Bleach & Ichigo’s True Bankai

Today we are talking manga & anime, specifically we are going to discuss one of my favourite manga/anime of all time: Bleach! Created by Tite Kubo.

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What is it about…

For those of you who aren’t aware, Bleach is about a young guy named Kurusaki Ichigo (the last name comes 1st in Japanese naming) who can see ghosts & demons.

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He meets a young lady named Kuchiki Rukia, who tells him that she is a Shinigami

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(Japanese for Death God) and this changes his life as he gets caught up in the battle between her and a demon soul (called a Hollow), which he finds out had actually come to attack him because of his unusually strong reiatsu (spiritual energy).

In a bid to save the lives of his family (his younger twin sisters Yuzu & Karin as well as his overzealous father Isshin),

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Ichigo accepts Rukia’s offer to transfer some of her powers to him and he becomes a Shinigami.

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He has to learn to control his powers and has to deal with the consequences of accepting Rukia’s offer when her superiors send a team to find her after she spends a few months living in his cupboard, going to his school and hanging out with him & his friends while recovering from the effects of giving him her powers.

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What follows is one of the best adventures of all time, as Ichigo is thrust into a world filled with monsters & villains of all kind as he decides to go and rescue Rukia when he finds out she has been sentenced to die for giving him the power to protect the ones he loves.

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With the help of a mysterious man named Urahara Kisuke

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and a talking cat named Yoruichi, he enters the realm of the Shinigami (Soul Society) together with his friends Chad & Orihime and their classmate Ishida Uryu (who is a Quincy, which are a clan of powerful humans who can control reiatsu and are the sworn enemies of the Shinigami).

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Together they fight their way through the entire army of Soul Society, facing almost impossible odds,

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making friends along the way with some of their opponents, who decide to help them fight the might of Soul Society to save Rukia.

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Yoruichi is revealed to be a beautiful woman who can transform into a cat whose real identity is that of a legendary figure that had left soul Society a few 100 years prior,

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And Ichigo fights Captain after Captain until finally saves Rukia by interrupting her execution at the last second.

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He then faces off against her brother, Kuchiki Byakuya, who had been part of the team tasked with bringing Rukia back from Ichigo’s world and had left Ichigo for dead after a skirmish.

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Ichigo then unlocks the ultimate power of the Shinigami (Bankai), a near impossible and improbable feat.

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An epic battle ensues & in the end he manages to defeat Byakuya with the aid of what he comes to realise is his inner Hollow and saves Rukia’s life in return.

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His actions uncover a plot to destroy Soul Society by one of its own Captains, Aizen Sosuke, who defects to the world of the demons along with other Captains of Soul Society and before Ichigo & his friends know it, they become involved in the battles between the Shinigami & the Arrancar, who are higher lever Hollows under Aizen’s control.

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Ichigo is then sought out by The Visoreds, a group of people who have masks just like Ichigo does & they attempt to bring him into their fold. They ultimately inform him that if he does not train with them in order to control his masked form, his inner hollow could end up taking over his body.

Ichigo finally relents & goes to train with the group, who are revealed to be former Captains of Soul Society, betrayed by Aizen who had been aided by Urahara (who is also a former Captain, along with Yoruichi) to escape into the world of the living.

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Aizen then finally makes his move & kidnaps Ichigo’s friend Orihime, who is in love with Ichigo.

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Ichigo then fights the biggest battle of his life, with everything he has, in order to save her, culminating in a fight between him and the strongest of the Arrancar, Ulquiorra Schiffer. Who ultimately kills Ichigo.

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But as the series goes on, we learn that Ichigo is unusually strong, unusually adept at adapting to his opponents, has an unshakable resolve and as mentioned earlier, has an unusually large reiatsu (comparable to that of a Captain level Shinigami). As he lays dying, Ichigo hears Orihime call out to him in despair and instead of dying, he transforms into a hollow

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He then punishes and decimates Ulquiorra and saves Orihime, almost losing his soul in the process.

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They rejoice, only to find that the kidnapping of Orihime is actually a plot designed to distract Ichigo as Aizen attacks the real world while Ichigo is away. The Shinigami & Arrancar then face off in a showdown for all the souls in the world as Aizen attempts to ascend to the palace of the King of Soul Society & become God by feeding all the souls in the world (well, in Ichigos home town) to a device called the Hogyoku.

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Ichigo then travels back to fight Aizen but learns that Aizen is beyond his power, as he watches in awe and fear as Aizen decimates the forces of Soul Society.

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Aizen then tells Ichigo that all the events of his life where orchestrated by him and that he had been manipulating Ichigo the whole time. But before Aizen can finish him off, Ichigo is saved by his father Isshin, revealed to be a Shinigami himself.

