Tite Kubo’s hit animated series Bleach is all about Soul Reapers and their mission to exorcise evil spirits (hollows) and escort the souls of the dead to the peaceful afterlife, the Soul Society. This makes for a great setting for a shonen series with a supernatural edge, and the villains don’t disappoint.
The heroes, like Ichigo and Rukia and Byakuya Kuchiki, are facing the likes of Sosuke Aizen, arrancars and hollows, and later, the hidden Quincy empire, the Wandenreich. Among the arrancars, Barragan Luisenbarn is among the most powerful of all, and As Nodt of the Sternritters is a terrifying opponent in combat (for more than one reason). They are among the strongest of the Espadas and Sternritters, respectively, but which is the cooler villain? A case will now be made for each of them.
10 Barragan: He Was King
Not many characters in Bleach can claim to be the king or queen of anything, but Barragan is an exception. He was once the undisputed ruler of Hueco Mundo, the world of hollows, and he made this fact very clear.
In fact, Barragan declared that the entire world was his castle, and thus the sky itself was the ceiling of that fortress (something he had to explain to Aizen). He had a massive army of hollows under his control, too.
9 As Nodt: Medallion
All of the Sternritter could use a special medallion, and a few did, such as Cang Du and Bambietta. As Nodt used one too, and he made better use of a stolen bankai than any of his fellow Sternritter on the field of battle.
He stole Byakuya’s bankai, Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, and very nearly killed the Captain with his own power. Renji, meanwhile, could do little but watch in horror as As Nodt demolished his Captain with it.
8 Barragan: Commander Aptitude
Barragan may not be a battlefield genius or a master tactician, he does a fine job leading an army. In the old days, he controlled a massive army of hollows and kept Hueco Mundo under control, and now, he still has that aptitude.
Barragan has six fracciones, and he formed a simple but effective battle strategy to replace the fake Karakura Town with the real one. He easily assumed command once Aizen was trapped behind Yamamoto’s flame wall.
7 As Nodt: Creepy Appearance
Both of these villains look the part, and in their own separate ways. As Nodt’s letter “F,” is for “the Fear,” and it’s easy to see why. He has the same white uniform as all Sternritter, but with some cool added touches.
As Nodt has a sort of goth punk theme with his, from his black, spiked face mask to his shiny black boots to his punk rocker gloves and his long hair. Not to mention those dull, strange eyes and his odd postures during combat.
6 Barragan: Grim Reaper
For some fans, As Nodt’s creepy punk vibe is what a villain should really look like, while others might prefer Barragan’s classic Grim Reaper appearance. What’s funny is that as a hollow, he’s the target of Soul Reapers, the real grim reapers.
All the same, Barragan looks terrifying and cool, with his black and purple robe, fur collar, and his gold crown and bangles, a true king of death. He’s also got a massive and cruel battle ax called Grain Caida, or “great fall.” Very cool.
5 As Nodt: Ranged Attacks
A Quincy’s main weapon is the bow and arrow, as Uryu and Soken Ishida prove. The Sternritter use a variety of weapons too, from sword and staffs to chainguns, but all of them are a capable of using arrows as ranged attacks. This includes As Nodt.
His arrows are unique, and he doesn’t even need a bow to fire them. From any range, he can strike a target with his thorn-like arrows, and spread powerful fear and terror into his opponents right away. It’s not something to take lightly.
4 Barragan: Death Aura
Barragan can’t use many ranged attacks (he was never even seen firing a cero), but if he gets into close range, his opponents are in big trouble. Barragan can use his ax to chop up his foes, but his death aura is the real problem.
Each Espada symbolizes an aspect of death, and in Barragan’s case, it’s old age, death over time. All things rot and die, living or not, and Barragan can dissolve an opponent’s flesh, strength, and even their kido in seconds. Nothing can get close to him.
3 As Nodt: Powerful Voll Stern Dich
Sometimes known as “Vollstandig,” the Voll Stern Dich ability (German for “Full-star yourself”) is the final form of all Sternritters. As Nodt uses it during his duel with Rukia, and goes by the name of Tatar Foras.
He becomes a grotesque monster in this form, and his fear powers are turned up to 11. He can cause fear even if his opponent merely looks at him, and he can surround the battlefield with walls covered in eyes to make that effect more complete. Rukia was helpless until Byakuya intervened.
2 Barragan: Symbolism And Death
What’s so intriguing about Barragan, as compared to most villains in Bleach, is that he represents tragic irony in the duality of life and death. He fancies himself the king of death, since he wields the power of old age and time, and he once ruled Hueco Mundo with an iron fist.
But as Hachigen Ushoda pointed out, Barragan is indeed mortal, and he fears death just like any of the “ants” he looks down upon. Barragan’s own power is turned against him, and he cries out in despair as he dissolves away.
1 As Nodt: Pitiable Final Moments
Both Barragan and As Nodt had their own powers turned against them during their final moments, but As Nodt was a bit more sympathetic in the process. He’s ultimately a monster, but this side of him does add a bit of depth to his story.
He once lay in a hospital bed, dying and wracked with pain, until Yhwach granted him power and freedom from the fear of death. Once Rukia finished him off with bankai, he panicked, feeling fear one again as he was shattered by ice. Not even his faith in Yhwach could save him.
Bleach has 2 villains in contention for best one of the bunch. Here is a debate between Barragan and As Nodt. Which anime bad guy is superior?