Once an esteemed member of the Shonen Jump 'Big Three,' Tite Kubo's Bleach is one of the most popular manga franchises of all time. Naturally, Kubo's samurai series would earn an anime adaptation thanks to its massive fan following and record-breaking sales figures. Studio Pierrot stepped up to the task - initially aiming to stay as faithful to the source material as possible.
But somewhere along the way, Pierrot's plans fell through. By the manga and the anime's respective conclusions, Bleach's story had two drastically different interpretations. We're going to look at ten disparities between the original manga and Pierrot's anime adaptation.
10 Kūkaku Doesn't Have A Prosthetic Arm In The Manga
One of the things that helped Bleach stand out among its contemporaries was the series' unique character designs. Tite Kubo went to great lengths to ensure that everyone looked distinct to the best of his ability. That way, readers could immediately tell the difference between a character like Ichigo Kurosaki and Kaien Shiba.
Kaien's sister Kūkaku was one of the most visually distinct characters in all of Bleach, thanks to her amputated arm. In the anime, Kūkaku uses a prosthetic limb to make her life easier. However, she completely lacks that artificial limb in the original manga! It's unfortunate because Kūkaku is one of the coolest handicapped heroines around.
9 The Manga Lacks The Bount Arc
Most Bleach fans agree that the Soul Society arc was the series at its best; people love the arc for its fantastic fight scenes, sophisticated storytelling, and pivotal character moments! Studio Pierrot pulled out all of the stops when it came time to animate this storyline, giving us some of the best bits of television in anime history!
After the epic arc concluded, Pierrot followed up with the ever-divisive Bount arc - which made up the entirety of Bleach's fourth season. There are fans who appreciate the Bount arc's attempts at filling the Soul Society arc's massive shoes. There are also plenty of fans who feel that this arc derailed the anime - setting in on course for its notorious ending. If you're not crazy about the Bount arc then rejoice, for the Bleach manga doesn't include this storyline at all. The Bount arc is the first of many storylines created for the anime. Fans call this sort of content 'filler,' as it fills in the gaps between Bleach's source material and its adaptation.
8 The Anime Severely Reduced Isshin's Role Early On
Another big difference between the anime and the manga adaptation's of Bleach is Isshin Kurosaki's role in the story. If you only watched the anime, you might have a different interpretation of Ichigo's father than what Kubo intended; in the show, Isshin's more of a goofy comic relief character for most of the early parts in the story. Once we learn about his status as a Soul Reaper, Isshin becomes slightly more pivotal to the story.
In the manga, however, Isshin plays a much more important role from the first chapter onward. Sure, he's still a walking source of cringeworthy Dad Jokes, but he also serves as a mentor to Ichigo and his sisters when needed. Isshin also isn't as clueless as the anime initially portrays him.
7 Supporting Cast Members Get More Love In The Manga
While we're on the subject of Bleach's supporting cast, it's worth noting that all of Ichigo's close friends and family members play larger roles in the manga. To be fair, many other anime adaptations commit this same crime as well; Gohan was supposed to take over Goku's role as the main protagonist of DBZ and Zoro is a bit of an aimless character in One Piece.
However, it's still unfortunate that characters like Chad and Ishida don't get to shine as much in the anime. Heck, even Ichigo's potential love interests weren't fleshed out as much in the anime as opposed to the manga.
6 'IchiHime' Gets Shipped More In The Manga
Speaking of shipping, let's address some of the controversy surrounding the official pairing of Ichigo and Orihime Inoue. Another major difference between the anime and the manga is the amount of set up their relationship receives. In Kubo's manga, Ichigo and Orihime start to get closer to one another during the first few chapters of the series.
In stark contrast, the anime pairs Ichigo with Rukia Kuchiki much more frequently - accidentally shipping IchiRuki more than IchiHime. This is partially why numerous anime fans felt robbed when they heard that Ichigo got married to Orihime and started a family. But since the anime didn't get that far, who's to say that Ichigo ends up marrying the same woman. Never give up IchiRuki shippers, there's still hope!
5 Shūsuke Amagai is An Anime Only Character
Some characters that we meet in the anime don't even appear in the manga in any way, shape, or form. Take the infamous Shūsuke Amagai for instance. A Bleach fan that's only watched the anime might think that he's a big deal in the manga - after all, he was the main villain of season nine.
However, much like the Bounts, Shūsuke doesn't appear in Kubo's manga at all! Considering that Shūsuke was loved and hated in equal measure, your mileage may vary on his exclusion from the source material. We'll say this - the original Bleach manga does make for an expedient experience.
4 The Zanpukto Rebellion Is Exclusive To The Anime
Season thirteen is another of Bleach's many filler story arcs. Honestly, there's so much filler that we could probably write an entire article about it - ranking the arcs from best to worst. Despite our tone, filler stories aren't all bad - they can serve as fun breaks from the main story that give us more memorable character moments in the long run.
The Zanpakutō Rebellion, however, doesn't fit that bill; it centers around the efforts of a rogue spirit named Muramasa. Not all fans take exception with this arc, but the ones who do chide it for overstaying its welcome and playing around with Bleach's canon too liberally.
3 The Gotei 13 Invading Army Doesn't Appear In The Manga
The last sentence from the previous paragraph also accurately describes the gripes with the Gotei 13 Invasion arc. As with all filler arcs, one's enjoyment is subjective - plenty of fans love the Bleach anime's penultimate season! However, there's a vocal majority who feel that this arc wrung out the last ounces of goodwill left in the show.
The Gotei 13 Invading Army arc wouldn't be here if it were included in the manga. To the relief of many and the chagrin of others, this arc only appears in Bleach's anime adaptation. That's not to say that the manga's penultimate storyline went over better with fans, come to think of it.
2 The Anime Ends Abruptly
Well, technically both the anime and the manga feature rushed endings. But whereas the manga screeched to halt after Kubo hurriedly put down his pen, the anime got canceled before it could catch up to Kubo's books. "Changing History, Unchanging Heart" is the name of Bleach's 168th episode. The show's finale is more open-ended than the manga's - suggesting that the creative team behind the anime hoped to return some day.
In contrast, Bleach's manga wraps everything up with the series' final villain Yhwach. We then skip ahead into the future, see that Ichigo and Rukia have married different people, then see their kids display their latent spiritual potential.
1 The Manga Is Much Gorier
Let's end on a break from narrative differences between the anime and the manga adaptations of Bleach. The toned down gore and violence featured in the anime are some of the starkest contrasts from Kubo's books. Everything from the amount of blood shown onscreen to the depiction of certain characters' deaths differences from the source material.
We can thank censorship for these disparities. In fairness, we understand that censorship exists to uphold long-standing rules and regulations. So if you seriously take issue with these sorts of changes, take it up with the lawmakers. Still, it's weird seeing a guy swing a blade through an opponent, only to see scratches and nicks in the aftermath.