Bleach: What’s The Deal With Ichigo's Final Zanpakuto? (2024)

The following contains manga spoilers for the Thousand-Year Blood War arc.

Bleach has retained its popularity for over 20 years, a rare feat for any anime or manga. Millions of fans worldwide enjoyed Ichigo Kurosaki's adventurous journey for 686 chapters. Like a stereotypical Shonen protagonist, Ichigo becomes stronger and stronger as the series evolves. He originally acquires Shinigami abilities after Rukia stabs him with her blade, but Ichigo's complicated genetic history makes his powers rather unpredictable. Ichigo also has trouble conversing with his Zanpakuto spirit for the longest time, only discovering Zangetsu's true nature during the Thousand-Year Blood War.

Nimaiya Oetsu helps Ichigo reforge his single-bladed Zanpakuto into a dual set-up, making the hero one of the most powerful characters in Bleach. Ultimately, a sizeable fraction of the fandom was left confused by the manga's ending. Ichigo uses his original Shikai to defeat Yhwach, which makes no sense because it's supposed to be the weakest version of Zangetsu. Although fans love the cyclical representation of Ichigo's evolution, some Bleach mysteries have never been solved. That said, the TYBW arc's anime adaptation has been adding certain narratives that weren't present in the manga.

RELATED: Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki's Powers, Explained

Zangetsu's Origins Were Foreshadowed In The First Arc

Bleach: What’s The Deal With Ichigo's Final Zanpakuto? (1)

Rukia grants Ichigo a share of her Reiryoku reserve in the first manga chapter as well as anime episode, allowing him to defeat a Hollow and save his sister. At this point, Ichigo's Zanpakuto takes the form of an oversized blade with no active powers. While he does get considerably stronger, he's no match for the Shinigami captains in Bleach. Byakuya Kuchiki slices through Ichigo's as yet unnamed Zanpakuto and leaves him to die. Urahara subsequently attempts to transform Ichigo into a Shinigami using a process known as Encroachment, which is when Ichigo develops both his Shikai and his Hollow mask for the first time. As shown later, the rebellious Hollow is supposed to be "True" Zangetsu. Meanwhile, the events of Chapter 63 lead fans to mistakenly believe that Quincy Zangetsu is Ichigo's Zanpakuto spirit.

After Byakuya takes Rukia back home, Ichigo successfully breaks into Soul Society in the hopes of saving her from certain execution. Quincy Zangetsu returns during his fight with Kenpachi, helping Ichigo defeat the overpowered captain. "True" Zangetsu, also known as Hollow Ichigo, appears when Ichigo battles Byakuya atop Sokyoku Hill. Although Ichigo's Bankai helps him counter Byakuya's attacks, this newfound ability just isn't enough. Hollow Ichigo seizes control of his wielder's body and nearly eviscerates the Shinigami captain, leaving both opponents confused at this unexpected development. Further, Hollow Ichigo refuses to tell Ichigo the truth about Quincy Zangetsu, who's revealed to be an aspect of Yhwach in Bleach's concluding arc.


Ichigo's "True" Zangetsu Doesn't Reflect The Whole Picture

Bleach: What’s The Deal With Ichigo's Final Zanpakuto? (2)

The fact that Ichigo manages to defeat a major antagonist like Sosuke Aizen without even gaining access to his dual Zanpakuto is a testament to his overwhelming strength. That said, he does utilize a rare technique known as Jinzen to merge with Zangetsu, effectively creating a one-time only technique known as Mugetsu, or Final Getsuga Tenshou. Ichigo promptly loses all his Shinigami powers and spends the next 17 months living as an ordinary human, the longest time-skip in Bleach chronology. He then meets a group of mysterious individuals called Fullbringers, whose leader Ginjou promises to help Ichigo retrieve his lost powers. This obviously doesn't go as planned for the hero, but he still becomes a Shinigami because Rukia stabs him with a special Reiatsu blade.

Unfortunately, the First Wandenreich Invasion doesn't bode well for Ichigo. Haschwalth, Yhwach's "other half" effortlessly cuts Zangetsu's Bankai in half, mirroring the outcome of Byakuya's first fight with Ichigo. Since a broken Bankai can never be fixed, Ichigo travels to the Royal Realm with the Zero Squad. Here, Nimaiya Oetsu puts him through a series of tests to determine his worth. After passing them, Ichigo gets to hold his "True" Zangetsu, a double Zanpakuto with two distinct swords. They each reflect the Quincy and Hollow aspects of his soul, allowing Ichigo to be in perfect harmony with Zangetsu, but this is not the Zangetsu that saves the day in Chapter 684.

RELATED: How The Thousand-Year Blood War Arc Fixes Bleach's Biggest Problem

Ichigo's True Zangetsu Has Always Been His Original Shikai

Bleach: What’s The Deal With Ichigo's Final Zanpakuto? (3)

Most Shonen anime protagonists invariably become the strongest combatants in their respective worlds. Furthermore, their ultimate forms are required to defeat the main villains, as evidenced by Yu Yu Hakusho's Yusuke Urameshi, My Hero Academia's Deku, and Gon Freecss in Hunter x Hunter. All these heroes would have never won without attaining the maximum power level possible. And yet, Yhwach casually destroys Ichigo's nigh-invincible Bankai with a single touch. Although Ichigo has his Bankai repaired by Tsukishima and Orihime, Yhwach literally becomes the Almighty after absorbing the Soul King.

Defeating an opponent who can both see through time and choose specific timelines is naturally going to be an uphill task. Aizen and Renji lend their assistance, but it takes Ishida's perfectly timed arrowhead of Still Silver to pause Yhwach's omnipotence for a brief moment. As Ichigo lunges at the villain, Yhwach gleefully tries to shatter his new Bankai once again. To everybody's shock, Zangetsu deteriorates to reveal Ichigo's first Shikai. Yhwach's memory of Haschwalth's warning implies that the Zangetsu in Ichigo's hands is real. On the other hand, fans still don't know how Ichigo's original Shikai could have been hidden inside his latest Bankai. In any case, Ichigo proceeds to bisect Yhwach and bring Bleach to an end.

Ichigo Kurosaki still has Zangetsu in the Echoing Jaws of Hell, a one-shot manga chapter that takes place approximately twelve years after Yhwach's defeat. He's strong enough to evade Szayelaporro Granz's attacks, so it's not like Ichigo has lost his powers. However, the dual Zanpakuto aren't in the picture anymore. Fans can clearly see him holding his iconic Shikai while fighting the dead Espada at the gates of Hell. This might mean that Ichigo's True Zangetsu has always been his original Shikai from the Soul Society arc. Whether he can use Bankai or not seems irrelevant since mangaka Tite Kubo may not actually expand the one-shot into a new arc. Fans can only hope that the anime adaptation of the Thousand-Year Blood War arc will explain exactly what happened to Zangetsu in Ichigo's final battle.

  • Anime
  • Bleach (2004)

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Bleach: What’s The Deal With Ichigo's Final Zanpakuto? (2024)


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