"Unless I grip the sword, I can not protect you. While gripping the sword I can not embrace you."
A translation of "Ichigo Kurosake" can mean ‘First-Guardian Black-Tip’, though his first name literally translates to 'strawberry', something that is joked about from time to time. As the main character he takes it on himself to protect his friends, of which he has many. Sometimes he even gives his enemies protection after he’s defeated them and they are in danger of dying, provided they are not totally evil
. But despite that he carries an attitude with him and wields powers dangerously close to the kinds his evil enemies utilize.
His origin is somewhat a mystery. His mother was killed protecting him as a young child, and information of his birth father has practically unknown. A Soul Reaper who has an uncanny resemblance to him is currently considered dead and may or may not have some connection to him. Unknown to Ichigo, his adopted father who raised him is a former Soul Reaper.
Very early on had a deep respect for the dead. That might be because he could see the souls lingering in the world from time to time. A roadside memorial was defaced by a couple of thugs in the first episode of the Anime and he went out of his way to set it right. His first understanding of Soul Reapers started when Rukia Kuchiki entered his life.
Soon after that he found himself duelling with a Hollow.
Rukia had fallen and she gave him her powers so he might fight on in her place. Immediately after this he started to show unusually powerful signs of strength. The sword he now carried was a direct representation of his inner power, and it was impossibly huge compared to other Zanpakuto, the swords of the Soul Reapers. It would later be revealed, mind, that this was because his sword was essentially an empty shell, and completely powerless against the weapons of real Soul Reapers, but even when it became a genuine Zanpakuto, it was almost as big as it had been as a shell.
As Hollows eat souls this was a battle in which loss meant total oblivion. Despite that he defeated it with little difficulty and began his carrier as a Substitute Soul Reaper designated with protecting his city from the endless hordes of Hollow lurking just beyond the veil of reality.
In time Rukia is arrested for her involvement in Ichigo gaining his spiritual powers and taken back to the Soul Society, where the souls of the uncorrupted dead and the Soul Reapers live. Ichigo and his friends, also having discovered powers of their own, travel to this realm and rescue her from the death she was sentenced to.
In the process they find a huge conspiracy has taken place. Some of the Elite of the Soul Reapers, known as Captains, have hatched a complicated plan to strike at the King of the Soul Society, an unseen, all-powerful figure who rules eternally from a throne in a dimension almost totally unreachable. Once there they plot to somehow take total control. The key to unlocking the door is similarly complicated. Rukia carries with her the Hogyoku, a powerful artifact that has many and mighty powers.
After the corrupted Captains have what they wanted they move into the realm of Hollows where they rule there as Kings and built an Army of Hollows with powers far beyond that of the typical rank and file ones Ichigo had faced previously. During this time he also discovered a vast power within him (typically reserved for Captains) called Bankai.
In the Anime filler Ichigo than has a string of battles with the Bounto, a group of vampire like killers who dream of destroying the soul society.
Soon after this his good friend Orihime is kidnapped by the Super Hollows known as Arrancar because her powers are totally unique and necessary in the main goal of unleashing the power of the Hogyoku and throwing open the gates of the King of the Soul Society.
Once again Ichigo and friends go to the rescue, this time fighting in the Hollow’s world, a vast and complete desert with only a City so huge it is difficult to describe. If you imagined it being the size of a small moon, you wouldn’t be far off. This place is called Hueco Mundo, and once there they do battle with a goodly number of Arrancar.
This brings us up to the Manga as it stands as of this edit. Ichigo duels with one of the most powerful Arrancar to save Orihime in the world of the Hallows. In the Real world Aizen has taken a hand picked team of Arrancar to fulfill the final phase in his plot to open the gates of the King of the soul society. Namely he has to detonate Ichigo’s Hometown into a pile of ash and harvest the residual spiritual energy. The Captains of the Soul society knew this was coming they took that city and froze it, moving it to a different dimension. Now they stand ready to defend an identical city they made for the purpose of not instilling world wide panic if it was discovered one city had vanished for some reason.
While Karakura Town is under attack Ichigo faces off against his old nemesis Ulquiorra. While holding his own better than his previous fight, Ichigo still had trouble keeping up with Ulquiorra. Eventually Ichigo was able to land a blow upon his enemy, enraging him. As Ulquiorra goes on the offensive, Orihime steps in and shields Ichigo from his attack.
