Both Bleach and Hunter x Hunter are among the most popular anime of the last two decades. While they follow, in essence, standard protocol — growing heroes and increasingly powerful villains — their stories are drastically different from each other. However, the one thing they have in common is the presence of an ancient, white-bearded man who also happens to be the strongest of the good guys.
Yamamoto Genryuusai is the Captain-Commander of the Shinigami, rarely entering into fights as he expects his subordinates to take care of business. Likewise, Isaac Netero is the Chairman of the Hunter Association, who runs the organization but lets his Hunters do most of the fieldwork. They are both unique (and incredibly eccentric) in their own ways, but which one of them deserves to hold the title of “Best Old Man”?
10 Yamamoto: Used To Be A Fire Demon
Yamamoto’s age can only be counted in millennia — he precedes the history of Soul Society itself. So it is with his zanpakuto, Ryuujin Jakka. Yama-jii is the definition of pure power; the flames that emerge from his sword and his body bear the heat of the Sun.
However, he holds regret for certain actions in his past. In a flashback, Yamamoto tells Shunsui Kyoraku that he was once a demon who appeared in a time of peril but only made the situation worse. As penitence, he chooses not to have his arm healed by Orihime, proving that he prefers the comfort of peace to the violence of war.
9 Netero: Became The Guanyin Bodhisattva
Netero’s most powerful technique is the 100-Type Guanyin Bodhisattva, which manifests as an enormous golden statue. He is one of the few humans who can effortlessly combine multiple types of Nen, including Manipulation, Enhancement, Conjuration, and Transmutation.
However, Netero was riddled with arrogance in his prime, taking over his previous Sensei’s Dojo by force. In his final moments, though, he achieves transcendence, truly embodying the Guanyin’s principles of sacrifice (when he gives his life to save the world from Meruem.)
8 Yamamoto: Is Terrifyingly Confident In His Own Powers
During peacetime, Yamamoto resembles a typical old man leaning on his cane, partially hunched over. In fact, at the beginning of the series it almost seemed like he was the Captain-Commander in name only, mainly because he never showed the slightest hints of wanting to fight.
Given that he’s been through pretty much everything, Yama-jii almost never reacts violently (he rarely reacts to most events), usually testing the situation by gently opening either one of his eyes. Even during the first Wandenreich invasion, he opens his eyes only slightly upon seeing invaders in his personal room.
7 Netero: Exists In Harmony With The Universe
Like Yamamoto, Netero is eerily calm in most cases, although his minions might be running around scared witless. His inner peace comes from the several years spent deep in the mountains, praying to the Buddha while training constantly to improve the speed of his punches. Neither time nor season has had any effect on his resolve.
The fact that he is over 110 years old doesn’t seem to impede his abilities, either. His Guanyin keeps the Chimera Ant King on his toes for a considerable amount of time — in fact, Meruem even commends Netero on his perseverance, admitting that the old man had him “in checkmate from the very start.”
6 Yamamoto: Treats Everyone Like Children
One of the (unintentionally) funniest instances of Yama-jii acting like an old coot occurs when he tells Aizen that he’s a “silly child who understands nothing”, even though he was half-dead and at the latter’s mercy at the time.
5 Netero: Is A Prankster Grandpa
Netero is the typical old man who has given up on trying to be serious, for instance, when he terrifies Gon and Killua with Dark Nen — for the simple reason that he wanted to play basketball with them.
Another example of his grandpa antics is his habit of sending his subordinates to solve problems within an impossible time limit, just to see if they would succeed or not (all the while chuckling to himself about how hilarious the situation is).
4 Yamamoto: Loves Tradition
As a fossil, Yamamoto has a deep fondness for Japanese traditions, as much as he hates Western Culture. He also organizes a tea ceremony session for his squad members every month (although nobody ever attends.)
Yama-jii also has some intractable rules regarding the Shinigami uniform. This is evident from his rage at finding out that Byakuya, Shunsui, and Kenpachi that their haoris are cheap, fashion statements and deadweight, respectively. The consequent outburst of fury provides unexpected comic relief, both for the characters and the audience.
3 Netero: Knows How To Make Tough Calls
Although Netero acts like a total weirdo on most occasions (leading Biscuit to call him a “twisted person), he knows exactly how to fulfill his duties to the Hunter Association. For instance, he permanently forbade Hunters from going to the Dark Continent, a place so dangerous that he escaped it by the skin of his teeth (twice.)
Most importantly, Netero was judicious in his decisions, for example, when he decided not to battle Neferpitou in order to save his strength for Meruem. In another case, he conceded that he would allow millions of humans to be killed if it helped him defeat Meruem for good, considering the he’d saving billions.
2 Yamamoto: Understands His Own Limits
The Shinigami Captain-Commander’s bankai is powerful enough to atomize any opponent within striking distance (and several without having to get anywhere near). Nevertheless, he is aware of his own destructive capabilities, preferring to finish fights as rapidly as possible.
Yamamoto has truly earned his strength: He tells Ukitake (who is in awe of his incredibly muscular stature) that he remains fit because he has never stopped his training for a single day. Further, when the Seireitei Communication journal editors asked him to provide some words for new recruits to his squad, Yama-jii had only one thing to say, “Even I am still studying.”
1 Netero: Admits The Possibility Of Being Surpassed
As the greatest Nen user in the world, it is Netero’s greatest wish to fight an opponent with all of his powers. Until Meruem, he wouldn’t have needed to use more than ten hands of his Guanyin to decimate anyone who was foolish enough to take him head on.
Netero is indeed proud of his strength, but this pride did not devolve into arrogance. This is seen when he casually brings up the fact that Gon might one day pose a threat to his own status, evidence that Netero sees and accepts the reality of power with dignity.
Which of these classic wise and powerful old men in anime should take the title of the best of the best?