Bleach has undertaken many different storylines over its long run as one of the most popular shonen shows; as a result, it has also undergone many changes since its debut back in 2004. While some changes are to be expected and have been seen in many other shows, others are the result of character choices and interactions with one another that couldn’t be replicated in any other series.
With the Bleach anime coming back to screens to finally give the show a proper send-off, it can be expected that these changes will carry over into the Thousand Year Blood War arc and change the face of Bleach even further.
10 Art Style Became Less Goofy
In the first couple of seasons, the way characters were drawn was much less serious than how they ended up looking towards the end of the Fullbring arc. This isn’t just limited to the anime either, with the manga’s art style following a similar path that it didn’t start out with.
The change in art also reflected a change in tone for the show, as the themes grew progressively more violent and dark as Ichigo reached the final battle with Ginjo, marking the first time in the series run that he (canonically) took someone’s life. Not including Hollows, of course.
9 Ichigo is Less of a Hothead
When audiences first meet the Substitute Soul Reaper, Ichigo is busy beating the snot out of a bunch of kids who knocked over a tribute to a dead girl, taking no prisoners as he stomps them into the ground.
As Ichigo gains more experience and grows up, he becomes less inclined to lead with violence than he was before his fateful encounter with Rukia. If he can help it, Ichigo tries to avoid fighting. That’s not to say Ichigo’s violent streak is completely gone, as his inner Hollow likes to bring it back from time to time, but he becomes more reserved over the course of the show.
8 Rukia Rises Through The Ranks
As a result of her relationship to Byakuya, Rukia stayed a low ranking Soul Reaper for much longer than she should have. Her position as a seated officer wasn’t cemented until her brother finally backed off and stopped trying to protect her. Eventually, Byakuya starts seeing Rukia as a strong fighter in her own right and, consequently, begins sending her on missions alongside Captains and Lieutenants on frequent occasions.
After the time skip, Rukia is briefly shown to have been promoted to Lieutenant and joins more veteran officers when they grant Ichigo his Soul Reaper powers once again.
7 The Gotei 13 Are Nicer
During the Soul Society arc, the Gotei 13 are shown to be incredibly flawed in their approach to justice, going so far as to blindly believe the word of Central 46 when it is clear that something is amiss.
The result was many captains and their subordinates fighting among one another as they tried to prove which side was just. This lasted until the majority either caught on to Aizen’s plan or flat out rebelled against the system. After Rukia’s failed execution, the Gotei 13 are a lot more open to different plans of attack, though they still keep Ichigo in the dark about their plans to rescue Orihime.
6 Ichigo’s Powers Got More Convoluted
Ichigo, as audiences know now, is the bastard child of nearly every different being introduced in the series. When he is first introduced, it seems like Ichigo is simply an abnormality, a super-powered version of Don Kanonji without the fan base, but as the series went on, Bleach revealed more about his lineage to the point of ridiculousness.
The revelation that Isshin was a former Soul Reaper gave clarity to the origin of Ichigo’s powers, but this was quickly muddied by the latter’s Inner Hollow and Fullbring abilities that sprung up toward the anime’s end. This is only going to get worse when Bleach comes back, as Ichigo’s Quincy half comes to the forefront of the story and adds even more to his soul.
5 Chad Started Losing
Yasutora Sado is a monster of a man, towering over most other characters in the series with few exceptions. He is also depicted as having ridiculous strength, able to rip a telephone pole out of the ground and swing it with ease even before his Fullbring manifests.
Unfortunately, once Chad reached the Soul Society, his winning streak took a nosedive and he was constantly on the losing side of battles. While he does have a few decent wins under his belt, most of them are followed immediately by a crushing defeat.
4 Filler Arcs Grew More Ridiculous
The Bount storyline is probably the most interesting of Bleach‘s filler arcs, as it takes a well known mythical creature, the vampire, and spins it to fit the anime’s world in a way that didn’t interrupt the flow of the overarching story. Then came the Zanpakuto Rebellion arc and all that got thrown out the window.
Taking place in the middle of Ichigo’s fight with Ulquiorra Cifer, alongside a smattering of smaller filler episodes, the Zanpakuto Rebellion arc completely broke the pace of the story up until that point. It’s not the only filler arc to do this either, and it is anyone’s guess why the showrunners didn’t just put a pause on production until the manga had caught up a little.
3 Byakuka’s Likability
Byakuya was, in a nutshell, a bit of a prick during the Soul Society arc. It seemed like he would stop at nothing to make sure his adopted sister, Rukia, would meet her end, and even after his poor reasoning for why he was so focused on his idea of justice, it didn’t make him any more likable.
Following his epiphany during his fight with Ichigo, Byakuya softened up and became one of the more respectable Captains of the Gotei 13, even if he was still a bit of a stick in the mud.
2 Gin’s Story
Never trust a man who rarely opens their eyes. Gin was presented as a backstabbing, sinister presence during his run as a Captain, even joining Aizen and Tosen’s defection, to the surprise of absolutely no one. Throughout the series, his stance as a villain didn’t waver until near his death, where it’s revealed that Gin’s plan was to take down Aizen this whole time, he just kept his mission a secret to literally everyone to make sure he was successful.
Audiences are also treated to a touching, if a little creepy, backstory on Gin and Rangiku’s childhood friendship, which transforms the former from a psychopath to a misguided friend in the space of a few episodes.
1 Deeper World Lore
Where do Hollows come from? What is the Soul Society? What’s the deal with Jinta and Ururu? These questions and many more are expanded on throughout Bleach‘s run, as well as the backstories of the many recurring characters seen in the series.
Although answers are not provided to all of life’s burning questions (there’s still no definitive answer on what Jinto and Ururu are), the lore that does get expanded on creates a living, breathing world that could spawn new stories for years to come.
In celebration of the anime's upcoming Thousand-Year Blood War arc adaptation, here are 10 ways Bleach has changed over the years.