THE DEATH AND THE STRAWBERRY is the first volume of the Bleach manga series.
Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn't change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Shinigami and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family, but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Shinigami himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia - who is slowly regaining her powers - it's Ichigo's job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.
001. Death & Strawberry
Ichigo Kurosaki is a teenager who can see ghosts, but lives an otherwise normal life. But when he encounters ShinigamiRukia Kuchiki, his life changes forever. When a creature called a Hollow attacks his family, he has no choice, but to become a Shinigami to defeat it.
Later that day, around 7:13 p.m., a young man with orange hair and a gray school uniform named Ichigo Kurosaki has beaten up a skateboarder by the name of Yama-Bro. Yama-Bro’s friend, Toshi-Bro, asks him why they should leave, prepared to fight, but is defeated by Ichigo, who uses only his right foot. The skateboarders are terrified by Ichigo's strength. Ichigo yells at them to look at the broken vase and asks Mit-Bro, the third skateboarder, what it represents. Mit-Bro answers that it is an offering to the kid who died there recently. Satisfied by the answer, Ichigo beats him. He then asks the skateboarders why the vase is broken. One of them responds that they knocked it over while they were skateboarding. He then tells them to apologize to the dead girl standing next to him, who has some blood on her left side, indicating that he can see and talk to ghosts. The skateboarders get scared, and apologize to him and the dead girl. Ichigo apologizes to the dead girl for using her that way, but she says that it's okay and that she was the one who asked him to chase them away. Ichigo tells her that he'll bring her new flowers for the vase, and the dead girl thanks him.
Ichigo returns to his home, which is also a small hospital called the Kurosaki Clinic. Upon entering his home, he is greeted by his father, Isshin Kurosaki, with a kick to the face, saying that Ichigo is late and that dinner is always at 7 o’clock. Ichigo asks if this is his way of greeting his son after performing a serious exorcism. While the argument continues, Yuzu and Karin, Ichigo's sisters, are seated at the table having dinner. Yuzu tells them to stop and says that the food will get cold, but Karin tells her to leave them alone, before telling Ichigo that he has a new friend, a ghost with glasses. Ichigo complains that no matter how many times he exorcises them, the ghosts keep coming back. Karin tells him that it must be tough having high specs, while Yuzu says that she’s jealous of them since she can only see the blurry outline of ghosts, while Karin and Ichigo are able to clearly see and talk to them. Karin tells her that she doesn't believe in ghosts, and regardless of whether she can see them or not, if she doesn't believe in them, then it is the same as if they didn't exist. This remark leaves Yuzu shocked and the ghost in the cold.
She then tells Ichigo about a new project she has planned. Ichigo tells Karin to stop using him for her get-rich schemes. While he is talking to her, however, Isshin uses the distraction to put his son on the floor. Ichigo retaliates and defeats his father, and then goes to his room. Yuzu worries about his behavior. After Karin makes a remark about her father’s lack of communication skills, he starts talking to a poster of his deceased wife, Masaki Kurosaki.
In his room, Ichigo notices a black butterfly and wonders where it came from. He then notices the girl with the black kimono, who is armed with a sword, and is intrigued by her. As the girl remarks to herself that something is near, Ichigo kicks her from behind and accuses her of being a burglar. The girl is surprised that Ichigo can see her. Isshin comes to Ichigo's room and attacks him for making noises in the house. Ichigo says that it is all the samurai-costumed girl’s fault, but Isshin does not see her. The girl then tells him that ordinary people can’t see her and reveals that she is a Shinigami.
Outside, a strange-looking creature with a hole in its chest eats the dead girl from before, and notices that a strong soul is near.
At the Kurosaki Clinic, the Shinigami tells Ichigo that she is from the Soul Society, and has arrived to exterminate an evil spirit. Ichigo doesn't believe her, saying that he believes in ghosts, but not in Shinigami. Offended by his remarks, the girl uses a technique called Kidō: Bakudō #1, Sai, immobilizing Ichigo in the process. She tells him that it is a technique that only Shinigami can use. She also tells him that she is older than she looks, and that the Spiritual Law prevents her from killing Humans that she has not been ordered to kill. She then touches the Glasses-Wearing Ghost’s forehead with the bottom of her sword handle. The ghost says that he is afraid to go to Hell, but the girl tells him that he’s going to Soul Society, which is a peaceful place. After the ghost vanishes, the Shinigami tells Ichigo that she had just used a technique called Soul Burial, and that Humans call it "Going to Heaven". She also says that it is one of her duties as a Shinigami.
