One of the classic “Big Three” of Shonen is Tite Kubo’s hit animated series Bleach. Though sometimes overshadowed by Naruto and One Piece, this series features some of the fans’ favorite-ever battles and characters, such as Captain Byakuya Kuchiki and Ulquiorra and Grimmjow.
Who’s the best fighter around? There are plenty to choose from, and Byakuya Kuchiki and Ulquiorra stand out as some of the toughest, most flexible fighters on their respective side of the war. Byakuya is a nobleman and a Soul Reaper, sworn to uphold the Kuchiki family honor and Captain of Squad 6. Ulquiorra Schiffer (also spelled Cifer) is the Quatro Espada and the right-hand man of Sosuke Aizen. All things considered, which of them is the more fearsome fighter, and why?
10 Byakuya: Riku Jokoro
Byakuya Kuchiki can use a wide variety of kido spells. While not a true kido master like Kisuke Urahara or Hachigen Ushoda, Byakuya can efficiently use some mid-tier spells without their incantations, and easily blend them into his combat style like a pro.
Pictured is Riku Jokoro, a non-damaging kido spell that restrains its target with six rods of gold-white light. It’s possible to break out, but most opponents are trapped for a few precious seconds. This gives the caster the perfect target.
9 Ulquiorra: Advanced Pesquisa
What’s a “pesquisa,” anyway? The hollows and arrancars have a Spanish naming convention, and “pesquisa” is Spanish for “research.” More specifically, this ability allows an arrancar to sense the location, strength, and nature of any other entity’s spiritual power and pressure.
Some arrancars can do this better than others, and Ulquiorra can read anyone like a book. He can track down a target with ease, and know exactly how powerful they are and thus adjust accordingly. No one can hide from his senses.
8 Byakuya: Byaku Rai
This is the other mainstay of Byakuya Kuchiki’s kido arsenal: the high-damage spell known as Byaku Rai (“white lightning”). As opposed to Riku Jokoro, this spell can blast a hole right through his opponent, as Ichigo found out the hard way!
Byaku Rai emits a thin but powerful jet of lightning from the caster’s fingertip, and we saw this in action when Byakuya punctured Ichigo during their fateful duel on Sogyoku Hill. Not many people can take a hit from that and keep standing.
7 Ulquiorra: Hierro
How did Ulquiorra’s clothes get all ragged like that? He took a few hits from Ichigo during a battle, but the funny thing is, we don’t see any scratches or cuts on Ulquiorra’s skin. There is a reason for that: the hierro ability.
Spanish for “iron,” hierro describes how all arrancars have tough, armor-like skin to protect them from damage (to an extent). While the quinta Espada Nnoitora Gilga has the toughest hierro, Ulquiorra’s is also advanced. Even a direct slash from Tensa Zangetsu only resulted in a glorified papercut.
6 Byakuya: Utsusemi
This is Byakuya Kuchiki’s haori robe, but why is it floating there all alone? During his battle with the septima Espada Zommari Rurueaux, Byakuya actually found himself outmaneuvered, and Zommari impaled him with his zanpakuto!
Not so fast. Borrowing an idea from Yoruichi, Byakuya slipped out and allowed his coat to take the blow instead, leaving his own body unharmed. It’s a neat trick, and though it’s only usable once per battle, it can give Byakuya the edge.
5 Ulquiorra: Two Releases
All arrancars have a release form when they activate the full power of their zanpakuto. They return to their original hollow bodies, and some look like animals while others look like… well… things. Ulquiorra gains some bat-like features when he releases his zanpakuto, Murcielago (“bat”).
Ulquiorra gains bat wings and the ability to create high-powered spears in his released form, giving Ichigo a serious challenge. But wait, there’s more. Ulquiorra can release again, and assume a slender form with a long tail and some scary features all over his body. In this form (which even Aizen hasn’t seen before), Ulquiorra is truly unstoppable.
4 Byakuya: Bankai
With a few odd exceptions like Kenpachi, all Captains can perform bankai, though some are more experienced with this technique than others. Byakuya, fortunately, is well-acquainted with his bankai and can comfortably use it in any situation.
Its name is Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, and it forms many large blades that extend from the ground, which then dissolve into billions of bladed petals that can devastate an opponent. Byakuya used a technique called gokei (“throat scene”) with it, and pummeled Zommari with one strike.
3 Ulquiorra: Cero Oscuras
All hollows and arrancars can fire cero (“zero”) blasts from their hands or mouths, powerful cones of destructive energy. Grimmjow was generous enough to demonstrate an upgraded version called Gran Rey Cero, but there is another cero type to consider: Cero Oscuras.
Ulquiorra is the only Espada we’ve seen using this devastating technique, and its power is impressive. He used it during his first release, and it takes the form of a massive, black cero that obliterated a fully-masked Ichigo with impunity. We’ve never seen anything like it before!
2 Byakuya: Shukei: Hakuteiken
Did Byakuya just get a new bankai? Not exactly. A number of opponents have witnessed the regular form of Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, with its hurricane of cherry blossoms, but fewer have seen this bonus ability.
Translating as “endscape: white imperial sword,” Byakuya will only use this ability against the most powerful of foes, and it abandons all defense in favor of a single, concentrated attack that can obliterate just about anyone. If Byakuya aims this thing at you, you’re finished!
1 Ulquiorra: Regeneration
Ulquiorra stands out from the other Espadas not only because he has two release forms, but also because he can rapidly heal his wounds. In fact, he can regenerate severed limbs without too much trouble, though losing internal organs is a different matter.
He has this power at the expense of extra strength, and we don’t blame him. People often get limbs hacked off in Bleach, and rapidly regrowing an arm or a leg can keep you in the battle for much longer.
Who's the best fighter in Bleach? There are plenty to choose from, and Byakuya Kuchiki and Ulquiorra stand out as some of the best.