One of the many concepts that Bleach is known and loved for is the Zanpakuto, the iconic weapon used by the Shinigami of Soul Society. The nature of a Zanpakuto depends on its wielder’s personality; as such, both entities tend to form a close spiritual bond over time. That said, the depth of their relationship is only one factor that affects the Zanpakuto’s strength—the other one being Reiryoku, or spirit aura.
The quantity of Reiryoku possessed by a shinigami is directly proportional to the Zanpakuto’s overall power, which means that older and more experienced fighters tend to have better weapons. This isn’t a universal rule, especially since shinigami don’t really age like ordinary humans, but there is some merit to the assumption.
Updated on July 7th, 2022 by Jom Elauria: After a long hiatus, Bleach is coming back to grace the TV screens of fans. The 17th season of the anime is reported to feature the Quincy Blood War arc of the manga. This is great news for fans of the series, who have been disappointed by the anime’s sudden halt in 2012, after 16 seasons and 366 episodes. That said, fans should reacquaint themselves with some of the most powerful Zanpakutos and characters in the Bleach universe.
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15 Sode No Shirayuki: Rukia Kuchiki
Rukia Kuchiki might have lost her powers during the start of the series, but she soon proves her abilities by showing how proficient she is in wielding Kido and Reiatsu. Her Zanpakuto, Sode No Shirayuki, is also a weapon that shouldn’t be disregarded by the show’s fans.
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In its Shikai form, Sode No Shirayuki can freeze a target from a distance and create an ice blade that can lengthen its blade. Rukia can also use Sode No Shirayuki to freeze her body and prevent any substance from damaging her.
14 Sogyo No Kotowari: Jushiro Ukitake
Captain Jushiro Ukitake is the host of the Soul King’s right hand, Mimihagi. Jushiro’s personality is approachable and honorable, which allows other members of Soul Society to feel comfortable around him. That being said, Jushiro is also feared around Soul Society due to his skills and Zanpakuto.
Sogyo No Kotowari, Jushiro’s Zanpakuto, turns into dual blades connected by a rope-like chain in its Shinkai form. What’s notable about Sogyo No Kotowari is that it can absorb an opponent’s attack using the left blade and release it as an amplified attack using the right blade, allowing Jushiro to destroy an enemy with force.
13 Shinso: Gin Ichimaru
Gin Ichimaru is one of the most popular characters in Bleach due to his mysterious behavior and motives. But after betraying Soul Society and aiding Aizen Sosuke, it is soon revealed that Gin actually has good intentions and wanted to save Soul Society.
In order to gain the trust of Aizen, Gin had to prove his skills and abilities. Apart from his superior intellect, Gin’s Zanpakuto is extremely powerful. The Shinkai form of Shinso transforms it into an elongated and flexible blade that moves extremely fast, allowing Gin to reach and easily strike his enemies from a distance.
12 Wabisuke: Izuru Kira
The lieutenant of Captain Rojuro Otoribashi is most known for his indifferent and cocky personality. Because of that, many fans of the series often perceive Izuru Kira as a weak leader. However, Izuru can easily provide himself on the battlefield thanks to his mastery of wielding the Zanpakuto Wabisuke.
When the Shikai form of Wabisuke is activated, the edge of the blade makes two 90-degree angles, resembling a hook. Anything that Wabisuke strikes becomes more cumbersome as the object’s weight magically doubles. This allows Izuru to easily slow down enemies since they won’t be able to lift their weapons.
11 Senbonzakura: Byakuya Kuchiki
Byakuya Kuchiki is Rukia’s older brother and a feared captain in Soul Society. While he may be perceived as arrogant by some, Byakuya is a skillful Shinigami who just wants to strictly uphold the laws of Soul Society using his Zanpakuto named Senbonzakura.
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When it’s not activated, Senbonzakura takes the form of a regular katana. However, Senbonzakura shatters into thousands of blade fragments in its Shikai form, allowing Byakuya to shred an enemy whenever he pleases. The blade fragments are also used by Byakuya to protect himself from enemy attacks.
10 Hyorinmaru: Toshiro Hitsugaya
Toshiro Hitsugaya proves himself as one of the smartest characters in Bleach by being the youngest Shinigami to become a captain in Soul Society history, a status he earns with the help of his exceptional swordsmanship. His Zanpakuto, Hyorinmaru, generates fields of ice when released in Shikai—significantly magnifying when he goes Bankai.
Interestingly, Daiguren Hyorinmaru’s “completed version” is vastly more powerful than most Zanpakutos; however, it cannot be used for prolonged periods of time due to the natural limitations placed on Hitsugaya’s adult transformation.
9 Ashisogi Jizo: Mayuri Kurotsuchi
Unlike many other captains, Mayuri Kurotsuchi has neither vast reserves of Reiryoku nor any notable battle capabilities. That said, his sublime genius allows him to augment his Zanpakuto abilities by experimenting on Ashisogi Jizo.
Mayuri has installed a “self-destruct” mechanism within his Bankai, prompting it to revert into sword form if it somehow turns on him. In his fight with Pernida, Konjiki Ashisogi Jizo reveals its latest modification, Matai Fukuin Shotai, whose thousands of nerve strata prevent it from being externally manipulated. This Zanpakuto is especially dangerous against opponents who rely on brute strength.
