Bleach: How to navigate the series for first timers, and to rewatch the essentials

So Bleach was announced to be making a comeback just over a month ago. The final arc, The Thousand Year Blood War, is finally going to be adapted and look here for all the things to get hyped about there. You may be new and wanting to give this series a try for the first time, or want to give it a rewatch but can’t remember what to skip. Well hopefully this should help both parties.

The Substitute Shinigami and The Soul Society


So first things first, the arcs that made Bleach one of the Big 3 and such a genre definer. Honestly this is fine going through all of Episodes 1-63, there’s not too much filler to skip here. I think the first season/arc may still be my favorite. Sure I love everything that comes after, especially the final arc, but the vibe that first season had was so unique and never really returned after Soul Society. Not that it’s all bad, as there are still plenty of good parts left, but this initial identity is nice and isolated too. It establishes the lore and a fair chunk of the cast. It’s worth reading the manga too, however, as Pierrot was so desperate to get to the Soul Society they skipped over a few things, such as Orihime’s origin (which to be honest would’ve helped her character popularity out a lot in my opinion).

So then we get to the Soul Society Arc. The defining arc of the series, where the vast majority of the main cast is introduced and initially fleshed out. It’s one of the big reasons why rescue arcs such a staple of Shonen ever since. It is a non-stop thrill ride of intrigue, action and big moments still remembered fondly by all fans to this day. Again worth checking out the manga as some parts were left out I believe, they did try to adapt 100+ chapters into 40 episodes so there’ll be a few things left out for sure.

The Arrancar Saga Part 1: The Vizards of Karakura Town and entering Hueco Mundo


So skip ahead to episode 109 (we’ll discuss filler in it’s own section) and watch up to ep 127. You can skip the next 9 episodes, and carry on from 138 up to 167. It turns into a mix of canon and filler content here but it’s still worth watching in my opinion. We meet the main villains of this saga, the Espada and Arrancar, new allies in the form of the Vizards, and see Hueco Mundo, homebase of the villains, for the first time. These episodes do a good job expanding the lore and world, as well as establishing the new villains as legitimate threats.

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The Arrancar Saga Part 2: Showdown in Karakura Town…..well not exactly……..


So skipping the next filler arc, the story picks up again at episode 190. Carry on till ep 226, but avoid 204, 205, 213 and 214. The rest are a mix of canon and filler, so decide what you wish to see out of that. Here we see the strongest of the villains face the strongest of the Shinigami (OK most of the strongest……..) and get some great fights in there. Granted we also get some rather drab ones (There’s a reason Omaeda is probably my least favourite character in the whole thing……..) but I’d say there’s more bad than good here.

The Arrancar Saga Part 3: OK I swear we are definitely in the right place this time……

Ichigo vs Saitama - Battles - Comic Vine

Then skip the next filler arc(s) (I know I know…) and jump ahead to ep 266. Yet again there’s a lot of mixture between canon and non-canon material but some is definitely worth checking out, such as Harribel’s backstory. There is one of the best fights within the entire series in here in the form of Ichigo vs Ulquiorra. If anything deserves a watch from this area of the series, this is it. One of the best battles, one of the best forms in the series and just all around great storytelling. So just keep going to the end of the Arrancar Saga, but avoid specifically 298, 299 and 303-305 as those last 3 will likely ruin your hype for the finale. And the finale is brilliant in itself, finishing the arc at ep 310.

The Fullbringer Arc

Dunia Bleach

So after skipping yet another filler arc, we get to the final anime arc. The Fullbring Arc gets an un-necessary amount of grief in my opinion, after all the big power ups and mountain leveling battles it was nice to get back to the roots of the show, and slow things down a notch. It strips it down to a smaller cast, and brings some more interesting lore to the world that sadly did not get as much time as deserved. Also the best animation in the series, the best the show ever looked. So this arc begins at episode 342, and the only episode that needs skipping is 355 so pretty much a solid run through of the whole arc. Nice when we had that before ey………

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The Thousand Year Blood War and Can’t Fear Your Own World


And now we get to the manga only content. As of right now, if you wish to wait for the anime to adapt it that’s entirely up to you. Personally I think this is absolutely worth checking out, if nothing else just for the immaculate artwork. The effort Kubo put in here truly shines, not just in the big splashy panels but even the simplest of moments can be that much greater through his art. The whole war is chock full of moments every fan will love……..until the ending. But is it still worth carrying on till the end? Absolutely, again if nothing else reading it for the art is enough for me. And then there are the light novels; these were made afterwards by a different author with Kubo’s supervision. It was clearly an attempt to throw in a lot of the stuff he wanted to put into the manga but was unable to. It’s getting an english translation this summer so depending how fast you can binge watch/read should be ready just in time for you. There is some fascinating material in there too, so definitely pick it up if you made it this far anyway.

The Filler


So now we get to the filler. And boy is there a lot of it. It gets a bad rep and it’s completely understandable as it was so constantly shoved in the midst of all the canon content it could get exasperating. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. There’s plenty of good episodes in there, especially a few of the single episode filler. But we’ll focus on the bigger filler arcs for now

The Bount Arc is alright, but dragged out and a clear attempt to rehash the success of the Soul Society Arc in a somewhat bland eked out storyline. Sure, the Bount are certainly an interesting concept that was nice to see added to the lore, but it does go on a bit.

The 3rd Captain Arc. Most won’t agree with me but this is probably my favourite filler arc. It gives Izuru Kira some surprisingly relatable character development, and compared to the other filler is mercifully short. It’s a shame it isn’t somewhat canon as there were characters in this arc I’d’ve been happy to see brought into the manga. Personally if I had to pick one to rewatch it’d be this one.

The Zanpakuto Rebellion Arc. A good arc but it came at the worst time; just as we were about to see Ichigo vs Ulquiorra it gets postponed almost a year for this. It brings in a whole host of new characters with great designs and fun dynamics to the cast. But if anything my favourite part is the mini arc at the end where the characters just go full comedy route and it’s vastly more entertaining to browse through.

The Regai Arc. A well timed filler arc for once. Honestly I didn’t think much of it, but it has some great animation work so if that’s all you need then go for it. My issue was the villain’s motivation felt a rather dull rehash of what we’ve seen before

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There are also four movies to watch, though I’ll admit I’ve not got round to them yet. But….yeh, hopefully that was useful to even a few of it, and made some of you want to give it a try.

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