I noticed quite a few commenters really enjoyed The Messiah’s Gintama Viewing Guide and asked for more. However since it’s a tall order for anyone to start watching one of these, let alone multiple examples of these shonen behemoths I thought I’d lend my services and help out. Also although this is inspired by the Gintama Viewing guide it will be quite different just due to the natural differences between the anime being featured. In short I hope this will allow some people to perhaps get past the psychological barrier to entry the 100+ episode count seems to invoke. Also as this is a long series this is also a long read.
I don’t doubt many of you know what is but a quick overview of the series at least seems appropriate. Bleach is a long running Shonen Jump battle manga (ending soon) and anime (concluded) about Substitute Soul Reaper (Shinigami/Death God) Ichigo Kurosaki and his assorted group of friends and allies as they fight an ever growing assortment of enemies from the weak to the down right apocalyptic. In short it’s you standard Shonen Jump fare where if you come in for a little humor and some big fights you should be content.
Season 1 (episodes 1-20)
This set of episodes covers the first full arc “The Substitute Shinigami Arc” and the beginning of the second arc “The Invasion of the Soul Society Arc”. How skip able? It’s not within these first episodes concepts and characters that play an important role through the entire series are introduced.
Filler Episodes: 0 Good news absolutely no filler, this is pure Bleach.
Season 2 (episode 21-41)
These section of episodes take up right where everything is left off. The goal is unfulfilled however the heroes are on the way. Unfortunately unlike the last set of episodes a lot of these feel like a time sink with minor fights. However the highlight does involve the biggest fight up to this point which is unlike other encounters in the series a serious beat down grudge match.
Filler Episode: 1 Episode 33 FEATURING Don Kanonji... yay...
Season 3 (episodes 42-63)
The ending of the Soul Society Arc is recounted here and it does not disappoint. Looking back this is easily the part when most people start saying Bleach was awesome and fully jumped on ship. The reason for this is the section is full of twists, turns, transformations, and bad ass fights. In many ways Tite Kubo and Studio Pierrot pushed all that was great about the shonen genre into this very fun section.
Filler Episodes: 2 (sort of) Episode 50 is a full on filler featuring now the reoccurring Don Kanonji... also the majority of episode 63 is a Clip Show with very little of value until right at the end.
Season 4 (episodes 64-91)
If the last season got everything right with the Shonen genre this is where all it’s worst habits are shown....
“Hey Director! Bad news we have a super popular show but the manga isn’t far enough ahead.” “What we had 190 chapters to adapt!” “Ya... we adapted those. Why do you think we’re so popular.” “Crap, what do we do?” “Vampires, the kids like vampires.” “Okay filler arc about Vampires!”
Yes this is a filler arc about Vampires also known as “The Bount”... seriously in it Ichigo fights the most one dimension bad guy ever without all his powers because if he had them the arc would be over to soon... How pointless is it? Totally pointless, literally nothing here is ever referenced again except a few cute plush toys (Ririn is adorable) once or twice in canon material and in anime only filler, and the main villain once in a totally random flashback.
Filler Episodes: Every single one...
Season 5 (episodes 92-109)
“Hey Director!” “Oh great you again... what do you want?” “Well... the fans hate our Vampires what do we do!?!” “Let me think... lets bring back all the fan favorite characters from the previous arc, people love that” “How do we do that without seeming cynical, tired, and bereft of ideas?” “Lets have the Vampire invade Soul Society obviously” “Right, but isn’t that literally EXACTLY the plot of the Soul Society Arc?” “Meh, nobody will notice.”
Yup more Bleach Vampires... now in Soul Society. Seriously this went on for a year. It’s around this time a lot of the “Bleach SUCKS!” started popping up online.
Filler Episodes: EVERY SINGLE DAMN ONE
Season 6 (episodes 110-131)
The return to the manga material begins here however after the Bount Arc Bleach is never really the same. The reason is pacing, the first 63 episodes covered approximately 183 chapters of the manga. These next 21 episodes will cover approximately 40 chapters in short the rate of adaptation went from 1:3 to 1:2 the difference is notable. Anyways brand new arc, brand new enemies, brand new challenges. Also in this arc it becomes clear Tito Kubo is a fan of Dragonball Z...
Filler Episodes: 128-131.
Season 7 (episodes 132-151)
This is a completely transitional batch of episodes. The new villains are established, the heroes are aimless, a new goal (rescue mission!) is thrust upon everyone, and we get some new and mysterious friends.
Filler Episodes: 132-137, completely and totally pointless. 147-149 a pointless but can be enjoyable mini-arc.
