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Throughout the series we have seen many Zanpakutō some good and some bad. All interesting in some way but what do we really know about them. Well I thought It would be good to do a rundown so that anything that may have been overlooked can be brought to light and maybe we can get some understanding on some are favorite characters primary weapon. For consistency I'll simply stick to those that are representative of the Shinigami/Vizard as they are primary and original in the series compared to later ones used in name only by the Arrancar.
A Zanpakutō (Soul-Cutter Sword) is the main weapon of the Shinigami. They commnly are in sealed form and take the form of any variation of Katana, Wakizashi or Nodachi. Its capable of cutting spiritual bodies and harming Hollows. They are unique to their wielder, as they are reflections of their wielders soul and power. Each Zanpakutō has its own name and spirit that is apart of the wielders soul. Each spirit has its own personality and reiatsu that mirrors its wielders. Each spirit lives in its own inner world, which is actually the mind of the wielder. The attainment of the initial release of a Zanpakutō is via communication between the Zanpakutō spirit and the wielder, while the final release is via subjugation of the Zanpakutō spirit by the wielder. The Shikai is the true form of the Zanpakutō and allows the use of power(s) common to it while the bankai brings the Zanpakutō spirit out into the real world increasing ones power 5 to 10 times greater than a weilder only capable of shikai. Zanpakutō power is determined by the reiatsu of the wielder and their skill through 10 years or more of training with the weapon.
Ryūjin Jakka (流刃若火; "Flowing Blade-Like Flame") = Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto
- Advantages: It is the oldest and the most powerful fire-type Zanpakutō and has greater attack power than all other Zanpakutō in Soul Society.
- Disadvantage: None that can be seen.
- Overview: All in all I think its safe to say there this weapon is perfect concept of a weapon. It adheres to the combat concept of the Bleach Universe. Its raw power exemplifies destruction. There is no questioning its purpose, as it exists to wipe out the opposition. If there was a weapon the stands for destruction, power, and strength this one would be were the buck stops. With only the use of Shikai it is dangerous enough to take out captain-ranked Shinigami with one swing.
Suzumebachi (雀蜂, Hornet) / Jakuhō Raikōben (雀蜂雷公鞭, Hornet Thunder Whip) = Soifon
- Advantages: It kills in two hits in shikai and can fire long range explosive missiles in bankai.
- Disadvantages: In shikai it requires close quarters fighting and speed to land the hits (which she is a master at both) and in bankai Soifon herself has stated that she believes that it offends her pride as a Covert Ops agent, as "It's too large to hide, too heavy to move, and its attack is too flashy for assassination." It has a huge recoil that sends her flying unless she ties herself to a supported structure making it something that has to be planed in a certain condition if she intends to use it and this attack has a normal limit of firing no more than one missile every three days; doing so more often taxes her noticeably.
- Overview: The appropriate weapon for a master assassin. The ability to kill with two hits is hands down amazing and an envy of anyone who would excel at covert ops. It perfectly fits her role and what she personifies. While not flashy its simple and deadly. The bankai seems to me a product of running out of ideas. In a way it explains why her shikai is so powerful and commonly used and why she doesn't use her bankai and the worst of situations unless forced. But that seems like a ridiculous excuse considering that there are plenty of releases yet to be shown and that same concept can't be used 10 times over. It seems to have nothing to do with the shikai, it doesn't fit the theme of the Zanpakutō or her background. Interestingly enough she says that she doesn't like it and most would also agree. The less she uses it the more we will all respect her decision and stick with the far better shikai.
Gegetsuburi (五形頭; "Five-Formed Head") = Marechiyo Ōmaeda
- Advantages: A giant flail that can attack at mid range.
- Disadvantages: Ōmaeda states it has no Kidō or elemental abilities. It is purely offensive and has no defensive capabilities and cracks if not completely shatters under stress from strong opponents.
- Overview: Largely pure melee weapon no more or less than an average weapon.
