Bleach Information, Characters, Bounto, Arrancar, Zanpakuto Guide
Bleach follows the lives of Ichigo Kurosaki, who is a high school student with the ability to see ghosts, and a shinigami (Soul Reaper or, literally, "death god") named Rukia Kuchiki, who crosses paths with Ichigo while hunting an evil spirit known as a hollow. Rukia is wounded during the ensuing confrontation with the spirit and is left with no choice but to transfer her powers into Ichigo. Thus the adventures of Ichigo and Rukia begin. Together they search for hollows and perform soul burials on wayward souls, cleansing the spirits and sending them to Soul Society. The early parts of the story focus mainly on the characters and their pasts, rather than the actual occupation of the shinigami. As events unfold, the story begins to delve deeper into the world of these gods of death on the "other side" called Soul Society.
Kurosaki Ichigo The primary protagonist of Bleach, orange-haired high school freshman Ichigo Kurosaki is forced to become a substitute shinigami after unwittingly absorbing all of Rukia's powers. His cynical nature at first makes him ill-disposed towards the duty, but with the passage of time he comes to accept and welcome it, recognizing that even if he is not able to save everyone, he can at least use his skills to protect those close to him. Later, when Ichigo loses his powers as a substitute, he chooses to risk death in an attempt to become a full-fledged shinigami. Rukia Kuchiki is a shinigami who was sent on a hollow extermination patrol in Ichigo Kurosaki's hometown. Though her physical appearance is that of a teenage girl, she is actually over a hundred years old. Rukia is forced to transfer her power to Ichigo and assume a temporary lifestyle as a regular human. She registers at the local high school and takes up residence in Ichigo's closet, while teaching him how to be a substitute shinigami in her place. Orihime Inoue is a long-time classmate of Ichigo, closely linked to him by mutual friend Tatsuki Arisawa. She is effectively an orphan, as she and her elder brother Sora ran away from their abusive home at a young age, and her brother later died. Though initially devoid of spiritual powers, she begins to develop spiritual awareness and later possesses some of the most powerful healing abilities in the Bleach universe, able to completely restore a body to its previous state regardless of how severely it is wounded. Yasutora "Chad" Sado better known as Chad, is one of Ichigo's few friends at school. He is a half-Japanese, half-Mexican student who towers over his classmates. Despite his imposing appearance he is quite meek, and refuses to fight unless it is for the sake of another. He does not have any awareness of ghosts at first, but when he witnesses a group of children being attacked by a hollow he discovers a unique ability that turns his right arm into metal and lets him fight hollows. Kisuke Urahara A mysterious and cheery man, Kisuke Urahara runs the Urahara shop, a candy store that also sells supernatural items to shinigami. Despite his sanguine nature he is one of the most significant figures in the Bleach universe, bearing immense knowledge of the spiritual realms which he uses to mastermind the operations of the protagonists. Uryu Ishida Though on the surface nothing more than the solitary class genius, Uryū Ishida is actually a Quincy, descendant of a line of priest-like hollow-hunting archers. He bears a deep grudge against all shinigami, including Ichigo Kurosaki, but comes to view Ichigo differently over time, eventually becoming an ally and friendly rival. Renji Abarai is an elite shinigami bearing the rank of 6th Division lieutenant, making him second in command of a sub-branch of the shinigami armed forces. Although first introduced as a deadly enemy, he has conflicting loyalties between his job and Rukia, with whom he grew up. A brash and driven man, he holds both a deep respect and animosity for his immediate superior, 6th Division captain Byakuya Kuchiki.
A Fight with the Bounts
The Bounts were created as the accidental result of an explosion during an experiment by the predecessor to the Seireitei Technological Institute. The experiment was an attempt to develop eternal life using the already slow-aging shinigami souls as the base, but the materials used in the experiment crossed with the development of souls in the real world and led to the creation of a new spiritually-active human race, the Bounts.
