Bleach Week - Top 10 Zanpakuto
Kicking off Bleach Week, we have a list of the Top 10 Zanpakuto seen in Bleach. Zanpakuto are sentient swords that can change their appearance, abilities and power depending on whether they are in Shikai mode or the more powerful Bankai mode. Given that Bleach has a large amount of characters, many of whom have their own Zanpakuto, there were a lot of contenders for this list.
As is this the case with many of these lists, SPOILER ALERT. You have been warned.
10.) Minazuki (Owner: Retsu Unohana) (Written by ClayDragon)
Release Command: Unknown
Perhaps the strangest entry on this list, Unohana’s Zanpakuto’s name doesn’t change between its Shikai and Bankai states, meaning that both versions are called Minazuki. However, the literal translation changes, from “Flesh-Drop’s Gorge” in Shikai to “All Things’ End” in Bankai. This is more appropriate than you’d think, as Unohana is actually the first Kenpachi, and her Bankai more than matches the personality you’d expect from a Kenpachi.
When its Shikai is released, Minazuki begins to morph into a green substance that then changes into a giant-green-manta-ray-Cyclops-thing. It’s used mostly for transport, as it can hold at least twelve people on its back alone. However, its stomach contains powerful healing fluids and medicines, so anyone who is swallowed by it will have their injuries healed.
When in Bankai mode though, Minazuki exhibits a drastic change. Gone is the green manta ray, and instead the blade begins to bleed enough blood to cover a wide area, and the sword that’s left is incredibly sturdy and strong. It’s also implied (but not outright stated) that Minazuki’s Bankai is capable of disintegrating all flesh around it, reducing everyone – including its wielder – to skeletons. Good thing Unohana can heal.
9.) Tenken (Owner: Saijin Komamura) (Written by Shiggins)
Release Command: Roar
I’m just going to say this quickly. I love Komamura. I love the fact that he looks like a dog, the armour he wears, his sense of honour and loyalty, and of course I love his Zanpakuto. Tenken, which means “Heavenly Punishment”, does fit the character really well as we can tell Komamura is the type who hates injustice and criminals. And when you remember that Komamura is the largest of all the characters in the Soul Society, it makes Tenken even more suitable for the dog-man.
|I wonder if this technically counts as 'motion control'...if so, Kinect is screwed.|
The Shikai is one of the few Zanpakuto that actually doesn’t change shape when it activates. The way I like to describe Komamura’s Shikai is by saying “the ghost of his Bankai pokes his arm out and smashes whatever is in front of him”. If it’s not fully obvious by my brilliant description, Komamura summons a massive phantom-like arm of a giant samurai, complete with his own giant sword. The fact that it’s unable to be touched makes this Shikai a very formidable attack but the real weakness lies in the fact that it’s only an arm and thus has many restrictions.
If a 6/7 foot tall dogman isn't intimidating enough, summon a Titan-Samurai!
The Bankai is known as Kokujō Tengen Myō'ō, which means “Divine Retribution, Black Ropes of Ruination” (don’t’ you just love mega-huge titles? I do.). This is when Komamura literally summons a massive giant of armour that copies all of Komamura’s movements using its own massive sword. It surprises me this entry is so low on this list because it is so impressive but since it has such a huge weakness, which is if you damage the giant that you also damage the wielder. It’s like improving your attack levels to massive amounts but making you a bigger target for enemies.
8.) Nozarashi (Owner: Kenpachi Zaraki) (Written by Shiggins)
Release Command: Drink
For the majority of the series, Kenpachi’s Zanpakuto has been a mystery. A scary sword with scratches all over it, we always wondered about it and wished we could see more of it. It was nearly a running gag, and if Tite Kubo ever focused on comedy, I can imagine many funny jokes about it. Well, nobody is laughing at Kenpachi now!
|I can't help but keep dreaming about how terrifying his Bankai will be.|
The big reason behind this mystery is that Kenpachi never bothered to listen to the sword, because he believed that he didn’t need anybody else’s power but his own to fight a battle. This is technically true since for the majority of the series, everybody who faced him fell to his might, including the previous wielder of his Zanpakuto. If it wasn’t for the fact Kenpachi was a monster with overwhelming Reiatsu inside him, the sword wouldn’t even have made it to the worn-out version we usually see. And then suddenly, a huge dramatic battle between Kenpachi and Unohana took place which resulted in Unohana dying and Kenpachi finally hearing his Zanpakuto’s voice.
