Tite Kubo’s Bleach is one of those iconic manga and anime franchises that has become a part of animation history. One of the “Big Three” series, alongside Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto and Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, Bleach is a series that is beloved even today, decades after its debut. Sure, the upcoming final season has reignited the fans’ interest and will certainly attract new ones, but regardless of that, Bleach is an undeniable classic and that is why we have decided to dedicate this article to Bleach.
As a fan of the series and someone who really enjoyed everything that Bleach had to offer, I have decided to write up a small homage to the series by explain why Bleach absolutely had the best music out of all the major anime series and that the show consistently provided for everything that you’d expect from a shonen anime music.
The music of Bleach – an overview
As far as the official soundtrack is concerned, the music of Bleach has been composed by famed Japanese composer Shirō Sagisu, who has recently worked on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and will – of course – return to compose the score for the upcoming season of Bleach, which is going to adapt the manga’s final arc.
Sagisu is a brand name in Japan and while anime music is most commonly similar in tone throughout the series, Sagisu’s score for Bleach provided so much diversity that you’d think that he was working on the opening and ending themes. The soundtrack provided us with everything, from classical rock tunes to epic orchestral themes, but we’ll dig into the details of the score in a later part of this article.
As for the opening (OP) and ending (ED) themes, Bleach has, as an anime with 366 episodes, given us a total of 45 songs – 15 OPs and 30 EDs. This is a common practice when long-running anime are concerned; a new OP would usually (although not always) signal the start of a new season, while the EDs were changed mid-season (sometimes they would actually coincide with a season ending/beginning, but that wasn’t very common).
In the paragraphs that follow, we are going to discuss each of these three segments and explain why each of them is such a work of art and why Bleach indeed has the best music in the world of anime.
The soundtrack of Bleach
We start off the the official soundtrack composed by Sagisu and other artists who collaborated on the music. If you just look over the four official soundtrack CDs that have been released between 2005 and 2009, a lot of the main themes are not going to be on them. This is why it is absolutely necessary to consult both the movie OSTs, as well as the later compilations that had been released over the years.
There are two main traits of Sagisu’s soundtrack – it’s darkness and its diversity. Bleach is a shonen work in every aspect and has, as such, respected the boundaries of its classification, but Kubo has nevertheless tackled some dark and mature topics throughout the work. The fact that death and afterlife are central topics of Bleach certainly confirms this. This is, actually, what made Bleach so unique among the “Big Three” – both Naruto and One Piece did get dark from time to time, but the approaches of Kishimoto and Oda were very different than Kubo’s and focused more on the adventure aspect of the story than the philosophical background.
In light of that, the soundtrack also had to be quite specific, don’t you think? It would’ve been quite stupid had the soundtrack of Bleach not reflected the depth of the narrative, but also the diversity of the content. As said, Bleach is a shonen work so Kubo, despite the more mature aspects of his story, still ventured into the shonen genre and gave us everything we’d expect from such a work. This means that, at the same time, we had to deal with the topics of loss and teenage coming-of-age.
Sagisu brilliantly captured all of these moments in his music. If you listened to the background music more carefully, you should know what we are talking about here. There were hilarious scenes where the music was absolutely wacky, there were epic battles where the music painted the atmosphere better than the frames themselves, and there were heartbreaking moments where Sagisu’s soul emanated from the music.
As for the hilarious tunes, just remember “Comical World”, “Oh So Tired”, “Ditty for Daddy”, “Dodo Dance” (probably the best-known among them), and “Magot’s Dance”. Mostly very short, these tunes made some of the scenes quite memorable and perfectly reflected the essence of not just the scenes, but the characters involved in them. This is, of course, just a short segment of the genius that it Sagisu’s “funny opus”, but it goes to show how great the guy was in crafting his music.
The epic section is probably the best one in terms of some of the more objective standards. Namely, Bleach was all about battling and growing, so the music had to be epic in order to reflect the complexity of such scenes and their depth, as well. Sagisu, the same guy who composed the mock tunes from the previous section, made it all possible with some of the most memorable anime compositions ever. The first one that, of course, comes to mind is “Treachery”, popularly known as “Aizen’s Theme”, which is – in a lot of ways – the essence of Bleach. But, this is not the only one.
We also have “Invasion”, which is very similar in tone, a completely different, yet equally epic (in terms of style) compositions titled “Clavar la Espada” and “Nube negra”, and the famous battle theme, the one with which it all started – “Escalon”. The numerous variations of “Fade to Black”, “Quincy’s Craft”, “Hollowed” and “What You Can See in Their Eyes” are also worth mentioning.
