Tite Kubo’s Bleach is one of the biggest and most important manga (and anime) titles in history. The story of Ichigo Kurosaki and his adventures as a Shinigami has become one of the historically most important shonen titles ever. The original manga has been published from August 7, 2001 to August 22, 2016, totaling a total of 74 volumes.
As far as the manga’s narrative is concerned, the 74 volumes are divided into 13 distinct arcs. But, since Bleach is somewhat specific for being a very long series with a 300+-episode anime series, there are also several non-canon anime-only arcs. Since this is a complete article, we are going to present all the arcs, both the canon (manga) ones and the non-canon (anime-only) ones.
Bleach Arcs in Order (at a glance)
Before we detailly explain them, here is a quick summary of all Bleach arcs in order:
- Agent of the Shinigami Arc (The Substitute Shinigami)
- Soul Society Arc
- The Bount Arc*
- The Arrancar Arc
- Hueco Mundo Arc (Arrancar: The Fierce Fight & Arrancar vs. Shinigami)
- The New Captain Shūsuke Amagai Arc*
- The Past Arc (Turn Back The Pendulum)
- The Battle of Karakura Arc (Arrancar: Decisive Battle of Karakura & Arrancar: Downfall)
- Zanpakutō Unknown Tales Arc*
- Gotei 13 Invading Army Arc*
- The Lost Substitute Shinigami Arc (Lost Agent)
- The Quincy Blood War Arc (Thousand-Year Blood War)
- NO BREATHES FROM HELL
Now that you have a quick overview of Bleach arcs in order, let’s take a more detailed look at them.
Bleach arcs in order (fully explained)
This section is going to list all the major manga and anime arcs and give you some basic info about their plots. The arcs are going to be divided based on which source material they are taken from. The arcs are listed by the release date.
Now, since the manga itself wasn’t officially divided into arcs, but rather into events (which actually consist of arcs and mini-arcs), we are going to use a combined division from both the manga and the anime series to give you a proper overview of the series.
NOTE: Those arcs denoted with an asterisk (*) are anime-only arcs and are not considered canon.
Agent of the Shinigami Arc (The Substitute Shinigami)
The story begins when a fifteen-year-old teenager who can see spirits named Ichigo Kurosaki meets a Shinigami (Soul Reaper) named Rukia Kuchiki. Rukia explains to Ichigo what a Shinigami is about as well as her goals. After the brief explanation, the two meet a Hollow (or Hollow), which was attacking Ichigo’s little sister.
Ichigo, seeing his injured sister, furiously attacks the Hollow but fails to defeat him. Rukia tries to help Ichigo but she is injured on the spot. Rukia tells Ichigo that the only way to defeat the Hollow is by transferring her Shinigami powers to him. Ichigo accepts and becomes a Shinigami. Finally, Ichigo manages to defeat the hollow.
By transferring Rukia’s Shinigami powers to Ichigo, the latter has become a Substitute Shinigami since Ichigo’s powers are not his but Rukia’s. But Ichigo will have to replace Rukia longer since when a Shinigami lends his powers, it will take him a while to get them back. Rukia will get a human body and while she recovers she will go to Ichigo’s Institute.
During this saga, characters are presented that will be important in later sagas. They can be mentioned: Yasutora Sado, a quincy named Uryū Ishida, Orihime Inoue, a stuffed animal with a modified soul named Kon and Kisuke Urahara a curious shopkeeper who provides various gadgets to the Shinigami.
The friendship relationship that the aforementioned characters are plotting and how some of them are obtaining powers different from those of Ichigo is also appreciated. What Ichigo didn’t know is that a Shinigami is forbidden to lend his powers to a human being. After Rukia’s stay in the human world with Ichigo, two shinigami named Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki appear to take Rukia to Soul Society to condemn her.
Ichigo tries to rescue Rukia by fighting the Shinigami but is easily defeated and mortally wounded. Just at this moment the exiled shinigami Kisuke Urahara appears and saves Ichigo. Kisuke will teach Ichigo to have his own Shinigami powers through training. At the end of the saga, Ichigo and his friends are guided by a cat by the name of Yoruichi Shihōin to sneak into Soul Society and save Rukia.
Soul Society Arc
The Soul Society Saga is the second saga of the Bleach manga, which narrates the events that occurred in history from the arrival of the Ryoka to Soul Society until the departure of Sōsuke Aizen and his followers to Hueco Mundo.
In it, the action moves practically entirely to Soul Society, the home of the Shinigami, where all the Captains and Sub-Captains of the Gotei 13 appear for the first time, as well as the unstoppable progress of Ichigo Kurosaki in his abilities, developing his newly discovered shikai, knowing his bankai in record time and beginning to sense the existence of Hollow powers within him.
This saga is eminently focused on the combats of Ichigo and his allies with different Shinigami, although at the same time it is observed how the plot unfolds, beginning to show a more choral Bleach, where other characters live their own adventures and their own experiences develop. personalities more independently of the protagonist.
In the anime this material was translated into two full seasons, called Soul Society: The (Sneak) Entry (episodes 21 – 41) and Soul Society: The Rescue (episodes 42 – 63).
