*This guide will be updated as new media is announced, so check back to see what’s changed!*
So I’m sitting here on my phone typing this out, trying to not get distracted by the Burn the Witch event on Brave Souls, while thinking about how to read Can’t Fear Your Own World and how I can get enough money to buy the entire series on Blu-Ray. It’s safe to say that I’ve become obsessed with Bleach.
I’ll admit that it can be hard to get into, though. Tite Kubo’s manga stands at 686 chapters, with the anime boasting 366 episodes (and counting, with the final arc being animated in 2021). There’s a lot of filler specifically in the anime, and if you’re binging Bleach, you’ll stumble onto some episodes that were meant to pad out each season.
To help you out, we’ve decided to make a watch/read guide for Bleach. I’ll make different recommendations for each arc so that you have a good idea of where to start. If you’re interested in the anime side stories but don’t want to watch them, I’d suggest checking out Bleach Brave Souls, a 3D action RPG for mobile and PC that actually puts them into text form with different levels and bosses to fight through.
What’s the best way to read and watch Bleach?
Obviously, you’ll need to choose how you want to experience Bleach. I like reading a lot, so I decided to go through the manga. The best way to read Bleach without breaking the bank is easily the Shonen Jump subscription model. Priced out at $2 USD per month, it lets you read all the chapters of hundreds of serialized manga, including all of Bleach. There is a 100 chapter limit for every 24 hours, which is a lot longer than you might think. It’s also available in other countries which is a great bonus, especially for me in Canadaland.
Watching Bleach is still pretty easy, although geo-restrictions might make it difficult. If you’re in the United States, the anime is available in sub and dub form, depending on your taste. Outside of the USA, Crunchyroll has the entire series subbed, but finding the English dubbed version outside of the US is a lot tougher. Netflix does carry it, but only up to the Bount Arc unfortunately.
Those are the best ways to watch or read Bleach without much hassle. So, without further ado, here’s our guide to experiencing Bleach:
BLEACH READ & WATCH GUIDE
Bleach is split up into four big arcs, with the first arc introducing the other side of existence, the Soul Society. If it wasn’t so damn good I don’t think I would’ve continued Bleach, to be honest.
Substitute Soul Reaper Arc:
Manga Chapters 1-70, Anime Episodes 1-20
Basically watch/read everything here. You’ll figure out quickly if Bleach is your kind of show from this first arc, although maybe give it a few more episodes once they jump into the Soul Society.
Soul Society Entry Arc:
Manga Chapters 71-118, Anime Episodes 21-41
Filler Episode: 33
I’d still watch everything here as well; the one filler episode is basically just a fun time with side characters like Don Kanonji making his own “Power Rangers” with the kids of the human world to fight Hollows. It’s a nice break, especially since they really start to ramp up the story and it can be a lot.
Soul Society Rescue Arc:
Manga Chapters 119-182, Anime Episodes 42-63
This is when the story really hits its stride, and gets very intruiging. There’s also one filler episode in the anime, “The Reviving Lion”, which is another “Power Rangers” type side story. If you like the first one, watch this one too.
Anime-Only, Episodes 64-109
Don’t even bother. It’s literally so unimportant to the story and lore of Bleach that Tite Kubo maybe mentions it once in his author’s notes during the manga run, and the dev team for Brave Souls didn’t even put the story in as a side story for the game. This arc actually put me off the series for a few years. Skip.
This is the next big arc of Bleach, and covers the evolution of the monsters known as Hollows. Ichigo also makes new friends and realizes that he has some new powers. Totally not shonen at all.
The Arrancar Arc:
Manga Chapters 183-253, Anime 110-152
Filler Episodes: 128-137 (Sneak Entry), 147-149 (Forest of Menos)
This is probably one of my personal favorite arcs, as it makes the Arrancar army appear as a total threat to life itself, and a big obstacle for the heroes. There’s two filler portions here. The first one happens while Ichigo and his friends move to invade the Arrancar base of Hueco Mundo and a few other Soul Reapers deal with the Hollows in the human world. It’s not bad, but you won’t miss much out, although there is some interesting side story stuff on the Arrancar side of things. The other arc is Forest of Menos, which focuses on a labyrinth of trees within Hueco Mundo. It’s short, fills in some details, doesn’t detract from the story, and has designs from Tite Kubo himself so watch it if you have the time.
Arrancar Fierce Fight Arc:
Manga Chapters 254-286, Anime Episodes 153-167
This is all canon, watch all of this.
New Captain Shusuke Amagai Arc:
Anime-Only, Episodes 168-189
This arc is better than the Bount arc, because it at leasts build more lore about the Soul Society and its oldest members, including Head Captain Genryusai and the Royal Family. Watch it if you liked all the backstory of the Soul Society.
Arrancar vs Shinigami Arc:
Manga Chapters 286-315, Anime Episodes 190-205
Filler Episodes: 204 & 205
This shorter arc ramps up to probably the biggest fight yet in the Bleach story. The last two episode are filler, and won’t mean much if you didn’t watch the New Captain arc.
