The Agent of the Shinigami arc is the first season of the Bleach anime series. The episodes are directed by Noriyuki Abe and produced by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, and Studio Pierrot. In the English release by Viz Media, its title is translated as The Substitute. The episodes are based on Tite Kubo's Bleach manga series, spanning twenty episodes. The episodes' plot covers the adventures of Ichigo Kurosaki after becoming a Soul Reaper and assuming the duties of Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki.
The arc initially ran from October 2004 until February 2005 in Japan on TV Tokyo. The first English airing of the series was from September 2006 until January 2007. It was shown on both YTV's Bionix and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming blocks, with Bionix airing the show one day sooner. The arc started airing in the UK starting in September 2007 on AnimeCentral.
The episodes use three pieces of theme music: one opening theme and two ending themes. The opening theme is Orange Range's single "Asterisk". The ending theme for the first thirteen episodes is "Life is Like a Boat" by Rie Fu, while the remaining seven used "Thank You!!" by Home Made Kazoku.
The arc was released on five DVD compilations, each containing four episodes of the show. They were released in Japan from February 2, 2005 to June 1, 2005. Viz Media's release of the DVDs was made from November 5, 2007 to July 31, 2007. The first of these compilations, with art featuring the series main character Ichigo Kurosaki, was nominated at the American Anime Awards in 2007 for best DVD package design. A DVD collection box, containing all twenty episodes of the arc, was released by Viz Media on October 30, 2007. Manga Entertainment released two DVDs containing the first season in the United Kingdom on November 5, 2007 and March 3, 2008. A compilation of these two volumes was released on May 5, 2008.
Fifteen-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki has the uncanny ability to see ghosts, but that seems pretty run-of-the-mill once Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki enters his life.
Ichigo runs into Rukia at school, where she's posing as a transfer student. Now that he's got most of her powers, she wants him to take over her Soul Reaper duties...
Ichigo learns that not all souls pass peacefully to the Soul Society. Some linger, only to become Hollows.
Chad, Ichigo's friend and classmate, brings a cursed bird to school that is really the soul of a young boy who lived a tragic life.
Rukia and Chad take on Shrieker, a vicious Hollow who's beaten many Soul Reapers and committed many crimes.
At a Soul Reaper supply shop, Rukia picks up a mod soul to take over Ichigo's body while he's pulling Soul Reaper duty.
Rukia and Ichigo track the mod soul in Ichigo's body to a local elementary school.
On the anniversary of his mother's death, Ichigo intends to take the day off from Soul Reaper duties and visit her grave with the rest of his family.
Ichigo faces the Grand Fisher, a Hollow that uses a lure in the shape of a little girl...
When television hero Don Kanonji schedules a live recording of his hit show "Spirit Hunter" at a local abandoned hospital, Ichigo is surprised to see that an actual demi-Hollow is being summoned for the show.
Ichigo is unaware that one of his classmates, Uryu Ishida, possesses spiritual power of his own.
In order to prove how useless Soul Reapers are, Uryu releases bait to draw Hollows to their town. Whoever gets rid of the most wins the challenge.
Orihime is paid a visit by a Hollow at school and discovers her own spiritual powers...
In the midst of their battle, Ichigo finds out that Uryu is a Quincy, a group with a long-standing rivalry with Soul Reapers.
Rukia worries that news of Ichigo's battle with Menos Grande will attract the attention of the Soul Society.
Rukia, wandering the streets at night, runs into two Soul Reapers from the Soul Society, Renji Abarai and her brother, Byakuya Kuchiki...
Ichigo fights Renji Abarai, a lieutenant from the Soul Society. When it looks like Ichigo might win, Byakuya Kuchiki steps in and deals a fierce blow...
Summer vacation begins, but it's all work for Ichigo, who starts training with Urahara in order to enter the Soul Society and save Rukia.
In the Soul Society, Rukia learns that in 25 days, she'll be taken to the Central Execution Grounds to face her punishment.
Ichigo completes lesson three of Urahara's training and learns the name of his zanpaku-to.
Ichigo and the others manage to make it through to the Soul Society...
Ichigo and crew defeat the giant, but their entrance into the Seireitei is nowhere near smooth sailing...
An arrogant, boar-riding bully named Ganju challenges Ichigo and friends to a fight...
Kukaku Shiba's plan is to catapult Ichigo and the others over the walls of the Seireitei with her very own creation, the Flower Crane Cannon.
Ichigo, Chad, Uryu and Orihime concentrate on controlling their spirit energy for their flight into the Seireitei.