With the return of Bleach after a painfully long hiatus, fans are reflecting on the anime's strongest characters.
There was a time when the Big Three reigned supreme on Shonen Jump, the three mangas illustrating the best aspects of the genre in one way or another. Although One Piece , Naruto and Bleach are still three of the most popular mangas in history, the last two series have already reached their respective conclusions.
Due to fan complaints about Bleach's declining quality, TV Tokyo decided to "cancel" the series before the thousand-year blood war arc could be animated. By the time of its unhappy conclusion, several characters had already shown their impressive strength. Now, with the anime getting a well-deserved adaptation after so long, it's important to take a closer look at some of Bleach's strongest characters.
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6/ Shunsui Kyoraku
Gotei 13 is left rudderless after Yhwach kills Yamamoto, forcing Central 46 to appoint a new captain-commander. They select Shunsui Kyoraku, highlighting the latter's incredible Reiatsu and centuries of managerial experience. He reluctantly accepts his new role and instantly begins preparing for the second invasion of the Wandenreich.
When Shunsui's Bankai fails to harm Lille Barro, Nanao Ise takes charge and defeats the near-divine Sternritter. Shunsui pays tribute to his deceased best friend some ten years after the destruction of Yhwach, where he honors Ukitake for his bravery before walking away.
5/ Kenpachi Zaraki
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Zaraki usually needs nothing more than his innate brute strength and unrivalled reiryoku to win his fights. That said, he only gains full access to his Zanpakuto after defeating Unohana Retsu in a battle to the death. Zaraki's already incomprehensible power is considerably increased when Nozarashi is freed.
A single blow from Zaraki's Shikai obliterates a falling meteor, while his Bankai shatters Valkyrie's shield before bifurcating the seemingly invulnerable villain. Mangaka Tite Kubo described Zaraki Kenpachi as the "bloodthirsty sword demon", an allusion to his Oni-like Bankai appearance.
4/ Sosuke Aizen
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Aizen is one of the most memorable villains in Shonen history. His devastating one-liners have become part of the pop-cultural consciousness, as evidenced by this eternally hilarious meme. Despite his undisputed popularity, Aizen is desperate to destabilize the delicate three-way balance between Soul Society, Hueco Mundo and the human world.
Concepts like honor, decency and empathy apparently don't apply to Aizen. The problem, however, is that Aizen has the power to execute his nightmarish vision. He has single-handedly defeated several Gotei 13 captains and Vizards, not to mention slaughtering his own subordinates in cold blood.
3/ Ichigo Kurosaki
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Ichigo is blessed with a complicated cocktail of powers - his diverse stock includes Ceros, Fullbrings, Blut Vene, Shikai and Bankai, as well as his iconic Hollow mask. As a stereotypical Shonen protagonist, there's no limit to Ichigo's strength. On the contrary, he continually acquires new abilities in each Bleach arc.
Although Mugetsu may be Ichigo's ultimate form, this specific ability disintegrates after a single use. He gains absolute control over his Zanpakuto in the Bloody War of a Thousand Years arc, but still fails to destroy Yhwach with raw power alone.
2/ Ichibei Hyosube
As de facto leader of the Zero Squad, Ichibei Hyosube possesses an immeasurable level of reiatsu. His powers are based on nomenclature - he can manipulate people, objects and even abstract concepts by changing their names. Ichibei casts a variety of esoteric spells and techniques in his duel with Yhwach, including Senri Tsutensho and Futen Taisatsuryo.
His overpowered Shin'uchi, Shirafude Ichimonji, would probably have defeated Yhwach had the villain not recovered his Almighty. Ichibei is presumably indestructible too, given that he restores his broken body by stealing "some of [Ichigo's] powers" .
Yhwach's Almighty is capable of twisting the future, effectively streamlining the flow of time in a way that benefits him. That said, the Bleach fandom doesn't know how Captain-Commander Yamamoto Genryusai managed to defeat Yhwach if the latter was using his Almighty at the time.
In addition to his offensive and defensive abilities, Yhwach can steal the powers, experience and knowledge of others simply by touching them. Unfortunately, this latest villain becomes omnipotent by assimilating the Soul King. Aizen's Gorytenmetsu, a level 99 Hado spell, doesn't just scratch Yhwach. He is unquestionably Bleach's strongest character.
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