The Bount souls were scattered about the world, giving rise to a new race that never aged after reaching their twenties or thirties. They were generally treated as outcasts due to the fact that they did not age. The shinigami scientist responsible for their creation, Rantao, gathered most of the Bount into a small community in a secret cave structure, several centuries before the main storyline. It was her intent to improve the quality of life for the people whose sufferings she felt responsible for.
However, the embarrassment of this accidental creation, as well as the fact that a tenth of Seireitei was destroyed in the resulting explosion and the possible threat they posed to the balance between the worlds, led the Chamber of 46 to rule that the experiment and its failure was to be covered up, and the Bount destroyed. Shinigami were dispatched to kill the Bount community, but a handful survived, including a young boy saved by Rantao herself, to whom she gave a seal that would help unlock the Bounts' true power.
The Bount who survived the massacre wandered nomadically and eventually fell prey to constant attacks by hollows. It was during this time that the boy, who would later become known as Eugene, activated the seal's power and merged with his doll - the Bount equivalent to a shinigami's zanpakuto - and killed off the attacking hollows. The survivors eventually found refuge in another cave and began planning to return to Soul Society, which they saw as more of a home than the real world ever could be. Eugene, now an adult, was against this plan. He had witnessed the massacre and believed the only thing that would await the Bount if they returned to Soul Society would be subservience or death. Regardless, the Bount leadership decided to gain access to Soul Society by means of the Quincy's powers. The Quincy were unwilling to assist, and a battle ensued in which the Quincy and shinigami killed most of the remaining Bount.
Further infuriated by this, Eugene took the last few surviving Bount, all of whom were of a similar mindset to him, and began plotting revenge on Soul Society. These Bounts managed to perfect the control of their dolls, and by the time of the main storyline Eugene, now going by Jin Kariya, was ready for his revenge.
Ensuing Battles with the Arrancar
An Arrancar (sometimes written allankar or arankaru) is a hollow that has removed its mask and gained shinigami powers. The name arrancar is a Spanish verb meaning "to remove" or "to rip off," a reference to an arrancar's removal of its hollow mask. In the manga, it is written as arankaru (rip mask) but has no native Japanese pronunciation, instead using the katakana for arankaru. Few hollows have the potential to remove their masks normally, and even if they manage it the change is not significant. Sōsuke Aizen is able to artificially create arrancar with the Orb of Distortion, which also unlocks much more of their potential than a natural transformation would. The process of turning a hollow into an arrancar is called shinigamification (shinigami-ka) Arrancar and ordinary hollows differ in two ways: the location of their holes and the near-total disappearance of their masks. When hollows become arrancar, the chances of them retaining a humanoid form increase with their intelligence; only vasto lorde-class arrancar will definitely assume a humanoid form. If powerful enough, an arrancar can seal his or her excess power into the form of a zanpakutō. Unlike with shinigami, this zanpakutō is by no means sentient. It is simply the hollow's true form sealed into a sword. Therefore, an arrancar's release of their zanpakutō is merely a temporary restoration of their former selves. An arrancar release is called resurrección (Spanish for "resurrection"). Arrancar do not have a known second release. Those arrancar under Aizen's command also have a standard theme for their clothing. Their uniforms consist of a white jacket, black sash, white hakama, and black socks with white sandals; in essence, the uniforms are basically inverted shinigami uniforms.
Ordinarily, most zanpakutō look like a like regular katana, with slight variations between them as one would expect between different swords. Under this ordinary exterior, however, lies a sentient spirit. This spirit gives a zanpakutō the power to purify hollows, send souls to the afterlife, and even transform the sword itself into more elaborate and powerful forms. While seemingly similar on the outside, all zanpakutō have unique (though sometimes similar) abilities that usually match their owner's personality.
Zanpakutō, being sentient beings, are a shinigami's partner in battle and cannot be replaced. Because they are alive, a zanpakutō will regenerate if broken, though there is a limit to such regeneration (a vaporized zanpakutō would not regenerate, for example). As a shinigami gains power, their zanpakutō can change form by allowing the inner being to manifest itself to a greater degree in the outside world. The sword and the inner being are synonymous to each other.
