hey everyone, glad to see some responses in my absence.
To answer your question, CmdrRenegade, the canon characters will still be around, but the rp won't focus on them. If anything, you might see some involvement from Urahara and perhaps from Mayuri and his squad. Ichigo and friends are still around, but they're tied up in Karakura dealing with there own mess over there.
If you've noticed, most of Bleach either takes place in Soul Society, Hueco Mundo, or in the world of the living, specifically, Karakura town. I personally think that other towns in the world probably have hollow activity, but they are seldom shown at all. This rp will take place in a different town. Probably Hamanatsu, though I might change the name.
To clarify, it's not that I dislike the characters, they make the show what it is. It's just that in my experience, when players try to play a canon character, they don't portray them "In Character". It's hard playing an established character, each one talks differently and would approach different situations in their own style. I in particular have a hard time playing a canon character because of my lack of "character voice" so to speak.
Anyway, I want to start off the rp much like Bleach started out. All the player characters are people who have the ability to see spirits in various degrees, but they don't really know anything about soul society and what not. An event happens that triggers the awakenings of supernatural powers (like Orihime or Chads), or the player finds they suddenly have shinigami powers (I frequently switch between Shinigami and Soul Reaper). I'd explain how this works in detail, but that'd give away some plot points. Keep in mind, Bankai is not an easy thing to learn. All too often, I've seen players miraculously gain bankai really early in the rp, and that's just not right. Everyone will get a chance to achieve bankai, some may even get the chance to become a vaizard later on (if they wish), but it won't be really early on. These things take time after all. Anyway, I'm open for further questions. I'll probably post a character sheet in a day or two, so keep on the lookout.