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There have been many a forum posting describing who is a vasto lorde. When we first saw that picture http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/197/16/ many fans took this as gospel truth that this is what a vasto lorde looks like. Ulquiorra looks just like that picture so therefore, he must be a vasto lorde, right?
As I took philosophy courses in college (they were the easiest classes to earn credits), I will explain the essence of vasto lordes in that roundabout way that all philosophers explain. Maybe invoke discussion? Who knows. Here we go
When we describe something, the way we do so is by comparing it to something else. Say you have a child. You want to introduce him/her (I'll use her because my friend just had a baby girl recently) to dogs. Your child has no knowledge about what a dog is. How do you explain it to her? You could use taxonomy to describe the kingdom phylum blah blah blah to her but this will go over her head. So what do you do? You show her an example of a dog. That way, your child assimilates this knowledge about what a dog is. Now your child knows what a dog is. It has four legs, fur (in most cases), a tail (in many cases), etc... Now, tell your child about cats. The child will compare the two animals and notice that, though the animals are similar, they differ in ways that make them separate beings.
Humans cannot help but try and classify things. As a species, we are so used to having things in a certain class. What is the sun but a star that is close to us? What are ants but bugs that form colonies? However, when we try to classify things, we can fall into the fallacy of similarity. In the days of Aristotle, a bat, a dragonfly, and a pigeon would have been classified in the same group because of their ability to take flight. Now this way of thinking was the norm for many centuries until the time of Darwin where we would soon learn that a bat has more similar to a mouse than it does to the above winged creatures.
For a more recent example, let us consider the planets. Now many of us grew up learning about the planets in order: Mercury, Venus, Earth (it wasn't considered a planet until much later), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (giggle), Neptune and Pluto. Planets fall under two categories. You have your rocky surface planets, the first four, and your gaseous giants, the last four. When Pluto was discovered in the 1920s-30s (can't remember off the top of my head), we made the fallacy of simplicity and said "Hey, a ninth planet" and went along singing tra-la-la-la-la-la (check your history books if you don't believe me). In 2006, the international scientific community got together and came up with something completely different from what was accepted at the time. They recheck the definition of "planet" and the essence of "planetness" and realized that if they were going to accept Pluto as a planet, they would have to accept other object as planets as well that didn't fit the criteria of "planet". And so, Pluto was demoted from being a planet and put into the Kuiper Belt (a move that made non-scientists furious).
So what does this have to do with Bleach and Vasto Lordes and when am I going to get to the point? Well, as a matter of fact, right now.
So as we talk about Vasto Lordes and what are they, we are talking about their essence. We refer to their quintessence (a big word meaning A thing that is the most perfect example of its type). The first thing that we know is that they are Hollows. But what is the essence of a hollow?
1. They are spirits. (Former pluses that aren't guided into Soul Society before they degrade into monsters)
2. They devour other spiritual beings: human spirits, Shinigami, and other hollows.
3. They have masks obscuring their former identity etc.
Now we have a base. We can move on from there.
The second thing that we know about Vasto Lordes is that they were formerly Menos. Menos are the conglomeration of inter-devouring hollows that result in the creation of a new being. We also know that Vasto Lordes were once Gillians and Adjuchas. Gillians, if they want to become a Vasto Lorde (the wish of Grimmjow's fraccion), must first have individuality, reflected in the unique mask. It must also eat other hollows while avoiding being eaten as well. Then they have the potential to become Adjuchas. With that evolution comes a new shape, power and increased intelligence.
Now here is the crux of the essay. What makes a Vasto Lorde? Here are some of the things we can confirm.
1. They need to cannibalize more hollows than an adjuchas.
2. They must prevent any part of them from being eaten otherwise it becomes impossible.
3. They are stronger than the average captain (more on that later)
4. They are roughly human-shaped.
That's it. It's a short list. Why is that? Well, at the beginning of this essay, I explained that we understand our world through comparison. Our problem is that we are not given a comparison. We are not told "Well, so-and-so is a Vasto Lorde." Instead, we are given conflicting evidence.