As the battle rages on, constant interruptions form Yammy and the arrival of Uryu allow Ichigo to fully unleash his powers, which he had been hindering to prevent any harm to Orihime. Surprised by this new found power, Ulquiorra takes the fight to the top of Los Noches and reveals a couple more truths about Espada. After unveiling a new form and subsequent powers, Ichigo is once again on the defensive and Ulquiorra is simply too much for him to handle.
Despite all this, he insists on defending himself and his friends. As Ulquiorra toys with him some more, Uryu and Orihime finally reach the top of Los Noches as well, only to see Ichigo receive a Cero Oscuras at point blank range through the chest.
As Ichigo lied in Orihime's arms, her please for assistance stirred something in him, something that his inner hollow answered. Arising from death, Ichigo's new Hollow form proved too much for Ulquiorra and reduced him to nothing almost instantly.
After a short recovery, Ichigo rejoins Renji, Chad, and Rukia in their ongoing battle with Yammy and let's them know he's in control. After a few quick taunts, and manoeuvring to get Yammy away from his friends, Ichigo dons a new Hollow mask with a different design and unleashes a devastating Getsuga Tensho. Having thought Yammy defeated, Ichigo removes his mask but contemplates on why it felt so heavy, but he is interrupted by Yammy and an onslaught of attacks.
Ichigo isn't worried though, as he easily deflects the attacks and finds it sickening that Yammy treats his fellow comrades as such lowly trash and as he goes to don his mask again but finds he is unable to. Yammy takes quick advantage and grabs Ichigo and starts taunting him.
Just as Yammy looks to deliver the final blow, he is blindside by a
Sokatsui spell and one of his limbs have been destroyed. As the smoke clears, we find Kuchiki Byakuya and Kenpachi Zaraki ready to do battle.
Kenpachi and Byakuya urge Ichigo to return to Karakura Town and assist in its defense. Ichigo is joined by Unohana Retsu on his trip back and given a few pointers about Aizen and his Shikai. Ichigo is warned to NOT look at Aizen's Shikai and that is the key to his defeat.
Unohana notices something bizarre about Ichigo and his
shihakusho (or shinigami robes) in that depsite only having a sleeve remaining, his power level is on par to a captain level shinigami. She makes sure to heal him before the reach their destination.
Ichigo's first sight of Karakura Town is Aizen's back, adn as he goes to attack, he is met by a barrier and a greeting...From Aizen himself. Aizen advises ichgo should use his mask and give him all that he's got, Ichigo obliges but is nowhere close to being able to accomplish his goal. Aizen mocks Ichigo's plight and ask why he fights. Aizen claims Ichigo only fights because it's his responsibility, no other reason.
As Ichigo's courage waivers, he is greeted by the remaining Gotei 13 and Vizards who immediately lend a hand in the fight. As various captains start their attack on Aizen, Shinji questions Ichigo on why he didn't return with Orihime, but see Unohana and feels he made the right choice. ANd then joins the fight against Aizen.
Ichigo carefully watched the battle unfold and eerily watches as the captains grow happy with their offensive, as he cries out to their celebration, all the captains suddenly realze their mistake and that they're under Aizen's influence. Only too late to realize they (Hitsugaya) have impaled Hinamori Momo in place of Aizen. As the remaining fighters are easily put down, Ichigo sees Yamamoto step up to fight.
Yamamoto delivers a few devastating attacks but spends majority of his power on the Arrancar Wonderweiss, and as he hits Aizen with a Hado, Ichigo attacks from above and sends Azien to the ground. As he arises, Ichigo notices the speed of Aizen's regeneration and assumes he's hollowfied himself, but Aizen laughs it off and advises that he has the Hogyoku within him. He then shocks Ichigo but telling him, all that has come to pass, was a result of his own doing.
As Aizen causes Ichigo to question everything he has done up to that point, invoking more rage and attacks from Ichigo, he tells Ichigo he's know about him since his birth. A stunned Ichigo is soon joined by his father Issun and is quickly ensured that he is his father, by a nice head-butt. As he regains his composure, Ichigo lets his father take over the battle against Aizen and goes after Gin.
Thinking he has the upper hand, Ichigo attacks Gin from behind, only to be blocked. Gin greets Ichigo and remarks that it has been a long time since their last battle. Ichigo starts to explain his battle philosophy and how he can generally get a good idea of his opponents through clashing swords, but Gin is seemingly uninterested in what Ichigo has to say. Although he considers Ichigo less interesting than their first encounter, he sees why Aizen has taken a shine to him.
Gin tunrs Ichogo's attention to his Zanpakutō, and quizzes Ichigo on if he knows its true power. Gin lets hi know it can extend up to 13km (8.08 miles) and instead of drilling more knowledge, he decides to unleash it. Ichigo easily blocks it to Gin's surprise and Gin states how creepy he thinks Ichigo truly is.
