Ichigo Kurosaki, the protagonist of the hit anime and manga series Bleach, is known for his incredible powers as a Soul Reaper. His Bankai, the ultimate form of his Zanpakuto, is particularly notable for its seemingly ever-changing appearance.
But what if we told you that Ichigo’s Bankai is not actually changing but has three distinct forms of it that he achieves throughout the series?
That’s right, Ichigo’s Bankai is not just one form but rather a triad of forms that reflect his unique heritage and power sources!
In this article, we’ll explore the three forms of Ichigo’s Bankai that we see throughout the series and what they represent, shedding light on this long-standing mystery of the series. And we’ll also talk about Ichigo’s true Bankai, which we will see in the Thousand-Year Blood War arc, which is the series’ final arc.
All 3 Forms of Ichigo’s Bankai, Explained
Ichigo’s First Bankai
Ichigo’s signature appearance in the series features him sporting a Soul Reaper uniform with tattered edges and wielding a black katana. This distinct form aligns with the first manifestation of his Bankai, which was introduced during his intense confrontation against Byakuya in the Soul Society/Rukia rescue arc.
It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for Ichigo to awaken his first Bankai. After doing some intense training, he was able to meet “old man Zangetsu,” the being who represents his power. However, it was eventually revealed that the elderly figure merely represented a fraction of Ichigo’s true capabilities and existed within him as a result of Aizen’s influence.
Despite its remarkable speed, this initial Bankai form proved to be lacking in power. Ichigo struggled to match Byakuya’s swiftness while in his Shikai state and only managed to secure victory by a narrow margin. Furthermore, this Bankai fell short in eliminating Grimmjow and proved incapable of defeating Ulquiorra.
Although the first form of Ichigo’s Bankai garnered recognition for its impressive speed, it was widely regarded as the weakest among his various Bankai transformations due to its limited firepower. Nevertheless, it served as a significant milestone in Ichigo’s journey of growth and development as a formidable Soul Reaper.
Ichigo’s Second Bankai
Ichigo, having lost his powers after employing Mugetsu, the Final Getsuga Tensho, against Aizen, sought refuge in Fullbring abilities to persist in his fight for justice and protect others.
If you got attacked by a Hollow but survived it, your child would be considered a “Fullbringer.” These children are very in-tune with souls and can tap into the powers of the Hollow that attacked their parent. Due to his mother being attacked by a Hollow while pregnant with him, Ichigo possessed the capability to activate Fullbring powers.
However, Ichigo eventually uncovered Ginjo’s true intentions. The one who had taught him about the Fullbring powers turned out to be the real culprit, seeking to steal Ichigo’s powers and launch an assault on Soul Society. Feeling the need to act quickly, Rukia and Renji, along with the captains of Gotei 13, entrusted Ichigo with some of their power.
Despite being a temporary power-up, Fullbring Ichigo remained a formidable force to be reckoned with. His proficiency in manipulating souls granted him access to Hollow powers, thereby enhancing his strength. Even in a weakened state, Ichigo displayed sufficient spiritual energy during his confrontation with Yhwach, inflicting damage and compelling him to defend himself.
Furthermore, Ichigo’s Quincy heritage gave him a significant advantage in battle. He demonstrated remarkable durability by enduring a direct strike from Yhwach’s sword, emerging with only a minor cut. The fusion of his Shinigami, Quincy, and Hollow lineage empowered him to employ various powers and techniques, making him an exceptionally versatile combatant.
In his new form, Ichigo’s Bankai sword underwent a transformation, featuring a curved design adorned with spikes. This modified configuration enhanced his ability to deal more damage through stabbing and pulling maneuvers. However, it is important to note that although this form of his Bankai possesses more power than his initial form, it is still not his strongest manifestation.
Accompanying his new form, Ichigo’s Soul Reaper uniform underwent modifications, including zigzagging cloth stripes across his chest, gloves, and a raised collar. Furthermore, his newly acquired sword nearly matched his height.
Ichigo’s Third Bankai
Ichigo’s true Bankai form, known as the third form, is the culmination of his authentic lineage and Aizen’s manipulation.
Masaki Kurosaki, Ichigo’s mother, was a pure-blood Quincy and a skilled fighter. She aided Isshin Shiba in defeating Aizen’s Hollow but could not escape the fight unscathed. The Hollow wounded Masaki, and a part of the Hollow “infected” her.
In a selfless act, Isshin relinquished his Soul Reaper powers to save her. They later married, and their son, Ichigo, inherited powers from the three major entities in the Bleach universe: Soul Reaper, Quincy, and Hollow.
Upon discovering his true lineage and Aizen’s scheme, Ichigo obtained his genuine Asauchi, a dual sword akin to those wielded by Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake. The larger blade symbolizes Ichigo’s dormant Hollow powers, previously suppressed by his Quincy abilities.
To activate his true Bankai form, Ichigo must assume a new state called the “Horn of Salvation,” which is his merged hollow form where Ichigo’s merges his Quincy powers with his Hollow powers to unleash all his latent abilities.
During this transformation, he acquires an impressive horn resembling his Vasto Lorde form when facing Ulquiorra. Ichigo’s swords seem to merge together. There’s a colossal black and white blade connected by a chain linking the hilt to the top.
Unfortunately, not much is known about Ichigo’s true Bankai form because we never got to see what it was capable of in the manga.
The only thing we know is that this third Bankai was so powerful that Yhwach, who had absorbed godlike power and held the ability to manipulate reality, promptly deemed it too dangerous to exist and shattered it even before Ichigo could use it.
We can only hope that now the story’s final arc is being animated and the lore is expanded, we get to see Ichigo’s true Bankai form in all its glory, and we can finally witness just how strong it is that it would make Yhwach fear it!
Ichigo Kurosaki’s Bankai is a testament to the versatility and creativity of Bleach’s creator, Tite Kubo. From the straightforward but powerful Tensa Zangetsu to the Fullbring-enhanced Bankai and the awe-inspiring Horn of Salvation, each form of Ichigo’s Bankai has its unique charm.
While the Tensa Zangetsu is beloved for its straightforward power, the Fullbring-enhanced Bankai is a testament to Ichigo’s determination and the versatility of the Fullbring powers. Meanwhile, the Horn of Salvation represents the culmination of Ichigo’s true lineage and the ultimate expression of his powers.
That brings us to the end of the article, where we discussed what Ichigo’s true Bankai is. After reading this article, I am sure you know about all the forms of Ichigo’s Bankai transformations, so share the article with your friends and spread the knowledge!
Also Read: Why Ichigo’s Bankai Can’t Be Stolen?