Bleach is, more or less, a male-dominated world. However, when it comes to manga it is one of the most inclusive of women, with quite a few formidable ladies in any race: Soul/Shinigami, Arrancar, Quincy, and Visored. As the manga and anime progressed, audiences met more and more powerful women with tremendous abilities, while the ones they already knew and loved (like Rukia) grew even stronger.
Reaching new heights in swordsmanship, hand-to-hand combat, the skills of their races (e.g. Kido and Bankai for the Shinigami, Resurrección for Arrancars etc.), and their individual unique powers, these female fighters show us how to excel on the battlefield! Read this list as fans everywhere eagerly await the anime adaptation of the “Thousand Year Blood War Arc” (spoilers follow).
10 Bambietta Basterbine – Quincy, Sternritter “E – The Explode”
This was a difficult decision: Bambietta fought hard against Giselle Gewelle (Giselle’s power “Z – The Zombie” had so much potential), but based on her great fights against Captains she won her spot. She has the usual Quincy powers (like Quincy: Vollständig and a Spirit Weapon manifesting as a Reishi sword), but her special skill is “The Explode”.
It is difficult to fight against or block, since she does not just create and then throw Reishi bombs; instead, whatever her Reishi even slightly touches turns into a bomb and explodes. She destroys large areas and kills low-ranking Shinigami with a click of her fingers. She easily defeats Shinji Hirako, a Captain and Visored (although he was grievously injured, not killed), and barely has to defend herself against Hinamori, a Lieutenant, until Captain Komamura finds a way to turn her ability against her.
9 Candice Catnipp – Quincy, Sternritter “T – The Thunderbolt”
Candice was definitely the most powerful female Quincy and formidable amongst all the Sternritter. She had a short clash against Kenpachi, upon which she came out on top, albeit it is safe to assume that if they had fought longer, he would win; still, dealing some effective and good blows against Kenpachi is fearsome!
She also fought Ichigo, dealing some powerful hits and withstanding a lot in return; she easily blocked his Getsuga Tensho and survived his Getsuga Jūjishō, but lost her left arm. Her unique ability is to generate and project powerful lighting bolts; with her Quincy: Vollständig she grows lightning-bolt wings that she can detach and use as swords. She was finally defeated by Byakuya.
8 Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck – Arrancar, Former 3rd Espada
The former 3rd Espada was a formidable force. In her time in Aizen’s Arrancar Army, she would fight Nnoitora frequently and always won, until he sneakily attacked her and threw what he thought was her corpse outside Las Noches. She went into a child form and roamed Hueco Mundo without memories, until she reverted to her original form and fought a much evolved Nnoitora ferociously after years of inactivity to protect Ichigo.
She would have destroyed him, if not for inexplicably returning to her child form at the exact wrong moment. The release of her Zanpakuto (Resurrección), Gamuza, turns her into a centaur and her katana into a huge lance (Lanzador Verde). She also has the unique -amongst Arrancars- ability to absorb and doubly return Cero: Cero Doble.
7 Tier Harribel – Arrancar, Former 3rd Espada And De Facto Ruler Of Hueco Mundo
As the 3rd Espada, Harribel was immensely powerful; she easily fought against Captain Hitsugaya with her sealed Zanpakuto and then when they both fully released, his Bankai, Daiguren Hyōrinmaru, proved ineffective against her durability and her Resurrección, Tiburon (“Shark Empress”). She easily continued fighting even after two former Lieutenants and Visored joined Toshiro to make it a 3-against-1 fight.
Her Tiburon’s special skill is water manipulation: she creates massive cascades, throws mighty water blasts, and can instantly make water’s temperature become scorching hot. While released, her katana turns into a huge, shark tooth resembling sword. After Aizen’s defeat and the death of her two senior Espadas, she became leader of Hueco Mundo, until Yhwach personally overpowered her.
6 Senjumaru Shutara – Shinigami, Royal Guard
One of the two female members of the Royal Guard, Senjumaru has massive strength and very swift and dexterous handwork. She easily defeats Nianzol Weizol, a powerful Sternritter whose special skill is the ability to deflect any attack (even ones he cannot see coming), by replacing his cloak without him noticing with one of her own design that impales him “point-blank”.