Using the Reiatsu of its master, Nozarashi was able to achieve its true Shikai form; a massive axe-like blade of destruction that can literally be used to destroy meteorites with one awesome swing. And wow, is it cool! Sadly, the reason this entry isn’t higher is because we’ve only seen it once. We don’t know the full extent of its abilities and although a bit of mystery is great, it’s also exhausting to keep wondering about the same thing for so many years. Also, I will never be fully satisfied until Kenpachi screams out the word “Bankai!”
7.) Shinso (Owner: Gin Ichimaru) (Written by Shiggins)
Release Command: Shoot to Kill
Fine, I admit it. I love Gin. Gin is so brilliantly twisted and scary and loves to mess with people so much, he’s just fun. What about his Zanpakuto though? It’s great too. It’s called Shinso which means “God Spear”. As always, this title is appropriate because the sword is able to extend to a massive length that catches all opponents in its path. The Shikai form does have its limits, as you can see how fast it flies and it can only extend to one hundred times its normal length (which, when you think about it, is hardly a ‘limit’).
|It's threatening, he swears!|
What about the Bankai, you ask? Well, the Bankai is called “Kamishini no Yari” which means “God-Killing Spear”. Here, the sword’s abilities are enhanced greatly, with Gin claiming the Zanpakuto can extend to the length of 8.1 miles at 500 times the speed of sound, and then go right back again! And if you wonder if he is lying or not, we see him literally cut a city in half so… I believe him! One thing I greatly loved about this Zanpakuto is that it’s not what it first appeared to be. Gin focused all his time talking about its length and power, choosing to get a psychological advantage over his opponent when in fact it’s the speed of the Bankai that’s so deadly. Clever bastard!
|Because it wasn't scary enough in colour, the animators decided to make it black and white too.|
Wait! There’s one ability left to mention that Kamishini no Yari has and it’s a really good one. By saying the command word “Kill” in its Bankai state, the Zanpakuto can turn into dust when it extends and retracts. Inside the blade is a poison which literally destroys cells of any person it enters, and Gin only needs to activate the poison so that he can watch a person almost literally crumble to nothing before his very eyes (which are usually closed anyway…).
6.) Sode no Shirayuki (Owner: Rukia Kuchiki) (Written by ClayDragon)
Release Command: Dance
Despite Rukia being the first Soul Reaper ever seen in Bleach, it’s only recently that we’ve learned exactly how her Zanpakuto works. For the longest time, Rukia was stuck with the ‘can’t-catch-up’ syndrome, as all of her friends gained powerup after powerup. Eventually though, she achieved Bankai and was able to show everyone exactly why she was a Lieutenant.
|Pretty white snowflakes of death.|
Sode no Shirayuki is a pure-white Shikai, with a long ribbon attached to the hilt. It can use a number of freezing attacks, such as trapping an area in a huge cylinder of ice, or creating a huge blast of cold air to freeze a target. However, its real power lies in lowering the temperature of its wielder, allowing them to freeze anything they come in contact with.
Due to Rukia only achieving it recently, not much is known about Sode no Shirayuki’s Bankai, Hakka no Togame. Upon activation, the Bankai alters Rukia’s appearance, giving her a long white kimono with trailing ribbons tied to her back. The blade itself is now made of ice, and when used it releases a pillar of white mist, covering a large area. Everything that the mist touches is then frozen solid. When deactivating her Bankai, Rukia has to take care not to thaw out too quickly, or else she’ll shatter into pieces. It’s deadly, but still very pretty.