Shinsō (神鎗, God Spear) / Kamishini no Yari (神殺鎗, God-Killing Spear) = Gin Ichimaru
- Advantages: In Shikai it attacks at a length equal to 100 swords (Which for one wakizashi on average is 20in). Therefore its an affective weapon at long range and his a great amount of force behind it when it extends. In Bankai it attacks at a length of 8 miles. The speed is the true advantage at this point being instantaneous.
- Disadvantages: None that I can see.
- Overview: I found the shikai another one of those that are appropriate for the Bleach Universe. Its all about take out enemies there is no other question then its made for killing and thats what it does at range. Gin needs not even get in close to inflict devastating injury as shown with Jibandao and Hiyori. The bankai is an extension of the shikai simply following the them and not deviating from the basic idea. At first I questioned if it was a good idea but its sleek, its devastating in the right way when used accordingly. Simple and to the point not flashy by effective.
Wabisuke (侘助; the Wretched One) = Izuru Kira
- Advantages: Doubles the weight of whatever it hits, perfect for decapitation.
- Disadvantages: Useless at range.
- Overview: Wabisuke I find in the good weapon category as well. Its good for simply taking out the opponent without Kira exhausting himself or having to be overly concerned with being injured. What use is a weapon that can't be wielded against its opponent. He essentially takes the opponent out of the fight.
Minazuki (肉雫唼, "Purify the Flesh") = Retsu Unohana
- Advantages: Exceptional healing properties
- Disadvantages: Unknown
- Overview: considering how little is known about the powers and abilities of Minazuki is hard to gauge how I should address it at this time.
Kyōka Suigetsu (鏡花水月, Mirror Flower, Water Moon) = Sosuke Aizen
- Advantages: Complete Hypnosis via Sight. It controls the five senses to the point that it can make the target misinterpret another person's form, shape, mass, feel and smell to be that of the enemy. The initiation condition for the hypnosis is to show the enemy the release of Kyōka Suigetsu. After seeing it just once, that person will completely succumb to the hypnosis. After that, every time it is released, that person will fall under the thrall of the hypnosis.
- Disadvantages: None
- Overview: Ive always found this one an issue. It seems largely out of place in the combative world of bleach. It revolves around creating illusions through sight. This is ok for a mentalist/illusionist but what reason is there to have one in Bleach at all. Why would such a thing be required for hollows which normally follow instinct. If it was up against arrancar than it would make sense but thats not its point as they have only recently become a shinigami enemy and Aizen made most of them so they were on his side. There is no disadvantages to it either. Normally that would be good but what point is there to an everlasting hypnotic effect, if the point is to take out the enemy. Then all you need to do is see it once but there has not been a consistent view of how this works. As he commonly doesn't use the release command, so how does anyone know when they are being put under its power. It seems automatic just from being in existence.
Tobiume (飛梅, "Flying Plum Tree") = Momo Hinamori
- Advantages: ability to fire concentrated fireballs.
- Disadvantages: Not versatile
- Overview: Tobiume is in my opinion a weak weapon. It is not versatile in its ability its largely one hit wonder.
Senbonzakura (千本桜, Thousand Cherry Blossoms) / Senbonzakura Kageyoshi (千本桜景厳, Vibrant Display of a Thousand Cherry Blossoms) = Byakuya Kuchiki
- Advantages: Senbonzakura's blade separates into a thousand slender, tiny blade fragments, which then fly away from the hilt, leaving only the sword's handle in Byakuya's hand. By swinging Senbonzakura's hilt, Byakuya can control the blade fragments at will, allowing him to shred opponents at a distance and break through almost any defense. In bankai No one knows the exact number of blades generated and no one can see the movements of those blades or even dodge them. The number of blades is great enough that Byakuya can use them for defense as well as offense at the same time. He commonly forms them into large masses, designed to obliterate opponents instantaneously. As it moves through the air like torrents of waves, it gives the appearance of cherry blossoms flowing swiftly along with the wind. Byakuya's defensive use allows him to cover himself entirely in these tiny blades, and form a body shield. Unlike his Shikai, his Bankai is entirely mentally controlled. While Byakuya can control the blades with his mind alone, using his hands allows him to do so more effectively, making the blades increase in speed three fold. He then is known to use three different techniques of varying offensive capability to combat opponents.
