"Honor? Is that what you are all talking about? Then let us speak instead of our duty to the Gotei 13. Honor will not protect the world. I do not believe that using evil to defeat evil is itself an evil act."
Shunsui Kyōraku is a tall, light-skinned Shinigami with high cheekbones, grey eyes and long wavy brown hair. His hair is tied in a long ponytail and has long bangs that frame the left side of his face. He also has a noticeable amount of body hair on his chest, feet, and arms. He wears a straw hat (called a sakkat) and a pink, flowered lady's kimono, which he drapes across his shoulders and over his captain's uniform. Although his haori and obi sash are cheap, his pin-wheel hairpins are very expensive. He does not wear tabi with his sandals. He has thin facial hair around his mouth and on his cheeks. Over a hundred years before Sōsuke Aizen's defection, Shunsui only had facial hair on his upper mouth. After the battle with the Wandenreich, Shunsui is shown to wear an eyepatch over his right eye that was damaged during the conflict. The top half of his right ear is sliced off at a slight tilt with a scar along his right temple.
As a child, Shunsui is shown to have shorter and messier hair. He wore a flower patterned kimono.
Shunsui is a laid-back and flamboyant man, evident in his style of dress and general attitude, and is rarely seen without a smile. In his off time, he often drinks sake in bars and naps. He likes steamed buns that go with sake, but dislikes powdered green tea. Other times, he likes to chase after women; particularly his lieutenant, Nanao Ise, whom he calls "my Nanao-chan" (Lil' Nanao in the English Dub) and his former lieutenant, Lisa Yadōmaru. Shunsui tends to use a more casual speech style than many other captains. He generally refers to his fellow captains and Shinigami by their first name followed by an honorific. He wrote a romance novel titled "Rose-colored Path", which runs in Seireitei Communication, but is very unpopular. Shunsui does not receive a single fan letter or gift for his birthday from his readers, but he is not bothered by this at all.
Shunsui is a peace-loving man who will always try to talk his way out of battles, though he does not wish to insult opponents by refusing to fight. He has shown a great distaste for fighting, telling Love Aikawa that "it doesn't matter whether you owe someone or they owe you; as soon as you start fighting, you are in the wrong either way." The slightly eccentric Shunsui also seems to like making an impression on opponents. Though Shunsui tries to talk his way out of a fight, he will fight when the situation demands it; as seen in his battle with Coyote Starrk. When Starrk asked that they only pretend to fight, he declined the offer, though noted that he prefers to do the same. Shunsui maintains a level of honor and integrity when engaging in battle. He refuses to fight with children or even in the presence of a child. He also dislikes taking the life of innocent people, as he left Chad alive when Nanao offered to kill him. He always maintains a veil of respect for his opponent, is polite in combat situations and prefers to fight one on one. When fighting powerful opponents, like Starrk or Aizen, Shunsui rarely loses his cool, going as far as to make small talk and joke around with his opponents.
Despite being one of the strongest and oldest captains, Shunsui retains a level of humility and is not overly arrogant about his strength, acknowledging that Tōshirō Hitsugaya has the potential to become stronger than himself given enough time.
However, Shunsui also harbors a deep sense of guilt over the misfortune that has afflicted those close to him, such as the death of his brother and the execution of Nanao's mother, and considers it a burden too heavy for him to carry alone.
Shunsui is the second son of the high-ranking noble Kyōraku family. While Shunsui was still a young boy, his older brother married the woman who would eventually become Nanao Ise's mother. Though Shunsui and his brother did not really get along, living with his brother became more comfortable, and Shunsui would visit him often. After his brother died, during which he was entrusted with hairpins that formerly belonged to Nanao's mother, Shunsui was entrusted with the Zanpakutō of the Ise family by his brother's widow, and his Zanpakutō Spirit created a second spirit to store it. Shunsui was assured by Nanao's mother that he would not suffer from carrying Shinken Hakkyōken and that he was the only one outside of her own family whom she could trust.
Despite being of such old and prestigious lineage, he disliked studying and training, and preferred to chase the ladies, although being told by Captain-Commander Yamamoto that he was able to see the truth and was wise for his age. Because of this, he was sent against his will to the Shin'ō Reijutsu Academy (Shinigami Academy). At some point in Shunsui's Academy days, Shunsui trespassed into Yamamoto's room. After being chastised by Yamamoto, he asked about the painting in his room, and Yamamoto replies that it was a monster that caused strife when it was around. While there, he came to know Jūshirō Ukitake, who would become his best friend and fellow captain. He, along with Jūshirō Ukitake, was one of the first Shinigami to become a captain through the Shinigami Academy. Furthermore, he was personally trained by Yamamoto. He and Ukitake are the oldest captains among the Gotei 13, with the exception of Retsu Unohana and Yamamoto himself. It was stated that the four of them have been captains of the Gotei 13 for at least 100 years, as of 110 years before the current time.
At some point during his academy days, Shunsui was informed by Ukitake that Nanao's mother had been executed for losing one of the cared treasures, which prompted him to admit that he preferred to learn of such things sooner rather than later.
110 years ago he had a unique relationship with his Lieutenant Lisa Yadōmaru: in contrast to his relationship with his current Lieutenant Nanao Ise, Lisa was more outgoing and perverted in a way much like his own personality, but he found that his position required him to be the "adult" in the situation. He was also the first to casually mention, to a curious Lieutenant Sōsuke Aizen, that the previous 12th Division captain was promoted to the Royal Guard. He was also present at the promotion ceremony of the newly appointed 12th Division Captain Kisuke Urahara.
9 years later, Shunsui was present at an emergency meeting called by Captain-Commander Yamamoto. He decided to create an investigative team to locate the missing 9th Division squad members. When he gave out the orders, Yamamoto ordered Shunsui to guard the Seireitei. When Yamamoto decided to send both Kidō Captain Tessai Tsukabishi and Kidō Lieutenant Hachigen Ushōda of the Kidō Corps, Shunsui instead advised him to send only Hachi and replaced Tessai with his own lieutenant, Lisa. He tried to cheer up a shaken Kisuke Urahara, telling him not to worry about his lieutenant, Hiyori Sarugaki, who was sent to help the 9th Division, because she was strong, though not as strong as Lisa.
During his time on guard, he met up with some squad members that were also on guard and congratulated them for keeping watch on the Seireitei. He also noticed Lieutenant Sōsuke Aizen taking a night walk, muttering to himself that he was maybe over-thinking things before leaving. Later in his barracks he was addressed by a very young Nanao Ise, who had come to see his lieutenant, Lisa Yadōmaru. Shunsui then remembered that Nanao always came to him around the first of every month to have Lisa read to her. Nanao confirmed this, only to be told that Lisa was away on a mission, but would be back soon. Soon afterward, Shunsui changed his attire by removing his hairpins and switching his kimono. He was present to greet newly-inducted members of the 8th Division, whom he informed that he was cordial toward young ladies and indifferent toward men.
Shunsui first appears during the captain's emergency meeting called by Captain-Commander Yamamoto. However, he says nothing at this time, and remains silent throughout the constant bickering between his fellow officers.
Shunsui is among the first captains to encounter the Ryoka. He meets up with Yasutora Sado in his division's compound. There, he gently drifts down from a second level to the ground amidst falling petals (scattered by Nanao), then rises to announce his name to Chad.
After his flashy appearance Kyōraku sits down and tells Chad that he dislikes fighting and even offers him something to drink, something Chad responds to by a violent "No" because it is forbidden for minors to drink, something Kyōraku also realizes is a problem.
Chad proceeds to politely ask the captain to move out the way as he himself would also like to avoid the fight. However, despite Shunsui's humor and his dislike for combat, once Chad engages him, it is seen that he is not a mere fool, but someone not to be taken lightly. He deflects Chad’s first attack with one arm, and then proceeds to dodge all of the subsequent attacks. Trying to stop Chad from going further, he asks Chad why he continues to fight, and for what reason. Despite his attempts to stop him both through speech and action, Chad continues to come at him. Seeing his determination, Shunsui decides reluctantly to wound him, though he tells Chad that he plans to kill him, having no choice. Taking out his two swords, he watches as Chad runs towards him, then dodges Chad’s attack and slashes him.
At this time, the message that Sōsuke Aizen has been murdered arrives and Nanao informs him of this news. Taking a look at Chad, she realizes he is not dead and asks to deliver the finishing blow. Stopping her, Shunsui states that the Ryoka might be the killer, but they don't know for sure, so they should instead interrogate him. He then asks her to send for people from the 4th Division to heal Chad.