Gin then goes on the offensive once again, only this time he is unsure of the health of his sword, and although Ichigo is able to defend, he is still grazed by Gin's attack. He then analyzes Gin's bankai and how it's not the strength or length but it's speed that is the true danger. Gin lets Ichigo knwo that despite all he has learned about his attack, his chance for victory is not good.
After blocking another of Gin's attacks, Ichigo's father interrupts the battle and diverts Ichigo's attention to see Aizen enveloped by the Hōgyoku. Astoundced by what is happening, Ichigo completely takes his mind of the battle with Gin to watch. Suddenly, Kisuke, Isshin and Yoruichi all attack Aizen in his new form as Ichigo watches on. Gin warns Ichigo his back is wide open, but assures him he has no plans to attack, he wants Ichigo to watch what Aizen is capable of.
Gin teases Ichigo that his allies will die but Ichigo let's him know, he won't allow that. Although he is unsure of what Aizen is capable of Gin claims that Ichigo has lost all faith in his friends/allies and really is a kid after all and deems him unworthy to die at Aizen's hands and resumes his attack.
Seemingly toying with Ichigo, Gin notes that Ichigo seems as though his fierce spirit has waned, losing interest, he tells him to just run away. He tells Ichigo that he now "knows" of Aizen's true power and raises his Zanpakutō but is stopped by Aizen who orders him to open a Senkaimon (doorway) to Soul Society. Gin obliges as Ichigo's "stop" falls on deaf ears. As Aizen's sheel dissipates, he and Gin leave through the Senkaimon as Isshin returns to his feet and asks Ichigo to do the same. since Aizen is heading towards the real Karakura Town
Hesitant to do so, Ichigo explains trat there is no way for them to beat Aizen now and any attempt is futile. Isshin understands that Ichigo is still unaware of Aizne's power and asks Ichigo to follow him. When he doesn't, Isshin yells that Ichigo must do this, for if he doesn't, all the people he loves in the real Karakura Town will be destroyed by Aizen. Finally realizing the severity of the situation, Ichigo and his father leave through the Senkaimon.
While traveling through the Dangai, Isshin feels an odd feeling about the Koutotsu and knows that Aizen must have destroyed it. Isshin decides that this is as good a time as any to train Ichigo to since the Koutotsu isn't going to remove them. Ichigo questions the training process and what it could be and his father reveals he shall teach him the "final" Getsuga Tenshō.
As Ichigo meditates to enteer his inner world, Isshin tests him to make sure he's ready. As Ichigo doges his attack, Isshin notes that he's no ready. He's concludes that Ichigo hasn't been as in sync with his sword as he first thought. Ichigo tells his dad that this route is new to him, and Isshin
advises that due to that, he may not be accessing his powers correctly; he's more or less forcing them.
As Ichigo starts to become enveloped in his inner world, he is warned that Zangetsu will not be as understanding as he was once before. As he awakens in a city underwater, he thrust into a building and greeted by a hooded being. He tells him to simply breathe and advises Ichigo that he isn't recognized by Ichigo because he's never come to the world while in bankai. The being soon unveils his Tensa Zangetsu to Ichigo's surprise. As he attacks, Ichigo asks if he is Zangetsu to which he denies and what his bankai is called. The stranger replies Tensa Zangetsu and continues the assault.
While Ichigo aims to slow the battle down, Tensa Zangetsu reveals he knows why Ichigo is here, to learn the Final Getsuga Tensho, but lets him know he is incapable of learning such an attack.
Tensa Zangetsu continues his attack and surprises Ichigo by saying what they're working hard to protect are not the same.
Still curious as to why Zangetsu will not lend his strength to him, Ichigo demands to know why. Zangetsu informs Ichigo due to his recent battle with his refusal to move forward, he has changed his inner world, and he must fight to fix it. Zangetsu pierces into Ichigo's chest and pulls out his "source of despair," which is in the form Ichigo took during his battle with Ulquiorra. Stunned, Ichigo looks on as the form reveals itself to be his inner hollow.
Shocked, Ichigo stares in disbelief at the form in front of him as Zangetsu informs him he (Ichigo) was once in this form. He then advises Ichigo that he must beat them both, as he splits himself and Ichigo's inner hollow in two and combines themselves into one being.
Each Bankai blade has a unique hilt. Ichigo's is an old taoism symbol in the shape of a reversed swastika. It means "ban" or full when talking about the human spirit.