- Disadvantages: None that I can see.
- Overview: Another weapon perfect for the Bleach Universe. Nothing seems to say my intention is to shred you to pieces and then shred the pieces left behind into pieces, than Senbonzakura. If the shikai wasn't devastating enough than check out its bankai which doubles, triples, quadruples, ? the amount of blades. The techniques are just ridiculously flashy but notoriously destructive for the enemy. So you get the amazing spectacle along with initial point which is to take out an opponent or multiple opponents up close or at range. Its largely offensive but possessing of defensive abilities as well. Senkei limits the area of combat and allows byakuya to rain down multiple swords on an oppoent at will or take an opponent one on one. Gokei surrounds a oppoent in a swirling orb of blade fragments that then implode crushing the opponent entirely. and then Shukei: Hakuteikan is the ultimate and offensive one shot kills (though its questionable the true strength of this).
Zabimaru (蛇尾丸, Snake Tail) / Hihiō Zabimaru (狒狒王蛇尾丸, Baboon King Snake Tail) = Renji Abarai
- Advantages: Extends at range (about midrange) to attack the opponent in a whip-like manner but with sword blades. Used with skill it can trap an opponent in a web of sorts or even constrict an opponent. In bankai it is larger and far more sturdy due to its bone like design. its reach is further extended. It can fire a blast of concentrated spiritual energy.
- Disadvantages: In shikai it can only attack three consecutive times in a row before he has to withdrawal. Thus if someone can exploit this weakness they can gain the upper hand. The Shikai is easily destroyed by a strong hit. In bankai the Zanpakuto losses most of its cutting ability in favor of crushing and bitting damage.
- Overview: Renji's Zabimaru is interesting as a weapon in shikai and somewhat so in bankai as well. It lacks in alot of practical use though. While good a mid to long range, unclose its largely useless in bankai and only a regular sword in shikai. Renji's lack of expertise in the use of his bankai has only resulted in him winning once since he gained it. Majority of the setbacks can be contributed to his lack of inventive uses for his unique weapon, becoming to hot headed in his battles.
Tenken (天譴, "Heavenly Punishment") / Kokujō Tengen Myō'ō (黒縄天譴明王, Vidyaraja of Kalasutra's Heavenly Punishment) = Sajin Komamura
- Advantages: In shikai any action done by Komamura is reproduced by the appearance of a giant disembodied arm or sword attacking an opponent. In bankai an entire giant samurai is brought out that copies the movements of komamuara exactly.
- Disadvantages: If his bankai is injured it is reflected onto his body as well. Both shikai and bankai are largely slow moving similar to Komamura due to his big size.
- Overview: In shikai there is nothing crazier than seeing a large creature such as Komamura going to punch you and then being hit by an even larger armored hand. In bankai its completely overwhelming to see a giant samurai that can crush you with ease. This Zanpakuto is without a doubt all about power. Its point is to take you out in one hit, which for most opponents its very capable of doing.
Katen Kyōkotsu (花天狂骨; Flower Heaven, Crazy Bone) = Shunsui Kyōraku
- Advantages: 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, "if you win you live, if you lose you die".
- Disadvantages: The power is used primarily according to the will of Katen Kyokotsu. Even Shunsui is subject to the rules of the games played.
- Overview: Nothing is seemingly more dangerous than taking something originally meant to be a simple game and adding battle tatics into it to make something altogether inventive and destructive. Since most Hollow wouldnt be able to comprehend the rules it is easily used against such opponents with even more than capable opponents becoming overwhelmed as well.