Later, right before Rukia’s execution, a harried Nanao finds Kyōraku on a rooftop, chewing on a blade of grass. Asking him to hurry up, Nanao is irked when Shunsui again tries to joke with her as usual. Then, getting serious, he asks her what he should do. She then replies that no matter what, he will still do what he wants. All she can do is to keep right behind him and stay out of trouble. Shunsui gives a sigh and says, "Then it will again be me that will get into trouble with Yama-jii (Yamamoto)." At the execution, after Ichigo Kurosaki stops the Sōkyoku from executing Rukia, Jūshirō Ukitake appears with a shield sporting the Shihōin house crest and with that, Shunsui destroys the Sōkyoku. After the ruckus, they are left shocked when Ichigo destroys the Sōkyoku Stand, and then Ichigo engages Byakuya Kuchiki after defeating three lieutenants. Trying to help her sister, Kiyone Kotetsu runs forward and is followed by her colleague Sentarō Kotsubaki. Sentarō is then hit by Suì-Fēng and when Ukitake runs forward to stop Suì-Fēng, he is in turn stopped by Yamamoto.
Yamamoto gravely states that what they have done is beyond mere punishment and that they are not ignorant of what that means. Shunsui, realizing what's about to happen, grabs Ukitake and runs away first, with Nanao in close pursuit. Ukitake then asks Shunsui to release him as he wanted to save his subordinates. Shunsui asks him not to worry, as on the one hand, they had to take the fight elsewhere, or else Yamamoto's power would most likely cause more casualties, and on the other hand, someone else was coming to help.
Running to a deserted spot, they reach the site and are confronted by Yamamoto. When Nanao is nearly suffocated by Yamamoto's spiritual pressure, Shunsui breaks their eye contact, and brings her via Shunpo to a safe place, and returns to the compliments of Yamamoto.
Following a brief exchange of words, Yamamoto draws his Zanpakutō against them. As he flares up, and releases his Zanpakutō's Shikai, he then asks them both to do the same, as anything else would be a disgraceful death. He and Ukitake then engage in the fight against Yamamoto, resulting in a large explosion.
During their fight, they receive news from 4th Division Lieutenant Isane Kotetsu, that Aizen had in fact been a traitor, and all three rush to the Sōkyoku grounds. After Aizen's successful escape, Shunsui is later seen trying to join in on the drinking with Rangiku Matsumoto and Izuru Kira, only to be told no by Rangiku as she states Nanao is looking for him and if she catches him drinking with them, they will only get scolded by her.
Bount arc (anime only)
Note: Events occurring in this arc are only in the anime and do not constitute canon material.
Click "show" to read the arc plot.
He, along with Ukitake, appear to be the captains outside the 12th Division who are interested in finding out more knowledge about the history of the Bounts and Ran'Tao. He is seen appearing suspicious of Mayuri's behavior. Later, he informs Yamamoto that Ukitake is too ill to attend the meetings that have been called. It is then shown that, in fact, Ukitake is searching through the books in the Central Library for information. Shunsui offers to help before he realizes how many books this involves, but continues to search, despite his lazy nature showing.
He is later present at a captains meeting where Captain Suì-Fēng is being debriefed on the situation by Captain-Commander Yamamoto. When an argument breaks out between Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi of the 12th Division and Captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya of the 10th Division, with the former trying to transfer the blame onto the latter, Shunsui joins in the defense of Captain Hitsugaya, noting that the problem of the Bount getting into Soul Society was something caused by the 12th Division.
Kyōraku is seen when Yamamoto calls him alongside the other Gotei 13 captains for an emergency meeting.
New Captain Shūsuke Amagai arc (anime only)
Note: Events occurring in this arc are only in the anime and do not constitute canon material.
Click "show" to read the arc plot.
He is seen present at the promotion ceremony of the new captain of the 3rd Division, Shūsuke Amagai. Komamura asks Shunsui who he thinks observed his captain's proficiency exam. Shunsui plainly states it doesn't really matter, as they should be happy that they have one less position open. Suì-Fēng interjects, saying despite that he will have to prove himself. Shortly after, he personally greets Amagai and they got out for a drink, requesting their own room to have a personal talk, where Shunsui and Ukitake both realize that Amagai can't handle his liquor, as he got drunk just by smelling the fumes.
Shunsui and Ukitake are also shown discussing how Ichigo seems to be followed by trouble a lot of the time. It is here that Ukitake is shown to be uneasy over the current state of affairs where noble families in Soul Society are concerned.
When the Kasumiōji Clan is found guilty of treason, he is seen storming the Kasumiōji household with Jūshirō. They shut down the experiments concerning the Bakkōtō and later discuss events with the other captains. They soon learn of Shūsuke Amagai's deception and go to the site where he intends to kill Yamamoto.
Fake Karakura Town arc
When Aizen and his army invade the Fake Karakura Town, Shunsui asks Ukitake who he believes is the strongest of the Espada. When Yamamoto decides to take Aizen and the other defected former captains out of the equation so that the Espada could be dealt with first, Shunsui yells for Ukitake to get down when he realizes the Captain-Commander is releasing his Shikai. When Ukitake questions the necessity of that level of power, Shunsui tells him he guesses that just means Yamamoto is not in a good mood. During the battle against the Arrancar, Shunsui matches himself against the EspadaCoyote Starrk. Though Kyōraku agrees with Starrk's attitude and tells him that he too would have preferred "fake" fighting, he also says that avoiding the fight is not an option this time.
He then takes notice of the fight between Rangiku Matsumoto, Momo Hinamori and Tier Harribel's Fracción, asking Starrk if they should also put on a show. Starrk is not amused at Shunsui's attempt at humor and flatly refuses to fight. Starrk states that neither of them is fighting at full strength anyway. Starrk then makes note of how Shunsui's short sword is still being sheathed. When Shunsui explains why, Starrk further notes that Shunsui is obviously ambidextrous and that he is stronger with his left hand than his right, therefore Starrk does not quite believe his excuse for his supposed lack of using his short sword. Shunsui is somewhat impressed at Starrk's observations and comments on how he thought he had corrected his strength difference. Shunsui then proceeds to attack Starrk which the latter then dodges. Afterwards, Shunsui then surprises Starrk by switching hands in mid attack and correcting his swing, making his right hand strength match his left. After Starrk comments on the change, Shunsui asks him whether he will take the fight seriously if he were to unsheathe his short sword, to which Starrk comments that Shunsui is already strong enough and he would not want him using his short sword. Shunsui decides then to unsheathe his sword.
Shunsui is able to deduce the ranks of the top three Espada by sensing their battles. He states that Starrk's female ally (Harribel) is the third strongest, and it would be easier on him if the old guy (Baraggan) was the strongest, implying Shunsui thinks differently. Starrk then says he's sorry to disappoint him as he takes off his glove and reveals the number 1 tattooed on his hand. Shunsui smiles and comments that it wouldn't be too easy.
Shunsui appears to be evenly matched with Starrk, as he does not seem to display any form of difficulty while battling. The Primera even comments that he is surprised that Shunsui was able to dodge his attacks 'without losing his hat and kimono'. A thin trail of blood, however, trickles down from Shunsui's head, probably due to the slight cut of his bamboo hat. As the battle progresses, Starrk fires a Cero at Shunsui, only for him to state "No finishing pose or anything?". Starrk then begins to show irritation by scolding Shunsui not to run away. Starrk is then seen to be staring in shock at Hitsugaya's approaching cloud.
Starrk then watches Baraggan Louisenbairn being "hit" by Suì-Fēng's Bankai and looks over to the obelisk of ice that imprisoned Harribel and questions Shunsui whether all their Bankais are that powerful. Shunsui replies with a smile and calls them their secret weapons. Starrk proceeds to ask if his own Bankai was more powerful than Hitsugaya's. Shunsui then replies that while he is uncertain of it, in a hundred years or so, it is possible that Hitsugaya might become more powerful than himself. Starrk then deduces that, currently, Shunsui is the strongest; realizing what Starrk is going to do, Shunsui throws his pink kimono to Ukitake. When Ukitake wonders what Kyōraku is doing, Shunsui replies by saying that he believes Starrk finally wants to fight for real, something Starrk confirms by saying that he wants to see Shunsui's Bankai. He then sheaths his Zanpakutō and calls Lilynette over. He explains that he and Lilynette are in fact one. While other Hollows split their power into their sword and body, they split into two bodies instead. He also reveals that once they are one again, their full power would be released. With that, Starrk releases his Resurrección form while Shunsui releases his Zanpakutō's Shikai.
Shunsui proceeds to attack Starrk while he is talking, to which Starrk moves back with ease. Starrk begins to comment on how Shunsui would attack while he is talking, but before Starrk can finish talking, Shunsui uses his Bushōgoma technique. Starrk parries the attack and fires a large Cero from one of his guns. Starrk then tells Shunsui he seems a little panicked and that is not at all like him. Shunsui responds that he meant to kill him with the first blow, but his release must be really something if he could parry it. He then deduces that Starrk's gun fires Ceros. Starrk confirms, but completely denies it can do anything else when Shunsui asks whether it's capable of more. Shunsui accuses Starrk of being a bad liar, to which Starrk says the same of Shunsui. Starrk then tells him he made him release his "pain in the ass Resurrección", so he better show him his Bankai. Shunsui mentions that he has no intention of showing him no matter how strong he has gotten, especially if he is just going to fire Ceros. Starrk responds by firing his Cero Metralleta at Shunsui, to which he flash steps away. Starrk fires again and tells him that he can't escape. Shunsui dodges, exclaiming how that attack is unfair. Ukitake jumps in front of Shunsui after unleashing his Shikai and negates the multiple Ceros with a blast of his own.
