Around a week ago, the first official trailer for the much-awaited live-action adaptation of Bleach was released. Millions of fans not only in Japan, but from around the globe are anticipating the release of this movie, for Bleach as both a manga and an anime was arguably amazing. Looking back, Bleach’s manga ended last 2016, with the final arc being the war with The Quincy. This part of the story has yet to be explored in the animated series which ended in 2012, with its last arc being the substitute Shinigami arc, and it seems that this won’t be happening anytime soon.
One of the most recognized assets from the Bleach series are the swords of the characters, also known as the “Zanpakuto”. These swords are considered to be more than just weaponry, but instead also as a comrade and companion. There are two stages of a Zanpakuto’s power, namely shikai and bankai. Shikai or the initial release shows the true form of their swords, meanwhile the bankai or the final release shows the strongest power of the Zanpakuto, manipulating not only its shape, but also the surroundings, and possessing the ability to summon inanimate beings.
Here is a top ten list, showcasing the bankai which I personally find to be the coolest.
*Please take note that this list may contain spoilers, especially to those who haven’t read the Thousand’s Year Blood War arc yet.
10. Soi Fon’s Suzumebachi (Hornet)
Jakuho Raikouben (Hornet Thunder Whip)
First up is the bankai of the commander of Covert Corps and the captain of the 2nd Squad, Soi Fon. Soi Fon rarely releases the bankai of Suzumebachi because according to her, it is “too large to hide, too heavy to move, and too flashy for assassination”.
Her bankai, Jakuho Raikoben, forms a golden missile on her right arm and launches a very powerful attack on its opponents.
9. Rukia Kuchiki’s Sode No Shirayuki (Sleeves of White Snow)
Hakka No Togame (White Haze Punishment)
Next is the bankai of the show’s female protagonist, the former lieutenant and the current captain of the 13th squad, Rukia Kuchiki. In the anime, Rukia’s bankai was not unveiled, but after her trip to the Soul King’s Palace, as depicted in the manga, she managed to acquire her bankai.
Sode No Shirayuki‘s bankai release, Hakka No Togame, doesn’t just change the form of its sword, but also changes Rukia’s clothes and body. In this form, Rukia herself is actually… dead… as her body temperature is absolute zero degrees. That’s the catch of Hakka No Togame, where Rukia herself is ice-cold and everything around her turns into ice without even contact.
The animation above is a fan-art from a fan based on the manga. Sode No Shirayuki is known as the most beautiful Zanpakuto ever and I must say, its bankai lived up to its reputation.
8. Kenpachi Zaraki’s Nozarashi (Weather Beaten One)
In becoming a captain of the Gotei 13, one of the qualifications is that the individual must be able to release the bankai of his or her Zanpakuto. However, only one of the captains manged to break that rule, and it was all because of this overflowing strength.
He is the 11th Squad’s captain, Kenpachi Zaraki, whose partner is his lieutenant and adoptive daughter, Yachiru Kusajishi. At the expense of the first captain of Squad 11, Retsu Unohana’s life, Zaraki first met his Zanpakuto, Nozarashi. And now, this is where things get all mysterious.
During the Thousand Year Blood War, Yachiru suddenly went missing after an encounter with a Quincy, which is coincidentally at the same time when Zaraki first commanded his Zanpakuto. After a few run-ins with other Quincy, Zaraki soon fell on the brink of death.
But suddenly, Yachiru arrived out of nowhere, granting Zaraki the power of bankai, and thus we can conclude that Yachiru is the manifestation of Nozarashi. After all, when they first met, Yachiru was nameless and the current name she is using is from Zaraki himself.
About Nozarashi’s bankai, it contains a great amount of strength and cutting power. It reverts into a smaller blade and transforms Zaraki into a beast-like creature with horns and red skin.
7. Rojuro Otoribashi’s Kinshara (Golden Sal Tree)
Kinshara Butodan (Golden Sal Tree Dance Troupe)
It makes me a little disappointed seeing how Rojuro Otoribashi, otherwise known as Rose, was highly under-utilized and later became an incompetent character. Seriously, I believe Rose is an amazing character who should’ve had more exposure, especially since he is the caption of the 3rd Squad.