Suzumushi (清虫, Cricket) / Suzumushi Tsuishiki: Enma Kōrogi (清虫終式閻魔蟋蟀, Cricket Final Form: Devil Cricket) = Kaname Tōsen
- Advantages: In shikai it emits a tone which puts the opponent into unconsciousness. It also has a ability that uses sound to generate a multitude of blades that rain down on an opponent totally obliterating them. In bankai it creates a area of influence where the opponent losses sight and hearing and the ability to sense and is at the mercy of Tosen.
- Disadvantages: None really that I can recall.
- Overview: Suzumushi is offensive and defensive. This makes it perfect for the supposed philosophy of Tosen in certain ways. It can knock out others making a fight unnecessary. It can offensively fire off blade with the intent to take out the person with one simple volley. In bankai its designed to make sure that Tosen has all the advantages to take out an opponent as he sees fit. This weapon is designed for taking out the opposition easy.
Kazeshini (風死, Wind Death) = Shūhei Hisagi
- Advantages: While in Shikai form, Kazeshini can be swung by its chains in large circles, allowing the bladed portion to spin like a fan. Kazeshini can also be used for entangling an opponent's sword, or other weapons; It can even immobilize opponents.
- Disadvantages: largely melee weapon, no known abilities.
- Overview: When seeing Kazeshini it becomes quite clear that while a simple weapon it is deadly. Hisagi states himself that it is made for taking life and that it does and then some. At range and with a deadly style that is unpredictable.
Hyōrinmaru (氷輪丸, "Ice Ring") / Daiguren Hyōrinmaru (大紅蓮 氷輪丸, Grand Crimson Lotus Ice Ring) = Tōshirō Hitsugaya
- Advantages: Hyōrinmaru is the most powerful ice-zanpakuto in soul society. It allows Hitsugaya to control water and ice. One of Hyōrinmaru's basic powers, as well as its strongest. It allows him to control the weather in the immediate vicinity, or more specifically, control the water in the surrounding atmosphere. Bankai expands upon his manipulation of water, ice, and weather.
- Disadvantages: None really unless you count his powers immaturity due to his young (for a Shinigami) age.
- Overview: Hyorinmaru is highly powerful turning water into Ice and by extension controlling the weather for a variety of lethal effects. What more needs to be said of the this one.
Haineko (灰猫, Ash Cat) = Rangiku Matsumoto
- Advantages: Haineko's blade turns to ash, and with a flick of the hilt, she can cut anywhere the ash has landed on. All the ash that surrounds her opponent(s) might as well be her sword. With simple hand gestures and a thought she can control where the ash goes as well as make it take various forms. So far she has created an enveloping cloud which she can then enclose around her opponents turning it into a deadly tornado. This provides her an advantage while fighting groups of enemies.
- Disadvantages: Not particularly dangerous.
- Overview: Haineko is interesting as its similar in respect to Senbonzakura but not particularly good at dealing damage. From all accounts it settles on an opponent like ash and causes no more than scratches. It moves similar to Senbonzakura though it is capable of taking various shapes and acting defensively but there seems to be not alot of use as a weapon that does significant damage.
Hōzukimaru (鬼灯丸, Demon Light) / Ryūmon Hōzukimaru (龍紋鬼灯丸, Dragon Crest Demon Light) = Ikkaku Madarame
- Advantages: In shikai becoming a variation to a yari allows for Ikkaku to attack at distance. It then breaks apart into a three section staff that can surprise and attack an opponant. In bankai the destructive potential is increased by his reiatsu making the weapon a great damage dealer.
- Disadvantages: In shikai is possess no abilities and easily breaks under force. In bankai it takes time to wake up to it increase in power.
- Overview: Hozukimaru is a plain and simple melee weapon through and through. Ikkaku uses it with great skill and thats really all I can say about it besides the fact that he should use his bankai more.