We know that Aizen is looking for the Vasto Lordes for his 10 Espadas. This is congruent with Hitsugaya's statement that 10 Vasto Lordes would be enough to defeat Soul Society. Why is that? Well, Hitsugaya is looking at the Vasto Lordes problem from a numbers perspective. There are 10 captains (not including the 3 that defected). If 10 Vasto Lordes, who are stronger that captains, were to challenge Soul Society with Aizen, Ichimaru, and Tousen, then it is quite possible that Aizen would win. Yet, this is all speculation on Hitsugaya's part. From the way that he talks about Vasto Lordes, it would seem as though he would have not seen or fought one personally and is referring to a textbook or something (much like how Rukia describes a Menos in the beginning of the series).
And to return to a previous point, what does Hitsugaya mean by the average captain? Is the average captain would be someone on Kurotsuchi or Soifon's level or someone like Kyoraku or Unohana. There were some fans who took this as to to say that Vasto Lordes are stronger than captains PERIOD. And yet, when they see Kyoraku fell Starrk with just his shikai (amazing but lacking in a way that is better put to another essay) and Baraggan getting killed by his own power (ironic, not in the Alanis Morrisette way), they are disappointed. With all the hype that is suppose to be around the Vasto Lorde, why is it that we are disappointed in the capabilities of the Vasto Lordes. It is because we (myself included) fell for the fallacy of simplicity.
The page linked at the beginning of the article is where we get our idea of a Vasto Lorde. We see it and say "That looks a lot like Ulquiorra." It is from here that we get our example. Like the child who knows what a dog looks like, we try to compare this Vasto Lorde to the Espada, knowing that one of Aizen's goals is to collect Vasto Lordes. So we assume Ulquiorra is a Vasto Lorde
Later in the Hueco Mundo saga, we learn something interesting. Ulquiorra is the 4th Espada. Taking the image that we've already seen as to what a Vasto Lorde looks like, we assume that the top three Espadas must also be Vasto Lordes if Ulquiorra is one and is only the 4th. We are told by Ulquiorra that Espadas 4th and above are not allowed to release their Zanpakutō inside Las Noches as it could destroy the fortress. This only strengthens our belief in the fact that Ulquiorra is a Vasto Lorde. What is this to signify? This is where some people use backwards logic. If Ulquiorra is 4th and 4th and above can't release their Zanpakutō in Las Noches, then he must be a Vasto Lorde. Do you see where this leads us? We run around in circles.
In the next chapters, we see Ulquiorra run circles around Ichigo, which is what we expect of a "Vasto Lorde". Notice that I am putting it in quotation marks. That is because we don't have any firsthand knowledge of his status before becoming an Arrancar. He reveals his Second Resurrection. This is what we expect of a Vasto Lorde. He just completely overpowers Ichigo and "kills" him. And had the story ended right there (Don't know how as he's the main character), we may have been satisfied in the fact that we, at the very least, confirmed within our own minds that Ulquiorra is a Vasto Lorde. But then something happens that shatters our expectations. Ichigo is revived into a grotesque monster and kills the supposed Vasto Lorde. If a Vasto Lorde is suppose to be stronger than a captain and Ichigo (in whatever form that he is) kills him, what does this say about 4th's status as a Vasto Lorde?
This is not how we deduce who is what.
So if Ulquiorra isn't definitively a Vasto Lorde, then what about the top three Espadas: Harribel, Baraggan and Starrk? We know that Baraggan and Starrk were personally approached by Aizen to be part of his Espadas. Their powers are stronger than any enemy before them (Baraggan has Respira and Starrk has the ability to use pieces of his soul to critically injure his enemies). And yet they fell. The problem that some people had is that they fell too quickly, especially Starrk (Baraggan was more the culmination of allowing your opponent to beat himself). And our perceptions of Vasto Lorde is thrown out of orbit.
So who is a vasto lorde? Frankly, we don't know. We don't know if Aizen has any Vasto Lordes in his army. Speculations will continue regardless of the information present until we actually have a marker of a Vasto Lorde. What does this mean? Who knows. I just wrote this on a whim to avoid work.--Shinitenshi 08:08, November 1, 2009 (UTC)