Bleach was one of the biggest anime and manga franchises of the 2000s and early 2010s, one part of Shonen Jump's "Big Three," along with One Piece and Naruto. The series spawned all manner of video games, toys and other merchandise during its heyday, but its popularity compared to the other shonen giants eventually petered out, specifically with its anime adaptation.
Bleach's anime was canceled due to low ratings, though the manga continued to run for another four years. This entire final arc, "1,000-Year Blood War," will finally be adapted as the show returns for a true final season. Before the Bleach anime returns, here's a look at where it left off and how it will end.
How Bleach's Anime Ended
Bleach's once-final episode was its 366th and concluded the fight between Substitute Shinigami Ichigo and Kugo. A group of full Shinigami had initially planned to kill both Ichigo and Kugo to eradicate the threat of Substitute Shinigami and the negative connotations given to the role by Kugo. But, having realized the type of person Ichigo is, they shared their energy with him to help finish the fight.
Their decision is backed up further by Ichigo's attempts to actually reach out to and understand the ostracized Kugo instead of judging him like so many others had. Still angered at Ichigo standing in his way, Kugo rushes toward his opponent before being struck down for good. Tsukushima tries to attack Ichigo and encourage the dying Kugo to fight on, becoming increasingly unstable as he's flooded with memories of his comrade.
Eventually, Ichigo meets with the Gotei 13 captains, shocking them by requesting to bury Kugo's body in the human world. His demand is controversial, but his decision to not retire from the post of Substitute Shinigami as expected is a relief. Ichigo and Rukia say their goodbyes, for now, looking back on their friendship as the credits roll, with Ichigo greeted by several of his other friends and family.
The Upcoming 1000-Year Blood War Arc
This was seen as a rather anticlimactic ending for fans of the anime, especially since it didn't adapt the true ending of the manga. With the show coming back to do just that, however, there's a good four years worth of story still to tell. This arc, "1000-Year Blood War," involves a key figure from Quincy history.
The story begins with the invasion of Soul Society by a mysterious figure who was supposedly killed long ago. The man is none other than Yhwach, the son of the Soul King and the progenitor of all Quincy. His reemergence kickstarts a siege on Soul Society and the eventual death of the first Shinigami. These drastic events force the scarce Royal Guard to finally make an appearance to help defend all of existence.
The biggest revelations involve a closer look into Ichigo's backstory, showing how he became as powerful as he is and why he was destined for his role. This devolves into a second Seireitei War and culminates into a far grander finale than the one seen in the 366th episode of the anime. Thankfully, fans can finally see this storyline animated on the silver screen, which will hopefully be worth the nearly 10-year wait.