Bleach is the oddly-titled action Manga which starts off a bit like Yu Yu Hakusho(“Ghost Files”): Boy meets girl. Girl turns out to be a Grim Reaper(Soul Reaper in this case). Boy becomes mystical warrior and fights monsters.

There are a few key differences. For example, Ichigo (the guy) accidentally ends up with Rukia (the Grim Reaper Girl)’s powers, and ends up having to do her job, even though he’s still alive. The monsters are evil ghosts called Hollows who need to be kicked out of the living world; either into the Soul Society (Heaven, sorta) or Hell (Hell, pretty much). Some ghosts ain’t so bad but many go nuts and turn into killer Hollows, even if they used to be good people, basically because they can’t handle it. Thus the need for Soul Reapers.

One interesting twist is that most people can’t see what’s going on with these spirits (Soul Reapers, ghosts and Hollows), and Ichigo has to leave his body to properly fight them. Rukia is the only one around who can yank his soul out from his body and because Ichigo has her powers, he’s the only one who can fight the Hollows. Thus they form a reluctant partnership.

There’s the usual cast of wacky sidekicks/freinds/relatives, some of whom can see ghosts and others can’t. There’s lots of action, plenty of comedy and just a bit of horror. It’s kinda like Buffy, but literally no one knows about Ichigo’s abilities because Rukia has a Men In Black style cigarette lighter/memory eraser for the few times someone does manage to figure out what’s going on. One wonders if Ichigo is going to get his memory erased when Rukia manages to get her powers back…

Anyway, I’ve got volumes 1-5 from the library but have only read 1 and 2 so far. Darn good series.

P.S. Like most very-strangely-named Manga, I don’t think there’s a specific reason why it’s called Bleach, unless it’s a pun on something in Japanese. There’s no character called Bleach, at least not yet…

EDIT: Whoops! Fixed a few things.

Having read volumes 3-5 last night, it turns out that it’s not most ghosts who turn into hollows, but there are quite a few of them. Also, it’s not just because “they can’t handle it”, but because they literally get too attached to people or places. An interesting twist. Volume 5 is an “You think you know what’s been going on? Well now, everything changes!” mini-saga about a Soul Reaper hating psychic guy named Uryu Ishida and his status-quo changing scheme to beat Ichigo. The story isn’t finished by the end of that volume, and I don’t know if volume 6 has been published yet. Argh!

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