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I’m rewatching the English dub of the excellent anime series Bleach. The first three seasons, The Substitute and The Soul Society: Entry and Rescue, form the first major arc of the series. To keep this review fairly spoiler free, I will only reveal the main plot points; to keep it entirely so would make a review impossible.
The animation is good, the characters interesting, and the writing solid, though in places, the motivations of some of the characters make little sense, partly due to their back stories being slowly revealed, much of the reveal not occurring until the major flashback that occurs in season 11.
Spoilers from this point on…
In the Substitute, a teenage boy who can see spirits, Ichigo Kurosaki, is targeted by demonic forces. Trying to protect him, a soul reaper, Rukia Kuchiki, a powerful spiritual being who help ghosts cross over into the spiritual realm, is badly injured trying to defend him and is forced to transfer her power to him so that he can save them both. Powerless, she becomes his mentor, teaching how to be a substitute soul reaper.
It turns out that in giving her power to Ichigo, Rukia has committed a serious crime, and her brother Byakuya, a captain among the soul reapers, is sent to take her back to the spirit realm to be executed. Ichigo is nearly killed trying to prevent this. He is healed by the mysterious Kisuke Urahara, who trains him and his friends, who have developed spiritual powers of their own, and sends them to rescue Rukia.
After crossing over into the spiritual realm, the group discover that they are barred from entering the inner circle of the soul reapers, the Seireitei. Their guide, Yoruichi, finds a way to get them in to the Seireitei. The group becomes separated, and all begin trying to find out where Rukia is being held pending her execution. After many adventures, Ichigo encounters one of the captains of the soul reapers, Kenpachi Zaraki, and the two almost kill each other.
Yoruichi heals Ichigo and teaches him to release a more powerful attack, which usually takes a decade to learn, that will allow him to fight the strongest captains among the soul reapers. Meanwhile, political infighting among the soul reapers causes some of them to rebel against the head captain. Between Ichigo and the rebels, Rukia is freed, but her brother Byakuya vows to go after her and return her to be executed. This results in a final battle between him and Ichigo.
I won’t reveal any more, as the end of this arc sets up the third arc. The second arc, the Bount arc, is a filler arc not based on the manga, written by Tite Kubo, though it is based on his ideas. It isn’t entirely without merit, but not worth rewatching. I’m going to skip it and next, will begin watching the even more battle heavy Arrancar arc.