Q: You've been drawing Bleach since 2001, seven years now. Has it changed dramatically from what you thought this story would be when you first started drawing it?
Tite Kubo: At first, I didn't plan that there would be Taicho, the head Captain of the Soul Society. The captains, they didn't exist at first.
ICHIGO, CHAD, URYU AND KON: CREATING THE MANY CHARACTERS OF BLEACH
Q: What comes first? the characters, or the story's plot?
Tite Kubo: (emphatically) Characters first!
Q: Bleach has so many characters with so many different powers, weapons, personalities and relationships! How do you come up with them?
Tite Kubo: I really don't intend that characters have certain personalities when I come up with them. Sometimes I can't think of any new characters. Then other times, I come up with 10 or more new characters.
Q: Are there any characters that you thought fans would love but didn't, or a character that caught on with fans in a way that you didn't expect?
Tite Kubo: I don't really recall any characters that I've created that I thought fans would love but didn't, but usually I notice that when I start describing a character's personality or back story, the fans start to really respond to them, and really start liking them.
However, in the case of Suhei Hisagi (Lieutenant / Acting Captain of Squad 9), fans got hooked on him before I even started describing his personality, so that was very unusual.
Q: Are there any characters that are most like you?
Tite Kubo: I feel like all the characters have a little bit of me in them! (laughs)
Q: How do you come up with the clothes for the characters in Bleach?
Tite Kubo: I just put the characters in the clothes I wish I could buy, but can't find in stores.
Q: What do you consider to be Ichigo's greatest strength and his greatest weakness?
Tite Kubo: His strength is that he is always considerate and thoughtful. He always thinks about other people's needs. That is a great strength, but it's also his greatest weakness, because worrying about his friends puts him in danger too, sometimes.
Q: Speaking of Ichigo's relationships with his friends, there seems to be a love triangle between Ichigo, Rukia and Orihime. Do you delve more into this in later volumes?
Tite Kubo: (laughs) I get asked about that a lot! I don't want to make Bleach into a love story because there are much more exciting things about their personalities and things that they can do instead of getting into the romance aspect of their relationships.
Q: Your male characters are great, but your female characters are also very strong, interesting women. Are you influenced by strong women in your life when you create these characters?
Tite Kubo: I have quite a few female friends who are not physically strong, but mentally, they are really very strong people.
Q: Do you have a favorite female character in Bleach?
Tite Kubo: Hmm. Yoruichi and Rangiku! Their attitude is like, they just don't care what people think of them! (laughs) I have a lot of fun drawing them and creating stories with them.
Q: What inspired you to have a Mexican character like Chad and to include Hispanic culture in Bleach?
Tite Kubo: It wasn't something intentional. When I designed Chad, he looked like he had a Mexican heritage, so I just wrote that in.
Q: How did you come up for idea of the Quincies?
Tite Kubo: I created Qunicies to be Ichigo's rival characters, so i put Uryu in white clothing (compared to the black kimono worn by the Soul Reapers). Qunicies use arrows because they're long range weapons, so it's difficult for Ichigo to fight them with his sword, which is more for short range combat.
The Quincy cross has 5 points, kind of like the the Japanese 5-pointed star. 5 points, quintet, Quincy! Quincies use arrows, so if you call them Qunicy archers, it sounds like a name, so I kind of liked that.
Q: Is the Kon doll based on anything from your childhood?
Tite Kubo: I wanted to create something that looks fake, that looks like something that was just random things put together. Normally you don't have a sewing line in the middle of a stuffed doll's face unless it's done to make the face look more three-dimensional. But look at Kon! His face is flat so that line is unnecessary -- so I kind of like that fact.
Ichigo and Rukia first find Kon on the street, so I made up a back story about how he got there. At a festival, a child wanted a stuffed animal, but since the one that he wanted was too expensive, so the parent bought a cheap one instead. The child didn't like it and threw it away, so that's why the Kon doll was found on the street!
BLEACH STORY DEVELOPMENT AND THE FUTURE OF BLEACH
Q: One thing your fans love about your manga is that you always keep them guessing. Do you plan very far ahead how your characters will interact with each other, and the various plot twists you throw into your stories?
Tite Kubo: After i finished drawing chapter one, I already knew that Ichigo's dad Isshin would be a Soul Reaper. At the time, I didn't plan on having leaders in the Soul Society, so I didn't plan on him being one of the leaders.
Q: Will you feature a back story about Isshin?
Tite Kubo: Yes, I will draw it!