Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bleach: Captain Commander Shunsui Kyoraku's Zanpakuto, Explained

Bleach is packed to the brim with overpowered characters, but there's no doubt that Shunsui Kyoraku is one of the strongest. After the previous Captain-Commander Yamamoto Genryusai falls in battle, the Central 46 unequivocally decides to make Shunsui the next leader of the Gotei 13. A shrewd tactician with a monstrous pool of Reiatsu, Shunsui demonstrates elite proficiency in standard Shinigami techniques such as Kido, Shunpo, and Zanjutsu. These assets make him more than formidable, and the deadliest weapon in his arsenal makes him nigh-unstoppable.

Shunsui Kyoraku's greatest advantage in battle is his Zanpakuto, Katen Kyokotsu. One of the very few dual-bladed weapons in Soul Society, this Zanapkuto comes with several rules and clauses. Katen Kyokotsu is just as interesting as it is robust, as its abilities mirror Shunsui's personal journey. Although teased in the Soul Society: Rescue arc, his Shikai isn't revealed until much later. Fans had been waiting to see Shunsui's Bankai for the longest time, and their hopes were more than fulfilled during the Thousand-Year Blood War arc.

Updated on May 17, 2024, by Ajay Aravind: The Bleach manga ended with the Thousand-Year Blood War arc in 2016, but the anime adaptation was only released in December 2022. Fans are excited to watch their favorite characters duke it out onscreen, especially with the third cour coming out sometime in 2024. That said, Shunsui Kyoraku is yet to reveal his full powers at this point in the anime. As such, we've updated this list with some more relevant information.

What Is Shunsui's Shikai?

Shunsui's Shikai Is Known As Katen Kyokotsu

The Shikai release command for Katen Kyokotsu (Flower-Heaven Bone of Madness) is relatively longer than other Zanpakuto commands. It reads: "The flowery winds become disturbed, the God Of Flowers sings, the heavenly winds become disturbed, the Devil of Heaven sneers." Upon utterance, Shunsui's katanas transform into dual scimitars, but with more than an aesthetic upgrade — Katen Kyokotsu's Shikai ability allows Shunsui to bring children's games to life.

Anyone in Katen Kyokotsu's area of effect upon release, including Shunsui, becomes a player in the game and is subject to its rules. Rules vary from game to game, but they are all played with the understanding that "You win, you live. You lose, you die." That said, the amount of spiritual power also plays a huge role in any battle between Shinigami. Given his towering reserves of Reiatsu, it's clear that Shunsui doesn't need anything more than his Shikai for most battles.

Katen Kyokotsu's Shikai Games, Explained

Shunsui Can Play Six Different Games Using His Shikai

Bushogoma (Wobbly Top) emulates a spinning top game that sees Shunsui Kyoraku rotate at high velocities whilst wielding his twin scimitars. This attack can deal damage as well as trap those that get caught in the high-pressure vortices created by Shunsui's rotation. Daruma San ga Koronda (Bodhidharma Falls Down) is essentially a game of red-light green-light; Shunsui designates an opponent as "it" and must travel along the path of their attack's Reiatsu to "tag" (mercilessly attack) them without being caught (viciously attacked himself).

Takaoni (Mountain Demon) boosts the attack power of the person who takes a higher geographical elevation than the other. Irooni (Color Demon) has the combatants declare a color, and both are only allowed to strike areas on each other's person that contain said color. Damage is buffed or nerfed based on how much of the declared color is on the declarer's person. This rule is a double-edged sword, as in order to deal optimal damage the declarer must choose a color that is amply present on their person, meaning that they themselves are also susceptible to heavy damage.

In Kageoni (Shadow Demon) the loser is whoever's shadow is stepped on, a game that allows Shunsui Kyoraku to deal damage by attacking through the shadow of an enemy or any shadow they are standing on. He does so by maneuvering into a pocket dimension created in the shadow he's attacking from, granting him multiple angles of approach at speeds that make it appear as though he has cloned himself. Kageokuri (Shadow Projection) creates a clone of whoever's shadow is stared at, with the clone's strength proportionate to that of the onlooker's Reiatsu.

The most dangerous aspect of Katen Kyokotsu is that Shunsui can transition between games seamlessly and without warning. Focusing on one's shadow is the only way to defend against Kageoni, but this involves staring at the shadow, the starting point for a game of Kageokuri. Therefore, one must account for the possibility that the Shunsui attacking via Kageoni could be a clone produced by Kageokuri. This is one of an incalculable number of strategies at Shunsui Kyoraku's disposal. This ability to switch at a moment's notice mirrors children's tendency to get bored easily, abandoning one game in favor of another even before finishing the first.

Understanding Shunsui's Bankai Release

He Never Uses His Bankai When His Allies Are In Range

Katen Kyokotsu Karamatsu Shinju (Flower Crazed Heaven Bone Spirit Withered Pine Love Suicide) is Shunsui Kyoraku's Bankai release. He holds Katen Kyokotsu in front of him with its blades faced down as shadows protrude from his body, while the spirit of Katen Kyokotsu embraces him. This release and its shadows distort the environment, transforming it into what Shunsui describes as a "dark", "lonely" and "hopeless" space. This distortion of space means that Shunsui must confirm that his allies are at a safe distance before activating his Bankai. Anyone caught inside the morbid zone created by Karamatsu Shinju is forcibly cast in a 4-act play alongside Katen Kyokotsu's Zanpakuto spirit.

Tameraikizu no Wakachiai (The Sharing of Pain) is the first act. Any wounds are shared between Shunsui Kyoraku and his opponent, but cannot prove fatal for either party. The second act is Zanki no Shitone (The Pillow of Shame), in which the body of Shunsui's opponent is covered in spots that cause them to bleed profusely, as though afflicted by a highly infectious disease. The third act, Dangyo no Fuchi (The Abyss) plunges both Shunsui and the opponent into an ocean of despair. This body of water is inescapable, as its surface rises endlessly and traps both parties until their respective Reiatsus are drained. Itokiribasami Chizome no Nodobue (Thread Cut Blood-Soaked Throat) is the Bankai's final act and an instant-kill technique. Shunsui sheathes his swords as a thread forms around both his finger and the throat of his opponent. Shunsui pulls to tighten the thread wrapped around his opponent's neck, beheading them.

Katen Kyokotsu Karamatsu Shinju tells the tale of a man consumed by guilt. Consumed by despair over his actions and unable to die, the man throws himself into the ocean until he is left with nothing. No longer capable of bearing the sight of her partner's deplorable state, his wife tightens a thread around his neck and kills him. Shunsui Kyoraku serves as the play's writer and narrator, with his opponent cast in the role of the man and Katen Kyokotsu's Zanpakuto spirit as the woman.

Shunsui's Shikai and the deadly duality of the games it brings to life show that he's a shrewd tactician and fierce combatant in spite of his carefree attitude. Meanwhile, Shunsui's Bankai Karamatsu Shinju's story of a man haunted by regret is one Shunsui Kyoraku lives out daily, carrying immense guilt and sorrow over the death of his brother and the execution of his sister-in-law, Nanao Ise's mother. The battle against Lille Barro, however, helped Shunsui overcome his regret. When Karamatsu Shinju fails to defeat the overpowered Sternritter, he reveals that the Ise clan's Zanpakuto might be the only option. Shunsui and Nanao ultimately work together to take Lille down, armed with the ceremonial weapon known as the Shinken Hakkyoken.

Bleach: Captain Commander Shunsui Kyoraku's Zanpakuto, Explained