Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki's Powers, Explained | CBR

Understanding the specifics of Bleach protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki’s various forms and abilities, as well as the origins of said abilities, can be quite an undertaking, especially when considering the density of Bleach‘s lore. Luckily for you, we’ve been in the trenches, and have done the research necessary to provide some clear explanations for Ichigo’s powers.

Ichigo’s lineage allows him to draw from a power supply of Quincy, Shinigami and Hollow energy. A former Shinigami captain, Ichigo’s father Isshin is the reason for his inheritance of Shinigami energy, while his mother Masaki, a pure-blood Quincy, is responsible for both his inherited Quincy and Hollow energies.

The creation and inheritance of the hybrid Shinigami-Hollow powers is explained during the Thousand Year Blood War arc, where it is revealed that Masaki was attacked and infected by a Hollow prior to Ichigo’s birth. To save Masaki from the Hollow, Isshin donates the entirety of his Shinigami powers to her in order to balance out the Hollow’s infectious energy. As a result, Masaki’s soul becomes a fusion of Shinigami and Hollow energy, and it is this Shinigami-Hollow energy that is inherited by Ichigo. As Quincy status is a matter of blood rather than spirit, Ichigo’s inheritance of Quincy power is free of both Shinigami and Hollow influence. Due to Isshin being rendered human upon saving Masaki, Ichigo is only a half-blood Quincy.

Ichigo’s Shinigami powers were first awakened by Rukia through the absorption of her Shinigami powers, and as his Hollow and Shinigami powers are mixed, the Hollow powers were simultaneously awakened by this event. Ichigo’s Quincy powers are awakened through his confrontation with the Sternritter Quilge Opie after being exposed to his Reiatsu.

As a side note, Fullbringers are the offspring of a mother attacked by a Hollow, thus granting Ichigo access to Fullbring. The Tite Kubo-confirmed canon Can’t Fear Your Own World light novels amend the requirement for Fullbringers to possession of a Soul King fragment, but as Ichigo has yet to appear in the series, it is unknown whether or not he is in possession of one, and if not, how exactly he accesses Fullbring.

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When Ichigo enters his inner-soul to speak with his Zanpakutō spirit, it manifests itself in two forms; the man wearing glasses and a black cloak, dubbed “Old Man Zangetsu,” and White Ichigo. Ichigo thought of and treated these two figures as separate beings at first, believing Old Man Zangetsu to be his true Zanpakutō spirit and White Ichigo to be a Hollow attempting to take over his soul. In actuality, Old Man Zangetsu is a manifestation of Ichigo’s Quincy power, while White Ichigo is the manifestation of his hybrid Shinigami-Hollow powers.

Quincy Zangetsu hates Shinigami, and knew that the path of a Shinigami would lead to a confrontation with Yhwach and ultimately Ichigo’s death. This led to Quincy Zangetsu limiting Ichigo’s Shinigami-Hollow powers, working as a funnel for Ichigo’s powers while at the same time masquerading as his true Zanpakutō spirit. As Ichigo’s opponents grew stronger, and Quincy Zangetsu became more attached to the boy, he would eventually relinquish control over Ichigo’s powers. In doing so, Quincy Zangetsu introduces Ichigo to Hollow Zangetsu, who is again, a manifestation of Ichigo’s true Shinigami powers, and thus the real Zangetsu.

As Ichigo grows stronger and accesses more of the power of the real Zangetsu, he unknowingly accesses and releases more of his Hollow powers as well, evidenced by his Vizard and Vasto Lorde transformations. Ichigo at first thinks of these events as his inner-Hollow attempting to take over his soul, but it is actually just the effect of Ichigo drawing on the power of the real Zangetsu. It is impossible for Ichigo to draw on the full potential of his Shinigami powers without also drawing out the potential of his Hollow powers, as they are one and the same. Hollow Zangetsu never wanted to take over Ichigo’s soul, but simply wanted to help him grow stronger. This is evidenced by Hollow Zangetsu’s frequent use of the term “partner” when referring to Ichigo, as well as his frequent pleading with Ichigo to allow him to continue fighting rather than sealing him away. Quincy Zangetsu further affirms this idea, pointing out that it was always the power of a Hollow, and not his Quincy abilities, that saved Ichigo in moments of desperation.

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During his meeting with Squad Zero’s Ōetsu Nimaiya, the creator of all Zanpakutō, it’s revealed Ichigo never truly owned a Zanpakutō. The Hollow that attacked Masaki was created by Aizen using a method similar to Zanpakutō creation, thus allowing him to act as a pseudo Asauchi for Ichigo to form his original sword. Ichigo undergoes the Asauchi trial, eventually discerning Hollow Zangetsu to be the real Zangetsu. However, following the revelation about Quincy Zangetsu, Ichigo still holds him in high esteem, and firmly asserts that both spirits were Zangetsu. As both spirits compose Ichigo’s soul, and thus his Zanpakutō, Nimaiya is able to forge not one, but two Zangetsus for Ichigo: the shorter blade representing his Quincy power, the larger blade representing his Hollow and Shinigami powers.

Quincy Zangetsu and Hollow Zangetsu are two halves of the same soul, and thus two halves of the same Zanpakutō. Therefore, it is only through his achievement of balance between these powers that Ichigo maximizes his potential. This is evidenced when Ichigo allows their combined form to stab him when mastering Mugetsu, symbolizing his acceptance of both halves of Zangetsu. Against Yhwach, when he grows the Horn of Salvation, Ichigo states that he still cannot control his inner Hollow, but that his Quincy powers will help him maintain balance, finally demonstrating a true understanding of the duality of his soul and powers.

KEEP READING: Bleach: The Thousand-Year Blood War, Explained

Ichigo Kurosaki is human… and a lot of other things. Here's an explanation of the Bleach protagonist's powers.

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