Jeremy enjoys anime when not working as a chemist or building manager.
What Are Bankai in Bleach?
In the world of Bleach, characters called Shinigami wield various powers with their Zanpakutō. A Zanpakutō's first evolution results in a Shikai power, while the second develops a Bankai.
Bankai are rare, usually only seen on characters of Lieutenant or Captain ranks, and fully unlocking one often takes over ten years. Yet once mastered, they result in amazing abilities, some transforming their users, others unleashing devastating attacks. But which powers reign supreme? These are the 10 best Bankai in Bleach!
10. Kenpachi's Bankai
User: Kenpachi Zaraki
Even without Bankai, Kenpachi was strong enough to become one of the Gotei 13 Captains, but he finally unlocked his unnamed power during the Quincy war. Once activated, Kenpachi basically becomes a berserker-like devil with monstrous strength.
He can even cut at range, which helps compensate for Kenpachi's melee restrictions, though his mindless rage reduces his ability to strategize.
9. Shirafude Ichimonji
User: Ichibē Hyōsube
This Bankai is powerful enough that Ichibē could supposedly have beaten the Quincy King if the King didn't have his time-reversing Almighty boost. Shirafude changes the properties of anyone Ichibē has previously hit with his ink (which comes from his Shikai) based on what Ichibē dictates.
For instance, he could name "black ant" to make his target as weak as an ant, and he can also use this to boost allies. The only downside is that it requires a previous hit from the ink, but once that's locked in, Ichibē's basically won.
8. Konjiki Ashisogi Jizō
User: Mayuri Kurotsuchi
The 12th captain of the Gotei 13, Mayuri's Bankai actually has two forms, Konjiki Ashisogi Jizō and Matai Fukuin Shōta.
The former creates a grotesque baby-like entity that releases a long-reaching (200 meters!) lethal poison that Mayuri is immune to. But if he uses his alternate Bankai, Mayuri creates a different abomination that he customizes to counter the abilities of his opponent, a great way to nullify other Shikai and Bankai.
7. Katen Kyōkotsu: Karamatsu Shinjū
User: Shunsui Kyōraku
As the new Captain-Commander, Shunsui finally revealed his Bankai in the Quincy war. He envelops a large area around him with a bleak aura. Then, the Bankai proceeds in four stages, with the first causing any wounds Shunsui or his opponent inflicts to also appear on their own body.
In the next stage, black spots develop across the opponent, causing severe blooding. Then, a massive gush of water surrounds both fighters and eventually drowns the one with less Reiatsu. Finally, Shinsui uses a white thread to pierce his enemy's deck and blow up their head. Yikes.
6. Daiguren Hyōrinmaru
User: Tōshirō Hitsugaya
Captain Hitsugaya's infamous "dragon ice" Bankai grants him two icicle wings and a tail. This is one of the most versatile Bankai; instead of providing a single insta-kill, it grants several smaller abilities, like freezing power, ranged attacks, and the ability to regenerate itself (which most Bankai can't do) using moisture in the air.
More than that, after Aizen's defeat, Hitsugaya trained and vastly improved his Bankai. Now, he can flash-freeze enormous objects at large distances and negate their powers, again bypassing other Shinigami antics.
5. Kamishini no Yari
User: Gin Ichimaru
Like Gin himself, the Kamishini no Yari is a multifaceted weapon. Using it extends Gin's blade several kilometers with impressive strength. However, as Ichigo notes, it's not the length or power that's the true threat, but the speed at which it extends. And as dangerous as the blade is, it's really just a disguise for the hidden poison contained within, which breaks down cells on the molecular level to kill its target.
Using the "Butō" stance, Gin can also rapidly extend and contract his Bankai multiple times in an instant, similar to being assaulted by dozens of swords simultaneously.
4. Senbonzakura Kageyoshi
User: Byakuya Kuchiki
Captain Byakuya wields arguably the most versatile Bankai in the series, transforming his blade into millions of smaller ones that can be controlled mentally. Byakuya uses these for both attack and defense, and they're fast and numerous enough that not even Bankai-empowered Ichigo could outmaneuver them (although he broke his way through).
Byakuya can also alter his blades in various fashions. Senkei forms them into numerous full-sized swords, Gōkei increases the number of blades to attack from every possible angle, and Shūkei: Hakuteiken condenses all the blades into one overbearing sword.
3. Kannonbiraki Benihime Aratame
User: Kisuke Urahara
Former Captain Urahara doesn't reveal his Bankai until nearly the end of the manga, but it's an impressive force. Taking the form of a giant woman, anything that Kannonbiraki touches can be restructured.
This can be used offensively to effectively cut and dissect a target, or defensively to heal a damaged body (Urahara was able to restore his sight this way). It can also increase strength, seen by restructuring Urahara's arm to become more powerful, offering an adaptable Bankai with numerous uses.
2. Tensa Zangetsu
User: Ichigo Kurosaki
Ichigo's first Bankai actually shrinks his sword, but makes it much stronger and more durable. More than that, his speed drastically increases, to the point where he was able to instantly place his blade to Byakuya's throat. Plus, unlike most Bankai, Ichigo can maintain his for extended periods of time, once using it continuously for three months.
Ichigo's second Bankai's abilities aren't explicitly stated, but make him strong enough to slice a Soul King-empowered Ywach in two, who only survived due to that pesky time-reversing Almighty ability.
1. Zanka no Tachi
User: Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto
Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13 and the strongest Shinigami, Yamamoto's Bankai condenses all the flames previously released with his Shikai into his sword. This makes it hotter than the sun and allows it to cut through anything. It's so intense that victims are evidently "reduced to nothingness" rather than burned.
Additionally, Yamamoto's own body reaches the same temperatures (a fact he often conceals), incinerating foes who touch him, and he can raise undead versions of anyone killed with his flames. In short, he's got the ultimate attack, a strong defense, and a swarm effect in one, with the only downside being a moderate time limit.
Unrevealed Bankai in Bleach
In addition to today's units, remember than some characters never revealed their Bankai, like Aizen (who got by fine with just his Shikai). And non-Shinigami often have other abilities, like the Espada's transformations or Quincy powers.
Although the main series has ended, hopefully we'll uncover more Bankai in supporting materials. But for now, as we await potential Bleach spin-offs, vote for your favorite Bankai and I'll see you at our next anime countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on September 07, 2020:
Range and versatility over raw power.
noy on September 06, 2020:
How is Byakuya's bankai stronger than Kempachi's?