Bleach is an action/adventure shonen anime series whose protagonist, Ichigo Kurosaki, has been through a lot since the early days. Ichigo has always been aware of ghosts and spirits growing up, but when Bleach‘s main story launched, Ichigo actually started fighting those ghosts. Eventually, he fought to save the entire world as a homegrown shonen hero.
Ichigo fought many foes in Bleach‘s story, from assorted Hollows in Karakura Town to Soul Reapers and deadly Arrancars, and now, the mighty Quincy empire, the Wandenreich. Some of Ichigo’s victories merely allowed him to continue his journey or protect his friends, but in five key Bleach battles, Ichigo really grew as a substitute Soul Reaper and as a person. Ichigo was never the same again after surviving these battles.
When Ichigo Fought Fishbone D With Rukia’s Powers
Ichigo’s first and most formative battles in the Bleach anime took part in the very first episode. The tsundere Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki visited Karakura Town one night to defeat a Hollow, only for that Hollow, Fishbone D, to overpower her. Fishbone D also damaged the Kurosaki home and captured one of Ichigo’s sisters. Out of desperation, Rukia lent Ichigo her Soul Reaper powers, which in turn awakened Ichigo’s latent powers and turned him into a substitute Soul Reaper with a nameless zanpakuto. Ichigo didn’t just slay Fishbone D and save the day — he proved himself a true hero in that fight, and Ichigo knew there was no going back. This fight also brought out his truly heroic side, with Ichigo ready to always risk his life and save innocent people and Pluses from Hollows.
When Ichigo Trained With Kisuke Urahara to Gain Zangetsu
Ichigo’s nameless zanpakuto broke apart when he fought Captain Byakuya Kuchiki, and Ichigo needed to get stronger so he could rescue Rukia in the Soul Society. Already empowered by his early experiences as a Soul Reaper, Ichigo bravely asked Kisuke Urahara the scientist for training, knowing that it would be both difficult and risky. Ichigo clashed nonstop with Kisuke in the underground training zone, and he even manifested his Hollow mask for the first time, which foreshadowed its return in future story arcs. Ichigo also saw Zangetsu, the manifestation of his mother’s Quincy spirit, and learned to ask that spirit for his name. When Ichigo learned the name Zangetsu, he obtained a brand-new zanpakuto and learned to rely on his own power from now on, not Rukia’s.
When Ichigo Fought Kenpachi Zaraki With His Partner, Zangetsu
Ichigo learned to view Zangetsu as a reliable source of immense power during his sparring session with Kisuke Urahara, but there was more to learn. During the “Soul Society” story arc, Ichigo clashed with Renji Abarai and Ikkaku Madarame, only to face a true challenge: Captain Kenpachi Zaraki. Ichigo secretly feared Kenpachi and doubted himself, so he swiftly lost. Then, Ichigo met Zangetsu once again and spoke with him, learning that Zangetsu is not a tool but a partner or sidekick. Ichigo acknowledged his zanpakuto as his true equal and put his full trust in Zangetsu, and that changed everything. Ichigo faced Kenpachi once again with his renewed power, while Kenpachi had no such relationship with his own zanpakuto, Nozarashi. With this key advantage and lesson in mind, Ichigo won the fight.
When Ichigo Asserted Himself as the King Riding the Horse
In the “Arrancar” story arc, Ichigo struggled with his inner Hollow, which kept fighting him for control of his body. This cost Ichigo dearly in his battles with Yammy and Grimmjow, so he approached the eight Visoreds for training. During that training sequence, Ichigo fought an internal battle against his Hollow self, and the Hollow had a good point to make. The two Ichigos were not equal because one would be the king in command while the other is the horse, or the subservient source of strength and support. Ichigo hesitated at first, then recognized and accepted his own desire to wage war and wield the Hollow as a weapon. This sharpened Ichigo’s resolve somewhat, and the Hollow, impressed, submitted to him as the horse.
When Ichigo Confirmed That He Wanted to Fight & Defeat Grimmjow
When Ichigo raced off to Hueco Mundo to rescue Orihime, he thought he was prepared to fight all ten Espadas, but he was wrong. Deep down, Ichigo was still afraid to fight his enemies despite being the “king,” and it showed. Ichigo held back against Dordoni and almost lost what should have been an easy fight, and then he got careless against Ulquiorra Schiffer, the 4th Espada. Finally, the 6th Espada, Grimmjow Jaegerjaques, told Orihime to heal Ichigo for one last battle to settle their rivalry. Ichigo fought well with his Hollow mask on, but his resolve was still too flimsy, and that nearly cost him the battle. Grimmjow kept goading Ichigo in their lengthy final fight, and at last, Ichigo realized Grimmjow was right. Ichigo did break into Las Noches to fight his enemies and win, and only with hard-won victories could he rescue Orihime and bring all his friends home alive. Never again would Ichigo doubt his willingness to fight his enemies to the death to protect those he cares about.