A little after ten years and BLEACH is nearing the end of its story.
According to Kubo Tite–creator of the much beloved manga series–the next arc, presumably dubbed the “Ice Palace Arc” is the last arc in the bleach manga series.
Fans are pretty miffed about it. After all, BLEACH is one of the “Big Three” manga series featured in Shounen Jump. Rumors are already flying abound in the world wide web concerning this final arc. Some are saying that the arc is going to last ten years (after all, the Arrancar Arc lasted a total of four years), some are saying it would be around four years as well. If it does last that long, you can bet that we are all going to be in one hell of a ride.
Then again, Kubo has pretty much confirmed that this arc will be the last and was meant to tie up loose ends (one of them being the relationship between Ichigo and Kaien’s appearance).
Here are some things about this final leg in the wonderful series that is BLEACH, translated from the special interview chapters:
Bleach Pre-Publication Journal
Kurosaki Ichigo and Kuchiki Rukia before publication!!
Before publication, Kubo-sensei drew Ichigo and Rukia in his journal. Looking back, Sensei says Ichigo with glasses looked like a “young intellectual”. Along with a scythe-wielding Rukia, they are truly different from the characters as they are today!!
Secret Theme – Agent of the Shinigami and Soul Society Arcs (the volume on Rukia)
With the status of a Substitute Shinigami, stepping into battles to protect the living world!! In order to protect his family, friends, and Karakura Town, Ichigo became a Shinigami. In Rukia’s place, he fought and confronted the hollow responsible for his mother’s death. one day, emissaries from another world appeared.
Tite Kubo’s Comment: Each arc has its own theme. The Soul Society arc was about saving Rukia. The Arrancar arc was about saving Orihime. The Lost Agent arc was connected to Chad. The new arc will be about…
Tite Kubo’s Comment: The original advertisement was titled “Snipe”. But I decided that it didn’t feel right, so I changed it.
Tite Kubo’s Idea Note: Sensei’s secret notes contain sketches of some familiar characters. This is one portion. They all look different from how they are now. We can guess that during the planning stages, Sensei had already drawn out his main characters.
Rescue Rukia from execution!!
Because she gave Shinigami powers to Ichigo, Rukia was sentenced to death. In order to save his own savior, Ichigo and friends went to Soul Society. Ichigo fought several deadly battles with the Shinigami protecting Seireitei, and succeeded in saving Rukia. At this time, Aizen’s deception was revealed…
Secret Theme – Arrancar Arc (the volume on Orihime)
A new power enters the stage, Shinigami enter full-on battle!!
After returning to the living world from Soul Society, Ichigo took up the duties of Substitute Shinigami again. At this time, before him appeared two new powers, the Vizards and the Arrancar. The Shinigami begin battling against the Arrancar under Aizen’s leadership…
Both current and previous members of the Gotei 13 fight against the traitor Shinigami and the hollows under their command!!!
The Idea Note: Hirako, whose character was planned out pre-publication, finally enters the scene!! Hirako was drawn on the very first color spread in the first chapter.
Tite Kubo’s Comment: I originally wanted to draw stories about Ichigo’s classmates, so I drew Hirako as one. Gradually disappearing, Rukia’s existence…
Secret Theme – The Lost Agent Arc (the volume on Chad)
Time passess, although 17 months later all is well…
Aizen created disorder never seen before. In order to defeat him, Ichigo lost his Shinigami powers. He got the normal student life that he’d hoped for, but also became restless as he couldn’t protect his friends. At this time, a group of people with mysterious powers appeared. The fullbringers began a battle against Ichigo and the other Shinigami at Karakura Town.
Receiving new powers, Ichigo continues his development…
Ichigo’s new look from “The Lost Agent Arc!!”
Before the Lost Agent Arc began, Kubo-sensei sent this sketch of Ichigo 17 months later to his editor. The armor around his arms and neck represented the mixture of his Shinigami and fullbring powers. How will he continue to change in the new arc!?
Tagline: The two people hidden by the tear revealed for the first time!! To find their true identity!!