His Zanpakuto, Kinshara, is also one of the coolest and most unique out there, as it utilizes music as its weapon. Kinshara’s bankai form is Kinshara Butodan, which in English means Golden Sal Tree Dance Troupe. It may sound flashy, but it’s actually very gruesome. It forms a floating hand holding a baton, appearing as a conductor, and countless “dancers” with flowers instead of faces.
Rose described it as a “Dance Troupe of Death”. It attacks the opponents with its music, and as the dancers “perform”, it annihilates them.
6. Ichigo Kurosaki’s Zangetsu (Slaying Moon)
Tensa Zangetsu (Heaven Chain Slaying Moon)
If you have made it up to this far, then I would assume you are one of the people who have already finished Bleach, or you have no worries over getting spoiled anymore, because in Ichigo Kurosaki‘s Zanpakuto lies the biggest plot twist in the entire series.
Actually, the Zangetsu Ichigo used to call “old man” is NOT a Zanpakuto. Long story short, Ichigo is actually a Quincy and not a Shinigami at that time. Upon making efforts to save Soul Society and the whole world from Yhwach’s domination, Ichigo (along with Renji, Rukia, and Byakuya) traveled to the Soul King’s Palace.
That is where Oetsu Nimaiya, the inventor of Zanpakuto, resides. Nimaiya then blacksmiths Ichigo a “real” Zanpakuto, and it’s Zangetsu in the form of two blades.
Zangetsu’s bankai form, Tensa Zangetsu, utilizes not only one, but three powers lying inside Ichigo. His Hollow, Quincy, and Shinigami powers all at one form, thus making the strongest Ichigo Kurosaki out of the show. It unites the two swords into one, and is able to launch a very powerful Getsuga Tenshou, enough to even make Yhwach consider it dangerous
5. Kisuke Urahara’s Benihime (Crimson Princess)
Kannonbiraki Benihime Atarame (Modification of the Crimson Princess’ Dissection at the Doors of Avalokiteśvara)
Kisuke Urahara‘s Zanpakuto is one of the most mysterious, as shown in the anime. Knowing that Urahara used to be the captain of the 12th Squad, many fans were expecting to see his bankai in action. Thankfully, Bleach shown us his bankai during the Thousand Year Blood War arc with his fight against Askin Naak Le Varr.
During the fight, Askin attacked Urahara’s eyes, resulting in him losing his sight. That is when he awoken (pun intended) Benihime‘s bankai form, Kannonbiraki Benihime Atarame. It is shown to have formed a giant woman with loopy hair behind its wielder. It has a very interesting but creepy ability… reconstruction & dissection.
Anything Benihime touches gets reconstructed, in other words fixed or regenerated. However its touch can also dissect, as in separating skin from flesh. Urahara used her power to bring back his eyesight and give strength to his body, enough to defeat the strong quincy.
4. Byakuya Kuchiki’s Senbonzakura (Thousand Cherry Blossoms)
Senbonzakura Kageyoshi (Vibrant Display of Thousand Cherry Blossoms)
Before Rukia acquired her bankai, her brother and the captain of the 6th Squad, Byakuya Kuchiki‘s was no doubt the prettiest. In its shikai form, Senbonzakura “scatters” as it forms into a thousand cherry blossom petal blades.
In its bankai form, it retains the concept of cherry blossoms, but on a higher scale. Byakuya drops his katana, and from the ground erects a thousand, not blades, but swords, which he can use and command for both offense and defense.
3. Yamamoto Genryusai’s Ryujin Jakka (Flowing Blade Young Flame)
Zanka no Tachi (Blade of Ember)
former captain of the 1st Squad and Captain Commander of the Gotei 13, Yamamoto Genryusai is the owner of the strongest Zanpakuto in the entire Soul Society. In its shikai, Ryujin Jakka utilizes the power of fire. It is immensely powerful, and it can rival any captain’s blades even in bankai.
Now, fans had wondered how its bankai form would have appeared. Many theorized that it would create a larger flame and so on. However, Ryujin Jakka’s bankai, Zanka no Tachi, is technically an opposite of the common conception.
