* Human: The humans of Bleach are much like the residents of modern Japan, and most cannot see or sense disembodied spirits in any way. Spirits can, however, inhabit artificial human bodies called gigai which are visible to ordinary humans. One in 50,000 humans is a medium with some awareness of nearby spirits, but only a third of these are able to see them clearly, and only the strongest of mediums are able to speak with or touch spirits. Certain unique humans naturally have both the power to sense and the strength to fight with spirits. Ordinary humans can gain the ability to interact with spirits by spending time around a large source of spirit energy.
* Plus: Benign spirits in Bleach are known as pluses (wholes in the official English editions). A plus is the spirit of a person who has died. A chain, known as the Chain of Fate (因果の鎖, inga no kusari?), protrudes from the chest and binds the plus to a location, object or person that they felt close to in life. The soul can move about freely if the chain is broken, but this also causes the chain to corrode. Normally, pluses are sent to Soul Society by shinigami in a ritual called soul burial (魂葬, konsō?) before this corrosion becomes significant. If the Chain of Fate is corroded entirely before a soul burial can be performed, a hole will form in the chest of the soul where the chain was once anchored. Such souls are driven mad and become evil spirits known as hollows. If the Chain of Fate is torn out deliberately, this also leads to spiritual degradation.
* Shinigami: Shinigami (Soul Reapers in the official English editions, Death Gods in most subtitled versions) are the psychopomps of Bleach. They are souls with inner spiritual power, recruited from the ranks of the residents and nobility of Soul Society. Like all spirits, they cannot be detected by normal humans. Shinigami use their zanpakutō, supernatural swords that are the manifestation of their owners' power, to perform soul burials on pluses. Shinigami also use zanpakutō and magic known as kidō to fight their archrivals, the hollows. A group of shinigami known as the vizard have also obtained hollow powers through illegal means, gaining removable masks and access to certain hollow abilities.
* Hollow: The hollows are the major antagonists of Bleach. They are evil spirits who reside in Hueco Mundo but travel to the living world to feed on the souls of the living and dead alike. Like shinigami, hollows are made of spiritual matter and cannot be detected by ordinary humans. While the majority of hollows can be overcome by the average shinigami, there are some which surpass even the most elite shinigami in strength. All normal hollows wear white masks, but a small group of hollows have broken them, becoming arrancar. By shattering their masks, these hollows regain the ability to reason, sometimes obtain a humanoid form, and gain access to shinigami powers.
Quincy with their distinctive bows. Quincy with their distinctive bows.
* Quincy: The Quincy are a clan of spiritually aware humans who once fought against the hollows, using weapons composed of spiritual energy to slay them. As opposed to shinigami, Quincy absorb and channel energy from their surroundings to fight. Unlike the shinigami method of killing hollows which allows the hollow to enter Soul Society, the Quincy technique simply destroys the hollow's soul entirely. This method has the propensity to shatter the balance of the universe, because when souls are destroyed, the number of souls entering and leaving Soul Society cannot remain equal. This issue prompted the shinigami to conduct a campaign to exterminate the Quincy about 200 years before the main storyline. At least two Quincy still remain.
* Artificial soul: Artificial souls (Also know as Modified Souls, or Mod Souls) are a type of soul mass-produced by the shinigami. Issued in pill form, they are used to force shinigami out of their gigai during protracted stays in the living world, and also to evict pluses that refuse to leave their bodies after death. They come with a pre-programmed personality that animates the host body until the owner returns. In addition to the mundane versions, a series of experimental souls authorized and created by shinigami researchers exists. Known as modified souls, these were meant to hunt hollows by possessing soulless human bodies and supercharging a particular aspect of them (for example, strength or speed). The shinigami decided to scrap the project due to the inhumanity of forcing dead bodies to fight, and ordered the destruction of all modified souls. Only one modified soul exists in the manga, but there are three more such characters in the anime. * Bount: Exclusive to the anime, the Bounts are a clan of human beings with high spiritual energy and special powers. They were accidentally created by shinigami scientists looking for a way to create eternal life. Bounts consume the souls of human beings to survive; theoretically, a Bount could live forever by doing so. Although the Bounts have a strict rule to consume only the souls of the dead, the final group of Bounts chose to drain souls from living humans in order to become more powerful. Each Bount uses a "doll" in combat, a type of familiar possessing its own special abilities. Every doll is unique and is a manifestation of the user's power. If the doll is destroyed, its owner is destroyed as well.
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