Created by Tite Kubo, Bleach is a great anime (just ask Gin LoL), it has something for everyone: the supernatural, comedy, action, and a little bit of romance, with the right balance of seriousness and comedy. There are several moral parables throughout the story, presenting interesting ideas about living your life with a fulfilled soul.
However, I'm talking about Bleach without Fillers, as most of the criticism of this anime is toward them. It is really a different experience to see it without Filler episodes that often create plot inconsistencies and lower the quality of the main story, fillers disrupt the pacing and even spoil some events to come. Therefore I created this guide to watch this anime without fillers, and then you can go back to see them if you are still interested (Although I can only recommend the Zanpakutō Filler Arc). You won't lose anything important in the story, as the filler arcs are self-contained, and happen in their own timeline.
Filler List Source: https://www.animefillerlist.com/shows/bleach
Why Watch Bleach?
Despite this being primarily an action show, there is a lot more depth to the story, especially when you start to consider the rules that govern the worlds you are presented with. First, it will be wrong to think of Soul Society & Hueco Mundo as Heaven & Hell, because they are different from those interpretations; instead, the author presents us with new concepts for the soul.
For example, a Hollow is an 'incomplete' soul, and they are missing something important, marked by their hole in their body. They devour souls in order to try to fill that hole, they even devour other hollows, but being eaten by another hollow does not necessarily mean the end, because the soul with more will to survive can take over the consciousness of the body (in a way is the soul that values life the most the one that wins over the body), this process can go on for centuries and as the different souls in the hollow merge they evolve into more powerful hollows, sometimes changing their personality, sometimes one personality takes over the rest. They continue this cycle until they finally become a Vasto Lorde, where they gain more intelligence, you could say that they become a complete soul, but they still carry over their 'hole', their missing part and they are still unable to find fulfillment. It seems impossible to keep evolving past that point without the help of something, so they are stuck in that state. But for you as the viewer of their story, it becomes clear what that hole is and what they have to do to fill it, but for them is invisible, something that they cannot see by themselves and this becomes their own personal hell which they cannot escape their burden, but they keep living despite all that. As you get to know their backstories, you get to see a lot of them are not pure evil, but rather tortured souls.
The Soul Reapers, on the other hand, are a 'fulfilled' soul, so much in fact that a part of their souls manifest into a sword, which they use to fight. They literally fight with their own soul in their hands. However, don't expect them to have a happy, easy life or behave like angels; it's more like a different path a soul can take afterlife. I won't go over this to avoid spoilers.
The middle part of the story presents us with an interesting hypothesis, is it possible for Soul Reapers to become Hollows? Is it possible for Hollows to become more like a Soul Reaper? And the implications of these questions are quite interesting and full of metaphors for our own lives, but I rather have you make your own interpretations from the story.
Add to this that the fights are not just action, but often contrasting ideologies. There is also a right balance of romance and comedy throughout the story.
I encourage you to watch at least up to episode 9 to decide if you should keep watching.
All movies are a filler, an extra mission. I recommend watching them after the series to not interrupt the pacing of the main story and to avoid any spoilers. All movies also expect you to know the series as they don't explain anything about how their world works or introduce the characters.
I watched like 10 minutes before I drop it. It's another lame adaptation of an anime, they made an effort with the special effects (although they are low budget), but the acting is just too cheesy.
The dub is excellent! Although some parts are better translated in the subs.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War
Watch. Continuation of the story.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War: Part II - The Separation
(Upcoming) Continuation of the story.
Bleach: Memories in the Rain
'This special, shown in Japan at the Jump Festa 2004 Anime Tour, is a pilot episode for the series. It focuses more on Ichigo's feelings regarding his mother's death. Tite Kubo, the creator of Bleach, voices Kon in this special instead of Mitsuaki Madono, the original voice actor of Kon. The closing theme used for the episode is 'Memories in the Rain' by Morita Masakazu, the voice actor of Ichigo Kurosaki, and Orikasa Fumiko, the voice actress of Rukia Kuchiki.' -WikiPedia
This is an alternative version of Episodes 8 & 9, it doesn't add anything new.