The Gotei 13 Reborn: What happened during those missing 17 months!!?
- Captain of the First Division – Yamamoto Genryuusai Shigekuni: A softer Captain Commander Yamamoto. Commander of the entire Gotei 13, lost his arm due to the sacrificial kido…but did he also change inside!?
Kubo: He only has his right arm now.
Kubo: I think Genryuusai wouldn’t change much from his current state if he trained. Wouldn’t it be strange for someone who’s lived for over two thousand years to change over a period of 17 months? However, he does have unseen, inner changes.
- Captain of the Second Division – Soi Fon: Following the deadly battles with Aizen and the Espadas, Soi Fon changed her hair during the 17 month period. Perhaps because the Second Division prizes quickness, her hair is now shorter. Losing her left hand during the battle with Barragan. The Second Division Captain, whose duty is assassination, lost her left hand during the battles at Karakura Town. Thanks to the top healing skills of the Gotei, it has now been restored.
Q: What happened to the hand lost to “aging”?
Kubo: Soi Fon’s left hand has been healed.
Q: What about her change in appearance?
Kubo: Her hair has changed a little. Speaking of changes, I also wanted to change Yoruichi, but her current look really suits her, so it’s difficult for me.
- Captain of the Third Division – Otoribashi Rojuro: Rojuro has returned to his same position from a hundred years ago. Same as TBTP, his look is modeled on that of a western gentleman. His hair has also become more refined. Kira remains the lieutenant of the Third Division. How well does he compliment his new captain!!?
Q: Rojuro has rejoined the Gotei 13:
Kubo: Rojuro and Izuro suit each other very well, so I decided to put Rojuro into the Third Division. I should add that Shinji returned to the Fifth Division, and Kensei returned to the ninth.
- Captain of the Fourth Division – Unohana Retsu: Unohana, who will finally turn her zanpakuto against the enemy and enter the battle. The Captain of the Fourth Division, who has the special duty of healing and is the most senior captain next to Captain Commander, will finally enter battle, and release her reiatsu and zanpakuto in the new arc.
Q: Unohana will finally fight?
Kubo: In the next arc, I’ve decided that Unohana will enter the battlefield. Her zanpakuto’s true form will be revealed. I can also add that when Unohana fights, she unravels her large braid.
- Captain of the Fifth Division – Hirako Shinji: The changes in Hirako, who has returned to the Fifth Division. Hirako has changed his bangs during the 17 months after battling with Aizen and returning to Fifth Division. Also, same as when he was part of the Vizards in the living world, and perhaps because he likes to pay attention to his appearance, he also wears a tie.
Q: What happened to Hirako’s hair?
Kubo: Since his hair can’t grow all that much over 17 months, only his bangs changed a little bit. And one day, I’d like to draw how Hinamori, who was heartbroken after losing Aizen, developed a good trusting relationship with Hirako.
- Captain of the Sixth Division – Kuchiki Byakuya: Expensive personal ornaments. Byakuya, who previously declared that the Captain’s haori is cheap, has changed his appearance somewhat. Details of what Kubo-sensei has noted is not kenseikan, as well as the finely crafted Captain’s haori.
- Lieutenant of the Sixth Division – Abarai Renji: Becoming even more wild and rough over the 17 months. With a towel wrapped around his wrist, and a “specially made, not store bought” ornament in his hair.
Q: Renji trained hard to become stronger?
Q: Other people trained as well?
Q: So they wouldn’t be troubled by even Aizen-level opponents?
Kubo: They’re not quite at that level. What can I say, they’ve become stronger. But even so, they haven’t gotten to the point where they’re not worried about Aizen-level opponents.
Q: Will they display new abilities of techniques in this new arc?
Kubo: That will be revealed. Renji’s bankai has already changed.
- Captain of the Seventh Division – Komamura Sajin: Armor-like shoulder adornments extended to his neck, forearm and feet. Komamura who lost his close friend, Tousen, a distressing moment. 17 months after the battle, his clothing has changed. Inside where it usually covers by shihakuhou, wore an armor-like adornment.
