Bleach is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. Bleach follows the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki after he obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper (死神 Shinigami, literally, “Death God”) —a death personification similar to the Grim Reaper—from another Soul Reaper, Rukia Kuchiki. His newfound powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding departed souls to the afterlife.
Bleach has been serialized in the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shōnen Jump since August 2001, and has been collected into 55 tankōbon volumes as of March 2012. Since its publication, Bleach has spawned a media franchise that includes an animated television series that was produced by Studio Pierrot in Japan from 2004 to 2012, two original video animations, four animated feature films, seven rock musicals, and numerous video games, as well as many types of Bleach-related merchandise.
North American licensor Viz Media has been serializing the individual chapters in Shonen Jump in North America since November 2007. As of April 2012, 39 volumes have been released, the first of which was released on June 1, 2004. On August 5, 2008, the company released a hardcover “collector’s edition” of the first volume that came with a dust jacket, followed by a box set that was released on September 2, 2008, containing the first 21 volumes, a poster, and a booklet about the series. Since Bleach’s premiere, over 475 chapters have been released in Japan. Most chapter names are written in English and have katakana above them to indicate how they are read in Japanese, similar to the usage of furigana ruby characters with advanced kanji characters. In addition to the main series chapters, some chapters are published with a negative chapter number. These “negative” chapters are side stories that involve events that precede the main plot of the series.