Anime fans have had a lot to look forward to the last few years as adapting anime and manga properties into live-action film and television shows have become much more of a lucrative endeavor.
The latest adaptation, a film adapting Tite Kubo's Bleach, formerly one of the most popular franchises running in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump, is setting the fan world on fire because it's the first brand new Bleach project in some time. After the manga and anime's abrupt end, fans have been wanting something new for quite a while.
But while a film isn't what fans initially asked for, it's certainly becoming more tantalizing as the months roll on. But what's the buzz all about?
Read on to find out what you need to know going into the live-action Bleach film.
Bleach was originally created by Tite Kubo and the manga was serialized in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump from 2001 to 2016. Collected into 74 volumes as of this date, the series was once considered one of the major pillars of the magazine alongside other heavy hitters Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece.
It has been adapted into English thanks to VIZ Media, and has sold over 900 million copies in Japan. The series was later adapted into an anime series by Studio Pierrot from 2004 to 2012, but was unfortunately canceled before the manga's final events could be put into animation (and the manga notoriously ended its run abruptly as well).
The series now has four feature-length animations, rock musicals, video games, and a ton of other merchandise. The English language broadcast of the series premiered on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in 2006, and is one of the major reasons fans in the West still talk about it.
Bleach is set in a world where denizens of the afterlife co-exist with the living world. When souls don't pass over into the afterlife, and hang on to Earthly desires, they are at risk of becoming Hollows. Hollows are shadow entities that only exist to devour souls and spread darkness.
Thanks to this, it is the work of the Shinigami (or Soul Reapers in the English version) to eliminate Hollows and guide other lost souls to the afterlife. Because of a rogue hollow, the main character Ichigo Kurosaki is then brought into this new and dangerous world.
Bleach follows Ichigo Kurosaki, who is a young delinquent teen in high school. He lives with his father and two sisters after the death of his mother, who had passed years before. For some reason, he has the ability to see spirits and often converses with them on a daily basis.
One night, he happens upon a Shinigami named Rukia Kuchiki as she fights a Hollow. Seeing her and someone else in danger, Ichigo quickly steps into action and volunteers himself to briefly take on the abilities and job of a Shinigami in order to save them from the dangerous situation.
Bleach's live-action adaptation will release July 20 in Japan, and has also just released its first trailer. The film stars Sota Fukushi as Ichigo Kurosaki and Hana Sugisaki as Rukia Kuchiki. There's little else known about the upcoming film, but series creator Tite Kubo shared his thoughts in an interview with TBS Japan.
He spoke about his excitement and confidence in the adaptation stating that, "“For the Japanese live-action version, I feel that we have come close to the original work...I am really looking forward to it."
Fans have a lot of faith in the film given the subject material and how well anime adaptations have fared in recent years, but this film will surely be looked at with very critical eyes. But at least early fan reaction to the film is positive.
Not much is known about the film's plot, but it is for sure set to adapt the "Substitute Shinigami" arc of the series. In this arc, when Rukia Kuchiki struggles to defeat a particularly tough hollow, she unwillingly accepts help from Ichigo. He then borrows the ability to wield a Shinigami's Zanpakuto, a specialty blade which guides souls to the afterlife, and defeat Hollows.
But rather than take some of her power, he takes all of it by mistake. With no way back to the Soul Society, this leaves Rukia out of commission. Ichigo is then made a Substitute Shinigami and must defeat other Hollows in her place while she teaches him about all of the rules of his new job.
The live-action film stars Sota Fukushi as Ichigo. If fans don't immediately recognize the actor's name, it should ring a bell as he's done many adaptations and original, recognizable projects in the past. He played Shun Takahata in As the Gods Will, so he has experience with live-action manga adaptations, and more notably, played Gentaro Kisaragi in Kamen Rider Fourze.
Not only does he has acting experience with fantastical settings, the same can be said for his co-star, Hana Sugisaki, who plays Rukia Kuchiki, as well. Sugisaki has acted in a live-action adaptation of Ouran High School Host Club as well as played the role of Rin Asano in the recent Blade of the Immortal film. In fact, the two have already demonstrated a chemisty as they both had roles in that film.
Between the two, they have plenty of experience adding real world weight to manga and anime properties.
Early fan response to the live-action Bleach film have been all-around positive, much to the delight and surprise of many anime fans. With two well-experienced leads, and how well Ichigo's first impression in the trailer comes across, fans of the film aren't as worried as they thought they would be.
Live-action anime films have a reputation for being poor quality, and that's especially true in the West thanks to films like Dragon Ball Evolution tainting the waters, but that hasn't been as true the last few years. Fans are having much more positive experiences in the theaters with anime like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Gintama, and Fullmetal Alchemist getting faithful adaptations.
There's just less of a worry going in than ever before.
As with any film adaptation, there is always a hope for a sequel should the first film be successful. It's the same with the live-action Bleach. If the first film does indeed cover the first arc (or even if it goes slightly beyond this), there is plenty more material available should the films warrant a sequel or even a trilogy.
Bleach fans should feel doubly as invested into this considering what comes after the first arc. The Soul Society arc is the grandest, and still most revered by fans, in the series overall and it's one with enough material to spread into a franchise all its own.
Not to mention the introduction of more villains down the line, or even an original story should the film not directly adapt the material. Bleach has a rich enough setting to mine as many films as wanted or needed for years to come.
Viz Media currently has 70 volumes of the Bleach manga for purchase, while taking pre-orders for Volume 72. Netflix has the first three seasons of the series (63 episodes) available for streaming, but Hulu has the entire 26 seasons (366 episodes) of the series run in both its original Japanese language format and English language dub.
Although neither of these options completely finish the series (as the manga isn't complete until Volume 74), these do perfectly cover what the film will adapt. The Substitute Shinigami arc lasts until Volume 6 of the manga, and only the first season of the anime series (with 20 episodes).
Now you're ready to watch the live-action Bleach film!