The Past Arc:
Manga Chapters -108 to -97 (315.1 to 316.3, each decimal is a chapter), Anime Episodes 206-212
REALLY GOOD arc and fills in a lot of detail for different backstories. The labelling of the manga chapters is odd, but shouldn’t be too hard to follow. All killer, no filler.
Manga Chapters 317-340, Anime Episodes 213-229
Filler Episodes: 213, 214, 227-229
This arc is basically all fighting, so strap in for the fun. The first and last episodes are filler; 213 and 214 are more “Power Rangers” type episodes if that’s your thing. Episode 227 is kinda like Episode 0 of Bleach; it’s the lead up to the first episode basically. Episode 228 is the beach episode, so if you like fan service, watch 228. Episode 229 is about Ikkaku and Yumichika having to stay over at the Asano house. If you liked these shenanigans in the manga, watch this, otherwise skip this.
Zanpakuto: Alternate Tale Arc
Anime-Only, Episodes 230-265
I like this arc mostly because you get to see how other Soul Reapers’ Zanpakuto materialize into human-like form aside from Zangetsu. You won’t miss much by skipping it, but it’s a decent time.
Manga Chapters 341-423, Anime Episodes 266-317
Filler Episodes: 284, 287, 298, 299, 303-305, 311-316
This is where the big battle of Bleach happens, and everything basically revolves around it. It’s a fun time. The filler here is a bit more than you’d expect to be honest.
Episode 284 covers the origin of Haribel, a high-ranking Arrancar known as an Espada. 287 is a dream sequence where Icihgo relives the Soul Society arc but in the desert and Rukia is a genie. 298 is a fun episode where everyone tries to make a movie for a Soul Society film festival. 299 is a 1-episode arc that’s essentially a build-up to the 4th Bleach movie, Hell Verse, so if you don’t feel like watching that, skip it.
303 is a New Year’s Episode with cards, 304 is a dream sequence, and 305 is a funny episode surrounding Rangiku and Shuhei. 311 is another “Power Rangers” episode, 312 and 313 are Soul Society filler, 314 is a Kon-related episode; skip if you hate Kon. 315 and 316 are more Soul Society filler. Pick and choose your battles, or in this case, your filler.
Gotei 13 Invading Arc
Anime-Only Episodes 317-342
This arc is okay. Essentially everyone is fighting everyone. It’s cool to see fights happen that you wouldn’t normally see but it’s not the best story if I’m honest.
Lost Agent Arc:
Manga Chapters 424-479, Anime Episodes 343-366
Filler Episodes: 355
The last anime arc we’ve got right now, the Fullbring Arc helps Ichigo realize his hidden potential, and not just from his Soul Reaper powers. The only filler is another New Year’s special. Do what you will with that info.
Thousand Year Blood Arc
Manga Chapters 480-686, Anime Episode 367-?
This is the final arc of Bleach. You can only read it right now, but the anime version should be out in 2021, fingers crossed. This is a really insane battle arc, so I don’t think there will be any filler episodes. There’s way too much to tell.
That’s the Bleach Watch & Read Guide! But what if you want more?
Watch the movies.
Bleach has four standalone movies. They’re all right, I guess. You can watch the first three anytime after the Arrancar arc starts, but the fourth movie, Hell Verse, takes place around the FoA arc. The only one I really liked was DiamondDust Rebellion, but I like Toshiro Hitsugaya and his Zanpakuto so I’m biased.
Play Bleach Brave Souls.
It might be a gacha game designed to suck up your money, but Brave Souls is pretty faithful to the series. It covers all of the manga up to the middle of the Thousand Year Blood Arc, and even has most of the anime filler as little side stories, It’s quite useful if you stuck to reading the manga or watching non-filler anime episodes. Except for the Bount Arc. No one likes the Bount Arc.
If you enjoy action RPGs, you’ll like Brave Souls. Just try to avoid spending money on it…
Read Can’t Fear Your Own World
CFYOW is a sequel story that takes place after Bleach, surrounding Lieutenant Shuhei Hisagi. It pads out the story and gives more lore and backstory to the Soul Society. You can also play through it on Bleach Brave Souls if you want a bit more action.
Watch & Read Burn The Witch
Burn The Witch is a Bleach-related story, in my view. It’s based in a place called Reverse London, which as you can guess, is the British version of the Soul Society. There’s Dragons instead of Hollows, Witches instead of Shinigami, and a Coin Gate in place of the Senkaimon Gate. Right now, it’s a simple 5 chapter story (a one-shot with 4 follow up chapters), and has been adapted into a movie. There’s also plans to make a 2nd “season” of the manga, so watch out for that as well as the new anime season of Bleach. The best way to read Burn The Witch is the Shonen Jump subscription I mentioned earlier.
Thanks for reading this guide! Hopefully this should help you figure out how you’d like to experience Bleach.