'Bleach' Is All About Ghosts, Swords, and Sometimes Masks — so Why Is It Called "Bleach"?

Why is the 'Bleach' manga called "Bleach" in the first place? Tite Kubo's popular series has always had an eclectic sense of style.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Jul. 26 2023, Published 6:44 p.m. ET

For most anime or manga (typically shōnen stories), the name says it all. One Piece is all about the fabled pirate treasure of the same name. Naruto is simply named after the main protagonist of Naruto Uzumaki. Even My Hero Academia is a reasonable descriptor of its superhero school story and even has its own moment where the title is said somewhere in the actual dialogue. Within reason, you can usually expect some of the more mainstream anime to wear what it is on its sleeve. Then there's Bleach.

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Bleach has always been known (some may say notorious) for its eclectic plot elements and style. That much is apparent right from the title, as the word "bleach" doesn't actually touch upon anything that happens within the story. For the uninitiated, no, Bleach doesn't have anything to do with laundry.

That being said, the origins of the title do have their roots within the story's iconic imagery. Let's break down what's in the name and why Bleach is called... Bleach!

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Why is 'Bleach' called "bleach"? Let's break down the title.

Originally written and illustrated by manga author Tite Kubo, Bleach follows Ichigo Kurosaki, a young delinquent who was born with the ability to see ghosts. One day, he encounters a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki who was assigned to track a malevolent spirit known as a Hollow. In the ensuing fight, Ichigo accidentally steals Rukia's powers and becomes an unofficial Soul Reaper. From then on, he is tasked with protecting the souls of the departed from Hollows and gets embroiled in long-running conspiracies with other Soul Reapers.

With a story completely focused on ghosts, swords, and monsters, the word "bleach" hardly seems like a fitting title. It certainly doesn't speak to the typical shōnen story naming convention in which what you see is what you get. But it might surprise you to know that the name does come from elements within the main story.

When first coming up with Bleach, Tite Kubo had several different names in mind. Reportedly, he originally had Soul Reapers wielding guns and planned on calling the story "Snipe".

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When guns were changed to swords, the initial title was scrapped. Kubo dove into deeper detail over the name's origin in an 2008 interview with the now-defunct anime magazine, Anime Insider.

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He explained that when the designs of the Soul Reapers were finalized, in which they wore black kimono-like attire with white accents, Kubo then thought to name the story "Black". Believing the name to be too "straightforward," Kubo rejected this name as well. After experimenting with the name "White," he eventually landed on the title of "Bleach".

"If you put 'bleach' [in the title], somebody can associate that with white," Kubo explained.

This certainly draws from the events of the series itself. One might argue that the color black (the main color of the Soul Reapers) could be "bleached" into white in a way that worked with Kubo's creative process. Throughout the story, Ichigo also undergoes several cathartic character moments that draw upon black-and-white visual language and how the two can often be mixed.

There may be a few hoops to jump through for this explanation, but the name Bleach is more carefully thought out than one might expect.

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