Beyond their standard sealed state, zanpakutō can manifest themselves in two additional forms, the use of which is dependent upon the shinigami's ability to communicate with and control the zanpakutō's spirit. These two forms, known as the initial release (Shikai) and the final release (Bankai), are akin to "upgrades" for the zanpakutō, giving it abilities far beyond that of its simple use as a sword. Shinigami usually carry their zanpakutō in the sealed state and activate the released forms as necessary. Shinigami with zanpakutō of the constant-release type, such as Ichigo Kurosaki and Kenpachi Zaraki,are unable to seal their zanpakutō and therefore carry them in released form constantly.
In addition to the upgraded forms, the sealed form of a zanpakutō can also be radically altered, though such alterations are purely cosmetic and usually don't offer any significant advantage in battle. For example, shinigami who are unable to control their own spiritual power have larger sealed zanpakutō, as Ichigo Kurosaki did when he first became a shinigami. Isshin Kurosaki, Ichigo's father, explains at one point that high-level shinigami must be capable of maintaining and suppressing the size of their sword. Otherwise, they would end up swinging around swords the size of skyscrapers.Zanpakutō can also be disguised as other objects, though such objects seem to need to be of similar proportions to the sword itself. Both Kisuke Urahara and General Yamamoto, for example, disguise their zanpakutō as canes.
Initial Release (shikai)
The initial release (shikai) is the first "upgraded" form available to a zanpakutō. To activate it, the shinigami needs to learn the name of their zanpakutō. This is not as simple as simply picking a name, as the living spirit of the zanpakutō chooses its own name. Therefore, the shinigami must be able to communicate with their zanpakutō effectively. Achievement of the initial release is a mark of expert control of a zanpakutō, and it appears to be a requirement for advancement within the shinigami ranks, as most seated officers and presumably all lieutenants are capable of the initial release.
After first learning the zanpakutō's name, the initial release can be performed at will simply by speaking a command followed by the zanpakutō's name. The command phrase varies between users and often relates to the zanpakutō's signature ability, or hints at the nature of its spirit. This step may be bypassed by expert shinigami, usually those who are at least approaching discovery of their final release. In rare cases, a zanpakutō, once released, will remain in that state and will not have a sealed state. Such zanpakutō are described as a full-time released form type.
Once the initial release is activated, the zanpakutō will change form to access whatever special abilities it is capable of. They usually remain in the form of a sword, but the type of sword differs radically among various zanpakutō. The special abilities of the zanpakutō, like the zanpakutō itself, have specific names that usually must be announced to fully activate the effect. As Ichigo's zanpakutō, Zangetsu, explains, knowing the name of an attack and not knowing it makes a difference in the amount of power that attack has.
Final Release (Bankai)
The final release (bankai) is the second and final form of a zanpakutō. To perform it, a shinigami must be able to materialize their zanpakutō's spirit in the real world and subjugate it, giving the shinigami full reign over the zanpakutō's power. Because such an act usually takes hundreds of years of combat experience to achieve, it is rare amongst shinigami and almost exclusively limited to the thirteen shinigami captains in the Gotei 13. Byakuya Kuchiki claims that among the four noble houses of Soul Society, only one person in several generations will be born with the spiritual power necessary to achieve it.Ichigo Kurosaki and Kisuke Urahara are exceptions to this fact. Using a special device created by Kisuke, which forcibly materializes a zanpakutō spirit (thus bypassing the experience portion of the training), they were able to achieve the same result in three days.
After a shinigami is able to materialize and subjugate their zanpakutō's spirit, the zanpakutō can assume its final and most powerful form. Unlike the initial release, there is no command phrase to activate the final release, though the user will usually say "final release" beforehand. A zanpakutō's final release is often a manifestation of the spirit itself, usually creating a massive creature or effect to aid the user in battle (Ichigo's final release is an exception, doing almost the exact opposite). Certain shinigami also change with their zanpakutō, gaining different clothing to fit with the form. Most zanpakutō will also gain additional special abilities. Like with the initial release, most of these abilities have an associated name. Maintaining the final release is taxing for the wielder, and it is difficult to maintain it for long periods of time.