The girl decides to explain the 2 types of spirits in the world to Ichigo through illustrations. The first type of spirit is the most common, called a Plus, which are what the "ghosts" that Ichigo usually sees are. The second type is known as a Hollow, a spirit that attacks the living and the dead and eats their souls. They are what Humans call "Evil Spirits". Her illustrations representing the two spirits are full of cute rabbits for Pluses and bears for Hollows. Ichigo comments on her horrible drawing, offending the girl, who then draws a mustache on him. She tells him that the Shinigami have two duties. The first duty is to guide the Pluses to Soul Society using Soul Burial. The second duty is to exterminate Hollows, which she went here to do. Ichigo asks her why she is loitering at his house when she should be getting rid of it. She tells him that, for some strange reason, she cannot feel its presence anymore, as if a great power were hindering her senses.
Ichigo then hears a very loud voice and remarks on it to the Shinigami. She recognizes it as the voice of a Hollow, and is surprised that Ichigo was able to hear it before she did. They both hear a girl cry out, who Ichigo recognizes as Yuzu. He begins to worry about the safety of his family. The girl leaves the room to get rid of the Hollow, leaving Ichigo behind, who is still paralyzed. The girl tells him that even if he comes with her, there is nothing that he can do to help. When she reaches the door, she feels the Hollow’s immense spiritual force. She and Ichigo then meet Karin, who is wounded but alive. She tells him that something invisible wounded their father and Yuzu, as well as herself, and that he went there to warn Ichigo. She then loses consciousness. Ichigo tries to break free from the Shinigami's spell, but the Shinigami tells him if he attempts to do so, his soul will be destroyed. However, he manages to break free of it without being hurt. The Shinigami is shocked to see that a Human managed to break a Kidō spell.
Ichigo then goes to the living room, which had been devastated, and sees his wounded father. He notices a hole in the wall, and sees the shadow of a creature outside. The creature turns out to be a monster with a hole in its chest and a mask-like face; it is the same creature that ate the dead girl earlier. Ichigo concludes that the creature is a Hollow. Although he refuses to admit it, Ichigo is terrified by the presence of the monster. He notices that the creature, named Fishbone D, is holding Yuzu in its right hand. Ichigo tries to attack it with a baseball bat, but the monster easily defeats him with just one punch, sending him to the wall. Fishbone D prepares to crush Ichigo, but the Shinigami cuts his arm with her sword, freeing Yuzu at the same time. Ichigo manages to safely catch his little sister.
The Shinigami reassures him that none of his family’s souls were eaten. Ichigo wonders why Fishbone D didn't eat his family when he attacked them. The Shinigami explains to him that Hollows wander, searching for souls with high spiritual power and because of that, humans are sometimes attacked. Ichigo realizes that Fishbone D has been searching for him the entire time, because of his enormous spiritual power, which had given him the ability to see ghosts. This revelation makes Ichigo feel guilty about what happened to his family.
Meanwhile, Fishbone D manages to regain his right arm and attacks the Shinigami, knocking her into a wall. She notices that Ichigo is facing the Hollow, challenging it to fight him. Fishbone D is about to eat the teenager, when the Shinigami stops the Hollow, getting severely injured in the process. She tells Ichigo that his power is no match for it and that she is no longer able to fight the Hollow. This makes Ichigo feel even more guilty. The girl then asks him if he wants to save his family, to which Ichigo asks if she knows a way to do it. The girl points her sword at him and tells him that the only way to save his family is to become a Shinigami like her. All he has to do is pierce the middle of his chest with her sword, called a Zanpakutō, and she will give half of her Shinigami powers to him. She also tells him that the percentage of success is not high and that he will die if it fails. After seeing Yuzu pleading for her brother to run away, Ichigo decides to accept the girl’s proposal. The girl introduces herself as Rukia Kuchiki. Ichigo introduces himself as well.
As Fishbone D approaches them, Ichigo stabs himself with Rukia's Zanpakutō and a light appears, blinding the Hollow for a moment. Suddenly, the Hollow's left arm is cut off. Ichigo appears as the light fades, wearing the Shinigami outfit and holding a large Zanpakutō. Rukia is surprised to realize that Ichigo has taken all of her Shinigami powers, despite her intention to only give him half. She concludes that it was Ichigo's powers that were previously hindering her senses. She is also surprised that his Zanpakutō's became so large, a result of Ichigo's great Spiritual Energy.