She easily outwits the highest-ranked Sternritter by creating a perfect imitation of the Soul Palace and of herself, thus making them believe they killed her, before re-emerging. Nevertheless, she is defeated by them. She possesses six strong artificial limbs and her unique skill is to produce, form, and manipulate any kind of cloth with innumerable possibilities (like how she killed Nianzol). Her Zanpakuto was not revealed.
5 Kirio Hikifune – Shinigami, Royal Guard
Kirio was the Captain of the 12th Squad (currently captained by Mayuri) and her invention of the Artificial Soul made the Soul King deem her worthy of joining the Royal Guard. While her Zanpakuto was not revealed (this was a point of contention about the Royal Guard for many fans), she possesses an array of impressive skills: she created what she named a Cage of Life, a nearly indestructible tree-cage that is made of and feeds off Reiatsu, making it completely absorb Reiatsu-based attacks.
She can also produce extensions of the cage out of her body. With her Food Enhancement ability, she boosts any food she cooks which then gives power to anybody who eats it above levels they could ever achieve.
4 Rukia Kuchiki – Shinigami, Captain Of The 13th Squad
Here she is! The fan-favorite and the character who set the plot into motion (except Aizen) by turning Ichigo into a Shinigami. She was also the first Bleach character Tite Kubo ever drew. Upon the manga’s closure, she was inaugurated Captain of the 13th Squad, having unlocked her awesome Bankai 10 years prior, in her fight against Sternritter Äs Nödt.
Rukia’s Zanpakuto, Sode No Shirayuki, is said to be the most beautiful in Soul Society and can easily compete against Toshiro’s as the strongest ice-type. Her Shikai has 5 abilities, the first 3 called Dances. She, as the sword’s wielder, can make her body reach absolute zero and then use her sword to extend the frost to a very large area around her; after the ice shatters, anything it covered shatters with it. She was the only non-seated Shinigami (not even a Lieutenant at the time), except Ichigo, to kill an Espada.
3 Sui-Feng – Shinigami, Captain Of The 2nd Squad And Commander Of The Onmitsukidō
Born into the lower noble clan Feng, Sui-Feng was raised from childhood as an assassin and fighter, her purpose is to serve the Shihoin clan and be recruited in the Onmitsukidō. She greatly impressed Yoruichi, becoming her personal bodyguard and mentee. However, after the latter’s sudden departure from Soul Society, Sui-Feng’s feelings were deeply hurt and she became cold, until she reconciled with Yoruichi decades later. She is extremely skilled in Shunpo and Hakuda, probably only second to Yoruichi. Her Zanpakuto, Suzumebachi, in Shikai will kill anyone touched by it twice in the same place (not necessarily through the same spot). Her Bankai, Jakuhō Raikōben, is basically a massive missile that will instantly blow up enemies.
2 Yoruichi Shihoin – Shinigami, Former Captain Of The 2nd Squad And Commander Of The Onmitsukidō
Once the head of the revered Shihoin clan, as well as the mentor of Sui-Feng (and Byakuya Kuchiki, although he would not admit it), Yoruichi fled to the human world decades before the manga’s start, due to the incidents involving Aizen and what is currently the Visored. She was managing to overpower Sui-Feng, the current 2nd Squad Captain, after 100 years of inaction, until their fight was cut short upon learning of Aizen’s betrayal.
While we never see her use her Zanpakuto, she has an impressive and terrifying array of combat skills: she is extremely fast, the best Shunpo master in Soul Society (granting her the epithet “Flash Goddess”). She is also a Hakuda master, probably the greatest in Soul Society, and has developed the technique Shunkō, combining hand-to-hand combat with devastating lightning Kido.
1 Retsu Unohana – Shinigami, Captain Of The 4th Squad And Former Kenpachi
And here she is, the no 1! It was a difficult decision, but she fought hard and won. Retsu (meaning “violent”) Unohana, the deceased Captain of the 4th Squad, and the former Captain of the 11th Squad; incredibly powerful, a master of Kido and healing and… the first-ever Kenpachi. An absolute master of all sword-fighting styles in existence, she was even superior to Kenpachi Zaraki, until he unlocked the total limit of his potential.
She hid her love of combat for centuries until it came flooding out in her last battle with Kenpachi, even though throughout the series fans got hints of the fear she inspired in others. She was second in years as Captain only to Yamamoto and revered by everyone. Unfortunately, her Bankai was never fully revealed, but by its gooey and bloody look, it must have been horrifying.
Bleach is a series filled with some of the strongest characters in anime, but which women in the series stand above the rest?