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Ichigo’s father then takes him away to train him to get stronger than Aizen so that he can face him while Aizen terrorizes the world and even kills one of the captains who had pretended to defect with Aizen in order to kill him.

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Having attained the strength to fight the evolving Aizen, the two eventually face off in a battle to save the world from Aizen’s ambitions.

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Aizen, having fused the Hogyoku into his body is at this stage near invincible & seems to keep evolving as he loses ground.

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In the end Ichigo has to sacrifice all of his powers to save the world as he unleashes a technique of such power that it causes him to lose all of his powers.

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However that is not the end of the story by a long shot. After Ichigo loses all of his powers and he loses the ability to see his friends from Soul Society and to sense ghosts & demons, he gets involved with a group of people called X-cution who have the ability to tap in to powers they received because their mothers had been bitten by hollows while pregnant with them.

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Ichigo finds that this was the case with him and ultimately learns to release his Fullbring power.

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Only to find out that he had been manipulated into drawing out this power by the members of X-cution in order to steal his power and he is again left powerless & the X-cusion using mind manipulation turn all of Ichigo’s friends & family against him. But in his darkest hour, his father, along with Urahara & his friends from Soul Society appear and give him some of their powers in order to revive his reiatsu.

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Ichigo ultimately defeats former substitute Shinigami & X-cution leader Kugjo Ginjo and the Bleach anime ended… leading many people to believe that the story of Ichigo & Soul Society had concluded.

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The latest…

However, this is not the case. As of right now the Bleach manga continues strong & is on chapter 667 with the 1000 year blood war raging between the Shinigami & the Quincies.

In what is the final arc, an army of Quincies known as the Wandenreich has appeared and declared war on Soul Society & enslaved the Arrancars.

The group is led by Yhwach, who is the original Quincy & was once worshiped as a god on earth. Yhwach has returned from a long hibernation in the afterlife. The Wandenreich have killed many Soul Reapers with Head Captain Yamamoto Shigekuni Genryusai among the deceased.

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Uryu has been recruited into the Wandenreich Army as one of Yhwach’s Lieutenants & Ichigo has learnt the truth about his past… that his abilities as both Visored and as a Fullbringer are because his mother was a Quincy (yes, a Quincy) who was indirectly affected by Aizen’s experiments when she was attacked & bitten by a hollow called White & was saved by then Captain of the 10th Division, Kiba Isshin.

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After coping with the revelation, Ichigo and his friends rushed to the aid of Soul Society to fight the Wandenreich’s invasion.

As Soul Society falls, the 0 Division which is the Kings guard, descended to Soul Society from the Soul Kings Palace after the 1st wave of the Wandenreich attack & take Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, Rukia, Renji & Byakuya to their realm where they train them to become stronger.

We then learn that what Ichigo thought was his Zanpakuto (his sword) was in fact not a Zanpakuto, as one of the 0 division members (who is the inventor of all Zanpakuto) enlightens Ichigo that Ichigo needs to learn what his power really is.

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He then learns that what he thought was his swords manifestation, Old Man Zangetsu, was in fact a piece of Yhwach that lives in Ichigo because of his Quincy heritage.

He then reveals that Ichigo’s hollow is his real Zanpakuto & that he has been suppressing Ichigo’s true powers & only allowing Ichigo to access the overflow.

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Ichigo then decides to accept who he is and that both Zangetsu & Yhwach are his power

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& finally Ichigo’s true Zanpakuto can be forged, revealing that, like the late Captain Ukitake & current Captain Commander Kyoraku Shunsui, Ichigo is a dual blade wielder.

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Ichigo’s evolution so far…

Up to this point we had seen Ichigo go through a lot of changes:

  • He had learned to control the Shinigami powers he got from Rukia and to wield the giant blade they had manifested.
  • With the help of Urahara, he had manifested his own Shinigami powers and a new sword after being stripped of Rukia’s powers by Byakuya and left for dead.
  • Due to Urahara’s methods that he used to draw out Ichigo’s powers, he had manifested a hollow mask and in essence, had become a visored.
  • With Yoruichi’s help, using one of Urahara’s methods, Ichigo achieved Bankai in 3 days instead of the 10 years plus that it would normally take a gifted Shinigami.
  • As a result of his near death, we have seen the form he takes when his hollow takes control & he achieves what is perhaps his resurrection.
  • We have seen his form after training for years in the Dangai under the tutelage of his Dad in the minutes it took between them stepping into the Dangai & out.
  • We have seen the Final Getsuga Tensho form before Ichigo performed Mugetsu on Aizen.
  • We have seen Ichigo reach his Fullbring form as a normal human.
  • We have seen Ichigo’s reactivated & revamped Bankai after he was infused with the reiatsu of the Captains and Lieutenants of Soul Society.

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We have also seen this form in the movie Bleach: Hell Verse, when Ichigo had to descend into hell in order to rescue his little sister Yuzu, who was kidnapped in order to lure Ichigo to the netherworld.