5.) Suzumebachi (Owner: Sui-Feng) (Written by Shiggins)
Release Command: Sting All Enemies to Death
Sui-Feng is a character who I keep changing opinions of. Sometimes, she’s great and badass and powerful. Other times, she’s mean and annoying. Other times, she’s mean and it’s funny. And other times, she’s a whiny bitch. However, one thing that my opinion never changed towards involving Sui-Feng was her Zanpakuto. I love it and its theme of “Instant Death”.
|Is she technically flipping me off?|
With a silly release command like “Sting all Enemies to Death”, you can tell the Shikai is going to be bug-related. And it is. It is based on a hornet, giving Sui-Feng a cool metal glove instead of an actual sword or dagger. That’s cool enough but the glove also has a “stinger” which goes on Sui-Feng’s middle finger and is the core of her Shikai. The Shikai’s special ability is very simple actually. Using the stinger, she can leave a mark on any part of your body. If she touches that mark again with the stinger, you die. And that counts on both the inside and outside of her body so if she targets your organs, you are screwed.
|"Thanks for helping me carry this thing up the stairs, assholes!"|
The Bankai is very surprising however. “Jakuhō Raikōben”, which means “Hornet Thunder Whip”, is a stinger missile (get it?). That’s right; a huge golden armoured missile which is so powerful, Sui-Feng needs to tie herself to a building using a heavy metal sash in an attempt to keep her from flying away due to the recoil from firing such an attack at her enemy. It’s a big and flashy technique that she despises, mostly because it’s not appropriate for an assassin. However, no-one can deny that is easily one of the most powerful and jaw-dropping Bankai out there.
4.) Ryujin Jakka (Owner: Genryusai Yamamoto) (Written by ClayDragon)
Release Command: All Things in the Universe Turn to Ashes
The oldest and most powerful fire-type Zanpakuto, Yamamoto’s Ryujin Jakka usually takes the form of a walking stick, but when released the blade appears and is engulfed in fire. As Yamamoto is so powerful, he doesn’t even need to use his Zanpakuto in battle (as we saw when he defeated Wonderweiss with his bare hands), but when he does its power is so great that it runs the risk of destroying the whole world if left unchecked.
|Remember kids, only you can prevent forest fires!|
When in Shikai, Ryujin Jakka is capable of incinerating anything Yamamoto aims at, as well as being able to create a great sphere of flames that can trap people inside. It can also create seven huge pillars of flame that are so powerful that they can destroy everyone in the vicinity, including Yamamoto himself. He can also fire off huge infernos that he can precisely control, and are so hot that they reduce everything to ashes.
When Yamamoto releases his Bankai, Zanka no Tachi, the blade changes appearance to look like an ancient, scorched katana. His Bankai now has four new, extremely powerful abilities, named after the four compass points. Zanka no Tachi, East is automatically activated and focuses all of the heat onto the edge of the blade, resulting in it being able to disintegrate anything, whilst West manifests as a heat shroud surrounding Yamamoto that reaches temperatures of 15 million degrees. North enables Yamamoto to summon the skeletons of everyone who’s ever died at his hand, and commands them to fight for him, and South is simply a slash of extremely concentrated heat which erases anything it hits from existence. Talk about overpowered.
3.) Hyorinmaru (Owner: Toshiro Hitsugaya) (Written by ClayDragon)
Release Command: Reign Over the Frosted Heavens
Going from fire to Ice, Hitsugaya’s Zanpakuto is the strongest ice-type Zanpakuto in the Soul Society (although Rukia’s Sode no Shirayuki may end up giving it a run for its money). In fact, even in Shikai, its range extends to over 7 miles. Given Hitsugaya’s relative inexperience, everyone in that radius runs the risk of being wounded by his Zanpakuto. Thankfully, this danger hasn’t actually occurred…yet.
|"Nice dragon....good boy! Want a treat?"|
When its Shikai is released, the blade extends slightly, and a sickle-shaped attachment is attached to the hilt. Its main ability is the creation of an Eastern dragon made out of ice, which can then attack opponents independently. Similar to Rukia’s Zanpakuto, Hyorinmaru is also capable of freezing anything it touches. Recently, Hitsugaya has been able to use Hyorinmaru in conjunction with Matsumoto’s Zanpakuto, Haineko, in order to create layers of vacuum-ice walls, as well as projectiles.
|"You might have a rocket launcher, but does your Bankai let you fly?"|
His Bankai, Daiguren Hyorinmaru, changes appearance again by giving Hitsugaya wings made of ice as well as an ice dragon’s head around his right hand. The main difference between the Bankai and Shikai is simply the amount of ice that can be created, and so Hitsugaya has a lot more offensive opportunities when he unleashes his Bankai. These range from being able to crush an enemy in between columns of ice, to creating an ice clone, and to causing a huge flurry of snow to land on an opponent, instantly trapping them in a huge structure made of ice that’s covered in flowers. When the last petal falls, the person inside dies. Cool.
