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10 Times Bleach Broke Our Hearts

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Bleach is an action shonen series best defined by its wacky sense of humor, thrilling action sequences, and resourceful use of isekai and reverse-isekai elements. Only rarely will Bleach make shonen anime fans cry, but when it does, Bleach can hit pretty hard.

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Every so often, Bleach adds personal stakes to the story with truly heartbreaking scenes of death, grief, abandonment, and regret. Arguably, other shonen anime like Demon Slayer and One Piece do it better, but Bleach isn’t far behind. Many of Bleach’s most memorable and impactful scenes broke viewers’ hearts and added some much-needed emotional depth to the story.

10/10 When Bleach Explained Orihime’s & Sora’s Backstory

Early in Bleach, fans met Ichigo’s dear friend, Orihime Inoue, who had a much darker backstory than her deredere behavior would suggest. Orihime lives all alone because her parents cannot take care of her and her much older brother, Sora, is already dead.

It was heartbreaking to learn how the Inoue family fell apart in the years leading up to Bleach’s main events. The parents were abusive and uncaring, so Sora took his baby sister and fled. They lived together for a time, according to that flashback, but then tragedy struck once again. Sora died in an accident, leaving Orihime, who was in her early teens, all alone this time.

9/10 When Yuichi Shibata Believed Shrieker’s False Promise

Another early Bleach tragedy involved the plus, or pure soul, of a boy named Yuichi Shibata. Yuichi’s soul had been sucked from his body and put into a parakeet, and a particularly nasty Hollow named Shrieker made an unfair deal with Yuichi. If Yuichi could outrun Shrieker for three months, then Shrieker would bring Yuichi’s mother back to life.

That was a lie, and the innocent, desperate Yuichi believed it. Ichigo and Chad fought back against Shrieker, and the Hollow finally admitted the truth. Poor Yuichi had to accept the truth and learn that he’d been playing games with Shrieker for nothing. At least Shrieker was slain and sent to Hell while Yuichi was escorted to the Soul Society.

8/10 When Rukia Coldly Abandoned The Injured Ichigo

At first, the reverse-isekai Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki was Ichigo’s loyal friend. They fought Hollows together and were classmates, but then Rukia ran off one night to return home. Renji Abarai arrived to take her back, then Captain Byakuya Kuchiki showed up and soundly defeated Ichigo.

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Ichigo only wanted to protect Rukia from arrest, but to his shock, Rukia turned her back on him. It was heartbreaking to watch Rukia seemingly throw away their friendship in an instant. Rukia thought Ichigo was about to die, and she barely even felt sorry for her mortal human friend.

7/10 When Flashbacks Showed Hisana Kuchiki’s Dying Wish

Another heartbreaking Bleach flashback involved not Rukia, but her long-lost older sister, Hisana. Decades ago, the impoverished and desperate Hisana abandoned her baby sister and ended up marrying into the Kuchiki family, only to fall ill and perish five years later.

Hisana’s mournful husband, Byakuya, obeyed Hisana’s dying wish and sought out Rukia. Hisana deeply regretted abandoning her baby sister in the Rukongai District, and she died before the sisters could reunite. Hisana died full of regrets, but at least Byakuya found Rukia and adopted her as per his late wife’s wishes.

6/10 When Uryu Ishida Recalled Soken’s Tragic Fate

In the Soul Society story arc, Ichigo’s Quincy ally Uryu Ishida faced Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi of Squad 12. This was personal for Uryu since his beloved grandfather Soken had died at Mayuri’s hands. Mayuri used to experiment on Quincy, and Soken had been his last guinea pig for Quincy studies.

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It was devastating to watch Uryu bond so closely with his grandfather in his boyhood, only for Soken to be taken away. Soken had been a friend, mentor, and empowering role model for Uryu, but he died an anticlimactic death in Mayuri’s lab. This hugely boosted the personal stakes for Uryu in this Soul Society arc battle.

5/10 When Rukia Kuchiki Had To Kill Kaien Shiba

Rukia Kuchiki’s personal tragedies involved not just her long-lost sister, but also her friend and role model, the late Lieutenant Kaien Shiba. Kaien was immensely popular and respected, and he often helped Rukia train with swordplay. He’s also the one who empowered Rukia with his concept of “the heart.”

One night, a mutant Hollow called Metastacia possessed Kaien, and a heartbroken Rukia had no choice but to kill Kaien. Kaien understood and forgave Rukia, but sadly, Rukia continued to blame herself for years. Then the Espada Aaroniero Arruruerie exploited this mental wound with his Kaien Shiba disguise in Las Noches.

4/10 When Masaki Kurosaki Died While Ichigo Watched

Yet another tragic flashback involved Ichigo’s loving mother, Masaki. She meant everything to her firstborn son, being Ichigo’s protector and the reason Ichigo could smile happily. One tragic afternoon, the predatory Hollow Grand Fisher attacked and slew Masaki with ease.

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Not only did Ichigo lose his mother, but in theory, Masaki could have survived. She was a human Quincy, but she had since lost her powers, rendering her helpless against all Hollows. In her teens, Masaki could have driven Grand Fisher away — but not anymore. Masaki died a powerless warrior.

3/10 When Coyote Starrk Was Killed

It wasn’t heartbreaking to watch monstrous Espadas like Nnoitora Gilga and Barragan Luisenbarn die, but Coyote Starrk was different. Starrk was the strongest but also the laziest Espada, and he was reluctant to fight. He only fought out of duty, fighting for Aizen’s cause without getting anything in return.

Worse yet, Starrk wasn’t even a bad person, especially not by Arrancar standards. He was a borderline pacifist who wanted friends and viewed his fellow Espadas as a found family. The innocent Coyote Starrk finally found happiness, only to be struck down and lose it all.

2/10 When Gin Ichimaru Died In Rangiku’s Arms

Across many episodes, Bleach established Captain Gin Ichimaru as an untrustworthy, creepy traitor. He annoyed and antagonized many characters in the Soul Society arc before he betrayed the Soul Society along with Aizen and Kaname Tosen. All this was just an act; Gin was secretly a hero all along.

Gin waited until the last moment to strike Aizen down, only to fail and suffer a mortal wound. Then Gin’s childhood friend, Rangiku Matsumoto, arrived, and they shared a tender moment together before Gin died in Rangiku’s arms. In his last moments, Gin also prayed that Ichigo would defeat Aizen for him.

1/10 When Yachiru Unohana Died To Train Kenpachi

Later in the Bleach manga, the Soul Reapers faced the powerful Wandenreich, or Quincy, empire. Even the Captains had to power up before fighting the Quincy again, so Captain Retsu Unohana revealed her true nature. She was actually Yachiru Unohana, the legendary first Kenpachi.

Unohana dueled her first student, the current Kenpachi, to the death. Kenpachi Zaraki won and gained more power, but at the cost of Yachiru’s life. It was heartbreaking to watch the motherly Unohana give up her life like that, and even Kenoachi cried out in grief and despair. Never had Bleach fans seen Kenpachi mourn for someone else, showing how tragic this scene really was.

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