He was granted this power by the guardians of Hell in order to defeat the demons that held his little sister & threatened to release all of the prisoners meant to be in Hell for eternity.

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And now we find Ichigo in what should be his final & actual form. His kimono has a white overlay (almost Captain like, but probably because of his Quincy powers) as he displayed in his Fullbring & he has a shoulder guard, like his father.

He wears his Shinigami blade on his back and his Quincy blade on his hip.

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As for his powers, they seem to have changed. However we have not seen to what extent. But what we do know is that his Getsuga Tensho is no longer his only attack…

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Which leads me, finally, to the main reason I wrote this piece… Ichigo’s new or rather, true Bankai!

What is it? We haven’t quite gotten to see complete Ichigo fight yet as he has dashing to confront Uryu about defecting (Naruto & Sasuke dynamic rite there)

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and his friends have stepped up to intervene whenever he would come across some trouble.

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But things are heating up as Yoruichi along with her little brother are down for the count. Urahara has had to release his Bankai, to no effect. Grimmjow Jeagerjaques has had to intervene, but he is struggling. And now Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck is rushing to assist. That is just on the one opponent!

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So we are all curiously waiting to see what will happen this time when Ichigo utters the word…

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So, I had a look at some of the concept art & deviant art out there to see what looked like a relatively plausible idea or two about what Ichigo mite end up looking like…

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How Ichigo’s bankai could turn out…

  1. Relatively The Same

Even while Ichigo has been being suppressed by Yhwach, alot of his look was a cross between Yhwach’s tattered coat look and a Shinigami kimono. So maybe Ichigo will still wear his recently upgraded Bankai look & just add a Quincy Zanpakuto like Yhwach’s? It could be that both swords look the same, like when Ukitake & Captain Commander Shunsui release their Zanpakuto. However, Ichigo has 2 different blades because he has 2 different powers to wield…

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Verdict: 5/10 – Plausible, but based on Ichigo’s new look? Unlikely.

  1. Same But Different

Though this one looks the same, the difference here is that Ichigo’s blades become 1 big blade with a grip in the middle. Making an interesting argument for a blade that could also be a bow. Now before we all lose it over the bow, remember that Ichigo is unusually adept at mastering new forms of his power in real time & has watched Ishida battle countless times. So he could make it work. So he would be able to cut, slash kuroi getsugas & fire reishi arrows here.

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Verdict: 4/10 – Not really, because it would not make sense to build up 2 swords & then cop out with a blade that requires a totally different fighting style.

  1. Amalgamation 1

 Now this here is actually not a bad theory, a resurrection Bankai. The swords make sense. Outfit would probably have a white overlay & the mask would be horned & maybe half?

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Verdict: 6/10 – Relatively realistic, but based on Ichigos new look? Unlikely.

  1. Dark Quincy

This is just totally off. His Bankai is to become a full o Quincy?

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Verdict: 0/10 – No, because Ichigo either has to represent both sides or the Shinigami. Otherwise Bleach had no point.

  1. Amalgamation 2

This one is quite cool. Just needs different colouring & another sword or a crossbow I think. Not a bad idea. So… his hair would be orange, he would have the Mugetsu look around his face, the coat would have a white overlay & the purple would be red. Fin

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Verdict: 5/10 – Plausible, but based on Ichigo’s new look? Unlikely.

  1. Death God/Reaper/Shinigami Personified

I like this rite here. If Tite was ever going for a twist, it would be this. The Quincy white is there. All he would need is the horned mask. The End.

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Verdict: 8/10 – Plausible. Very plausible. This is a dark horse for the win.

  1. Shinigami/Hollow/Quincy

This one is probably as close as we can get to a new look Bankai. I mean it’s all there right? Just 1 more sword. Or maybe he has the cross on his other wrist. This is masterful for a fan art prediction.

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Verdict: 9/10 – Only because we don’t know for sure. But this is close.

  1. Hollow White

Now given this…

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I believe this is obviously Ichigo’s Final Form Bankai. Mask could be full or Tensa Zangetsu style. Shoes. Swords could be No. 3s or No. 5s or No. 6s Scythe… But this is it.

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Verdict: 10/10 – We’ve seen this look hinted over & over & over again.

So that’s about it. As you can see I really dig the story & have followed it & am following it still. Tite Kubo has created fascinating & well constructed world & his characters are fantastic & did I mention what a good artist or art team Bleach has going?

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If you haven’t seen it & you are an anime fan, get the series. I’m sure they will make the 1000 Year Blood War Arc into an anime once the manga concludes (coz its better than the Arrancar Arc)

But if you are a manga fan & you haven’t seen it… www.mangareader.net/bleach Start at chapter 1.

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Thats it from The Table At The Oscars. Hope you enjoyed.

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