2.) Senbonzakura (Owner: Byakuya Kuchiki) (Written by Shiggins)
Release Command: Scatter
You knew this Zanpakuto was going to be high on the list. And it deserves to be so high too. One of the most-used and iconic Zanpakuto in the series, Senbonzakura has proven the intense power it wields over and over again against every opponent it faces. With Byakuya’s steady hand wielding this Zanpakuto, very few can survive.
|Such a pretty way to die horribly.|
Senbonzakura, meaning “Thousand Cherry Blossoms” is a fairly obvious name for this Zanpakuto but it works. In its Shikai form, the Zanpakuto’s blade dissolves into a thousand tiny pink blades which float about, resembling cherry blossom petals. As soon as these blades float under Byakuya’s control, chances are the enemies that pissed him off will be sliced apart within seconds.
|That is one massive ego!|
The Bankai is called “Senbonzakura Kageyoshi” which means “Vibrant Display of a Thousand Cherry Blossoms”. As I’m sure you can guess, this creates even more tiny blades which Byakuya summons in a very dramatic sequence. Byakuya can use these blades and gather them all up in huge bundles of large pink clouds, which can swarm all his opponents and tear them apart. If he wants to give his opponent even more trouble, he can unite all of the petals into thousands on glowing swords all around the battlefield for Byakuya to take hold of whenever he likes. With this Zanpakuto, imagination and skill is most important as Byakuya uses it for so many things from having tons of swords to fight with, to creating tornados, to even making the blades give him the power of flight.
1.) Zangetsu (Owner: Ichigo Kurosaki) (Written by ClayDragon)
Release Command: Unknown.
It was probably quite obvious that Zangetsu made it to the top spot (even more so given that he made the top spot in our Top 10 Anime Weapons list), but that’s not without good reason. Not only is he the Zanpakuto with the most screentime, but he’s also the most iconic. When the series starts, Zangetsu is permanently in his Shikai form, and resembles a massive khyber knife or a cleaver without a hilt, with the handle wrapped in bandages. When Ichigo uses his Bankai, Tensa Zangetsu, the sword changes to resemble a more traditional katana, albeit a pitch-black one.
|The spirit of Zangetsu (actually Yhwach) holding the blade form of Zangetsu (actually Hollow Ichigo). Yeah, Bleach is confusing like that.|
However, over the course of the series, Zangetsu undergoes a number of changes in his appearance. When Ichigo’s Soul Reaper powers fuse with his Fullbring, Zangetsu’s Shikai becomes more curved, similar to a trench knife, and his Bankai becomes longer and more curved. That’s not the end of the changes though, as when Zangetsu is reforged by Ouetsu his appearance is altered yet again. This time, Zangetsu becomes two swords – one the same size as his old Shikai (which represents Ichigo’s Inner Hollow powers), and a smaller, hilt-less one (which represents Ichigo’s latent Quincy powers). As it turns out, Zangetsu’s spirit isn’t Zangetsu at all, but a version of Yhwach – and Zangetsu’s real spirit is actually Hollow Ichigo.
Throughout every change in Zangetsu’s design, his main attack has been Getsuga Tenshou, which allows Ichigo to fire off a huge wave of spiritual energy at his target. During the climax of Ichigo’s fight with Aizen, he merges with Zangetsu, allowing him to perform the Final Getsuga Tenshou, which, despite being extremely powerful, causes him to permanently lose his powers. Of course, he ends up getting them back a mere year and a half later.
|An ass-beating will swiftly follow.|
|Kazeshini (Owner: Shuhei Hisagi)|
Are there any Zanpakuto you feel we missed out? Or do you have any suggestions for another Top 10 article? Let us know in the comments below!
|"You left us out, you meanie!"|
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at firstname.lastname@example.org. The alternative is his Skype account at kyleroulston1993, but he doesn’t use it that much. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. Dawn of the First Day: 120 Hours Remain...
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