You read that right. The Bleach anime series will be ending at the end of next month, on March 27th.
Yeah, I can hardly believe it. Well, in fact, I don't believe it. Well, not entirely anyway. Allow me to explain below.
If TV Tokyo says the TV series is ending, I see no reason to doubt their word. However, I certainly doubt that it's over. Barring some kind of production-side shakeup that resulted in Bleach's outright cancellation behind the scenes, there's no way they'd just leave the story unfinished.
If you've been following the manga or anime (ideally via our convenient weekly recaps), then you'd know that Bleach in either form is nowhere near resolution.
And a March 27th date is far too soon to write up an alternate ending, ala the first Fullmetal Alchemist series. At best it'll be enough time end the current arc in progress, which itself doesn't exactly have the most final of conclusions.
So, what's the real story behind this? What'll really happen? I've got a few theories:
Theory #1: They're going to make a movie out of it.
By "movie" I don't mean those non-canon filler productions that pop up every so often. The conclusion could be done as a feature film.
If the words that the Bleach manga is truly in its "final" story arc, they could be cutting the TV series to let the manga build towards the end, and then time a movie release to tell the whole story of the final arc, just in time for the last chapters of the manga.
It's not unheard of. Whereas the first Fullmetal Alchemist TV series had an alternative ending (due to the fact that the manga wasn't done with), the later, canon-faithful Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series was produced and coordinated just right to end at the exact same time (or at least around the same time) as the manga. On the late-night front, Blood-C recently aired its gruesome ending via a feature film.
This could be the same thing. The way the Bleach manga paces itself, devoting months worth of chapters to covering just a few minutes or hours worth of battle (it took Bleach ten years to cover roughly 6-8 months of Ichigo's life), a feature-length production could conceivably cover the whole arc.
Alternatively, the end could come via a series of OVA, or even a simple limited, single-season series, ala current late-night anime.
Theory #2: They're taking a break.
It could be that the series is just taking a break to, as always, let the manga pull ahead and build up material. It's possible that they just haven't announced the return.
But then again, why would they bother "ending" the series at all? The common solution to manga slowness is filler material. Naruto, Dragon Ball, and countless other long-running series kept on truckin' long after they had caught up to their parent manga. Hell, Naruto went into filler mode for something like a year while the manga went on to jump forward in time.
Again, barring some kind of production-side shakeup or deal (perhaps Naruto SD was always meant to take over the timeslot while Bleach kicked back), it doesn't make sense to go off the air when they could be making filler instead.
Theory #3: Bleach 2/Bleach Shippuden/Bleach Kai/The New Adventures of Bleach
"Final" doesn't always mean "final". The manga may be in its "final" arc, but no one but Kubo knows for sure how long that will last. For all we know, the "Final Holy War" might take as long as the fight against Aizen did, which would put us in the haul for another decade of Bleach.
In that case, there's plenty of time to plan out and produce a sequel to the anime, perhaps under a different name.
Theory #4: It really is over.
Though I said it would be unlikely that they'd leave the Bleach anime hanging while the manga went on, there's just enough wiggle room in the conclusion of the current Fullbringer arc to allow the anime to cut and run off with little more than a "And they lived happily ever after."
Yes, the manga (and eventually the anime) does raise some questions that will be left unanswered if this truly is the end, but none of them are particularly pressing (no one's been kidnapped yet), and they could plausibly just roll the credits after Ichigo resumes work as a hollow killer. It'll be a disappointing anti-climax, but it is an arguably clean ending.
Theory #OH GOD MAKE IT STOP: It's in Hollywood's hands now
Bleach will continue in live action. Warner Brothers have bought all the rights to everything Bleach, including The New Adventures of Bleach and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Robert Pattinson is Eddie Kurosaki, a high school student living in a wholesome American town when Roxy, a ghost dressed in black, enlists him to defeat The Hollow Ones, horrible monsters wearing weird bone masks.
That's what I can think of off the top of my head. What are your theories?
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