Zanka no Tachi doesn’t disperse fire, instead it reverts all of Ryujin Jakka’s fire into it’s charred blade; a blade that will cut and burn anything in its path. Its flames are not ordinary for its heat equals the flames of the sun.
Bringing justice to the title of “strongest Zanpakuto in Soul Society”, Zanka no Tachi’s special abilities are really one of a kind. It includes eradicating anything upon contact of its blade and Yamamoto’s body, calling on the ashed corpses of everyone he’s slain, and unleashing attacks strong enough to cut through anything.
2. Toshiro Hitsugaya’s Hyorinmaru (Ice Ring)
Daiguren Hyorinmaru (Grand Crimson Lotus Ice Ring)
Known as the child prodigy of Gotei 13, Toshiro Hitsugaya is the youngest Shinigami to ever be a captain in the Gotei 13. It explains the 11th Squad captain’s kid-like appearance, because technically in their world, Toshiro is indeed still a kid.
He wields the strongest ice-type Zanpakuto in all Soul Society, Hyorinmaru. Its bankai form, Daiguren Hyorinmaru, transforms Toshiro himself into a dragon-resemblant ice figure, complete with wings and lower limbs made of ice. Upon activation, there are also three diamond flowers behind his back with four petals each. While Toshiro fights in his bankai, the petals of the ice flowers melt one by one.
At first, everyone assumed that those flowers signified the duration of his retain in the bankai form, however, Toshiro proved it wrong during the Thousand Year Blood War. As a matter of fact, Daiguren Hyorinmaru does not become deactivated when the last petal falls, but instead, it reaches its full maturity.
In its maturity, Toshiro ages forward, taking the form of a
hot, slender, muscular man, probably aged visually as much as Ichigo. In this form, Toshiro can freeze anything within a distance with just the movement of his arms.
1. Shunsui Kyouraku’s Katen Kyokotsu (Flower Heaven Bone Madness)
Katen Kyokotsu: Karamatsu Shinju (Flower Crazed Heaven Bone Spirit Withered Pine Love Suicide)
Former 8th Squad Captain and current Captain Commander of the Gotei 13, Shunsui Kyouraku wields the coolest and most intriguing Zanpakuto of all. Katen Kyokotsu in shikai form has a special ability that turns games into reality. It is characterized by two blades, with one being slightly smaller than the other.
In its bankai, Kyouraku points his blade to the ground as black, vein-like structures form from the blade’s directions to the surroundings. Sakuranosuke Ohana, Katen Kyokotsu’s physical manifestation, joins him in this form. In the anime, it is notable that Ukitake once prevented Kyoraku from using his bankai because it may harm their comrades as well. Kyoraku only uses Katen Kyokotsu: Karamatsu Shinju when there are no friends near, as he won’t be able to control its effects.
In bankai, the opponent’s surroundings are enveloped by darkness. If its shikai uses the power of games, its bankai is considerably using a tragic storyline. It has four different acts of differing levels that are made to annihilate the opponent.
- First Act: Hesitance and Apportionment of Wounds – In here, the opponent will acquire all wounds that Kyoraku inflicted.
- Second Act: Pillow of Shame – In this act, spots suddenly emerge from the opponent’s body, which will bleed.
- Third Act: The Severing Abyss – With this act, water engulfs Kyoraku and his opponent. The water will only subside if one of them drowns.
- Final Act: Thread-Cutting Scissors Upon A Blood-Streaked Throat – This act is very gruesome, and it is the final blow when annihilating the opponent. Strings wrap around the enemies neck, resulting in their head exploding.
It is later revealed that the Kyokotsu in Katen Kyokotsu is in fact the Zanpakuto of Kyouraku’s vice captain, Ise Nanao.
It has been years already since Bleach officially concluded. Although the final chapter hinted at a possible continuation with Kazui and Ichika, Tite Kubo seems to be taking his sweet time resting after years of non-stop working. The Bleach anime has also yet to show the final arc, so hopefully we hear some news about it sometime in the future! — special thanks to the Bleach Wikia for the valuable and helpful information!