As Rukia ponders this, Ichigo cuts Fishbone D's right leg off and exterminates the Hollow, completely by cutting it in two.
Ichigo learns that Rukia has lost her Shinigami powers and he is forced to take over Rukia's Shinigami duties to save spirits and vanquish Hollows.
Ichigo has a nightmare in which his family is heavily injured; they blame their condition on him, since he became a Shinigami. He then sees Rukia, who tells him that it is too late for them, ending the dream. Ichigo wakes up to an attack by his father, who saw it as a way to wake up his son. Ichigo fights back, but notices that all of his father's injuries are gone. He asks his father about this, but he denies having ever been injured, confused by his son's question.
Afterwards, the Kurosaki family goes outside, and Ichigo notices that all of the damage to their home has been repaired. He is further confused when his family expresses their belief that they had been attacked by a burglar driving a truck. He wonders if Rukia had done some Shinigami damage control, and if she had returned to Soul Society.
At Karakura High School, a girl named Orihime Inoue, wakes up and sees that her friend, a girl with short black hair named Tatsuki Arisawa, had come to to talk to her. Tatsuki remarks that Ichigo is late, and asks Orihime what she likes about him, since she personally thinks of him as a cold, short-tempered brat. Orihime answers that she thinks he is funny. She imagines the funny faces that Ichigo could make and laughs, embarrassing Tatsuki.
A fellow classmate, Mizuiro Kojima, tells them that Ichigo might not come to school since a burglar had attacked his house. Tatsuki shows concern for Ichigo, but the latter arrives at school, assuring everyone that he isn't dead. Mizuiro tells Ichigo that they have social studies for 3rd period.
Ichigo suddenly hears somebody talking to him from behind. He turns around to see Rukia, wearing a school uniform. Mizuiro tells him that Rukia transferred to their school. Rukia ‘‘quietly’’ tells him, in the form of a written message on the palm of her left hand, not to speak of the prior night's events, to which Ichigo complies.
Later, Ichigo and Rukia go to a quiet area of the school where Ichigo asks her what is she doing there and why she has not gone back to the Soul Society. She tells him that she has lost her Shinigami powers and that she is using an artificial body, which Shinigami use in emergency situations. She explains that she must wear it until her powers are restored, and tells him that he must take over her Shinigami duties for the time being. Ichigo refuses, saying that he only became a Shinigami to protect his family from Fishbone D and that he won’t fight for total strangers, since he is not that nice of a person. After hearing this, Rukia puts on a glove with a flaming skull on it, with which she removes Ichigo's soul, which is now wearing a shihakushō, from his body. Rukia tells him to follow her.
They arrive at Yumizawa Children’s Park, where Ichigo used to see a 5 Year Old Ghost Boy who played there around 12 o’clock. Rukia tells him that she has received news from the Soul Society that a Hollow would appear at the park and that the ghost child would likely be attacked. They hear a scream and see the ghost child in question being pursued by the spider-like Hollow, Hexapodus.
Ichigo tries to help the boy, but Rukia tells him to stop, asking if the boy was one of the strangers Ichigo refused to help. He responds that he cannot refuse to help someone that is being attacked in front of him. Rukia explains that whether the ghost is in front of him or far away, the fact remains that he is being attacked. Ichigo continues to watch the attack helplessly. Rukia tells him not to help the boy because even if he did save him, nothing would matter if he didn't become a Shinigami. She also tells him that a Shinigami has to treat all spirits equally and that he cannot just conveniently save those he can see and reach. She says if he wants to save the boy, that he must be willing to save all spirits and make that kind of commitment, even to give his life to save them. Ichigo remembers his fight with Fishbone D, and makes his decision.
Ichigo raises his Zanpakutō, confronts Hexapodus and cuts one of its legs. Rukia is surprised that Ichigo made the commitment. Ichigo plants his Zanpakutō on the ground near the boy, scaring him. Ichigo explains that he saved the boy because he wanted to, and that he hasn't accepted any commitment because he’s not a good enough person to sacrifice his life for total strangers. He reminds Rukia about what she had sacrificed to save him, and then kills Hexapodus. He continues to explain that he’s not so insensitive to the point where he can live happily without repaying his debts. He then decides to help her to do the Shinigami job, and Rukia thanks him.