Shunsui begins to speak, but Ukitake cuts him off explaining that he shouldn't complain because the Arrancar are double teaming him and his coming to his aid is only fair. Ukitake then comments that besides that, Shunsui doesn't seem to want to use his Bankai. Shunsui assures him that he will eventually. But Ukitake says that he shouldn't use it out in the open where anyone could see it. Ukitake continues by saying that, in any case, his powers are better suited for this sort of fight. Starrk interrupts by asking Ukitake how he fired a Cero. Ukitake plainly says that he may figure it out if he does it again. Determined to figure out Ukitake's power, Starrk fires again, despite Lilynette's protests that it's most likely a trap. They engage in a few mutual attacks, then Starrk uses Sonído to get closer to Ukitake and explains what he has learned of his ability. Ukitake is surprised that he figured it out after only three attacks. Starrk then expresses that he is glad that Ukitake's power isn't to reflect any and all attacks back at his opponent. Starrk surmises that if Ukitake has to absorb the attack first, then there has to be a limit to what can be absorbed. He then tells Ukitake that he doesn't think he'll be able to absorb the attack if he fires 1,000 shots at once.
Before Starrk can fire, Shunsui appears behind him and tries to cut off his head, but Starrk dodges and fires a large Cero which Shunsui also dodges. Starrk comments on how such actions aren't like him, to which Shunsui responds that he shouldn't make judgments as he is the one not acting like himself. Starrk's simple reply is that he thought they both were alike. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a Garganta begins to open, surprising the three combatants. Ukitake asks Shunsui if it's someone new. Shunsui asks in response if Ukitake thinks there is someone who could back up the top three Espada, because he hopes it isn't. When the Garganta is fully open, Wonderweiss Margela walks through. Ukitake and Shunsui both question who he is, while Starrk says his name, just as surprised to see him here being accompanied by Hooleer.
While Ukitake's attention is on Hooleer, Wonderweiss attacks him from behind, impaling him in the back and out through his chest with his hand. Seeing this, Shunsui goes to attack the Arrancar, but is quickly shot at point blank range by a Cero to the back by Starrk, with both captains falling down to the buildings below. However, Kyōraku appears to be largely uninjured as pointed out by Lisa Yadōmaru, who stomps on his head and demands to know how long he was planning on playing dead.. Kyōraku then proceeds to compliment Lisa and says he is glad that she is all right.
Just as Starrk is about to finish off Love and Rose, Kyōraku stabs him from the shadows. Kyōraku was actually hiding in the shadows thanks to the ability of his Zanpakutō. He then proceeds to explain the abilities of his Zanpakutō, denying Starrk's charge that he was hiding his powers; stating that his Zanpakutō was not in the mood for that game before and that though he loves his sword, it is very selfish and he doesn't like playing with it because it jerks him around. He then proceeds to fight Starrk using a new color-based game that ends with Kyōraku fatally wounding Starrk, targeting his black Hollow hole after calling the color black.
As the dying Starrk falls, Love appears behind Shunsui and thanks him. Shunsui responds by saying that he is just glad they are safe. Love then tells him that he never changes; always butting into other people's battles and that he has no style. Shunsui returns his Zanpakutō to its sealed state and tells Love that "only underlings get caught up in matters of style" and that a captain can't afford such indulgences. He then goes on to state that "If you owe someone or they owe you, the moment you start to fight you're in the wrong either way".
Shunsui later joins the remaining unoccupied Shinigami and Visored in planning to protect Ichigo Kurosaki from Aizen and his Shikai. As Hitsugaya attacks Aizen, Kyōraku attacks his flank with his Shikai, but hits a barrier, which cracks slightly. When Aizen tells Hitsugaya that it is good that he is not attacking alone, Shunsui accuses him of calling Tōshirō a coward. Shunsui later attacks Aizen as he is conversing with Hitsugaya, but Sōsuke evades the attack and complains that he interrupted their discussion. Kyōraku responds that he is not very good at hearing when a man is talking, as just listening is boring. When Hitsugaya activates his Bankai and states that he intends to violently cut and crush Aizen, Shunsui tells him not to be hasty.
Aizen then critically injures and dispatches Love, Komamura, Rose, and Lisa. He is seen then confronted by Suì-Fēng. She creates clones of herself and charges. When Aizen tries to attack, he finds his arm encased in ice. Suì-Fēng is able to hit Aizen with Nigeki Kessatsu, but it is ineffective as Aizen comments that while her technique is interesting, his Reiatsu would crush her attacks and powers as a battle between Shinigami is one of Reiatsu. However, Aizen is surprised as he is attacked from a shadow. Shunsui reveals himself from having used his Kageoni technique, stating Aizen is careless as there is a shadow on the ice. Shunsui then looks on as Aizen is run through by Hitsugaya. Much to Shinigami and Visored's shock and horror, it is then discovered that Aizen had already been using his Kyōka Suigetsu to somehow deceive his enemies into stabbing Momo Hinamori instead. As Hitsugaya goes to attack Aizen in a blind rage, Shunsui and the other captain-level warriors are distracted trying to stop him. Aizen proclaims that they are all wide open, and proceeds to strike down Shunsui, Shinji, Hitsugaya, and Suì-Fēng. As they fall into the town below, Aizen states that he will not kill them and that they are to watch the outcome of this battle.
Ten days later, after Aizen is captured and Shunsui is fully healed, he is called with Byakuya and Kenpachi to discuss the loss of their captain's haoris with Yamamoto. While the Captain-Commander is furious at the loss, the captains are indifferent to the matter. Shunsui's only complaint on the matter was thinking of the haori as being nothing more than stylish, which makes Yamamoto all the angrier.
Zanpakutō Unknown Tales arc (anime only)
Note: Events occurring in this arc are only in the anime and do not constitute canon material.
Click "show" to read the arc plot.
Shunsui is first seen alongside his lieutenant, Nanao Ise, as a spectator alongside 6th Division members as they watch a sparring match between Captain Byakuya Kuchiki and Lieutenant Renji Abarai. After the match concludes, he congratulates them both on a good match. Byakuya's mood seems to change and he leaves abruptly, causing Kyōraku and Ukitake to wonder what is wrong. Later that night, he and all the other higher ranked officers of the Gotei 13 are summoned to Sōkyoku Hill by order of Captain-Commander Yamamoto. Unsure of what is going on, Shunsui asks Ikkaku Madarame and Yumichika Ayasegawa the whereabouts of Captain Zaraki, to which they explain that he is not around, so they are required to come in his place. While waiting, they witness the arrival of the 1st Division lieutenant, Chōjirō Sasakibe, who collapses. As everyone readies themselves for a possible attack, a man appears, who reveals that the Captain-Commander would be unable to come. Upon hearing this, Shunsui witnesses Captain Komamura releases his Bankai. Komamura questions the strange man on what he has done with Yamamoto, but receives no reply back. As Komamura moves to attack, his Bankai turns on him, much to everyone's surprise. Shunsui notes that such a thing is impossible. Upon a release of Reiatsu, a large being appears before Komamura and fights with him, easily dispatching him as all in attendance look on in complete shock. They then learn from the mysterious man that their Zanpakutō are no longer under their control, as he has freed them from their grasp when they all tried to release their Zanpakutō. He then summons the Zanpakutō Spirits to him.
The mysterious man talks briefly with Ukitake before Shunsui interrupts, stating the he is taking this whole thing seriously, but is more concerned on Captain-Commander Yamamoto's whereabouts. The mysterious man exclaims that Yamamoto has been sealed away as his Zanpakutō Ryūjin Jakka was unwilling to join forces with them. He then states that he had Minazuki, Katen Kyōkotsu, and Sōgyo no Kotowari seal him with their Reiatsu. With this realization, a battle breaks out between the Shinigami and the Zanpakutō spirits. The battle ends with great damage to Seireitei and many casualties. Shunsui, Unohana, and Ukitake then set up base at the Fourth Division barracks, following the manifestation of the Zanpakutō and their subsequent attack on their Shinigami counterparts the day before. They discuss the situation with Yoruichi, who tells them she will return to the Real World and inform Urahara of the situation.
