6th division Captain Byakuya Kuchiki said “Only the most experienced soul reapers (Shinigami) can perform the final stage of the zanpakuto, even in the four great noble families who are born with spirit surpassing all others only one in several generations will ever attain that level. The name of who have achieved it are etched in the history of soul society that is Bankai”
Bankai is the true strike of a soul reaper. Bankai are immensely interesting as they vary according to the soul reaper’s ability. Sometimes it provides physical strength, sometimes mental strength, and even sometimes a physical transformation as well. Bankai is the most iconic and coolest abilities in Bleach. Such transformations are the gist of the shounen genre. The fans love them. Let’s take a look at the most powerful Bankai in the entire Bleach anime and manga.
Zanka no Tachi
Wielder: Captain-Commander Shigekuni Yamamoto
The Shikai form wields intense flames into the blade, these flames are concentrated by Bankai leading the captain to eradicate everything it touches into nothingness. This can be seen as the most powerful lightsaber, a little less hot than the dead star. When activated it has the ability to go invisible unless Yamamoto wants it to be seen by anyone. It can bring back any corpse, which he has slaughtered, into existence in order to do psychological damage.
The Bankai form takes the shape of an ancient Katana severely scorched by fire. Even Retsu Unohana has herself said, “Zanka no Tachi’s flames can incinerate the entirety of the soul society if it’s out for too long”. There are different releases for different directions. The first direction is “EAST” kyokujitsujin then the “WEST” zanjitsugokui then the “SOUTH” kakajuumanoku-shidaisoujin and the last “NORTH” ketatenchikaizen. Thus, making the Zanka no Tachi the most powerful of all.
Wielder: Ichigo Kurosaki
The Bankai is pretty simple yet highly effective. The whole time Ichigo’s Bankai is incomplete, he is only able to unleash his true Bankai during the fight with Yhwach. Yhwach, the Godly villain, broke it after being activated because he believed it to be too powerful. He should be this concerned as it is the combination of Ichigo’s Quincy, hollow, and Shinigami power into one. The true Bankai is a “2 blade zanpakuto”.
The unnamed Bankai
Wielder: Captain of squad 11-Kenpachi Zaraki
Even the Shikai form has its name, Nozarashi. But the Bankai form is unnamed yet powerful enough to transform Kenpachi into a red-skinned beast. His physical transformation makes him look like Oni. This is forced into existence when Kenpachi losses his sanity. This Bankai is a giant cleaver rather than his Shikai form sword with a broken, rugged look.
Upon activation, the Bankai emits a huge torrent of vitality powerful enough to cause mass destruction. The Bankai provides Kenpachi with humongous speed and increased mental ability. The zanpakuto spirit is still there but is not visible in Bankai.
Kannonbiraki Benihime Aratame
Wielder: Kisuke Urahara
Kisuke being one of the most famous characters, revealed his Bankai in the very end as he didn’t feel like using it. This Bankai is a little whimsical. Upon activation, the Bankai manifests the zanpakuto spirit which takes the appearance of a woman. A slender yet massive woman with crimson braided hair arranged in a bun when called for renders the ability to revive anything Kisuke wants in the form of stitch patterns appearing on his face or body.
This can be seen in his fight with Askin Nakk Le Vaar when Askin’s death ring stuck him he totally lost his eyes but with this reviving power, he restructured those completely. He can use his Bankai for healing physical wounds, split open structures, etc.
Katen Kyokotsu: Karamatsu Shinjuu
Wielder: Shunsui Kyoraku
The Shikai form of kyoraku’s zanpakuto is a giant blade, in Bankai form, it takes the form of huge tendrils. He positions his zanpakuto towards the ground and unties these tendrils onto the battlefield. This artifice plays with reality, causes this depression and hopelessness. When the opponent is struck with these tendrils, he is swamped with the feeling of dejection. Tite Kubo, the creator, said that Shunsui could potentially kill Aizen in his Bankai form.
Some of these Bankai’s are not included in the anime adaptation. It is highly anticipated that bleach is returning with its “Thousand-year blood war” arc. If the turn of events takes place in our favor, we will be able to watch them in action.