As one of the former top three series from Weekly Shonen Jump, Bleach was well known for its intense battles, and its cast of powerful characters, specifically soul reapers.
With their special weapons known as Zanpakuto, Soul Reapers are constantly training and fighting to preserve the balance of both the living and spirit worlds. Over the years, the series has introduced several powerful Soul Reapers. Whether it's their latent potential, pure strength, wisdom, special abilities, or everything in between there are quite a few Soul Reapers whose power exceeds human understanding.
Here is a list of the top 10 most powerful Soul Reapers in Bleach.
10 Retsu Unhoana
As the Captain of the 4th Division, Retsu Unohana was recognized for her exceptional healing abilities. Prior to the manga’s final arc, she was always defined by her kind, yet strict personality.
However, during the final arc, it is revealed that she is not only the founder and original Captain of the 11th Division, but the “First Kenpachi” as well.
As the “First Kenpachi”, her love for battle and blood lust surpasses even Kenpachi Zaraki’s, who acknowledges that she is the first person to make him feel fear. Even though she perishes after training Kenpachi, she was still strong enough to fatally wound him several times, while instantly healing him each time.
9 Toshiro Hitsugaya
Although he may be young – by soul reaper standards at least – Toshiro Hitsugaya possesses overwhelming spirit energy as the young captain of the tenth division.
As the wielder of Hyorinmaru, the strongest ice-type Zanpakuto, Hitsugaya is able to manipulate ice and water. In some cases, he even has the power to manipulate the weather to create massive ice storms. His Bankai further increases this power while also giving him dragon appendages and wings made of ice.
He can also transform himself into an adult to become even stronger. When in this form, he can instantly flash freeze his opponents as well as negate their abilities.
8 Yoruichi Shihoin
Bearing the title of “Flash Goddess”, Yoruichi Shihoin is one of the strongest and fastest Soul Reapers in Bleach. Despite never using her Zanpakuto, she easily dispatches her opponents with nothing but her fighting skills, speed and Kido.
She is also the creator of Shunko, a hybrid technique that combines the arts of Hakuda and Kido. Yoruichi’s Shunko also takes on a lighting attribute, allowing her to use this ability in both close- and long-range combat to decimate both her enemies, as well as her surroundings.
When her full potential is unleashed, Yoruichi becomes more bestial and cat-like. In exchange, she becomes stronger and her already impressive speed reaches new heights.
7 Kisuke Urahara
As the former Captain of the 12th Division, Kisuke Urahara is a brilliant scientist and master tactician. In addition to his expertise in the art of Kido, Kisuke is also one of the best swordsmen in the series.
His Zanpakuto, Benihime, is able to produce crimson energy in its Shikai form, which he can either fire as a projectile or create barriers to defend himself. When using Bankai, Kisuke is able to restructure anything he touches. He can use this power to attack, heal or enhance himself, as well as support his allies by changing the environment to remove obstacles.
6 Kenpachi Zaraki
As the Captain of the 11th Division, Kenpachi lives for the thrill of battle. He is the most resilient Soul Reaper and can continue fighting regardless of his injuries. He is most famous for having reached the rank of Captain without awakening his Zanpakuto, relying on nothing but his overwhelming strength and spiritual energy. His power eventually evolves after he defeats Unohana and awakens his Zanpakuto – Nozorashi.
When using Shikai, Kenpachi can cut through anything from a giant meteor to even space itself. Upon unleashing Bankai, his skin turns red and his features become like that of an oni. In this form, Kenpachi’s physical power exceeds that of any other Soul Reaper.
5 Shunsui Kyoraku
Shunsui Kyoraku is the former Captain of Squad 8 and is one of the most powerful Soul Reapers in existence.
His Zanpakuto brings children’s games to life and forces anyone in its area of effect to obey its rules. When activating Bankai, his Zanpakuto physically manifests and releases a dark aura that engulfs the area around him. His Bankai then proceeds to dispatch his opponents in five different ways before ending them. While powerful, he rarely uses Bankai because it is indiscriminate and can target his allies as well.
With such power, it is no wonder that he was chosen to serve as the new Captain Commander.
4 Sosuke Aizen
Formerly the Captain of the 5th Division, Sosuke Aizen is a gifted strategist and tactician. The spiritual pressure he releases is so powerful that weaker beings will instantly die if they come near him.
He is responsible for orchestrating several key events in the series, such as Kisuke’s banishment, as well as the creation of the Vizards and Arrancar. His Zanpakutou, Kyoka Suigetsu, allows him to trap people in a state of perfect hypnosis, affecting all their senses. With this power, Aizen was able to subjugate several of the Soul Society's strongest warriors all at once.
If you think that's scary, keep in in mind that he never once used his Bankai.
3 Ichigo Kurosaki
As the protagonist of Bleach, substitute Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki is one of the biggest powerhouses of the series. As a result of his heritage, Ichigo possesses the powers of a Soul Reaper, a Quincy , as well as a Hollow. With his large reserves of spiritual energy, strong instincts, stubborn nature and his ability to adapt during a fight, Ichigo has survived through some of the most hazardous life and death situations.
Unfortunately, the full extent of his powers is never revealed. Even so, there is no denying that he was strong enough to make even deities like Yhwach nervous.
2 Ichibe Hyosube
Ichibe Hyosube, also known as “The Monk who calls the real name”, is a member of the Royal Guard tasked with protecting the Soul King.
His ability to manipulate true names gives him power over all living creatures. When using the full power of his Zanpakuto, Ichimonji, Ichibe is able to rob his opponents of their name, taking away their abilities as a result, or give them a new name which influences their level of power. For example, if he writes the word ant, his targets strength drops to that of an ant.
Even if he is killed, Ichibe can restore himself by taking a bit of someone’s power and have them say his name.
1 Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto
At the top of the list is none other than the Captain Commander of all Soul Reapers – Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto.
With his Zanpakuto, Ryujin Jakka – the oldest and most powerful fire-type Zanpakuto – Yamamoto can unleash powerful flames capable of reducing his enemies to ash. His Bankai is the very definition of a nuclear option. When activated he can cut through any defense, cover his body in flames reaching up to 15 million-degrees, summon the souls of the people he’s killed and even fire a concentrated blade of fire to wipe out his target from existence.
If used for too long, Yamamoto’s Bankai could destroy the entire Soul Society.