Ukitake returns to the temporary HQ, where Shunsui explains that he still has not found out the whereabouts of Yamamoto. Ukitake then explains the ongoing plan of sending Captain Suì-Fēng's forces as well as the other divisions out to track down and subdue the Zanpakutō. He and Shunsui then discuss the turn of events surrounding Byakuya, who has disappeared. Unohana arrives and details that while severely injured, Rukia is stable, but still unconscious. She then explains to them that the 12th Division has asked for test subjects and she has just returned from assisting Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi. The two captains are quite surprised that she went to see him personally. They are shocked by what Unohana has learned from Captain Kurotsuchi. As she confirms their worst fears, noting the Zanpakutō spirits are completely independent from their former masters, if they are not careful in how they deal with them, they could end up destroying their Zanpakutō.
Sometime later they discuss the possibility that defeating the Zanpakutō spirits will destroy the Zanpakutō themselves. It is decided that they will have to quickly get used to combat without their release or else it could be costly for the Gotei 13 forces. Shunsui, Unohana, and Ukitake debrief Ichigo Kurosaki about his fight with Muramasa. Ichigo details that Muramasa doesn't use brainwashing to control the Zanpakutō spirits, and that he is just amplifying the frustration they feel on the regular basis to turn them. He makes note that the only way to obtain them back is for the wielder to face their Zanpakutō spirit and force it to submit to them. Ukitake is happy that they have found a way to finally get their Zanpakutō back, but Shunsui notes that it is going to take a while for everyone to track down their own Zanpakutō and beat them in battle, since their opponents are not going to simply wait for them. They are then interrupted as Renji and Zabimaru arrive so they can be questioned for any other information that they can use to address the situation. Zabimaru unfortunately doesn't remember anything about being controlled and can't help. Shunsui later appears alongside Ukitake, Suì-Fēng and her Stealth Corps as they arrive to surround Hōzukimaru, but he uses his Bankai to get away. However, they manage to obtain Gegetsuburi.
The Shinigami discuss Byakuya's betrayal, and the discovery that if a Zanpakutō is killed by anyone other than its owner, it will be unusable.
Shunsui arrives after the battle in the 6th Division barracks along with Ukitake. They apologize for being late. Soon after, Yoruichi arrives and tells them she has news of Yamamoto's whereabouts. Kyōraku decides to join Ukitake, Kenpachi, Yachiru, Ichigo, and Yoruichi on a mission to find and rescue Yamamoto. The party finds the cave by tracing Yamamoto's Reiatsu. The party splits up; Shunsui accompanies Ukitake to a distant corner of the cave, where they encounter the spirits of their Zanpakutō. Shunsui tries to use his charm to persuade Katen Kyōkotsu to come back to him, though she is not easily swayed, stating they both are tired of having to deal with such a decadent man. Shunsui notes that she has said "we", realizing that the Reiatsu that he felt since the start of the rebellion was that of her counterpart. Just as he makes the realization, the other half of Katen Kyōkotsu appears behind and raises her blade.
Reluctant to fight his Zanpakutō, Shunsui is quickly forced to use his Shikai. During the battle, Shunsui deduces from his Zanpakutō spirits' battle tactics that they are in a defensive stance that makes it impossible for him to go all out on them. He then realizes that this is merely a ploy that allows them to stall for time. After realizing that Muramasa wishes to use Ichigo's power for something, Shunsui manages to get past the spirits and attempts to stop Ichigo from being used. Upon sensing a huge explosion originating from Ichigo's power, Ukitake rushes to the location to find Yamamoto freed, but greatly troubled. It is then revealed that Yamamoto was not imprisoned as Muramasa claimed, but rather Yamamoto produced the barrier to protect himself from Muramasa's plans to use Ryūjin Jakka. When Muramasa says that he has no need for the other Zanpakutō Spirits any more, Katen Kyōkotsu and Sōgyo no Kotowari attack him, but end up having their physical forms destroyed by Ryūjin Jakka. Muramasa makes his escape, while Yamamoto reveals to the others that Muramasa intends to destroy the Gotei 13 with it.
Ichigo, Yoruichi, Ukitake, Shunsui, and Yamamoto are surrounded by a wall of flames created by Ryūjin Jakka. Yoruichi escapes underground through a fissure she opens using Shunkō, but Tobiume uses her fireball to cave it in behind Yoruichi, preventing the others from following. Ichigo attempts to escape by jumping over the wall of flames, but is unsuccessful. Yamamoto reveals that Muramasa's plan is to destroy Karakura Town in order to free his owner, Kōga Kuchiki, who has been sealed there. Ichigo makes a final attempt at jumping over the wall of flames and just before he is defeated and completely enveloped in fire, Hyōrinmaru and Hitsugaya arrive to save him. Hitsugaya and Hyōrinmaru both activate their Bankai and together, to help get Ichigo out of the flames so that he can head to Karakura Town to stop Muramasa, while Yamamoto, Ukitake, Shunsui, Hitsugaya, and Hyōrinmaru stay back to defeat Ryūjin Jakka together.
Beast Swords arc (anime only)
Note: Events occurring in this arc are only in the anime and do not constitute canon material.
Click "show" to read the arc plot.
Captains Shunsui Kyōraku and Jūshirō Ukitake are playing a card game. Kyōraku wonders how many Tōjū are present in Seireitei, as Ukitake speculates that there should be numbers equating the casualties lost in battle. Ukitake states that they incorrectly assumed that their Zanpakutō would return back to their swords, as Sōgyo no Kotowari and Katen Kyōkotsu play next to them. Ukitake says that they cannot ignore the Tōjū as a serious threat, as Katen Kyōkotsu claims victory in the game.
As the game concludes, Sōgyo no Kotowari orders Ukitake to draw for them. As they continually ask him to draw, Katen Kyōkotsu starts painting Kyōraku's face. They both come to the conclusion that their Zanpakutō are better suited to their swords, much to the annoyance of the spirits, who proceed to attack them.
Kyōraku discusses the attacks by Tōjū with Ukitake, Rukia, Sode no Shirayuki, and Senbonzakura, while the restored Zanpakutō Spirit, Sōgyo no Kotowari, plays near the group. Later, while losing a game of cards to Katen Kyōkotsu and being forced to have his face painted, Kyōraku asks Nanao to go to Kurotsuchi in hopes that he can put an end to the Tōjū problem, also suggesting that she bring sweets to put the scientist in a good mood.
Later, Kyōraku lazily asks Nanao to take the masked half of Katen Kyōkotsu with her to defeat the Tōjū that ran away from them earlier. Later, however, he ends up saving them from the Tōjū, killing him with a single strike and saying "Sorry, but my kids want to go home and play with me."
Gotei 13 Invading Army arc (anime only)
Note: Events occurring in this arc are only in the anime and do not constitute canon material.
Click "show" to read the arc plot.
Kyōraku waits outside the 1st Division barracks with Ukitake, greeting Captain Hitsugaya upon his arrival. Hitsugaya tells him that he finished the report upon Karakura Town's return to the Human World. Kyōraku explains that Nanao told him it would be finished on the day, much to Hitsugaya's surprise. Hitsugaya complains about Rangiku's lax nature, as it was the 10th Division's responsibility.
The next day, Kyōraku accompanies Hitsugaya to the S.R.D.I. as he inquires of the whereabouts of his lieutenant. They receive a report of traffic flow through the Dangai from Kagerōza Inaba, who explains that there is no record of them ever passing through a Senkaimon, suggesting that they are still in the Dangai. Kyōraku later attends a meeting in Yamamoto's office, listening to Mayuri's explanation that the S.R.D.I. monitors the Dangai 24 hours a day. Hitsugaya implies that he must have missed something, angering Mayuri, which prompts Kyōraku to intervene, saying nothing is known as of yet. Nanao and Rangiku are then brought before them. Despite being unaccounted for since the previous evening, the pair claim that only three hours have passed since they were ordered to return to Soul Society. Kyōraku then attends an emergency captains meeting, where Mayuri explains the presence of a time gap between the Soul Society and the Human World, which is gradually expanding.
Kyōraku, Ukitake, Yamamoto, and Unohana are seen to be the remaining Gotei 13 captains that have not yet been replaced by a Reigai. Ukitake and Kyōraku continue to be suspicious of the situation, and they meet up in secret. Their concerns center around how everything seems "too perfect", with too many captains agreeing that Ichigo should be arrested immediately. Ukitake still doesn't believe Ichigo is responsible, but cannot figure out why all the evidence is pointing towards him. Kyōraku then suggests that they may need to go take another look at this incident from the beginning. As they discuss this troubling issue, they both notice that several of the Reigai are on the move as the Senkaimon opens.
The two of them head to the Shinigami Research and Development Institute in order to have another look at the records of passages through the Dangai World. Kyōraku makes up a lie at Ukitake's expense in order to see the restricted files. They discover that somebody from the 12th Division must have altered the records, but before they can search any more, Suì-Fēng's Reigai shows up with the Onmitsukidō to arrest Kyōraku on suspicion of being the culprit.