Meanwhile, a student notices Ichigo's unconscious body lying on the floor.
Orihime is "hit by a car" and Ichigo undergoes Rukia's training. Rukia then moves into Ichigo's closet and something strange begins happening at Orihime's house...
Orihime sings on her way home from the store at night. A speeding car heads in her direction before the scene ends.
Rukia reads a horror manga out loud in order to study modern speech, much to Ichigo's displeasure, while he trains by hitting 100 pepper-filled balls. Rukia explains that he was only supposed to hit the ones labeled as "heads," which Ichigo is unable to distinguish from the ones labeled as "hand."
Orihime comes across the park where Ichigo is training, while Rukia explains that a Hollow's head is its weak spot, saying that a Hollow be defeated in one blow by striking that point and that the purpose of her training is to increase Ichigo's accuracy when doing so. Ichigo argues that he has been defeating Hollows fine so far, but Rukia points out that he hasn't defeated a Hollow in one hit and that a sneak attack is one of the basics of defeating them. Ichigo continues to protest, saying that they are dirty tactics. Rukia continues, explaining that fighting a Hollow is not the same as fighting a Human, and fighting one as if it were Human would end in his death.
Orihime appears behind Ichigo, startling him with a loud greeting. Ichigo asks what she was doing there, to which she explains that she was just passing through while shopping for dinner. She then notices Rukia, addressing her by name, though Rukia does not remember her. Ichigo notices a bandage on Orihime's arm and proceeds to ask about it, leading to her lighthearted explanation of having been hit by a car. Ichigo tells her she should be more serious about that type of accident. Rukia notices another injury on her leg and suggests she go to a doctor, causing Orihime to promptly leave. Ichigo asks if she would like him to walk her home, but she rejects his offer.
Rukia asks Ichigo more about Orihime. He explains that she has lived in his neighborhood since 8th grade, and her brother had died three years prior at the Kurosaki Clinic. He then asks why she wanted to know. She responds that she's not interested and that it's time to leave.
Yuzu opens the door to Ichigo's room, asking if he knows where her dress is, as he walks up the stairs. He explains to her that he hasn't seen her clothes and tells her not to open his door without knocking.
Rukia lays in a small dark room as her Soul Phone rings. Ichigo hears a beeping sound and wonders what it is before it stops. Rukia jumps out of Ichigo's closet, loudly shouting his name, trying to warn him of an immediate Hollow attack. Just as a large hand bursts through the floor, Rukia dons her Skull Symbol glove and forces Ichigo's soul out of his body before the rest of the Hollow comes through the wall. Ichigo draws his Zanpakutō and slashes at the Hollow's head, but only manages to slice off a portion of its mask, revealing the Hollow to be Orihime's brother, Sora. Rukia explains that the reason for sneaking up behind Hollows was not only to prevent him from being injured, but also to avoid seeing its original face, as all Hollows were originally normal souls.
The final scene cuts to Orihime and Tatsuki sitting in Orihime's house as a seam splits on Enraku's face.
Rukia explains that Hollows were once human, but they are still monsters that must be defeated. When Ichigo tries to press her for further explanation, Rukia says she has no time to explain, because "that girl" is going to die.
At Orihime's residence, Tatsuki tells Orihime that she should have accepted Ichigo's offer to walk her home. Tatsuki then asks if Orihime has ever been alone with Ichigo at the park, and Orihime has a strange daydream about it. Enraku then falls down, and Orihime rushes to the bear, where she notices blood. A hand comes out of the bear and rips through Orihime, causing her to fall back. Tatsuki questions what's wrong.
Ichigo and Rukia head toward Orihime's residence, with Rukia further explaining the nature of Hollows. Meanwhile, Tatsuki is knocked to the floor, bleeding, and a large Hollow approaches Orihime. Orihime notes that she's not in her body, and wants to break the chain connecting her to her body, because it hurts. She then notices that Tatsuki is in danger and knocks the Hollow aside, calling to Tatsuki that she should run, but she can't hear Orihime.
The Hollow mocks her, and moves in to attack, but Ichigo saves her.
During Ichigo's fight with Acidwire, it's revealed that the Hollow is actually Orihime's deceased brother Sora.
