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Bleach: The Zanpakuto's Bankai Forms, Explained | CBR

Bleach follows Ichigo Kurosaki, who obtained the power of a Shinigami, also known as Soul Reapers/Gods of Death. The Shinigami are tasked with  protecting the world from Hollows (evil spirits) that seek to devour human souls. They also direct lost souls to the Soul Society so as to maintain balance in the world. In performing their duties, Shinigami wield powerful weapons known as the Zanpakuto through the art of Zanjutsu. Each of these Zanpakuto also has a Bankai form, which are incredibly useful for Shinigami trying to carry out their duties.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Zanpakutos and their Bankai forms.

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Zanpakuto (or Soul Cutter) takes the form of a katana. They’re used both by Shinigami and Arrancar, Hollows that gained the power of a Shinigami by removing their masks almost completely. Arrancar wield the Zanpakuto as a manifestation of their spiritual power, and they have a final form different from the Shinigami’s Zanpakuto, which is known as Resurrección.

Each Zanpakuto’s spirit can be found in an inner world created by them in the mind and soul of the Shinigami. This serves as the point of meeting for both entities. Before the Zanpakuto is activated, it lies in a sealed state with no unique ability except Hollow Purification. The Zanpakuto is activated into its first form, known as Shikai, once the wielder learns the name of the Zanpakuto by forcing themselves into a meditation state known as Jinzen. Zanpakuto’s Bankai form is the final transformation and the highest form achieved in Bleach.

On attaining the Bankai form, the Zanpakuto changes into a more evolved form. The shape of the Zanpakuto is noticeably different than its previous form. The Zanpakuto also develops new abilities, which could be an elemental or illusionary power, poison ability, melee attack or a Kido ability. Sometimes, the Zanpakuto could instead develop an enhanced ability, which appears to be an improved ability of the Shikai form. However, while in battle the abilities of this weapon are unleashed either by calling out “Bankai” or the name of the soul in the weapon, the user can also choose to activate the powers in silence without screaming, unlike the Shikai form that requires the user to chant some incantations before they can use its powers.

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While the Zanpakuto’s Bankai form is the ultimate and final form a Shinigami can achieve, only the strongest of the group is able to reach such heights. A Shinigami must train for at least ten years to control and materialize the Zanpakuto’s spirit into the real world. As training progresses, the Zanpakuto develop alongside their Shinigami. However, Kisuke Urahara and Ichigo Kurosaki bypassed the ten years training with the aid of a special device that caused their Zanpakuto to materialize. They were thus able to access Bankai forms in just three days of training.

After attaining the ultimate form of the Zanpakuto, the Shinigami never stops evolving in its strength. The Shinigami and Zanpakuto continue developing together so as to maintain an optimal relationship. This relationship always goes a long way in influencing the success of battles they face together and thus has an effect on how Bankai forms manifest and the forms that they take, with some emphasizing offense and others defense or elemental abilities.

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In the anime, after Ichigo trained hard for three days to achieve his first Bankai form, he became powerful enough to use his Zanpakuto to stop some pretty fierce foes. The hero went toe-to-toe with Captain-Commander Yamamoto and his Soukyoku halberd, which had the power of one million Zanpakuto. Noted to be the strongest Shinigami, Yamamoto poses the incredibly powerful Zanka no Tachi Bankai, which makes his sword as hot as the sun.

All through the series, the most powerful of the Shinigami carried out amazing feats countless times through their Zanpakuto and Bankai forms. They form an important cornerstone of Bleach as a series and are integral for creating bigger and better battles.

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Bleach's powerful Bankai forms enable the Shinigami to carry out some incredible acts. Here's everything you need to know about them.

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