Kyōraku later appears alongside Jūshirō Ukitake, when Kagerōza Inaba is surrounded by the other Gotei 13 captains. Kyōraku charges at Inaba alongside the Shinigami, as several Reigai emerge from above them. He and Ukitake proceed to fight against Reigai-Retsu Unohana, who proceeds to move back, allowing her lieutenant to strike with Hadō #58 Tenran. Kyōraku demands that Inaba tell them who he truly is, as they will find out eventually. He reveals to them that he was a part of Project Spearhead. He then uses his Zanpakutō to destroy the limiter bracelets on the Reigai, as Ukitake tells Kyōraku to prepare for battle. Eventually, Kyōraku and the other captains are forced to retreat. Later, they return in time to help Ichigo and Kisuke against their Reigai pursuers. Kyōraku and Ukitake dodge a blow from Kyōraku's Reigai and then quickly team up against Reigai-Sajin.
Soon, the Reigai begin increasing in numbers and devastation, attacking whoever they can. As Kyōraku and Ukitake find themselves pressured by Reigai-Ikkaku and Reigai-Shūhei, the lieutenant Shinigami return and aid their respective captains. Despite this assistance, the Reigai still pressure the Shinigami. Byakuya Kuchiki then realizes the truth behind the Reigai's battle style: they value self-preservation the most and won't attack first in fear of being outnumbered. Pleased at some good news, Shunsui suggests a battle of wills.
Later, the resurrected Ōko Yushima begins his endgame, using his Renzan: Hajō Kūri technique to begin destroying the Soul Society. Before the Shinigami can act, the Reigai step forward, saying that they will stop their fellow Mod-Soul's chaotic plan, as their goal has always been to protect the Soul Society in their own way. Reigai then destroy the technique at the cost of their own lives.
The Lost Substitute Shinigami arc
Shunsui is among the captains that greet Ichigo outside the First Division meeting room and is present during Ichigo's request to reclaim the body of Kūgo Ginjō. Later, Shunsui visits Ukitake, telling him that Ichigo had come to Soul Society. Ukitake asks about his Combat Badge and Shunsui replies that he took it with him. He states that he asked Ichigo, but that he apparently trusts them, commenting that he has grown up. Ukitake states that they had failed to realize this.
The Thousand-Year Blood War arc
Shunsui attends a captain meeting where he is informed about Wandenreich's infiltration, and is ordered to prepare for war alongside other captains. When the Wandenreich invade Soul Society, Shunsui is one of the first captains to confront the enemy, having released his Shikai.
After hearing of the Sternritter's ability to steal Bankai, Shunsui addresses his opponent, Robert Accutrone, stating that usually they rely on Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi's expertise, but considering they aren't opponents that can be defeated without Bankai, sooner or later someone was gonna have to make a sacrifice. Without replying, Robert gets in close and draws his Spirit Weapon, a pistol, and shoots Shunsui's hat off. He then appears behind Shunsui, momentarily releasing his Quincy: Vollständig, and shoots Shunsui in his right eye. Shunsui maneuvers a distance away and states to Robert that he got him, and admits that he's nervous. When he later feels Yamamoto's spiritual pressure moving onto the battlefield, he tells the Sternritter that it feels as though the Captain Commander is scolding him for having trouble with his opponent, and that he did not raise him as a coward.
Shunsui injures the Quincy with an attack, to which Robert states that while it was admirable that his morale had returned, Shunsui had misjudged because the Captain-Commander would be defeated by their leader, as they weren't the only ones to be encouraged by seeing their leader fight. However, Shunsui retorts that such logic won't work with Yamamoto, just as an enormous explosion occurs in the distance, much to the Sternritter's surprise. Later, noticing that his lip had cracked, he concludes that Yamamoto had activated his Bankai. After Yamamoto's death, Shunsui screams his name only to be shot several times by Robert, who then summons a multitude of soldiers.
Not long after the battle, the surviving captains are left to mourn over the death of the Captain-Commander. After receiving a report on the status of Kenpachi and Byakuya, they quickly fall into disarray until Shunsui arrives, revealed to be mostly unharmed. Calming them down, he reminds everyone present that the Gotei 13 was not created to mourn those lost, but to protect Soul Society. Shunsui and the other captains later gather outside Seireitei. When Ichigo Kurosaki asks where the Royal Guard usually is, Shunsui explains that they typically stay in the palace of the Soul King. He further elaborates on the purpose of the wall surrounding Seireitei and asks Ichigo where it is when not around the city. He then points to the sky and signals the arrival of the Royal Guard, explaining their mode of transport, as well as the make up and power of the unit. Shunsui notes that they have not changed and asks why they are there, listening as Ichibē Hyōsube explains that they are there to rebuild the Gotei 13 and take Ichigo, Byakuya, Rukia Kuchiki, and Renji Abarai to the Royal Palace.
Some time later, Nanao Ise arrives to speak to her captain. He does not react to her knocking on the door and as she tries to scold him for not responding back if he was in the room, he interrupts her. He tells her that this may be the last time they meet as he reveals that he has just received a letter promoting him to the position of Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13 and captain of the 1st Division. Kyōraku simply looks out the window, expressing his disbelief at his promotion.
Kyōraku later meets with the Central 46, telling them that he will have two lieutenants, with Genshirō Okikiba taking care of practical business and Nanao being his escort. He reasons that this will be the most efficient way to do things and that they can be his support together. The Central 46 initially disagree, but Kyōraku reminds them that it was the rule they themselves laid down that allows a captain to choose the lieutenant in their own Division. The Central 46 fall silent. Kyōraku then states that his first act as Captain-Commander is to teach Captain Kenpachi Zaraki Zanjutsu. The Central 46 are shocked at this and Kyōraku further explains that even though Captain Byakuya Kuchiki and the others are recovering at the Soul King Palace, they have no way to know if they will come back in fighting form, therefore Zaraki's power is greatly needed, and they cannot continue allowing his potential to go to waste.
The Central 46 are outraged as they fear Zaraki's power becoming far too great, pointing out the devastation that could be unleashed on Soul Society if he revolted. They also remind Kyōraku that even Yamamoto tried to teach him and stopped after one day, fearing his potential. Undeterred, Kyōraku then asks them what other options they have as Soul Society in its current state won't survive another invasion, and asks them if they are capable of protecting themselves. Kyōraku takes the Central 46's silence as a confirmation to proceed with his intended action. He then calls forth Captain Retsu Unohana stating that he will leave Zaraki to her as she is the 1st Kenpachi.
Afterwards, as the two Kenpachi begin their battle in the Central Great Underground Prison, Shunsui thinks over his decision to let them fight whilst sitting in his office. Remembering Unohana's past, Shunsui is left to solemnly think how only one of them would survive the training.
Some time later, Shunsui visits the world of the living to meet with Tatsuki Arisawa, Keigo Asano and Mizuiro Kojima. Recognized by them as Ichigo Kurosaki's acquaintance and a captain of Gotei 13, he says he has come to tell them something about their parting with Ichigo. When Keigo asks if he is trying to scare them again, Shunsui states he is not here to make jokes, and confirms Keigo's worries about Soul Society getting Ichigo involved in their affairs once again. Upon being asked by Mizuiro as to why they will have to part with him, Shunsui states that Ichigo is in a special place within Soul Society, and though he is sure he will come back safely from there, he is worried about the kind of power he will come back with, as it might affect the Human World. Angered by this, Keigo grabs Shunsui by the front of his robes, expressing outrage at them keeping Ichigo in Soul Society after he went there to save it. Shunsui states they will do it if it is necessary, however he also comments that the odds of it happening are 1 in 10,000 or less, saying it being a remote chance would be more accurate.
When Tatsuki asks why he came here if it is such a low chance, he states he did so because even if it is a low chance, not saying anything to Ichigo's friends would be unfair to him. Giving Ichigo's friends several Soul Tickets, Shunsui tells them that in the event of Ichigo remaining in Soul Society, they could use them to travel to Soul Society and see their friend. Assuring Tatsuki that he had already sent them to Ichigo's family as well, Shunsui promises that when Ichigo returns, he will tell him to go home right away and get some rest before the battle.
Returning to Soul Society, Shunsui later bears witness to the swift and complete invasion of Soul Society by the Wandenreich and comments that despite expecting them to attack so quickly, their method of invasion had instantly put the Gotei 13 at a disadvantage. Having replaced the Seireitei with their own headquarters, while fights begin to break out Jugram Haschwalth is the first to come into contact with Shunsui. Complimenting the Quincy on being able to find him so quickly, Shunsui listens as the other man introduces himself as Yhwach's advisor and relays the Wandenreich leader's order to eradicate the entire Gotei 13.
Shunsui converses with Haschwalth after the latter realizes he cannot make it through a barrier Nanao set up. Shunsui points out that he had other reasons to make Nanao his lieutenant besides her talent with Kidō. He is then shocked by a massive explosion behind him. He later listens to Urahara's broadcast on how to prevent their Bankai from being stolen.