Ichigo has arrived at Orihime's house to rescue her from a Hollow attack, and evaluates the situation. Orihime's soul greets him warmly, and he questions why she can see him, as Rukia had told him that only spirits can see other spirits. The Hollow tells him that it's because Orihime is already dead, so her soul can see him. He then whips his tail around and attacks Ichigo with enough force to break the window and send him outside of the house.
The Hollow follows Ichigo, mocking him, and continues to attack, burning Ichigo's hand and knocking him to the ground. When Orihime cries out in distress, the Hollow grabs her, and asks if she remembers him. Orihime identifies the Hollow as her deceased brother, Sora.
Outside, Rukia reminds Ichigo that he cannot lose, or the Hollow will consume Orihime's soul. Inside, Orihime asks if it's really him, which he confirms, and then questions why he attacked her friends. He states that it's because they tried to tear Orihime and him apart. When he died, Orihime prayed to him daily, which made him happy, but when she befriended Tatsuki, she began praying less and less. When she met Ichigo, she stopped praying altogether, only talking to him about Ichigo all the time. This was really painful for him, making him believe she had pushed him out of her heart.
Ichigo rushes inside, and the Hollow asks Orihime to live together with him, like they used to. She says he should have told her he was sad, instead of attacking her friends, because this isn't her brother. This angers him, and he blames the situation on her, stating he'd kill her. Upset, Ichigo cuts up the Hollow's arms, and tells him to never say such a thing again.
Acidwire gains a change of heart after Orihime apologizes to him.
Sora reflects on the past, and how he used to take care of Orihime. In the present, now as a Hollow, he explains that they always lived together, that she's his and that he won't give her up. He attacks Ichigo, and says that if Orihime won't live for him, then she should at least die for him.
He moves in to attack her, and bites down over her head and onto her shoulders. In return, she hugs him, surprising him. She apologizes, and explains that the reason why she switched from praying to talking about Ichigo and school was because she thought that if all she ever showed him was how sad she was, then he would worry. But if she showed that she was happy, then he wouldn't have to be concerned about her well-being.
Rukia enters the room and explains that she can fix her. Acidwire explains that he understands that she didn't stop praying to upset him, but that she liked that when she prayed, her heart was all his. Ichigo explains why she wears her hairpins, and Sora states that he'd like to disappear so he won't attack her again. Ichigo questions this, but Rukia explains that once a soul becomes a Hollow, it can't revert back again.
Sora and Orihime say goodbye to each other while he disappears. Orihime awakens in her body and tries to ask Ichigo something. Before she can, though, Rukia makes a small puff of smoke, which knocks her out. Rukia explains that she replaced Orihime's memory with the device.
The following day at school, Orihime tells her classmates that a sumo wrestler broke into her house, and shot a bazooka at her wall, which Tatsuki confirms, but that the others don't believe.
Chad gains ownership of a strange talking parakeet.
The boys discuss a cursed parakeet, whose presence results in the deaths of its owners. Suddenly, a steel beam is propelled at them, which Chad saves the others from. The parakeet then thanks Chad, and Chad responds with his name and age.
At school, Orihime comments that his wounds healed well, and Rukia says she got top grades in Kidō. Before Ichigo can question her further, Rukia asks how she drinks from a juice box. Mizuiro joins Rukia and Ichigo for lunch and tells Ichigo that he should think about how it looks for him to hang around Rukia all the time, which Ichigo disregards. Ichigo then warns Rukia that Mizuiro is a womanizer, although Mizuiro is confused, since he only likes older women and Rukia appears to be his age. Keigo joins them as well, and he and Ichigo argue briefly.
Keigo is then kicked from behind, by Reiichi who tries to entice Ichigo into a fight. He then brings out iron knuckles, but before he can attack, Chad stops him. Ichigo notes his injuries, and is shocked about his "iron body" when Chad explains that he got them from surviving being hit by a steel beam and a motorcycle. Keigo then notices Chad's new parakeet, and talks to it. While the others are distracted, Rukia tells Ichigo that the parakeet houses a harmless spirit that should be sent onto the afterlife that evening.
At the Kurosaki Clinic, Yuzu and Karin rush to aid a car crash victim. Isshin is upset because the local hospital won't help the victims, and he orders Ichigo to stay out of the way. Shortly after, more victims arrive, including Chad, and Ichigo suspects that his wounds were caused by a Hollow, which Rukia confirms that night.