Everyone needs a good leader, and in the world of anime, there are many expert teachers, leaders, and mentors to nurture a hero. Even villains are sometimes apprenticed to a master. In the world of Bleach, the Soul Society is kept safe under the watchful eye of the Gotei 13, led by the thirteen Captains. These Soul Reapers are several cuts above the rest in every regard.
The office of Captain is not one to take lightly, and not just anyone can claim this esteemed rank. But while the Captains are quite prominent and flashy, newcomers to Bleach may not know all the finer details of this rank. What are 10 essential details about these powerful heroes?
10 They can be promoted to Squad Zero
Captain Shunsui Kyoraku, pictured, was the first Bleach character to hint at the elite Squad Zero. The Court Guard Squads as we know that they run from one to thirteen, so what is a Squad Zero supposed to be like? It's shrouded in mystery for a long time, but we do learn that a Captain who makes a historic contribution to the Soul Society may be elevated permanently to this Squad. Later, we meet Squad Zero, which is made up of just a few Captain-level Soul Reapers. And just in time; the Wandenreich is waging war with the Gotei 13!
9 They started out as brutes
A millennium ago, Genrusai Yamamoto founded the Captains, but they were not like the benign protectors we see today. According to second-hand sources, those original thirteen Captains were total thugs, always enforcing their will at swordpoint. We don't see much of those days, but we do have two surviving members of those original 13: Retsu Unohana, and Yamamoto himself. Eventually, Retsu unveils herself as really being Yachiru Unohana, former Captain of Squad 11... and a total monster!
8 Haori robes
Each Captain wears a particular badge of office: their clothes. Over their black Soul Reaper outfits, the Captains also wear a white haori robe, and they come in two styles. Some of these robes have sleeves, and some do not. Each robe also has a diamond on the back with the kanji for that Squad's number.
It would seem that these robes are expensive, difficult to make, and highly esteemed, since Yamamoto was furious when Byakuya, Kenpachi, and Shunsui lost theirs during the battle with the arrancars. Byakuya thought that haori robes were an unsightly hassle anyway.
7 The Captains May Customize their outfits
For the most part, the Captains are just like other Soul Reapers, in that wear uniforms for duty. And like their subordinates, the Captains sometimes modify their outfits for battle, or just for looks. Sajin Komamura, pictured, wears armored gloves, shoulder pads, and tough boots, and for a time, he also wore a helmet. Byakuya wears a scarf, Shunsui Kyoraku wears a pink, flowery robe over haori, and Kaname Tosen also wore boots rather than straw sandals and socks.
6 Each Captain is like a major fighting force
It has always been clear that the Captains are the elite warriors of the Soul Society, but Sosuke Aizen really put it into perspective when he invaded Karakura Town. In his own words, each Captain of the Gotei 13 is equal to a "major fighting force," and eliminating just one from a battle makes a huge difference.
This is why Aizen worked hard to trap four Captains in Hueco Mundo before he attacked Karakura Town, facing only six Captains there.
5 Head Captain
Even the Captains need leadership, and this duty falls to the Head Captain. Up until the Quincy attack, that Head Captain had always been Yamamoto, himself the Captain of Squad 1. Once he falls in battle, Shunsui Kyoraku assumes that mantle, being both the Head Captain and the commander of Squad 1. Based on this, it seems that Squad 1's Captain is always the Head Captain as well. Now, Squad 8 will need its own new Captain to fill Kyoraku's shoes...
4 They aren't replaced often
Even though the Captains are always thrust into battle, they are not replaced often. In the Turn Back the Pendulum Arc, Shunsui and the others remark how strange it is that new Captains are being appointed so often. According to him, only four Captains among them at the time had held that office for more than a century.
But the story of Bleach is a bloody one, and Captains are replaced quite quickly. Aizen, Tosen, and Gin all defect and meet their end, so several former Captains among the Visoreds assume this office once again.
3 They can't defeat a vasto lorde
With all their power, do the Captains have anything to fear? The answer is yes. Both Captains and Lieutenants can defeat low-level hollows with ease, and even a Gillian is only a nuisance. But what about the Vasto Lordes, the highest class of Menos Grande? That's where things get scary. A single Vasto Lorde is a being of such power, not even a typical Captain can defeat them! Fortunately, very few such hollows exist, and according to Toshiro Hitsugaya, no more than ten are out there. But if Aizen were to assemble enough under his command, the Gotei 13 would face its doom. At the very least, Halibel Tier is definitely a Vasto Lorde, and based on their power, Stark, Barragan, and Ulquiorra are probably Vasto Lordes as well.
2 Entrance Exam
The thirteen Captains are a pretty exclusive club, but not completely isolated from the world. In fact, any Soul Reaper may take tests to qualify as a new Captain if there is an open slot. The exact details of this procedure are not made clear, but most likely, the candidate should demonstrate knowledge of Soul Reaper lore, perform advanced kido, and have leadership qualities (not to mention sheer combat power!). But there's another way: defeat the current Captain of a Squad. Kenpachi Zaraki took this route, and killed the rather lazy former Captain of Squad 11.
1 Bankai and Shikai
A Captain is a leader and commander, but also a front line fighter. None of them are paper generals; they can and will confront evil in person and draw blood! Without exception, all Captains must at least have mastered the shikai stage of their Zanpakuto, and nearly all of them can perform bankai as well. Years of training are needed to wield bankai correctly, and this, combined with kido and shunpo, make the Captains many steps above even their Lieutenants, let alone other Soul Reapers. Most bankai seen in Bleach belong to Captains, from Senbonzakura Kageyoshi to Daiguren Hyorinmaru to Konjiki Ashisogi Jizo.