For the most part, I would describe Bleach as a fun, exciting, happy sort of show - sure, there’s a lot of violence, but characters are usually defeated *without* being killed, and it’s always fun to watch Ichigo get new powers. But there are certain moments in the show that are downright heartbreaking, of which I would single out these as the top 10 saddest moments in Bleach.
10. Hitsugaya stabs Hinamori
Hitsugaya is the captain with the biggest grudge against Aizen - after all, Aizen stabbed Hinamori right in front of him (not to mention also stabbing Hitsugaya himself). So when Hitsugaya finally manages to stab Aizen during the fight in the world of the living, you can see the malicious joy on his face as he shoves the sword past the hilt into Aizen’s back. Except, of course, that it’s not Aizen - it’s Hinamori, who was swapped in for Aizen at some point. And then the illusion is dropped, and Hitsugaya realizes that he’s in the process of killing the one person he wanted to protect….and just to make it worse, there is the moment when Hinamori says, “Shiro, why?” as he’s carrying her back to the ground.
9. Ichigo’s final fight with Aizen
Ichigo’s fight with Aizen is one of the few fights in Bleach that isn’t triumphant - it’s melancholy and makes you want to hug a stuffed animal rather than punch the air. Ichigo knows that he will lose his powers once the fight is over, and he’s accepted it; he just wants it to end. And he’s so much more powerful than Aizen that there’s really no tension - you just watch Aizen gradually come to the realization that Ichigo has surpassed him. And at the same time, you watch an emotionless Ichigo make the decision to sacrifice his powers to beat him.
8. Kaien’s death
Kaien’s death is the big tragedy in Rukia’s backstory - after being eaten and more or less turned into a hollow, Kaien throws himself on the sword that Rukia is holding, thus dying at her hands (and getting blood all over her). For me, the true tragedy of that flashback didn’t really hit home until Rukia was forced to face Kaien again during her fight with Espada #9 - her pain and guilt and willingness to die were very upsetting to watch.
7. Ichigo’s mother dies protecting him
All Ichigo wants to do is protect his loved ones - an impulse that stems, in large part, from the fact that he failed to protect his mom when he was a little kid. Even now Ichigo blames himself for his mother’s death, since it happened because he ran down to the riverbank to help what he thought was a little girl but was in fact the lure of a hollow that proceeded to kill his mother as she tried to protect Ichigo. And Ichigo still has no resolution with this, since I don’t think his dad ever told him that he killed the hollow that killed Ichigo’s mom.
6. Tosen’s death
Of the three traitors, Tosen received the least amount of attention from the show, and yet his death scene was one of Bleach’s most tragic. By the time Hisagi landed the killing blow, Tosen had become unrecognizably hideous - a huge locust-hollow full of anger and hatred. Yet as he lies there dying, he starts turning back into himself, and even seems to realize that maybe he shouldn’t have turned on his friends - and just as he’s about to reconcile with Hisagi and Komamura, he dies horribly. Which is tragic on its own account, but made extra painful thanks to the horrified look on poor Hisagi’s face as it happens.
5. Ishida watches his grandfather die
Of the many backstory deaths in Bleach, I believe this one is the saddest - Kaien and Ichigo’s mother both die quickly, whereas Ishida is forced to stand there watching as his grandfather slowly dies while fighting hollows. And Ishida, as a little kid with underdeveloped Quincy powers, can’t do anything to help; he can only hide behind that tree and watch. Not to mention that later we learn that Ishida’s grandfather didn’t really die then - he was tortured to death by Kurotsuchi. Who took pictures. And showed them to Ishida.
4. Gin’s death
Gin plays a very long game in Bleach - he decides to kill Aizen as a small child, and then waits nearly a century for his chance. And his attempt to kill Aizen initially seems successful, but then the hogyoku intervenes, and Aizen transforms in time to horribly murder Gin. The saddest part is Matsumoto arriving to see Gin already on the point of death, and then just throwing herself on him crying. Especially since I don’t think Gin was able to talk at that point, which means that Matsumoto never heard from him why he left her.
3. Ulquiorra’s death
Ichigo doesn’t usually kill enemies - but hollow Ichigo has no such reservations. In his Vasto Lorde form, Ichigo blasts Ulquiorra with a cero that fries all of his internal organs…so that when Ulquiorra regenerates, he’s just a shell that can’t survive for long. And I’m not sure which moment of his death is most painful to watch - Ulquiorra asking Ichigo (in his dead Ulquiorra voice) to just kill him (and Ichigo’s panicked refusal) or Ulquiorra dissolving into dust when Inoue tries to touch his hand. Or possibly Ichigo screaming “THIS IS NO WAY TO WIN!” as Ulquiorra crumbles.
2. Ichigo watches Rukia disappear as he loses his power.
This is the only moment in Bleach that actually made me tear up (and yet it’s not #1?). I was sad about Ichigo losing his powers, of course, but what really got to me was watching Rukia slowly dissolve as Ichigo lost his power to see her. Especially the sudden panicked look on Rukia’s face when she realizes that this is it - the last moment that Ichigo will be able to see her.
1. Ichigo loses his fullbring.
But this moment was, for me, the saddest in Bleach. Ichigo has finally gotten back some semblance of power thanks to his fullbring…when Ginjo, who Ichigo thought was his only remaining ally, stabs him in the back and takes his power away. Again. And Ichigo is completely broken. He collapses to his hands and knees (in the rain, no less) and just starts sobbing. Nothing else in the show ever broke Ichigo to that extent.
…..I….I think I’m going to go watch the beach episode now until I feel better.