Ichigo Kurosaki (黒崎 一護 Kurosaki Ichigo?) is a fictional character in the anime and manga franchise Bleach by mangaka Tite Kubo. He is the story's main protagonist. The series begins with Ichigo receiving Soul Reaper powers as a result of a run-in with Rukia Kuchiki, the Soul Reaper assigned to patrol his city, Karakura Town. These powers come at the cost of Rukia's own, and as a result, Ichigo concedes to work as Rukia's stand-in, fighting to protect people from evil spirits called hollows and sending good spirits, wholes, to Soul Society. In addition to the main series, Ichigo appears in many other pieces of Bleach media, including the three featured films in the series, the two original video animations, and several video games.
Ichigo's character was created to replace Rukia as the lead character from the series as Kubo noted that Rukia was unsuitable to be the protagonist. Merchandise based on Ichigo's likeness has also been released, including toys, clothing, and action figures. Ichigo's character has been well received among both fans and reviewers. Ichigo is also featured in Weekly Shōnen Jump character popularity polls, consistently ranking as one of the most popular characters in Bleach, while the 2007 Japanese Newtype magazine polls ranked him as one of the top 100 most-loved anime characters. Reviewers of the series have also remarked favorably on his personality, though some considered him to be a stereotypical anti-hero during the first few episodes of the series.
Creation and conception
When creating the manga series, Kubo commented that Rukia Kuchiki, the first character he created, did not seem like a lead character, so he created Ichigo to be the series protagonist. When designing Ichigo's appearance, Kubo had thought of several types attributes of the character that were never added to the story. Initial design sketches show Ichigo wearing glasses, and having dark hair and kind eyes. When designing Rukia, however, Kubo modified Ichigo's appearance to contrast with hers, giving Ichigo orange hair, a trademark scowl, and removing the glasses. Along with Orihime Inoue, Ichigo has the hardest face to draw for Kubo.
Kubo considered Ichigo's greatest strength to be that he is considerate and thoughtful as he always thinks about other people's needs. However, he also saw that as his greatest weakness, since worrying about his friends tends to put him in danger. Kubo was asked in an interview if he had any plans to focus in the love triangle between him, Rukia and Orihime, but Kubo chose neither to confirm nor deny it as he did not want to focus in romance. Kubo thinks Ichigo is very popular among fans since he "looks cool". He also mentioned that as fans read more about him they discover that underneath he is warm and kind hearted, which attracts them.
Ichigo is voiced by Masakazu Morita in the Japanese anime, while as a child he is voiced by Yuki Matsuoka. Johnny Yong Bosch voices him in the English dub as a teenager, and Mona Marshall as a kid. Bosch has liked Ichigo's character due to how he wants to protect people. However, he experienced difficulty voicing him in the episodes in which Ichigo shouts for a long time.
In the Bleach manga and anime series
Ichigo is an orange-haired 15-year-old teenager able to see spirits. He meets Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki in the midst of a hollow attack. After Rukia is heavily injured by the hollow, she is forced to transfer her Soul Reaper powers to Ichigo so that he can kill the hollow and save their lives and his family. Though he defeats the hollow, Ichigo absorbs almost all of Rukia's spiritual power, and he is forced perform her Soul Reaper duties until she recovers her powers. When Ichigo was nine, he tried to save a spirit to be eaten by the hollow Grand Fisher, and his mother, Masaki Kurosaki, was killed by the hollow while protecting Ichigo. Even after that discovering the hollow was responsible, Masaki's death continues to influence Ichigo by causing him to feel guilt for his inability to protect those close to him and therefore, he thanks Rukia for giving him the powers to protect them.
When his actions eventually attract the attention of Soul Society, Rukia is taken back to the spirit world to be executed, and Ichigo leads an effort to save her. To rescue her, Kisuke Urahara trains him to become a Soul Reaper with his own powers allowing him to release the shikai of his zanpakutō named Zangetsu (斬月?, literally "cutting moon"). Unlike most Soul Reapers, who can seal their zanpakutō after releasing it, Ichigo's zanpakutō is always in its released form. Zangetsu's spirit takes the form of a middle-aged man, voiced by Takayuki Sugo in the Japanese anime and by Richard Epcar in the English dub. Zangetsu is portrayed as wise and calm in most matters, and fond of testing Ichigo. While in bankai form, Zangetsu's spirit is a young man with shoulder-length pitch black hair. Zangetsu's special ability is the Getsuga Tenshō (月牙天衝?, literally "heaven-slicing lunar fang", translated in the English anime as "piercer of heaven"), a wave of spirit particles released from his blade's edge. Correspondent to the name, the wave is shaped like a crescent moon. Zangetsu's bankai, named Tensa Zangetsu (天鎖斬月?, literally "heavenly chain cutting the moon"), shrinks the sword down to a fully black one while his uniform also changes to an outfit similar to Zangetsu's. Ichigo's bankai is a compression of his spiritual pressure, rather than a vast expansion as is usually the case. By compressing his power, Ichigo can move at incredibly high speeds.
However, Ichigo partially becomes a hollow in the same training. This leaves him with an insane inner hollow spirit that grows in strength as the series progresses and tries to take control of his body to fight. This control has manifested itself in several ways during the series, first as a berserker rage and later as a physical transformation. Within Ichigo's inner world, the hollow takes the form of Ichigo's evil alter ego and mirrors his appearance.
Upon Ichigo's arrival in Soul Society, he repeatedly clashes with high-ranking Soul Reapers as he approaches Rukia Kuchiki's location. With the assistance of Ichigo's newfound allies, Rukia is saved, though she quickly falls into the hands of Sōsuke Aizen. Aizen, the mastermind behind Rukia's execution, fulfills his plans by removing the Hōgyoku from her body. While he is unable to kill her, he and his accomplices manage to flee Soul Society as the Soul Reapers reunite against him. In the aftermath, Ichigo is made a "Substitute Soul Reaper" and is allowed to return home with his friends.