The Bount Arc*
The first part tells us about the first movements of the enemy, who are a group of people who have special powers, which consists of devouring human souls to live forever and not grow old, they call themselves Bount. The Bount are characterized by having a Doll which is equivalent to the Zanpakutō of the Shinigami, these differ because they are mostly pets in addition to having a liberated form and personality.
The Bount are the new antagonists of this Saga, which are led by Jin Kariya who hates the Shinigami and also has a past closely related to them. His main objective is Uryu Ishida, the last of the living Quincys, who will plow to obtain it at all costs, but he will be helped by his friends Ichigo Kurosaki, Orihime Inoue and Yasutora Sado. Who will also appear will be the three modified souls Ririn, Kurōdo and Noba that will have the participation of Rukia and Renji.
The second part tells us about the invasion of the Bount to the Soul Society, in which the true objective of the villains is revealed, which is nothing more than to destroy it completely, and this will cause many battles of the Bount against the Captains and Lieutenants of the Gotei 13, having as their last fight Ichigo Kurosaki against the leader of the Bount Jin Kariya.
The Arrancar Arc
The Arrancar ARc is the third saga of the Bleach manga, and the fourth of the anime in which the new races that will begin to play a fundamental role in the development of the story; in it, the Arrancar and the Visored, are introduced. Once the first great plot arc in which the series is divided, the one dedicated to the Shinigami (which includes the first two arc), was finished, the Arrancar Arc began
This part of the story starts from the end of the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends in Soul Society and lasts until the preparations for the trip to Hueco Mundo. In addition to the appearance of the Arrancar and the Visored, the Arrancar Arc shows Ichigo’s progress in mastering his Hollow powers and the preparations of all the characters for the imminent war in which the Shinigami of Soul Society they will face the forces that Sōsuke Aizen is recruiting in Hueco Mundo.
In the anime, the material based on the manga is mixed with other episodes totally unrelated to the central story, in such a way that it covers from episode 110 to 143. These episodes are distributed between the sixth season of the series, called Arrancar: The Arrival arc, and most of the seventh, whose name is Arrancar: The Hueco Mundo Sneak Entry. All of them include several scenes, and even complete episodes, that are not related to the events that occurred in the manga, although they can be framed without major problems in the chronological basis of the series.
Hueco Mundo Arc (Arrancar: The Fierce Fight & Arrancar vs. Shinigami)
Episodes: 144-167 / 190-205
The Hueco Mundo Arc is the fifth saga of the anime and the fourth of the Bleach manga. This deals with the second story in the series: the fight between Aizen’s Arrancar army against Soul Society. This saga begins with the entrance of Uryu, Sado, Ichigo, Renji and Rukia to the Hueco Mundo to rescue Orihime Inoue who was kidnapped for her powers, and is held by Ulquiorra, the main antagonist. Here the increase in powers of the Ryoka and the feelings of the young woman will be shown, as well as intense fights with the last 6 Esoada. New allies and enemies will appear, as well as the presentation of more Arrancars and the Espada. This arc is divided into two parts, before and after Ichigo’s final confrontation against Grimmjow.
The New Captain Shūsuke Amagai Arc*
This arc has two intertwined stories: One recounts the arrival of the new captain of the Third Division, Shūsuke Amagai, who serves as a substitute for Gin Ichimaru. The other is based on the appearance in the Human World of the princess and rightful heiress of the Kasumioji clan, Rurichiyo Kasumiōji and her two Shinigami servants (Kenryū and Enryū).
The Past Arc (Turn Back The Pendulum)
Chapters: -108 – -97
With the name of Turn Back the Pendulum, the fifth saga of Bleach, as it is known by the fandom, should probably be named, momre appropriately, The Past Arc. The name it has received is due to the fact that all the chapters included in this story, with the exception of the last one, are called Turn Back the Pendulum, followed by their order of publication.
Due to its length, this part of the story could well be considered more of a gaiden or a mini-arc, but due to the fact that the events narrated in it play a role of great importance in the central story, it is included within the core plot of the series.
The arc actually shows what the Gotei 13 was like a century before the central events of the series, as well as the origin of the Visored and the role played in their appearance by Kisuke Urahara and Sōsuke Aizen. It was a turning point in the series’ trajectory, by adding a plot component and leaving aside for a time the numerous combats of the last chapters.
The Battle of Karakura Arc (Arrancar: Decisive Battle of Karakura & Arrancar: Downfall)
Episodes: 213 – 229 / 266 – 316
The Battle of Karakura Arc is the sixth saga of the manga and Bleach, and the tenth of the anime in which all the action is transferred to the city of Karakura, and in a small part of the Hueco Mundo, where Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends will put an end to the great rivalry against the Arrancar army led by Sōsuke Aizen.
Once the battles in the Hueco Mundo are over, Aizen decides to put his plan into action and moves to Karakura Town leaving Ulquiorra Cifer in charge of Las Noches. However, his plans to destroy Karakura will be interfered with by the appearance of the Shinigami commanded by General Commander Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto willing to prevent the traitorous Shinigami’s ambitions.
