Naruto and One Piece’s names are self-evident. But what about Tite Kubo’s smash blockbuster Bleach manga series?
Bleach, a popular manga series created by Tite Kubo, debuted in Japan in 2001 and quickly established itself as one of Shonen Jump’s famous “big three,” alongside Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto and One Piece by Eiichiro Oda. Bleach is the weirdest name of the three, with a meaning that isn’t entirely clear even years after the series ended. There is, however, a rationale behind it.
When Bleach’s one-shot flopped, manga veteran Akira Toriyama wrote Tite Kubo a letter of encouragement, encouraging him to continue with Bleach, despite the unusual title. Kubo’s insistence on the term Bleach is pure Kubo, if not also a smart parody of the Soul Reapers concept.
Bleach was inspired by traditional Japanese death gods, or shinigami, who donned black robes and collected souls, as Tite Kubo explained in interviews. Rather than focusing on the protagonist, Ichigo Kurosaki, Tite Kubo prioritized the aesthetic of Bleach — Ichigo wasn’t even the first character conceived for the manga. Said was the person in question, and her look is significant.
Rukia created before anything else for Bleach. And she suppose to resemble a traditional shinigami, clothed in a simple but distinctive black kimono and wielding a sword. Rukia came to represent Tite Kubo’s desired aesthetic, and he titled the entire series after her. The initial title he came up with was Black, but he believed it was too easy, as did the inversion, “White,” as he explained in an interview. As a result, Kubo altered “White” to Bleach, alluding to how he “bleached” the Reapers’ black robes to give his new shonen manga an unusual name.
The theme of “black vs. white” influenced not just the title of Bleach and the Soul Reapers’ robes, but also the opponents of the Soul Reapers. Surprisingly, the villains in this series get to be all-white. The Quincy tribe, for example, distinguishes itself from the Soul Reapers by dressing in martial pure-white garb. In a visual rebuke to their Soul Reaper opponents, the Quincy bleached the Soul Reapers’ color scheme white to create something new and unique. The white uniforms of the Wandenreich, the covert Quincy kingdom, added to this aesthetic concept.
The Arrancars, or unmasked Hollows, wore white uniforms with black detailing, the polar opposite of the Soul Reaper’s black with white detailing. Sosuke Aizen undoubtedly did this on purpose, as it fits the Hollows’ bone-white masks. White is the opponent of the Soul Reapers in that, albeit the title is more forgiving.
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