Later, Haschwalth notes the battles appear to be progressing evenly. Stating this is a modest estimate, Shunsui admits he feels the same way. Saying he would not have come here otherwise, Haschwalth draws his sword and states it is his role to make the scales lean to the side of the Wandenreich. As Shunsui moves in front of Nanao, the wall behind them is destroyed as Shunsui admits he had almost forgotten how Quincy can steal Reishi. Later, Haschwalth received a message and prepares to leave. When Shunsui asks him if he is leaving already, Haschwalth says Yhwach's orders are absolute. When Shunsui asks him when he is coming back here, Haschwalth states he will do so when he is ordered to, prompting Shunsui to say he will be waiting with some delicious tea for Haschwalth.
Shunsui observes the Auswählen's light rise up from the Seireitei. He asks Okikiba and Nanao if they should leave the Seireitei, saying that the Soul King Palace is in danger.  Soon afterward, Shunsui moves through the Wandenreich City and notes the extensive damage done to its buildings before asking Ukitake if he thinks the Seireitei will return after they chase out the enemy. When Ukitake states they can simply rebuild them if this is the case, Shunsui admits he knew Ukitake would say something like this. Casting an unusual shadow, Ukitake takes note of the Wandenreich's invasion of the Royal Realm, to which he states that this is what his Kamikake is for. Shunsui notes that the Kamikake was indeed successful, and that they may be able to stretch themselves a little further, to which Ukitake muses that he sounds like a doctor. When Shunsui bids him farewell, Ukitake asks him where he is going, prompting Shunsui to reveal he needs to discuss something with Central 46.
Later, Shunsui visits Aizen in the underground prison, where he notes that the tremors caused by the death of the Soul King are reaching all the way down here before asking Aizen to respond to him. Asking Aizen if he is unwilling to converse with his Reiatsu, Shunsui reveals that he possesses a set of keys to Aizen's seals and states that he has been permitted to use three of them before deciding to unseal Aizen's mouth first. After using the key, Shunsui notes Aizen should still be able to speak even after two years of being unable to use his mouth, prompting Aizen to confirm this. However, a shocked Shunsui realizes that Aizen has managed to remove all of his seals as Aizen walks forward and notes Shunsui still has two keys left.
Shunsui pulls out the other two keys and uses them to unlock Aizen's left eye and ankles. When Aizen notes he has not changed at all, Shunsui decides to take this as a compliment before asking Aizen if he wants to leave. Aizen states he never asked Shunsui to free him and asks him why he brought the keys with him, prompting Shunsui to reveal he has the key to Muken stored within his heart and that he could only unlock three parts of Aizen's body. Aizen realizes he will be trapped here forever if he kills Shunsui for the other keys as Shunsui asks him to get in the chair behind him so they can go to the surface. When an attendant attempts to bind Aizen, Shunsui attempts to warn him and watches as the attendant's hands are partially destroyed by Aizen's Reiatsu. Shunsui tells Aizen that he is only freeing him because they are in the same predicament.
As they reach the surface, Aizen destroys several of the creatures created by Yhwach. He is seen by the Shinigami who start questioning his being there. Shunsui steps forward, stating he has released Aizen because they need his power. Responding to the others' protests, he says they need to set their pride aside and fight evil with evil. With the other Shinigami silent, Shunsui is asked by Aizen to take off the rest of the seals. Shunsui, saying he doesn't have permission to do that, notes Aizen can use his Reiatsu. Sensing Aizen preparing a Kidō, Shunsui orders everyone to take cover inside the research laboratory. Inside, he is reproached by Byakuya. Shunsui asks them all to leave the issue for now and admonish him later.
Soon after, when Aizen fails to bring down the Soul King Palace with his Reiatsu, Shunsui states that his restraints are extremely powerful before calling Mayuri forward to explain in more detail. Upon NaNaNa Najahkoop's arrival and Aizen's incapacitation, Shunsui asks the newly-arrived Sternritter if they have come because both parties share a desire to not bring down the palace, only to prepare to fight once NaNaNa denies this. However, Shunsui is surprised when Bazz-B shoots NaNaNa through the chest and notes this was not expected. When Bazz-B reveals that they will help the Shinigami in exchange for going to the palace with them, Shunsui acknowledges this.
When Aizen recovers, Shunsui notes that Aizen was only left immobile for five minutes after having his Reiatsu scattered and tells him to stay here until they have the doors formed. Aizen notes that the Shinigami and Quincy are working together, prompting Shunsui to state they found a common enemy.
After entering the Royal Realm, Shunsui moves out alongside the other Gotei 13 and Visored members. Soon after, Urahara notices Mayuri's Reiatsu change and tells Shunsui that he should be okay, prompting Shunsui to note that the more pressing concern is the dwindling Reiatsu around them. When Urahara asks if all the lieutenants have fallen, Shunsui points out that Nanao is fine. As Shunsui declares that they need to make their move, he is seemingly shot in the chest by Lille Barro, who begins to hear a technique name being chanted near him. Shunsui appears behind him, having used Daruma-san ga Koronda before slicing off part of Lille's rifle and promising to take his life next.
Wondering if Lille does not know what Daruma-san ga Koronda is, Shunsui reveals that Nanao has followed him here and orders her to tell the group that she is going ahead of them. After Nanao leaves, Shunsui proceeds to explain the rules of Daruma-san ga Koronda to Lille, who notes its similarities to a game he knows of called Chocolate Ingles before theorizing how the technique itself works and claiming that Shunsui would have died had he been noticed. Shunsui admits that Lille is quick to understand before pointing out that Lille saw his condensed Reiatsu instead of an illusion of him being shot. Revealing his name and rank to an incredulous Lille, Shunsui moves next to him and attempts to use Daruma-san ga Koronda again, but Lille catches and fires at him, only to leap into the air in order to avoid a shadow blade from Kageoni before firing at Shunsui once again. Shunsui commends Lille for noticing his first attack, but Lille reminds him that they know all about the Shinigami's techniques while the Shinigami do not know anything about them before pointing out the hole in Shunsui's foot. After giving his name and Schrift, Lille fires at Shunsui once again, but Shunsui appears behind him and reveals that he has been using Kageokuri before telling Lille that they will play until one of them drops dead.
Lille asks Shunsui if he thought he could harm him at close-range, only for Shunsui to reveal that he already did as more than half of Lille's rifle falls off. As Shunsui admits that he wanted to take off Lille's arm, Lille leaps back before reforming his rifle. Shunsui notes that this is how he can keep fighting even after it is broken before appearing behind him and slashing, prompting Lille to duck as Shunsui states that losing sight of him means Lille could be tricked by an illusion. As Shunsui reminds Lille of how they were afraid of the shadows as children, several copies of himself appear above Lille before descending on and stabbing him. However, Lille merely opens his left eye before explaining to Shunsui how having both his eyes open allows him to use The X-Axis. When Shunsui wonders if this makes the rules of his game meaningless, Lille confirms this before activating his Quincy: Vollständig, Jilliel, and shooting Shunsui, who finds himself unable to move.
After retreating to a building further away, Shunsui expresses surprise at being able to move so far while injured to such an extent and admits that he misses hearing Nanao's comments in situations like this before dodging more of Lille's shots. Leaping into a building through a window, Shunsui expresses surprise upon seeing Lille appear before him, but merely wonders how he will fare against Kidō before using Hadō #78. Zangerin. Soon afterward, Shunsui retreats further and realizes that he is currently where the Shinigami first arrived before noting that the other Shinigami should be far away enough. Apologizing to Nanao for possibly catching her in this, Shunsui activates his Bankai, Katen Kyōkotsu: Kuromatsu Shinjū.
Shortly afterward, Shunsui confronts Lille and asks him if the world around him appears to be dark and bleak, only for Lille to proclaim that a messenger of God feels no despair before blasting Shunsui with a barrage that destroys part of the city. However, Shunsui emerges unscathed from this and activates the first level of his Bankai, causing Lille's body to gain wounds matching his own. After stating that this is merely the prologue, Shunsui shifts to the second level of his Bankai, which causes black spots to appear all over Lille's body, and relates a story of a man wounded in battle whose grief turned into illness before using the third level of his Bankai, which engulfs both him and Lille in water, as he reveals that they will both remain there until one of them has their Reiatsu run out.
Seeing Lille failing to swim to the surface, Shunsui points out that they are essentially throwing themselves into the water before asking one of his Zanpakutō Spirits, Katen, if he is right about there being a man who could not keep his promise and a woman who could not forget her love for him. As Shunsui and Katen Kyōkotsu banter, Lille asks Shunsui who he is talking and proclaims that a Shinigami's Bankai could never kill him before rushing toward Shunsui, who notes that the light at the end of the tunnel is the thread of regret as he circles a white thread around Lille's neck. Shunsui states that he will cut this thread for Lille and notes that this is the last act before cutting Lille's throat. As he coughs up blood, Shunsui falls back into Katen's lap and notes with perversion that he should enter his Bankai more often if it means doing this, only to be forced to dodge a jab at his eye from Katen, who states that they both look and act very similar before noting that they have won. However, they are interrupted when a blast from above pierces through Shunsui's stomach as Lille's headless body rises before them.