Bleach: The Sealed Sword Frenzy
Skip. It's a standalone story and it's average at best.
'This special, shown in Japan at the Jump Festa 2005 Anime Tour, is set after the events of Season Three (After Episode 63)...' -WikiPedia
Bleach Movie 1: Memories of Nobody
Optional. Although I recommend you give it a try.
Chronologically, fits best between episode 109 & 110.
This is a good movie for fans of the series, although is an extra filler mission is still better than average, presenting an interesting concept, although the plot is fairly predictable.
'This is the first Bleach movie and I must say it ended up being better than I expected. As far as movies go, you can of course expect far better production values and flashier battles. Yet it has something more than just an excuse for a parade of special attacks. It is by all means nothing more than a filler mission but it had a metaphysical aspect that went beyond the simple plot of “Let’s save Soul Society for the millionth time”.' -roriconfan
Do note that this movie expects you to have watched at least the first part of the series, otherwise you won't understand a thing.
The dub is great.
Bleach Movie 2: The DiamondDust Rebellion
Optional. This movie is average at best.
Chronologically fits best after Episode 125.
Another extra filler mission, this time focusing on Toshiro's past, as it relates to the current mission. Unfortunately, the whole premise is based on something that can only happen in the filler as it breaks apart the way things work in the canon, so it ends up being just an ok story that tries too hard to create drama.
'The story isn't the most original story you'll see, as it follows the theme of revenge based off of a grudge from the past. Said revenge will be executed by obliterating everything. So there's nothing special in that department.' -Komirai
The dub is good.
Bleach Movie 3: Fade to Black
This movie is slightly below average.
Chronologically fits best after Episode 125.
'Sadly, Fade to Black suffers from one of the same pitfalls as the series. It starts out with an interesting premise that then fizzles away. In this case, I found the whole concept of erasing all recollections of one particular person, thus wiping out her existence, intriguing, not because of the actual memory loss but because of its repercussions. The idea that, if Rukia hadn’t existed, none of the shinigami would have met Ichigo is captivating, though I must admit that the saccharine explanation about memories being linked through strong bonds had me reaching for the sick bag on occasion.
Also, in true Bleach fashion, Fade to Black likes to dig its own little plot holes. For instance, if Ichigo never meets Rukia, he’d never encounter Kon.' -cassiesheepgirl
The dub is good.
Bleach Movie 4: Hell Verse
Skip. This movie is below average. The best part of the movie is the first 3 minutes that recaps the fight with Ulquiorra with excellent animation and non-stop action.
Chronologically fits best after Episode 299.
'I must say this movie had by far the least amount of context. While the other three had some sparks of drama by focusing on a secondary character, over here we get squat. The main villain tries to offer some sort of drama over his grim existence in hell but who cares; he is a generic Big Bad for the sake of having something to fight. Plus it was as I described nothing more but a collection of scenes from the series, thus not even the plot was anything new. So ok, they showed how hell looks like and gave Ichigo his SSJ4 form, all of which will most likely be rendered useless when the main story will ACTUALLY have to be about hell.' -roriconfan
'Plot…plot…what’s that again? Oh, that’s right. Lots of explosions and blood and flashy fight scenes. If that’s the case, then this movie had an outstanding plot, one of the best I’ve ever seen.Okay, I’ll stop with the sarcasm. There was almost no plot to speak of, whatsoever. I can’t believe Kubo admitted he wrote the story for this movie.
Hell Verse embodies Bleach at its worst: no story or characterization, tons of meaningless fights, horrible character designs, and plot holes galore. I wanted to love this movie, but even being a diehard Bleach fanatic I could find nothing to enjoy. I’m sorry to say it, but Hell Verse is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a long time.' -Skygryphon
The dub is good.
Bleach: Gotei 13 Omake
Skip, this is more like a trailer about the series.
Bleach: Jump Festa 2008 Special
Skip. It's just a series of short jokes, but not too funny.
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Thanks for this, just recently started watching Bleach, didn’t really understand when and where to watch the movies, this is clear and easy to understand.