Season 8 (episodes 152-167)
If Season 7 was the set up this is the payoff. It starts with a big fight and ends with an even bigger one. The heroes strike back. Also we finally see a sustained use of a power up that has been present for a while but was kinda underwhelming... overall classic Bleach.
Filler Episodes: Absolutely NONE!
Season 9 (episodes 168-189)
“Hey Director!” “Oh god let me guess we’re catching up to the manga again?” “Yup even with the glacial pace we’re adapting the chapters we caught up. Vampire again?” “Hell no that was terrible.” “What then, Moon people?” “Moon people?!? What are we Naruto, hell no! Random new character in Soul Society” “Sir... the Story is in Hueco Mundo.” “Who cares nobody will notice”.
Ya more filler, good news the show is now 16:9 in HD. Bad News this arc is a bigger waste of time then the Bount... skip em all.
Filler Episodes: Every one of them.
Season 10 (episodes 190-205)
This is basically multiple extended fight scenes involving some of the most popular characters in the series. It’s 13 episodes of pure fan service that really makes no sense if you base the relative powers of those involved as opposed to what was stated and shown in the Soul Society Arc. However that doesn’t matter it’s still a lot of fun.
Filler Episodes: 204-205.
Season 11 (episodes 206-212)
Known as the “Past Arc” as it takes place hundreds of years in the past. In short it’s Bleach’s prequel story and is actually quite cool. The anime added some extra scenes to show some more popular characters as kids but other then that pure manga.
Filler Episodes: None
Season 12 (episode 213-229)
Even more fighting. More side characters show up, there are bigger explosions, all in all solid Bleach. Nothing really we haven’t seen before however and the majority of the battles feature minor side characters nobody really cares about. Also the next batch of fillers begin at the end on episode 227 so ya there is that.
Filler Episodes: 213-214 and 227-229. For the record 228 is a Swimsuit Episode, yes you thought a manly shonen battle manga wouldn’t have one? Well it does.
Season 13 (episodes 230-265)
“Hey Director!” “God damn it... you again.” “Sir I have the feeling you don’t like me much.” “Really? Every time you show up we get less and less popular. Anyways... filler again.” “Sorry ya, although I do have an idea what if the swords came alive and started fighting with their masters? “...” “What is it Director?” “You had a good idea that sounds actually fun”.
And it was for about 20 episodes, until the entire arc ran out of Steam and just became mindless. Although I must say it was the best of the fillers really in all of Bleach. Pointless yes but they had their moments too.
Filler Episodes: All of them
Season 14 (266-316)
That is right, this “Season” is almost a full year 51 episodes in all. It’s basically what everything has led up to by this point. If you’re still with the series I got to say the final payoff is supremely satisfying. All around a great conclusion to an arc that took about four years to complete...
Filler Episodes: There are a lot of them although they’re not in order. Episode 284 is one but it’s based on the manga if I remember so it’s watchable. 287 honestly don’t even remember it... 298 is a humorous filler, while 299 is based on an omake chapter from the manga setting up the Bleach movie “Hell Verse” which is on Netflix btw. 303-305 a bunch of one offs... then following the batch of canon material episodes 311-316 with your standard issue pointless crap. For a grand total of 13 filler episodes or 25% of the current arc.
Season 15 (317-342)
“Man can’t believe we’re done...” “Hey Director what do you mean done?” “The anime it’s over right? “What? No it’s still going strong!” “Does that mean...” “Yup filler time.” “F... you...”
Yup more filler... aren’t we all excited. Honestly I wouldn’t blame anyone if they jumped ship now. In fact in a viewing guide it’s strange but I encourage it by all accounts and standards the gif above should have been the ending of the series but here we go again...
Filler Episodes: You know the drill by now, every single one. All you need to watch is the ending of Episode 342 which should have been the ending to Episode 310...
Season 16 (343-366)
This is the end My only friend the end... this is the end... we’ll we’ve finally reached the end of this journey and by that I mean the anime. You see this arc sets up in the manga the next arc. However due to Bleach’s declining popularity the show is cancelled during this season. Beyond that despite being canon and meaningful to the overall plot (that doesn’t finish) the entire arc almost in both terms of pacing and storytelling feels like filler. In many ways as I wrote above it’s best to ignore these last two seasons it’ll save you a lot of time to watch better anime and do more interesting things.
Filler Episodes: Episode 355, a New Years Special
Total Filler: 181 Episodes accounting for a grand total of 49.4% of the anime. Damn counting it up and doing the math I had no idea it was so much. Crazy.
Anyways if you got through it all thanks for reading. This took way longer to write then I ever thought it would... giving me pause to do one of these for Naruto and Shippuden...