However, Aizen shows that he is not alone and reveals the first three Espada for battle. On the other hand, Ichigo must undergo various tests in order to reach the final level of his Zanpakutō and thus defeat Aizen.
Zanpakutō Unknown Tales Arc*
This anime-exclusive saga focuses on the Toju, Zanpakutos who were materialized by Muramasa but were not rescued by their Shinigami owners, causing them to go into a blind rage.
Gotei 13 Invading Army Arc*
The Gotei 13 Invading Army Arc is an exclusive arc of the anime. It was issued entirely as the fifteenth arc of the anime. This arc consists of 26 episodes and deals with the revenge plans of the Modified Soul Kageroza Inaba to merge with Nozomi Kujō and bring Yushima ouko back to life using the Reigais of some captains and sub-captains of the Gotei 13 such as Byakuya Kuchiki or Momo Hinamori to reach her goal.
Of course, the protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki will intervene with his friends to save Soul Society from destruction. This saga was broadcast after the Arrancar saga offcially ended.
The Lost Substitute Shinigami Arc (Lost Agent)
Chapters: 424 – 479
The Lost Substitute Shinigami is the seventh saga of the manga and the sixteenth and last of the Bleach anime in which new characters, stories, and powers are introduced around the time frame of the series. Here is a new story about 17 months after his battle with Aizen, Ichigo is already a student in the city of Karakura, until he discovers the Xcution group, humans who control special abilities (Fullbring) and the plot is based on their training to regain his shinigami powers and about the past of the previous substitute shinigami.
This saga, after the defeat of the well-known antagonist of the series, Aizen, performs a Time-skip or jump in time, since it shows new appearances of the protagonists in a long space of time.
The Quincy Blood War Arc (Thousand-Year Blood War)
Episodes: 367 – TBD
Yhwach first appears when Luders Friegen returns to Silbern, the base of the Vandenreich. He sees Luders arguing with Asguiaro Ebern, which makes him angry. He, therefore, declares that he hates conflict and cuts Luders’ arm as punishment for arguing, which results in him falling to the ground in great pain.
Luders having difficulty getting up, Yhwach allows him to speak to him while lying down. Only, he will cut off his legs since he does not need them. He then kneels in a hurry and Yhwach questions him wryly about his estimate of the five days of preparation necessary for the war against Soul Society.
He laughs at him, even asking if he is a prophet but the latter refutes this title, which therefore prompts Yhwach to ask him why he had told him about the future when he only wanted to know what was happening. at the moment before completing it. He then focuses on Ebern. Yhwach admits he has no reason to praise or blame him, as he has effectively delayed Ichigo Kurosaki.
He, therefore, says that his role is over and that the latter will be one of the stones of the building of peace in his death and then kills him. Jugram Haschwalth then asks Yhwach if it is okay to kill the Arrancar as he is a soldier who can fight.
Ignoring this remark, Yhwach climbs the stairs that have just formed in a chamber behind his throne and claims that he can acquire as many Arrancars as they want thanks to the Hueco Mundo since he is under their control given that they keep Tia Halibel prisoner.
They then discuss Ebern’s locket that was used without successfully sealing Ichigo’s Bankai. Yhwach admits that “hotheads” sometimes come in handy and that a special plan will be needed to ward off Ichigo. He orders Haschwalth to ask the Jagdarmee to bring back Arrancars with guts.
Later, when he learns that a fight between Ichigo and Quilge Opie is underway, he knows this is the perfect opportunity to invade Soul Society and then summons all the Stern Ritters to invade the Seireitei.
NO BREATHES FROM HELL
This is a special one-shot manga chapter dealing with the aftermath of the Quincy Blood War. Twelve years after the Quincy Blood War, the Gotei 13 holds a ceremony for former 13th Division Captain Jūshirō Ukitake, which Ichigo Kurosaki is invited to attend.
A man tells the story of his two childhood goldfish, both of which he loved until the larger one died one day. The sight of the smaller remaining goldfish made him lonely at first, but soon it grew larger and flourished, so that in the end he was relieved that the larger goldfish died.
At night in Karakura Town, Orihime Inoue looks into Kazui Kurosaki’s room and finds that he seems to be asleep. Then, in her mind, she thanks Kon, who is in his plush body, for playing with him today as she closes the door. Suddenly, Kazui opens his eyes and pushes open the window of his bedroom, whereupon Kon, startled, asks where he is going and reminds Kazui that he should stay here since he just got into trouble yesterday.
When Kazui affirms that he promised to visit him again yesterday, Kon points out that he also promised Orihime to go to bed and asks which is more important, to which Kazui bluntly states that his first promise is valid. Kon is upset by this and decides to let him go if he is so stubborn. Kazui jumps out the window while telling Kon he does not have to come, assumes his shinigami form, and manifests two large fish in the air, the larger of which lands on his back.
As Kon frantically follows suit and lands on the smaller fish, Kazui realizes, to Kon’s chagrin, that he could have pretended to be asleep and not noticed Kazui’s departure.