Finally, the sad compositions are those where Sagisu’s genius really kicks in, as they had the most soul out of all the compositions. It is truly difficult to select only a few, as each of these compositions had a story to tell, both as a standalone work, and as part of the overall structure of the anime. We can start off with “Nothing Can Be Explained”, which is more dark than sad, but this depressing tune is one of the show’s trademark motifs. Heartbreak is heard in the three movements of “Never Meant to Belong”, as well as in the three iterations of “Recollection”. “Soundscape to Ardor” and “Torn Apart” truly reflected the pain of each situation, while “Will of the Heart” and “Feudal Society” also hit the right spot each time. Ultimately, “Here to Stay” serves as somewhat of a calm ending, but is nevertheless the most melancholic among these tunes.
In the end, it is obvious how Sagisu actually put his whole soul into Bleach and how the diversity of these tunes truly reflects the creative genius behind it. Whether you want to laugh or cry, Bleach has it all, and it presents itself in such an original and authentic way that you cannot but admire the beauty of these compositions. This is why Sagius’s music is to much above that of other anime series and why it is, as the title of one of the compositions states – here to stay.
The opening themes (OPs) of Bleach
Throughout its original run, Bleach had a total of 15 opening themes (OPs), and they are:
|3||“Ichirin no Hana” (一輪の花, One Lone Flower)||High and Mighty Color||52-74|
|4||“Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”||Beat Crusaders||75-97|
|7||“After Dark”||Asian Kung-Fu Generation||144-167|
|10||“Shōjo S” (少女S, Girl S)||SCANDAL||215-242|
|11||“Anima Rossa”||Porno Graffitti||243-265|
|13||“Ranbu no Melody” (乱舞のメロディ, Melody of the Wild Dance)||SID||292-316|
|15||“Harukaze” (春風, Spring Wind)||SCANDAL||343-366|
The fact that so many OPs have rotated over the course of the 366 episodes is nothing unusual. Modern-day anime viewers might find it strange, but the “Big Three” era was simply like that and it was nothing unusual for one show to have 15 OPs (and even 30 EDs, as we are going to see soon). Everything we’ve listed above also reflects the diversity of Bleach, as you can find something for everyone.
From slower and more romantic tunes, via your book-definition pop-rock, to absolute J-pop classics that transcended the original series and became true hits even outside of Bleach. The best example is the work of Aqua Timez, one of Japan’s best-known bands around the world, whose songs “ALONES” and “Velonica” became absolute hits. The guys also did an ED for Bleach and the ED for the first movie, “Sen no Yoru wo Koete”.
But it’s not just Aqua Timez. SID, another famous band, did a great thing with “Ranbu no Melody”, as did both Orange Range, whose “*~Asterisk~” will go down in history as the OP that started it all, and UVERworld with “D-tecnoLife”. Miwa also had an amazing OP with “chAngE”, as did SCANDAL with “Harukaze”, and so on; honestly, we could tell a story about each of these songs, but that would take up too much of your time so we’re not going to do it.
We have to, once again, repeat that like Sagisu’s soundtrack, these OPs really showed how diverse Bleach was and how many emotions and atmospheres it managed to create over the years. What accompanied these songs were truly amazing opening animations (you can see the one for “Velonica” yourselves, but there’s also the ones for “D-tecnoLife”, “ALONES”, “Ranbu no Melody”, “chAngE”, and others), which not only revealed some additional details about the plot and the characters, but were true works of art that amazingly supplemented the songs. Bleach provided us with a diversity like no other anime of the time and with so many memorable themes that there is no doubt that it surpasses its competition in this aspect as well.