- Captain of the Eight Division – Shunsui Kyoraku: The origin of the colorful haori: Shunsui, who releases shikai during the battle against Stark, the colorful haori that he wore hides a “history”, the truth will be revealed in the next arc!!?
Q: The senior captains doesn’t change their appearance much, so Kyouraku did not change either?
Kubo: Yes. Captains who hold the position for a very long period will not change a lot. That’s because they’ve undergone numerous pitched battles in the past. However, we will witness the difference and new sides in the future battles. I guess Shinsui will go bankai. Also the haori that he wore contains some “history/background”.
- Captain of the Ninth Division – Murguruma Kensei: The reunion of fate of 9th Division: Hisagi’s savior, Kensei is back to the 9th Division, the division where Hisagi became a vice captain to take on the captain spot. They’re also responsible for business editing for the 9th division’s task.
- Lieutenant of the Ninth Division – Hisagi Shuuhei: Hisagi still wears sleaveless haori to inherit Kensei from hundred years ago. With Murguruma “6”, Kensei leading the ninth (9) division. Hisagi who inherits the number “69” became his savior’s subordinate.
The places that have seen innumerable battles:
Naruki City – The place where Ichigo’s friend Keigo lives. The battlefield for the Lost Agent arc. The base for Xcution.
Seireitei – In the center of the Soul Society, where the shinigami live. Soul Society itself already has 1 million years of history.
Rukongai – Located outside of Seireitei, separated into 320 districts.
Karakura Town – A town located near central Tokyo. Also a center of spiritual activity.
Hueco Mundo – A place that is largely desert. Barragan’s “city” is also located here.
Tite Kubo’s Comment: The new arc is located neither in Karakura Town or Soul Society. Although it is a new location, but it’s also “underneath somewhere” and “unexpectedly close”.
The Location of the New Arc Is Here!!
- Partial Sketch: Two pillars immediately catch the eye in this rough sketch of the new arc’s battlefield. Behind them, there is a “palace of ice”. Perhaps the new enemies are hiding in there.
- Partial Sketch: Like tall cliffs and precipices. Everything is covered with ice, and what is that at the very end resembling a large waterfall…The palace is on top of all this?
Tite Kubo’s Comment: In the new arc, I want to draw a place like a “palace of ice”. It will be colored white, with blues and silvers as well.
Tite Kubo Confesses! The Arrancar are also in his plans!!
Q: In the new arc, the Shinigami will of course be represented, but will other characters from the past also appear?
Kubo: Yes. If the Arrancar appear, I think they will stand with the Shinigami.
Q: Will there be characters that appear in the role of a friend?
Kubo: Ulquiorra has already turned into ash. Grimmjow might become a friend. Also, what about Harribel, who is still alive? But, I wonder how I’d bring them out of Hueco Mundo. I think Harribel would not leave Hueco Mundo.
Q: Was the idea of Arrancars becoming friends in your plans before this break? Or was it just a feeling that they might return?
Kubo: “They might appear”. Or it could be that “they might not appear”. Even if they did appear, it wouldn’t be individually, but as a group.
Q: What about Nel?
Kubo: I think I will let Nel appear.
Q: I’d really like to see her interactions with Kon.
Kubo: Kon did not appear in the Lost Agent arc. But to tell the truth, he has rarely appeared since the end of the Soul Society arc, roughly five years ago. People who only recently started reading might not know that he exists.
Q: It can’t be that you’ve forgotten him?
Will the Espada return in the new arc? The editor makes a courageous prediction!!
- 0. Yami – X
- 1. Stark – Extremely unlikely
- 2. Barragan – X
- 3. Harribel – Unlikely
- 4. Ulquiorra – X
- 5. Nnoitora – Extremely unlikely
- 6. Grimmjow – Very likely
- 7. Zommari – Extremely unlikely
- 8. Syazel – X
- 9. Aaroniero – X
- Previous No. 3. Nel – Very likely