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Bleach: The 5 Best Zanpakuto Reveals In the Soul Society Arc, Ranked

Many exciting stories define the shonen anime Bleach, with the Soul Society arc among the most exciting, colorful, emotionally impactful and consequential in the series. When Rukia got herself arrested and dragged back to the Soul Society to face twisted justice, Ichigo got Kisuke Urahara‘s help to storm the Soul Society and rescue his friend. That meant fighting any and all Soul Reapers who got in the way.

The Soul Society arc introduced plenty of new characters — from Kukaku Shiba to Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya and Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi — with many showing off their dazzling shikai and bankai abilities in battle against Ichigo’s team, or even against their fellow Soul Reapers. Five zanpakuto releases in this particular arc were among the most powerful and memorable.

5. Hihio Zabimaru, Renji Abarai’s Bankai

Lieutenant Renji Abarai was a longtime friend of Rukia’s. After fighting Ichigo for the second and final time, Renji finally decided to disobey Captain Byakuya’s wishes and fight for Rukia’s sake. His newfound loyalty to Rukia led him to cross blades with Byakuya himself, where Renji first used his basic shikai, Zabimaru, then unveiled his remarkable bankai, Hihio Zabimaru.

This massive bankai was like a bony snake, complete with a head that could fire ranged attacks from its mouth. Remarkably, Hihio Zabimaru can still operate even when it’s broken up into pieces, though in the end it was insufficient to defeat Byakuya. Still, Renji would use this bankai to great effect later in the story, slaying the Arrancar Ilfort Grantz with it.

4. Konjiki Ashisogi Jizo, Mayuri Kurotsuchi’s Bankai

Uryu Ishida, a Quincy archer on Ichigo’s team, ran afoul of Squad 12’s Captain and brutal scientist Mayuri Kurotsuchi. Mayuri first used his shikai, Ashisogi Jizo, to stab Uryu with its three prongs and paralyze him for dissection later. Uryu turned the tables with Ransotengai — the ability to move his body with spirit energy strings — and fired back. So Mayuri moved on to his bankai, the bizarre but deadly Konjiki Ashisogi Jizo.

It resembled a massive caterpillar with a baby’s head and arms, and could emit poison gas and produce dozens of blades from its chest. Only Uryu’s final all-or-nothing attack could defeat this bankai, but sure enough, Mayuri would use the ability again in later arcs. No Bleach fan can easily forget the sight of this strange creature.

3. Kyoka Suigetsu, Sosuke Aizen’s Shikai

This isn’t the flashiest shikai in Bleach‘s Soul Society arc, but it was certainly consequential. The traitorous Captain Sosuke Aizen had a sinister master plan that was decades in the making. It helped that he had not only two minions by his side, but also a shikai, Kyoka Suigetsu, that can hypnotize just about anyone.

Once Aizen uses his shikai, the victim will see, hear and feel anything Aizen wants them to, and the effect can last for years on end. With Kyoka Suigetsu, Aizen convinced everyone that Central 46 was up and running — even though he had slain all its members. Aizen also used this shikai to deceive and then defeat Toshiro Hitsugaya.

2. Senbonzakura Kageyoshi, Byakuya Kuchiki’s Bankai

Senbonzakura Kageyoshi is a great example of a powerful but beautiful bankai in action, requiring no gimmicks or tricks to defeat its foes. Byakuya’s shikai will dissolve his zanpakuto’s blade into sharp, petal-like weapons, while the bankai is a vastly scaled-up version of the ability.

Once Senbonzakura sinks into the ground, many large sword blades will rise from the ground in two rows, then dissolve into millions of smaller blades that can quickly overwhelm most opponents. In the rare case where such power isn’t enough, Byakuya can use senkei to trap his opponent with him inside a circular arena made of hundreds of swords. This beautiful and deadly bankai very nearly did Ichigo in, until a certain Hollow introduced itself.

1. Tensa Zangetsu, Ichigo’s Bankai

It is only natural that the Bleach hero’s bankai is the most powerful, stylish and consequential of all — even with many others using their zanpakuto powers in the Soul Society arc. Ichigo’s shikai was merely a butcher blade, but after training intensely with Yoruichi’s help, he unlocked Tensa Zangetsu, an unusual bankai that focuses its power into a long, thin black blade to boost its speed.

Ichigo moves like a blur with this bankai, and it can fire a powerful ranged attack: the Getsuga Tensho. It was absolutely thrilling when Ichigo unveiled his bankai near the story arc’s end, and Tensa Zangetsu would appear many more times in the Bleach story, getting more upgrades along the way. It all started right here, atop Sokyoku Hill.