The ending themes (EDs) of Bleach
As we have said, Bleach has had a total of 30 ending themes (EDs) and they are:
|1||“Life is Like a Boat”||Rie Fu||1-13|
|2||“Thank You!!”||Home Made Kazoku||14-25|
|3||“Hōkiboshi” (ほうき星, Comet)||Younha||26-38|
|4||“Happypeople”||Skoop On Somebody||39-51|
|6||“My Pace”||SunSet Swish||64-74|
|7||“Hanabi” (花火, Fireworks)||Ikimono-Gakari||75-86|
|9||“Baby It’s You”||JUNE||98-109|
|10||“Sakura Biyori” (桜日和, Cherry Blossom Weather)||Mai Hoshimura||110-120|
|11||“Tsumasaki” (爪先, Tiptoe)||OreSkaBand||121-131|
|12||“Daidai” (橙, Bitter Orange)||Chatmonchy||132-143|
|13||“Tane wo Maku Hibi” (種をまく日々, The Days When Seeds are Scattered)||Kōsuke Atari||144-153|
|14||“Kansha” (感謝。, Appreciation.)||RSP||154-167|
|17||“Hitohira no Hanabira” (ヒトヒラのハナビラ, A Single Petal Piece)||Stereopony||190-201|
|18||“Sky Chord ~Otona ni Naru Kimi e~” (Sky Chord 〜大人になる君へ〜, Sky Chord 〜To The Adult You〜)||Shion Tsuji||202-214|
|19||“Kimi wo Mamotte, Kimi wo Aishite” (君を守って君を愛して, I Protect You, I Love You)||Sambomaster||215-229|
|20||“Mad Surfer”||Kenichi Asai||230-242|
|21||“Sakurabito” (さくらびと, Cherry Blossom’s Man)||SunSet Swish||243-255|
|22||“Tabidatsu Kimi e” (旅立つキミへ, Beginning Your Journey)||RSP||256-265|
|26||“Song For…”||ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D||304-316|
|27||“Blue Bird” (アオイトリ)||fumika||317-329|
|28||“Haruka Kanata” (ハルカカナタ, Far Away)||UNLIMITS||330-342|
As said, the sheer number of these songs should not come as a surprise, as it is completely usual for such long anime series. But, let us skip this part and talk about the EDs themselves. Due to their large number, some of these EDs never achieved the fame of the show’s OPs, but on a general level, they were also pretty amazing as a whole.
The endings reflect the diversity of the series probably even more than the OPs, which you’ll hear for yourselves if you just go through the titles (you can check out the TV-size versions and you’ll get what we are talking about). In a lot of was, the EDs reflect the diversity of Sagisu’s soundtrack – there’s songs that will make you laugh, those that will make you cry and almost everything in between.
SunSet Swish, for example, had a hilariously fun song with “My Pace”, but they also had a touching piece with “Sakurabito”. “Blue Bird”, “Orange”, “Haruka Kanata” and th likes were more or less classic pop tunes, but they somehow fit the episodes during which they have been shown quite well. On the other hand, you also have such pearls as the adorable “Kansha”, the complex “Re:pray” by Aimer, the touching “Sky Chord”, and a truly unique piece – “Stay Beautiful”, whose ending animation told a wholly different story that definitely needed to be told.
While we’re at it, the ending animations were generally on the same level of quality as the opening ones and the narration within them was also amazing, just remember the story of Ichigo and Rukia from “Gallop” or the heartwarming narration of “Sky Chord” focusing on Orihime; there were also some animations that focused on Kon and the Mod Souls which were mostly hilarious, but still worth a watch.
Ultimately, we left the best for last, and with it, we are going to wrap up our analysis. When “MASK” premiered in episode 355, it was still not known that Bleach would end after just 12 episodes; everybody knew that the story was not over, but no one at the time knew that it would not be continued in the anime. “MASK” was a true work of art, both from the animation aspect and the musical aspect, and it brilliantly reflected Ichigo’s struggles during the Fullbringer Arc.
But, what really broke yours truly (and probably a lot of other fans who’ve been with the show from Episode 1 and followed it through the 366 episodes and the four movies) was the last scene from Episode 366, after Ichigo said goodbye to Rukia. “MASK” started playing and we saw all the characters we’ve been following for the past 365 episodes in one final goodbye as Ichigo once more returned to the World of the Living, greeted by his friends and his family.
There was no omake featuring Kon, there was no “To Be Continued…” and no clip showing what would be happening in the next episode. Bleach was over and with “MASK” in the background, it gave us one of the best and most emotional goodbyes an anime could give. Everyone knew it was not the end of the story, but it took a whole decade before we got a confirmation of Bleach‘s return to the screens. This is why “MASK” was so brilliant and so touching, and why that last scene beautifully summed up what Bleach was to a whole generation and why the music was such an important part of the story Tite Kubo told us, and why it was above the others.
And with this, our little homage to the music of Bleach has come to an end. Before we actually conclude this article, here is our list of the five best compositions from each of the three categories we have analyzed above:
Opening themes (OPs)
Bleach has truly raised a generation. The originality of the concept, the dark tone, the meticulously crafted world, and unforgettable characters – all of this has made Bleach the classic it is today. Whether you’ve seen it when it originally came out or you entered Kubo’s amazing world at a later date, Bleach is a true marvel and undoubtedly one of the best stories ever told (despite its imperfections). The music we have had the pleasure of enjoying throughout the anime’s run was just a fitting addition and it only made the whole story more brilliant.
This article is a small thank you to both Tite Kubo and Shirō Sagisu, but also all the great bands (especially Aqua Timez, you guys were incredible) and solo artists who’ve left their mark on Bleach. Thank you for all the epic moments, for all the profound emotions and for making a whole generation richer with experience. ありがとうございました!