The action fantasy anime Bleach has drawn a huge following, and viewers are taken on a quest as hero Ichigo Kurosaki learns the ways of the Soul Reapers to fight evil spirits, scheming madmen, and more. And there's going to be some sacrifices along the way.
The heroes of Bleach triumph in the end over the Espadas, Sosuke Aizen, and the Wandenreich, but some of them will fall along the way. And in flashbacks, some characters suffered tragic losses early on. What are some of the most heartbreaking deaths and other losses our heroes had to endure?
10 Masaki Kurosaki
She was Ichigo's mother, and in flashbacks, we see that she was the sweestest and most doting mom a boy could ask for. In fact, young Ichigo would brighten at the very sight of her, and it devastated him when Grand Fisher killed her on a rain-soaked riverbank.
Later, it is revealed that she was once a half-blood Quincy, but she lost her powers and thus was an easy target for the villainous Grand Fisher. The normally jovial Isshin Kurosaki is also pretty somber when he visits her gravesite, and he remembers her fondly.
9 Hisana Kuchiki
The sisters Hisana and Rukia knew nothing but hardship and heartbreak for the longest time. They were orphans in the Rukongai's impoverished districts, and Hisana, in fit if desperation, abandoned her little sister and ended up with the Kuchikis.
The young family head, Byakuya, broke protocol and married her, and their marriage was a dreamlike bliss (according to Hisana) until she died of an illness five years later. Byakuya took this pretty hard, but he did honor Hisana's last wish and recruited Rukia to the Kuchiki family and Gotei 13.
8 Captain Sajin Komamura
Unlike most of the characters on this list, Sajin Komamura didn't lose his life in Bleach. But this stalwart Captain did embrace a hidden power to defeat Sternritter "E" Bambietta Basterbine, and in so doing, exhausted the last of his Soul Reaper power.
He was rendered a powerless wolf afterwards and thus retired from the Court Guard Squads. His Lieutenant, Tetsuzaemon Iba, took his place, as Bleach's final chapter shows. What a shame, too, since he was a tough and cool Captain!
7 Genryusai Yamamoto
Once the Head Captain of the Gotei 13, Yamamoto stood as the most powerful Soul Reaper to ever live in a millennium. His steadtast leadership saw the Soul Society through many hardships, and he was ready to lay his life on the line to face down the traitorous Sosuke Aizen.
He survived that battle, but ultimately lost his life to Yhwach. Captains Ukitake and Kyoraku took his death very hard, as he was like a father to them.
6 Coyote Stark
Even some villains get sympathy sometimes, and out of the ten Espadas, the Primera Espada (#1) wasn't such a bad guy after all. Before joining Aizen's army, he was just a lonely guy who actually created Lillynette from his body just to have a friend.
Other hollows died around him due to his incredible spiritual pressure, but Aizen gave him some much-wanted friends with the Espadas. Stark didn't even like fighting that much, and he only reluctantly crossed swords with Kyoraku and Ukitake.
5 Ulquiorra Cifer
Here's another villain who made this list. At first, Ulquiorra is an ice-cold killer, and he was the mastermind behind Orihime's abduction. He later subjected her to emotional torment at Las Noches, and he very nearly killed Ichigo and Uryu during their final battle.
But Ulquiorra is a creature tortured by loneliness and emptiness, and while he tried to make all that a part of his being, he was drawn to Orihime's heart. He scorned the idea, until he saw the light for the first time, and wanted very badly to see Orihime's heart. He dissolved into dust, though, right before he could do it.
4 Soken Ishida
This is another character who died before the main events of Bleach. Soken Ishida was a Quincy, one of the very few of these hollow hunters left outside of the Wandenreich. His son Ryuken is a skilled archer, but Ryuken abandoned the Quincy ways in favor of a modern life.
Meanwhile, Soken was a warm grandfather to Uryu, and taught the boy everything he knew about the Quincy life. Uryu has gotten over it, but when Mauyri Kurotsuchi taunted him about torturing Soken to death, it's understandable that Uryu went on a rampage.
3 Retsu Unohana
There was much more to Captain Unohana than met the eye. She was a petite woman with a warm smile and extraordinary healing powers, and her Lieutenant, Isane Kotetsu, really looked up to her. She could get anyone into line just with a gentle glare and a motherly smile! But in fact, she was once the original Captain of Squad 11, Yachiru Unohana, a vicious killer.
She found a strange boy near a pile of corpses one rainy day, and trained him to become the ultimate fighter: Kenpachi Zaraki! Fortunately, Captain Unohana trained him some more later on with her real powers, but unfortunately, this came at the cost of her life. Kenpachi was very reluctant to slay her, and he cried out in rage and grief.
2 Kaname Tosen
The former Captain of Squad 9 was rather cryptic about his reasons for joining Sosuke Aizen (along with Gin Ichimaru), and he served as the general of the arrancars.
Not only that, but he somehow acquired hollow powers as well, and used them in combat. But Tosen is not an evil man; he was misled by Aizen, and he strayed from the path of honor and justice. This weighed heavily on Sajin Komamura, who owed Tosen a debt of gratitude when Tosen accepted him for who he was.
1 Chojuro Sasakibe
He was one of the longest-running Soul Reapers out there, serving under Yamamoto for over a thousand years. He was also intensely loyal, and this poor man was one of the Wandenreich's first victims when war was declared. Sternritter "O" Driscoll Berci, acting off-screen, threw a mighty arrow at Sasakibe, and slew him with one strike.
His body was, in fact, pinned to Yamamoto's office wall as a grim warning of what was to come. Yamamoto grieved this more deeply than anyone else could comprehend, as Shunsui Kyoraku later put it.