Ichigo Kurosaki 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 two 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 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. In Shonen Jump character popularity polls, Ichigo consistently ranks as one of the most popular characters in Bleach, and 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 conceptionEdit
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 Kuchiki, however, Kubo modified Ichigo's appearance to contrast with hers, giving Ichigo orange hair, a trademark scowl, and removing the glasses. Kubo considered Ichigo's greatest strength is 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 puts him in danger. Kubo was asked in an interview if he had any plans to make Ichigo and Rukia a couple, but Kubo chose neither to confirm nor deny it. 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 has a kind heart and that attracts his fans.
Ichigo is a 15-year-old who attempts to cultivate a detached image, for which he keeps his eyebrows constantly furrowed. Ichigo has natural orange hair, a fact that annoys many bullies in his school, who constantly pick fights with him. Ichigo claims that he does not care what others think and seems to enjoy fighting the bullies. Ichigo has been friends with Tatsuki Arisawa since he was young when he trained karate at the same dojo as her. Tatsuki is his oldest friend and they go to the same school now. While in junior high school, Ichigo met and befriended Yasutora "Chad" Sado, a boy from another school who helped him out of a fight. Chad, although extremely strong, was often the target of beatings because he refused to fight for his own sake due to a promise he had made as a child to his grandfather. Upon discovering this, Ichigo made a pact with Chad in which they both agreed to fight and risk their lives for something the other was willing to risk their life for. Ichigo comments that thanks to Rukia his life changed, and thanks to her he is able to protect the people he cares for.
When Ichigo was nine, his mother, Masaki Kurosaki, was killed by the hollow Grand Fisher, although Ichigo did not find out the true cause of her death until early in the main Bleach storyline. Prior to learning about this, Ichigo felt guilty for his mother's death, blaming himself for wandering too close to the water and causing her to put herself in harm's way to save him. Even after that, Masaki's death continues to influence Ichigo by causing him to feel guilt for his inability to protect those close to him. Since then, Ichigo lives with his father Isshin Kurosaki and his two younger sisters, Yuzu and Karin. His father runs a small medical clinic.
Ichigo's name, written with homophone kanji, means 1 and 5 when separated as ichi (一) and go (五), the reason behind the two numbers' frequent appearances in the series, notably on the sampler hanging on his bedroom door. The word ichigo (苺／イチゴ), written in yet another way, means "strawberry" —one of his nicknames— in Japanese, and is normally only used as a girl's name; when teased about this fact, Ichigo proudly counters that his name is spelled with ichi (一) as in "first" and go (護) from "guardian". Ichigo's father once told him that his name means "he who protects." The name also means 'one's lifetime.'
Ichigo is one of the rare living humans in the Bleach universe to possess innate spiritual powers. As he meets Rukia Kuchiki, those powers turn out to be both massive and contagious, and many of his friends begin to develop spiritual powers. Because Ichigo produces more spiritual energy than his body can contain, it leaks out constantly, preventing him from hiding it and effectively making stealth impossible when dealing with other spiritually aware beings. Though he does not possess any formal Soul Reaper rank, Ichigo's overall abilities are great enough that he can fight on the level of a Soul Reaper captain.
Ichigo's zanpakutō is named Zangetsu. Unlike most Soul Reapers, who can seal their zanpakutō after releasing it, Ichigo's zanpakutō is always in its shikai form. Its sealed form is that of an ordinary zanpakutō, but oversized as a result of Ichigo's uncontrolled spiritual pressure. 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 in unusual ways, many of which have a purpose completely contrary to the stated goal. Zangetsu's special ability is the Getsuga Tenshō (月牙天衝, literally "moon-fang slices the heavens", 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. Although he can fire it as a wave, he can keep the power of Getsuga Tenshō within his bankai, which adds to the strength of his attacks. Zangetsu's bankai, named Tensa Zangetsu 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, though the form puts tremendous strain on his body.
In addition to his Soul Reaper powers, Ichigo partially becomes a hollow while reobtaining his Soul Reaper powers with the help of Kisuke Urahara. This leaves him with an arrogant inner hollow spirit that grows in strength as the series progresses and tries to take control of his body, while ignoring any injury he has, to fight. The inner hollow takes form of Ichigo's evil alter ego and mirrors his personality. The hollow also states that he wields the instinct to kill while Ichigo instead uses logic to defeat opponents. Ichigo is taught to control his hollow by the Visoreds, 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 it increases substantially during his fights in Hueco Mundo. 
Ichigo meets 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 the hollow is vanquished, Ichigo absorbs almost all of Rukia's spiritual power, and she is forced to stay in the human world until they return. In the meantime, Ichigo performs her Soul Reaper duties, inadvertently exposing his friends to the spiritual world and giving them their own unique abilities. When his actions eventually attract the attention of Soul Society, Rukia is detained and taken home to be executed, and Ichigo leads an effort to save her.
Upon arriving in Soul Society, he repeatedly clashes with high-ranking Soul Reapers as he gets closer to her location. In doing so he splits their forces in two; those who wish to help Ichigo free Rukia and those determined to carry out her execution. With the assistance of his newfound allies Rukia is saved, though she quickly falls into the hands of Sōsuke Aizen. Aizen, having masterminded Rukia's execution, fulfills his plans by removing the Hōgyoku from her body. While he is unable to kill her as planned, he and his accomplices are able to flee Soul Society as the Soul Reapers reunite against him. In the aftermath, Ichigo is made a "deputy Soul Reaper" and is allowed to return home with his friends.
Aizen, through the use of the Hōgyoku, creates an army of arrancar that he sends to attack Ichigo and his friends in the human world. When they are unable to deal with the arrancar threat, Soul Society sends a group of Soul Reapers to help them. Although they are able to fend off the arrancar with the bolstered defenses, they are unable to prevent the abduction of Orihime Inoue. When Soul Society refuses to save her, Ichigo and his friends go to Hueco Mundo to stage their own rescue attempt. With the help of a few friendly arrancar he meets along the way, Ichigo is ultimately able to reunite with Orihime. Before they can return home, however, she is recaptured, and Ichigo sets out to get her back from Ulquiorra Cifer, engaging him in combat and eventually defeating him with an as-of-yet undefined new form.
Appearances in other mediaEdit
Ichigo appears in the featured films of series; protecting a Soul Reaper named Senna in Memories of Nobody and aiding in the search for Tōshirō Hitsugaya in the The DiamondDust Rebellion. 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 third film, released on December 13, 2008, , Ichigo investigated a mysterious incident, involving mass amnesia of most Soul Reapers, especially Rukia, who was kidnapped by two mysterious rogues. 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.
Amongst the Bleach reader base, Ichigo has been highly popular, having always ranked within the top 5 in the Shonen Jump popularity polls for the series. He has usually taken first place, though in the most recent ranking he dropped to 3rd place. 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 top 100 most-loved anime characters.Template:Fact 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, 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 not have "awkward moments" when fighting with hollows or handling his zanpakutō, making him a more normal person. Anime News Network 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. IGN praised Ichigo's climactic fight against Byakuya Kuchiki as one of the best fights in the Bleach series, and later gave additional praise to both the design and voice acting for Ichigo's inner hollow. Wizarduniverse.com 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. In the SPJA Industry Awards, Ichigo ranked as the third best male character.
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