After Lille reforms himself with a new, owl-like head, Shunsui notes with exasperation that even blowing up his head did not work before dodging a massive blast from Lille. After Shunsui moves to a tower, Katen asks him to let her take him away, but as Shunsui closes his eyes, Nanao wakes him up before begging him to take her Zanpakutō. As Nanao tells Shunsui to disregard the promise he made to her mother, Lille appears behind her and attacks, prompting Shunsui to hide himself and Nanao within Lille's shadow with Okyō. After confirming that Nanao knows about her mother, Shunsui decides to return her Zanpakutō to her as Kyōkotsu appears behind Nanao.
When Nanao expresses disbelief at Kyōkotsu being her Zanpakutō, Shunsui corrects himself by saying that Katen created Kyōkotsu in order to store Nanao's Zanpakutō. Shunsui goes on to explain that the Ise family was always comprised exclusively of women and that all the men who married into the family were killed by a curse, which Nanao's mother intended to avert by cutting off ties with her family after marrying, only for her husband to die shortly afterward. Revealing that this man was his brother, Shunsui admits that he had never been on good terms with his brother before stating that living with him became much more comfortable after he married Nanao's mother. He goes on to explain how Nanao's mother had to return to her family, but not before entrusting a certain sword, which she believed was the source of the curse, to him, which he gave to the younger girl of his Zanpakutō spirits to hide, prompting the girl to pull the wrapped sword out of her face. When Nanao reveals that she has decided to accept the curse and that the one she loves will find it ridiculous as well, Shunsui smiles and gives it to her.
As Nanao begins battling Lille, Shunsui expresses how he always blamed himself for the misfortune of those around him and for the burden placed upon him by his loved ones before asking Nanao to forgive him for taking charge of Shinken Hakkyōken once more. Appearing behind Nanao from her shadow, Shunsui places his hand over her own while mentally asking her to let him aid her.
Powers & Abilities
Master Swordsman: While hating the concept of having to engage in a fight, Kyōraku is presumably one of the most proficient swordsmen in all of Soul Society. He is a highly adaptable combatant, as his two swords have allowed him to become ambidextrous, letting him switch them between his hands. Kyōraku usually swings with more strength in his left hand than his right, however, he can easily switch or balance the strength between his two hands, allowing him to surprise his opponent. Kyōraku states that he only uses his wakizashi in situations where his katana is too difficult to use. He claims that he does not use them together on a regular basis. The best example of Shunsui's prowess is his ability to fight on even grounds with an unreleased Starrk, the 1st Espada, with only his sealed Zanpakutō, while other captain-level Shinigami have been seen requiring at least their Shikai to fight against an Espada. Shunsui's fighting style involves evasion and attacking an opponent either in the front or back, using the element of surprise to overwhelm them. His two swords move at a different pace, something he takes advantage of while fighting. While the enemy is at the mercy of his wakizashi's speed, his tachi swoops in for the final blow, which is the most common use of swords like his.
Hakuda Combatant: While rarely observed performing hand-to-hand combat, instead preferring to rely upon his skills in other areas, Shunsui has at least some proficiency in this area, which he briefly displayed during his confrontation with Yasutora Sado.
Tsukiyubi (撞指, Thrust Fingers): A technique where the user simply extends the index and middle fingers of one hand in unison while they are in contact with an opponent. This gesture possesses enough physical force to effortlessly send someone of even Chad's stature flying several meters away.
Shunpo Master: As a captain, Shunsui is exceptional in the art of Shunpo. During his battle against Yamamoto, he notably makes a massive leap in Shunpo to remove Nanao from the battlefield and return almost instantly, a feat commended even by Yamamoto prior to battle. Shunsui's skill is high enough for him to effortlessly dodge Starrk's attacks without mussing his hat or kimono.
Kidō Expert: Shunsui possesses great skill in Kidō, having used Hadō #78. Zangerin to considerable effect without reciting its incantation during his battle against Lille.
Master Strategist & Tactician: Despite his laid-back attitude, Shunsui has repeatedly shown himself to be a perceptive and insightful man. According to Yamamoto, even when he was younger, Shunsui has always had an eye for seeing the true character of anyone he meets. Shunsui easily saw through Kurotsuchi's attempt to hide being used by the Bounts. He was also one of the few people to suspect that Aizen was hiding something. In battle, Shunsui has proven to be very adept at noticing and understanding details in an opponent's skills or attack patterns. During his battle against Chad, he quickly determined the basics behind Chad's Reiryoku blasts, warning him about those kinds of techniques, and even explaining that his energy blasts would eventually use up his life energy. Shunsui has also proven himself very persuasive. Shortly after becoming Captain-Commander, he was able to convince Central 46 to agree to all his new requests.
Immense Spiritual Power: As one of the oldest and strongest captains in the Gotei 13, Kyōraku has tremendous spiritual power. He, alongside his best friend Jūshirō Ukitake, are said to possess Reiatsu unmatched by their peers or predecessors. He is not overwhelmed by the Reiatsu of Captain-Commander Yamamoto, though most people would be in such a situation. His power is further displayed in his ability to defeat Coyote Starrk's released form with only his Shikai. His might was also later recognized by being promoted to the status of Captain-Commander.
Enhanced Strength: Shunsui possesses relatively high physical strength, calmly deflecting one of Sado's Reiryoku blasts with a single hand. Offensively, his blows are very powerful, demonstrated when he cracked a barrier, which Aizen had erected, with just a single attack from his Shikai.
Enhanced Durability: Shunsui has proven that he is very durable, even by Shinigami standards. He was able to endure the attacks of Captain-Commander Yamamoto, whose Zanpakutō is the most devastating in all of Soul Society in terms of destructive power. He was also able to withstand a Cero at point-blank range from Starrk in his released form without any noticeable injuries.
Enhanced Endurance: Shunsui possesses considerable stamina and endurance, remaining able to move around and fight as he usually does even after being shot multiple times by Lille Barro's Quincy: Vollständig.
Katen Kyōkotsu (花天狂骨, Bones of Heavenly Blooming Madness; Viz "Flower-Heaven Bone of Madness"): His Zanpakutō is unique in that it exists as a daisho sword pair, consisting of a tachi and a wakizashi. Their cross guards are rectangles, with the corners cut off, decorated by a pattern of cherry petals and lines, and each sports a dark-blue handle. He usually keeps them sheathed through his waist tie at his left side; however, during battle, the swords have been placed on both sides of his sash. Like other Zanpakutō, Katen Kyōkotsu has a personality of her own. However, unlike other Zanpakutō, this personality shines through in battle and prevents Shunsui from fighting at full power until Katen Kyōkotsu is in the mood for it. Because of this, Shunsui does not like to "play" with "her".
Shikai: Its Shikai command is "Flower Wind Rage and Flower God Roar, Heavenly Wind Rage and Heavenly Demon Sneer" (花風紊れて花神啼き天風紊れて天魔嗤う, hana kaze midarete, kashin naki, tenpū midarete, tenma warau; Viz "When the Flower Wind Rages, the Flower God Roars, When the Wind of Heaven Rages, the God of the Underworld Sneers"). Kyōraku sets the two blades against each other in a cross, and then pulls after uttering the poem-like command. When the flash clears, Katen Kyōkotsu has become a pair of huge, black, heavily curved Chinese scimitars with silver edges. The hilt and tsuba of each are still the same as they were in Katen Kyōkotsu's sealed-form, but they now sport long red tassels dangling from the end. Despite the two swords becoming identical in this state, Shunsui has stated they still work the same way; one (the wakizashi) is used mainly for speed strikes, and the other (the tachi) is used mainly for power strikes. Thusly, they still exist as a daisho sword pair, with the wakizashi being slightly smaller in size than the tachi.
Shikai Special Ability: The power of Katen Kyōkotsu is to "make children's games real". The Zanpakutō makes the rules, and anyone who steps within the boundaries of its spiritual pressure is forced to play by those rules, including Shunsui himself. According to Shunsui, "You win, you live. You lose, you die. She's a fickle one, all right."
Bushōgoma (不精独楽, Lazy Spinning Top): Shunsui rotates with both blades facing in opposite directions, creating large wind blades that fire toward an opponent from Katen Kyōkotsu. The wind blades join together, forming a spinning circle of wind that, upon contact with a target, envelopes the target with tornado-like intensity. The attack is not only dangerous, but can disorient an opponent trapped within it. The technique is powerful enough to counteract high-powered Cero blasts. The game this technique represents is a spinning top game.
Takaoni (嶄鬼, Mountain Demon): This move was used in Shunsui's battle with Starrk, but Starrk's attack hid the nature of the technique. However, Shunsui later explains that in this "game", whoever is higher up "wins."