Ruri'iro Kujaku (瑠璃色孔雀, Azure Peacock) = Yumichika Ayasegawa
- Advantages: Ruri'iro Kujaku's blades flare up and transform into a number of glowing peacock feather-like vines. These vines move to grapple and ensnare an opponent. Once the opponent is sufficiently subdued the vines begin to grow energy buds that are being filled with the opponent's Reiatsu. The flowers actually use it as a form of power source, siphoning the Reiatsu the opponent emits in order to fuel their growth. When the flowers bloom the collected Reiatsu is turned against the opponent, either seriously incapacitating them or killing them in the process. By chewing on the petals of the bloomed flowers ones wounds are healed and their Reiatsu is revitalized.
- Disadvantages: He constantly undermines Ruri'iro Kujaku by calling it by a name it hates thereby making it refuse to bring out its real power. This disadvantage is also intentional because he refuses to allow the 11th division to know that he has kido-type zanpakuto.
- Overview: Ruri'iro Kujaku is interesting it potentially is one of the most effective weapons in Soul Society but do to Yumichika's hang ups about its type it doesn't get used unless others cant see it.
Ashisogi Jizō (疋殺地蔵, Leg-Cutting Jizō) / Konjiki Ashisogi Jizō (金色疋殺地蔵, Golden Leg-Cutting Jizō) = Mayuri Kurotsuchi
- Advantages: the weapon works like the venom of a spider bite; when an opponent is stabbed by Ashisogi Jizō, it severs the brain signals controlling the neural impulses for movement in the limbs of the victim, regardless of where they were struck. But unlike regular paralysis, the pain receptors and nerve endings are unaffected by the weapon, so the victim can still feel pain, even in a paralyzed limb. In bankai it creates a giant caterpillar/baby creature that responds to voice commands. The creature breathes a poisonous derivative of Mayuri's blood which is lethal to anyone who breathes it, aside from Mayuri and Nemu. The poison spreads through such a wide area, and it is almost impossible to avoid it. Even if the opponent does not breathe, the poison will still enter their body.
- Disadvantages: In bankai if the opponent has great spiritual pressure it can push back the poison.
- Overview: In shikai the weapon is quite devious. paralyzing an opponent that can still feel pain is pretty cruel. In bankai There is probably nothing a grotesque as the creature produced by the power of Mayuri's bankai. Few things are scarier then something that big and ugly trying to run you over or eat you and the fact that spews out deadly poison that has a wide area of affect makes it all the worse.
Benihime (紅姫, Crimson Princess) = Kisuke Urahara
- Advantages: So far only two abilities are shown from Benihime. An offensive energy attack thats destructive at range and a defensive technique that creates a protective shield.
- Disadvantages: None that I can tell.
- Overview: Benihime is interesting its offensive and defensive. While seemingly ordinary in that regard it makes you question what your dealing with. Throughout the series there have been vague hints dropped by Urahara about Benihime that would make one whether or not we are just scratching the surface of its capabilities. While its insinuated to have great potential we will have to wait and see what comes of it.
Sōgyo no Kotowari (双魚理, Truth of Pisces) = Jūshirō Ukitake
- Advantages: Sōgyo no Kotowari is able to absorb an opponent's energy attacks through the left sword and directs the attack through the connecting rope where the five charms on the rope accelerate the attack faster than it was originally fired and reverses its original course firing the same attack from the right sword, making it much more difficult for the opponent to dodge.
- Disadvantages: None that I can see.
- Overview: From what we know of Sogyo no Kotowari its good at taking on opponents that deal in energy blasts. What I wonder if it is capable of more then we have seen.
