With the 1000 Year Blood War arc coming in later this year in October, I thought it would be a great time for me to start rewatching and re-reading Bleach because…there’s a TON of Bleach to get through; 366 episodes to be precise. Which, yes, does include a ton of filler.
Anime In the 2000s.
Bleach is a really important anime for me because it opened my world up to anime beyond the accessible series I had watched up until that point; moving past shows that were on cable TV, mainly from Adult Swim and Toonami:
- Dragon Ball Z
- Cowboy Bebop
- Yu Yu Hakusho
- Ruroni Kenshin
I had some anime on DVDs, but that was mostly due to my local GameStop getting rid of their DVDs in a Buy 2 Get 1 (or get 2?) sale. I just so happened to find full series sets of Trigun and The Vision of Escaflowne. Score. Outside of this amazing deal, owning or watching anime was a bit of a hassle, as this was the era of Best Buy really being the only retailer around that sold anime, and it was expensive, somewhere around $35 for a single DVD of 3-5 episodes of a season. I speak about this a bit in my Anime | How My Journey Began In The Early 2000s post.
I always wondered who collected those Dragonball Z DVD sets because there were 86 volumes…which would have cost around $2,600 to own all of DBZ!
Even owning a normal, 26 episode anime would have cost around $300 give or take. I remember getting The Vision of Escaflowne part 1 of 8 for Christmas (the first anime I ever owned) and quickly realized that I would probably NEVER see the rest of the series because there were 7 more volumes to collect. That was really it for being able to watch anime, legally.
My Bleach Experience
I’m pretty sure my Bleach adventure begins in November of 2006, as I remember being in college and having previously watched Death Note, (I made the instant connection to “Shinigami” as the fansub of Bleach I watched used “Shinigami” instead of “Soul Reaper”). Specifically, why I believe it was November, I’ll get to in a bit.
How did I find the Bleach anime?
Back in the mid-2000s, I was always on forums looking for new anime to check out. One day I stumbled upon a description for a little show known as Bleach. An odd name for a show, but it was the imagery and plot synopsis that had me eager to find and watch this currently ongoing anime.
It follows “the adventures of the hotheaded teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who inherits his parents’ destiny after he obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper—a death personification similar to the Grim Reaper—from another Soul Reaper, Rukia Kuchiki.”
I had to watch this series. There were over 100 episodes of it and I was ready to dive in. But, to my unfortunate luck at the time, the releases of Bleach were either way behind (and expensive) in reference to their Viz Media’s DVD releases. Adult Swim aired the show, but there were hiatus’ to allow the dub to catch up.
Luckily, back then we had eBay and I was no stranger to grabbing box sets of anime off the auction site. Completely suspect copies of anime series that contained 26 episodes across 2 or 3 disks, showing up in shady packaging with these weird slightly opaque sleeves. They were very clearly, bootlegs.
What I found for Bleach were 105 episodes on burned DVDs, complete with an episode selection, and even a pressed artwork label. It was a little annoying that the last disk cut off the season at episode 105 since season 5 actually ends with episode 109, but I concluded that whoever sold me this bundle back then, was just downloading the fansubbed episodes, burning these disks, and making some easy eBay profits.
All the episode openers had a logo for Dattebayo, and what do you know, they were a big fansub site releasing Bleach, Naruto, and more. They focused on getting the episodes up as quickly as possible after they aired in Japan, so these were speed sub, meaning they were maybe not the most accurate; they did have swearing, so I thought they were great.
Now, remember, Netflix didn’t even offer streaming until early 2007, so anime fans looking for shows that weren’t airing on Adult Swim, Toonami, or available as DVDs in store, had to turn to torrenting.
Anime dubs, at least in Bleach’s case, were 2 years behind. At the time I bought these burned Bleach disks in late 2006, only about 12 or so episodes of Bleach had actually been dubbed and aired on Adult Swim. To watch 105 episodes of dubbed Bleach, I would have had to wait nearly 3 years, as episode 105 was aired as a dub on March 14, 2009. Tack on an additional year for DVD sets, as season 5 came out in 2010 (4-5 episode single releases in March 2010 and June 2010 as a season set).
I went a bit further (crazy?) because I wanted to watch these episodes on my TV and not at my computer monitor, so I wound up burning hundred and hundreds of anime to rewritable DVDs to do so.
But all of this is worth it. I consumed Bleach. I found a Kon doll. I have Ichigo’s Bankai sword. Like really, I found this sword on eBay back then, it has a black blade; I became obsessed. Bleach was also the first manga I ever bought – buying 30 or so volumes, once again, off eBay (I wish I still had these).
Back to the anime, I burned through the episodes in mere weeks. Having nothing to watch as I waited for the next Dattebayo fansubbed episode to drop, I dove right into Naturo. And what do you know, Naruto isn’t a kid’s show, it’s awesome.
Little did I know I was now watching 2 of the “Big 3” — Bleach, Naruto, & One Piece (I have yet to watch One Piece, 1000+ episodes is quite the commitment).
I would keep up with Bleach and Naruto, waiting a few months so episodes could pile up for an easy binge. Unfortunately, for Bleach, we had so much filler in the final few seasons, that I never actually made my way through the end, and lost my interest to the point that I didn’t even read the manga chapters that finished up the story.
It was a wild time back then. Anime wasn’t a mainstream acceptance, or as cool as it is today. Hell, I remember my Dad commenting on how I was always watching those “Japanese cartoons” as if I were some sort of weirdo. On the other hand, there was something exciting about being part of this internet community back then; chatting about the new episodes, searching through forums for show recommendations, making watch lists, etc.
Now, anime is easily accessible and available to everyone; it’s actually quite insane to think about being able to watch Attack on Titan subbed, as a simulcast on Hulu, let alone Crunchyroll.
I’m really pumped to rewatch the Bleach anime and see how (and if) it holds up.
I’d love to know how you experienced Bleach and if you were watching anime back in the mid-2000s. Do you remember Dattebayo, or grabbing fansubs off random websites or torrents? Were you buying bootlegs off eBay, or were you spending hundreds if not thousands buying single releases from retail stores?
As I was writing this, I was inspired to record my journey through rewatching Bleach. See my video, where I review and talk about my experience rewatching the first 3 episodes of Bleach for the first time in nearly 16 years. I hope you’ll tag along for this journey.