Kageoni (影鬼, Shadow Demon): The rule of this game is that whoever gets their shadow stepped on "loses". The game itself allows competitors to manipulate shadows to their advantage. For example, Shunsui has demonstrated the ability to hide himself in shadows when using this technique, and he can also control the shadows, using them to attack an opponent by attacking the shadow they are currently standing upon. In addition, Shunsui can make multiple shadow clones of himself that can attack his opponent from multiple angles.
Irooni (色鬼, Colorful Demon): In this color-based game, you say the name of the color you want to cut with your sword, and you cannot cut anything else. If the color that you call does not exist on your body, the damage is minimal, even if the attack would normally inflict a much more severe wound. However, the opposite is also true; by calling out a color you're wearing and attacking, the damage given is proportional to the amount of that color on you. To maximize damage, you have to use a color that maximizes the risks to yourself as well as your enemy. For example, by wearing black robes and calling "black," one would inflict massive damage on an enemy if struck even if the actual blow itself was minor, but the caller would also suffer serious damage if he/she is struck by the enemy in return.
Daruma-san ga Koronda (だぁるまさん が こぁろんだ, The Dharma Doll Fell Down): After Shunsui or his opponent is marked as being "it", the other combatant travels toward them on a trail of Reiatsu left by their attack in order to catch them by surprise. However, if the combatant who is "it" sees their opponent while they are moving, that opponent loses and thus dies. The game this technique represents is Daruma-san ga Koronda, a children's game similar to red-light green-light.
Kageokuri (影送り, Shadow Sending): By staring hard enough at their shadow, Shunsui or his opponent can project an afterimage in a different location; the higher their opponent's Reikaku, the more realistic the afterimage appears to be. The game this technique represents is Chiichan no Kageokuri, where children stare at their shadow on the ground for several seconds before looking at another surface, allowing them to see an "afterimage" of their shadow.
Bankai: Katen Kyōkotsu: Karamatsu Shinjū (花天狂骨枯松心中, Bones of Heavenly Blooming Madness: Withered Pine Lovers' Suicide): While holding his Shikai out in front of him with the blades pointing down, Shunsui activates his Bankai, causing black, root-like tendrils to spread out from him as his Zanpakutō Spirit, Katen Kyōkotsu, appears behind him. Shunsui considers this his last resort, and will only use it if his allies are far enough away from him so that they do not get caught in its effects.
Bankai Special Ability: Upon release, an aura covers a large area around Shunsui. This aura changes others' perception of the surrounding environment, making them perceive it as darkened, bleak and gloomy, and causes others to feel varying levels of melancholy and despair.
Ichidanme: Tameraikizu no Wakachiai (一段目 躊躇疵分合, Act the First: Hesitance and Apportionment of Wounds): Any wounds that Shunsui or his opponent inflict on each other's body will emerge on their body as well, as if shared.
Nidanme: Zanki no Shitone (二段目 慚愧の褥, Act the Second: The Pillow of Shame): Black spots appear all over the body of Shunsui's opponent, causing them to bleed profusely. Shunsui compares this to a story of a warrior who felt shame over inflicting wounds on his enemy on the battlefield, causing him to collapse in shame and become incurably ill.
Sandanme: Dangyo no Fuchi (三段目 断魚淵, Act the Third: The Severing Abyss): A massive amount of water engulfs both Shunsui and his opponent, who remain within it until one of them runs out of Reiatsu and drowns.
Shime no Dan: Itokiribasami Chizome no Nodobue (〆の段 糸切鋏血染喉, Final Act: Thread-Cutting Scissors upon a Blood-Streaked Throat): After sheathing his swords, Shunsui winds a white thread around his opponent's throat multiple times before pulling it taught, leaving a deep cut in their throat that expands before blowing up their head.
Moody: Katen Kyōkotsu is Moody and will not showcase full power until in battle and even then until such time as she is in the mood to do so.
Follow the Rules: He is subject to the same rules as his opponent.
Appearances In Other Media
Both PSP and Nintendo DS Bleach games portrayed Shunsui's Shikai as allowing him to manipulate wind. However, this was prior to the revelation of the true nature of his Zanpakutō and Shikai.
In both Bleach DS games, Bleach: The Blade of Fate and Bleach: Dark Souls, Kyōraku is able to perform a special move together with Jūshirō Ukitake, when they are in a team. The attack is called Daifuhabanrai (大風波万雷, Great Wind and Waves Heavy Thunder). It combines a powerful hurricane-like, green wind-attack, performed by Kyōraku, and lightning in form of several ball-lightnings, which form diamonds, performed by Ukitake. This is notable in that in both games, it is the only such 'team attack' possible. Kyōraku appears in Bleach: Soul Resurrección, utilizing his true Shikai abilities and is able to fight with Bushogama, Kageoni, and Takeoni. Additionally, he uses an attack called Kagehōshi (影法師, Shadow Figure), where Shunsui vanishes into the shadows with Kageoni while nearby enemies are heavily damaged by swirling black energy, as his Ignition Attack.
Kyōraku's name is sometimes romanized as Syunsui Kyoraku.
While Shunsui is his first name and Kyōraku is his last name, his full name is Shunsui Sōzōsuke Kyōraku no Jirō. Kyōraku no Jirō means "second son of the Kyōraku family" whilst Sōzōsa means "assistant who conceals all" or "assistant who possesses all."
Kyōraku is the only Shinigami known to wield a Zanpakutō that exists as two completely separate blades in both its sealed state and its Shikai.
His theme song, as chosen by Tite Kubo, is Carlos Gardel's "Por una Cabeza".
His Zanpakutō and Jūshirō Ukitake's Zanpakutō have the longest release commands as of yet. Word-for-word, Ukitake's is the longer of the two, although the translation in the English manga drastically shortens it and lengthens Kyōraku's.
In the most recent popularity poll, Kyōraku was ranked 17th (he came 36th in the 2nd and 29th in the 3rd).
His Zanpakutō, Katen Kyōkotsu, was joint 33rd in the Zanpakutō poll, tying with Shun Shun Rikka and Gamuza.
The Shinigami Women's Association released a photo collection on Kyōraku, titled "Using Arms as My Pillow". It quickly sold out, partially due to there being less copies released than similar collections by the other captains. Kyōraku is unaware that it has not been re-printed.
In the Shonen Jump release of Chapter 559, Shunsui appeared with his right eye intact and with no eyepatch. However, this was corrected in the release of Volume 62. This error occurred a second time in Chapter 604, but was corrected in later chapters.
The name of Shunsui's Bankai was originally written as Katen Kyōkotsu: Kuromatsu Shinjū (花天狂骨黒松心中, Bones of Heavenly Blooming Madness: Black Pine Lovers' Suicide) when Shunsui activated it in chapter 647 before being changed to its current version in chapter 648.
When Shunsui is explaining the history of Nanao's family and her mother to her in chapter 651, Nanao's mother is seen wearing his flowery kimono.
(To Yasutora Sado) "Then it can't be helped. Drink, my friend! Since you won't turn back, at least stay here for a while. Just a little while. All the other captains must have made their moves by now. This battle should be over soon. Until then, please stay here and drink to your heart's content."
(To Yasutora Sado) "Rescue Rukia-chan? She has only been gone since spring. Time's too short. The friendship is not strong enough. You should have no reason to give up your life for her."
(To Yasutora Sado) "Since you are so determined, it was impolite of me to try to dissuade you. I apologize for that. Very well then. I have no choice but to take your life."
(To Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto) "But a huge matter like this isn't something you encounter every day, right? It's that fatherly love where you want to get your subordinate some experience."
(To Kisuke Urahara) "Waiting patiently and believing in your subordinates is all part of a captain's job."
(To Nanao Ise when asked how he remembers her name) "Well, you are the youngest member of the squad. And I could never forget the name of a cute young girl, now, could I?"
(To Katen Kyōkotsu) "It goes against my nature to get rough with women. I happen to be a gentleman."
(To Coyote Starrk regarding Tōshirō Hitsugaya's strength) "Well, I don't know. Captain Hitsugaya is a genius, after all. Give him another hundred or so years, and he might outdo me yet."
(To Coyote Starrk) "I'm not sure I like you deciding what is and isn't like me, Mr. Espada. If you really want to go into this, I'd say it's a lack of such distinctions that makes up my identity."
(To Love Aikawa) "Throwing away victory for the sake of manners is a rookie mistake. Captains don't have the time to waste on that kind of thing. Don't waste your time trying to play the good guy. No matter what debts you may owe, from the instant you find yourself on the battleground, both sides are evil."
(To Sōsuke Aizen) "I guess I'm just not much of a listener when it comes to guys. I get bored pretty quickly."
(To the Gotei 13 regarding his freeing of Aizen) "Honor? Is that what you are all talking about? Then let us speak instead of our duty to the Gotei 13. Honor will not protect the world. I do not believe that using evil to defeat evil is itself an evil act."