Zangetsu (斬月, Slaying Moon) / Tensa Zangetsu (天鎖斬月, Heaven Chain Slaying Moon) = Ichigo Kurosaki
- Advantages: In shikai At the instant of the slash Zangetsu absorbs his spiritual energy and releases highly condensed spiritual energy at the tip of the blade. Magnifying the slash attack and then flies forward. In banaki ensa Zangetsu retains the use of Getsuga Tenshō and can be used in the same manners, but can be used in an enhanced form. When used in Bankai, these potent blasts are black with a red outline and their path can be controlled, with explosively augmented power and speed. Ichigo takes all the power of his Bankai and compresses it into a small, condense form. Then he uses the power of the Bankai to perform hyper speed combat.
- Disadvantages: Not particularly versatile.
- Overview: Zangetsu is an alright melee weapon bigger than normal its a imposing weapon. In bankai it becomes much better by addining to his physical abilities considerably and allowing for hyper speed combat. Its a decent weapon but not much to it, there is a good place for it in the combative world of bleach. Sadly its lack of options or overall effectiveness is downplayed in comparison to other weapons.
Sode no Shirayuki (袖白雪, Sleeved White Snow) = Rukia Kuchiki
- Advantages: Sode no Shirayuki has control over ice. Sode no Shirayuki possesses three separate techniques utilizing ice.
- Disadvantages: While affective with its abilities Sode no Shirayuki isn't deadly enough to stronger combatants and has shown to be limited in the regard of taking on others of equal or greater power.
- Overview: Sode no Shirayuki is a semi-versatile weapon that isn't presented as a effective weapon. While capable of skills it seems no more than any female lieutenant level weapon. Yet it has potential.
Sakanade (逆撫, Counter Stroke) = Shinji Hirako
- Advantages: Sakanade's Shikai ability creates an inverted world. The power is an optical illusion which is caused by the scent the sword gives off upon its release. It inverts an opponent's sense of direction. Shinji describes the release technique as something like a trump card. Up and down, left and right as well as forward and backward are opposite. It is not just the sense of direction that is changed; the opponent's eyesight and where they get cut is reversed as well. Shinji claims that countering the damage from the inverted directions simply by processing it all within the mind is not possible. No matter how powerful the opponent even if one is accustomed to fighting in that particular way, their body will not adapt and will continue to fight by reflex, which causes it to continuously succumb to the power's effect.
- Disadvantages: If one where able to figure out how to adapt their body to fighting within the realm of the power it wont work.
- Overview: Sakanade is for me one of the most interesting and innovative zanpakuto within the Bleach Universe. Through misdirection it puts Shinji at the advantage and his opponent in a situation that they cant hope to win. This needs to be showcased far more.
Tachikaze (断地風, Earth-Severing Wind) / Tekken Tachikaze (鐡拳・断風, Iron Fist Earth-Severing Wind) = Kensei Muguruma
- Advantages: In shikai Tachikaze is able to manipulate wind for offensive purposes as well as fire charged energy blasts.
- Disadvantages: largely short to mid range weapon.
- Overview: Tachikaze while shown to be quite devastating in shikai its bankai while shown has not shown what its capabilities are.
Tengumaru (天狗丸, Long-Nosed Goblin) = Love Aikawa
- Advantages: Love swings Tengumaru downwards and fire blows out from the tip of Tengumaru.
- Disadvantages: None that I can see.
- Overview: Tengumaru a oversized Kanabo that is definately a weapon to not be taken lightly. Its affective of a smashing/crushing weapon and can take out a significant group with a simple swing. Nice weapon to take on Hollows or anyone unfortunate enough to get hit by it.
Kinshara (金沙羅, Golden Sal Tree) = Rōjūrō Otoribashi
- Advantages: Kinshara turns into a whip with apparent magical qualities.
- Disadvantages: Dangerous to use against someone who can counter its movements.
- Overview: Kinshara is a interesting weapon and hopefully more will be explained of whats hinted at as being a variety of possible abilities.
Hopefully this gives others something to go on or help others to develop a bit of understanding if they were confused. I guess we will have to see what comes next in the world Zanpakuto.