8 Katen Kyokotsu: Shunsui Kyoraku
Shunsui Kyoraku is an incredibly powerful Shinigami, a fact reflected in the complexity of his Zanpakuto techniques. Katen Kyokotsu translates “children’s games into reality”, giving its wielder an edge because only he knows how the rules work.
That said, Kyoraku openly discloses his Zanpakuto mechanics to Coyote Starrk and still defeats the Primera Espada, proving that his promotion to Head Captain is well-deserved. Katen Kyokotsu’s Bankai, Karamatsu Shinju has an enormous area of effect, forcing an atmosphere of doom and gloom on any living entity trapped within its space.
7 Benihime: Kisuke Urahara
Urahara’s Benihime is known for its versatile special abilities—from spawning reishi bombs to engulfing opponents in a nigh-indestructible mesh. He rarely uses his Shikai in direct swordfighting, instead preferring to unleash Reiatsu blasts from a safe distance.
On the other hand, Kannonbiraki Benihime Aratame permits Urahara to partake in close combat by reorganizing the structure of both his environment and himself in order to turn the tides of battle in his favor. Although he states that his Zanpakuto isn’t an effective training tool, Benihime can be devastating in a serious fight.
6 Minazuki: Retsu Unohana
Unohana plays the role of medic with her manta-ray Minazuki, healing enemies and allies with equal compassion. After the Wandenreich attack on Seireitei in the Thousand Year Blood War arc, though, Kyoraku insists that she train Zaraki Kenpachi how to manifest his unreleased Zanpakuto.
Unohana is a force of nature, beating her successor down hundreds of times, despite the latter increasing in power with every loss. She ultimately brings out her Bankai, also named Minazuki, prolonging the battle until Kenpachi reaches his full potential and kills her. It’s unfortunate that the most powerful female character in Bleach is relegated to such a humiliating fate.
5 Nozarashi: Zaraki Kenpachi
Kenpachi uses his Reiatsu to fuel most of his early fights, but his jagged blade is clearly too weak to take on the Sternritter. Once he awakens his Zanpakuto, Nozarashi, his overall attack power receives a substantial upgrade.
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Kenpachi takes down Gremmy Thoumeaux with his Shikai, and nearly kills the seemingly invincible Gerard Valkyrie after Yachiru triggers his Bankai for the first time. Kenpachi might be an overpowered character even without a Zanpakuto, but Nozarashi takes him to incomprehensible heights.
4 Kyoka Suigetsu: Sosuke Aizen
Aizen Sosuke is a major threat to Soul Society, as much for his overwhelming Reiatsu as Kyoka Suigetsu’s “Perfect Hypnosis” ability. Given that he’s the only major character without a Bankai reveal, Aizen’s Shikai is more than enough to defeat scores of experienced combatants without needing to go on the defensive.
Kyoka Suigetsu’s illusions extend to all five senses, making it practically impossible to defeat its wielder. Aizen’s Zanpakuto even succeeds in altering Yhwach’s perception on two separate occasions.
3 Zangetsu: Ichigo Kurosaki
Ichigo goes through several iterations of Zanpakuto before achieving its true form: a pair of swords that each represent his Hollow and Quincy aspects. After spending time training in the Royal Realm, his trademark Getsuga Tensho becomes vastly more effective (and less wasteful).
However, it is his Bankai, Tensa Zangetsu, that proves how brave Ichigo is and shows his significant growth over the course of two years. He even manages to “kill” Yhwach with it, failing only because the villain’s omnipotent Almighty Schrift reconfigures the timeline to prevent his death.
2 Ichimonji: Ichibei Hyosube
As the leader of the Zero Squad, Ichibei Hyosube is excluded from the list of characters who have weak Bankais. He boasts of such incredible Reiryoku that Yhwach himself is wary of fighting him. His Ichimonji is capable of erasing an opponent’s power by covering them with calligraphic ink, not to mention wielding control over the abstract concept of “blackness.”
Shirafude Ichimonji reverses the theme of his Shikai by enforcing a name on the target, thereby imbuing the latter with the attributes associated with the name. There is nothing that can stand against the might of Ichibei and Ichimonji—well, almost.
1 Ryujin Jakka: Shigekuni Yamamoto Genryusai
Captain-Commander Yamamoto has the most powerful Zanpakuto. His Zanpakuto is a weapon of mass destruction, a fire that cannot be blocked, dodged, or contained. Known as Ryujin Jakka, it is said to have “greater offensive power than all other Zanpakuto in Soul Society,” a claim that proves itself on multiple occasions.
Yama’s Shikai vaporizes everyone and everything in its path, and his Bankai, Zanka no Tachi, burns at the same temperature as the sun’s core: 27 million °F. Powerful enemies like Aizen and Yhwach are terrified of the old man’s Zanpakuto, explaining why they neutralize it before dealing with him.
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In real life, Ajay disguises himself as an academic, mainly writing textbooks for children — who all hate him for making their lives more miserable. He also writes about TV and film, strewing his opinions across the internet to see if people care (they don’t). You can find him @stain_dprinc_ss on Twitter.
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