Aizen, through the use of the Hōgyoku, creates an army of arrancar that attacks Ichigo and his friends in the human world. When Ichigo and company are unable to deal with the arrancar threat, Soul Society sends a group of Soul Reapers to help them. In order to fight the arrancar Ichigo is taught to control his hollow by the Visored, Soul Reapers with hollow powers, allowing him to call upon his hollow powers at will and without sacrificing control by donning his hollow mask. Ichigo can initially only maintain this form for eleven seconds, but the limit and strength of his mask increases substantially during his fights in Hueco Mundo. Although they fend off the arrancar with the bolstered defenses, they are unable to prevent the abduction of Ichigo's friend, Orihime Inoue. When Soul Society refuses to save her, Ichigo and his friends go to Hueco Mundo to rescue her on their own. With the help of a few friendly arrancar he meets along the way, Ichigo is able to reunite with Orihime. However, she is recaptured by Ulquiorra Cifer. Ichigo engages him in combat and subsequently kills him in a new hollow form. He later goes to Karakura Town to protect it from Aizen. Upon his failure, Ichigo begins training with his father Isshin to control the final Getsuga Tenshō. Concluding his training, Ichigo fights Aizen again within the real Karakura Town, weakening Aizen at the expense of his Soul Reaper powers. As Ichigo's powers fade away, Urahara seals Aizen within a kidō barrier, intending to allow Central 46 to decide his fate. One and a half years later, Ichigo is content living a normal life unable to see ghosts, with Karin developing powers and Ishida taking his place slaying Hollows.
In other media
Ichigo appears in the featured films of series; protecting a Soul Reaper named Senna in Memories of Nobody, aiding in the search for Tōshirō Hitsugaya in the The DiamondDust Rebellion. and investigates a mysterious incident, involving mass amnesia of most Soul Reapers, especially Rukia, who was kidnapped by two mysterious rogues in Fade to Black. He also appears in both of the original video animations; fighting against a hollow called the Grand Fisher in the first one and combating the rogue Soul Reaper Baishin in the second one. In the Bleach video games, Ichigo is a playable character in every game, including the Heat the Soul and Blade Battlers series. In some games, his hollow form and bankai state are available as separate characters. In Rock Musical Bleach, a musical based on the Bleach series, he is played by Tatsuya Isaka. His character is featured in two volumes from the Bleach Beat Collection CD soundtrack series which features themes composed by his Japanese voice actor, Masakazu Morita. These include the first of them in which he is the only character and the fourth season's fourth volume along with Rukia.
Amongst the Bleach reader base, Ichigo has been highly popular, having always ranked within the top 5 in the Weekly Shōnen Jump popularity polls for the series. He has usually taken first place, though in early 2008 he dropped to 3rd place. His zanpakutō, Zangetsu, also ranked 3rd in the zanpakutō popularity polls. His character also appeared in the 2007 Japanese Newtype magazine polls ranked him as one of the best anime male characters. In the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation Awards from 2008, Ichigo ranked as the third best male character. The Japanese music distributor Recochoku has made two annual survey of which anime characters that people would like to marry. Ichigo ranked tenth in the category "The Character I Want to Be My Groom" from the 2008 survey and eight in the 2009 poll in the same category. Wizard Entertainment considered Ichigo the best hero from 2007, commenting that he does not try to be a hero as he just fights in order to protect his friends or to return a debt. He was also 20th in IGN's Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time with comments focused on his design and personality.
At the first Seiyū Awards in March 2007, Masakazu Morita won in the category "Best Rookie Actor" for his role as Ichigo Kurosaki. Ichigo's voice actor in the English adaptation, Johnny Yong Bosch, has also been praised for his voice work on Ichigo's character by Anime News Network (ANN), which favorably compared Bosch and Morita's work. Various merchandise based on Ichigo's appearance has been created, including action figures, plush toys and key-chains. Since the series was released, replica models of Ichigo's zanpakutō and bankai have been produced for purchase by collectors and fans.
Several publications for manga, anime, video games, and other related media have provided praise and criticism on Ichigo's character. Mania Entertainment reviewer Chris Beveridge commented that Ichigo's history about how he becomes a Soul Reaper in the series could be "obvious", but it is avoided by how Ichigo tries to avoid his role. Additionally, he commented that Ichigo does have "awkward moments" when fighting with hollows or handling his zanpakutō, making him a more normal person. ANN's Melissa Harper commented that Ichigo's initial rebellious actions make him almost a stereotypical anti-hero, but note that he is soon revealed to be a more complex character with a sad past. Los Angeles Times's Charles Solomon comments Ichigo's persona has little in common with protagonists from other series due to his bad temper and how he tends to fight. However, he added that readers from the series still "love" Ichigo. Although the way Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper was found to be relatively common by Carlos Alexandre from popcultureshock.com he noted that was unimportant, and then added Ichigo's character of a "tough guy with a heart of gold" had already been done in several series. Charles White from IGN praised Ichigo's climactic fight against Byakuya Kuchiki as one of the best fights in the Bleach series, and later Ramsey Isler gave additional praise to both the design and voice acting for Ichigo's inner hollow. Ichigo's development during the story arc in which he sets to rescue Rukia Kuchiki from being executed have been praised by ANN's Theron Martin with the scenes in which he manages to stop her execution and his subsequent demonstration of his bankai as one of the "eminently satisfying landmark moments in the series". Wired News's Corrina Lawson stated that she liked Ichigo's strong sense of responsibility, and commented it was one of the reasons of the series' popularity.
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