued releasing up to 2016—but the anime hasn’t continued.
Many were wondering, at the time, why Pierrot (the production studio) and creator Tite Kubo didn’t just resume the production of the anime. Sure, Bleach might’ve had too many fillers, so taking a break seemed like a logical step, but taking a decade-long break might be a bit too much.
Unfortunately, the fans haven’t received any official explanation as to why the anime hasn’t continued, even years after the manga was finished. Some reports suggested that the hiatus was related to rampant piracy of the IP, though those reports remain unverified.
The Thousand-Year Blood War
In 2020, Bleach 20th Anniversary Project & Tite Kubo New Project Presentation announced that the manga’s final story arc, the Thousand-Year Blood War, would receive an anime project, which premiered in 2022.
The renewed interest in Bleach, prompted by the release of the Thousand-Year Blood War arc, propelled Bleach to the top of the charts in recent weeks, and given that the arc is only halfway done, we can expect Bleach’s success to spill over into 2024, and possibly even 2025. Those interested in Bleach can watch it on Hulu.