The small and incredibly likable Yachiru Kusajihi was best known as Kenpachi’s Lieutenant and the Shinigami Women’s Association president. She was a small girl who loved Kenpachi and was always by his side to aid or cheer him on. She was one of the few characters who really understood the depth of Kenpachi’s persona in Bleach. And while most people know her as a comic relief, Yachiru is actually one of the biggest mysteries still left unanswered from Bleach, as it is still not known whether she was actually Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō the whole time or a standalone character who mysteriously disappeared. In this article, we are going to try and answer these dilemmas.
At this moment, it is impossible to tell whether Yachiru Kusajishi was Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō Spirit (Nozarashi) the whole time or a wholly separate character. Yachiru Kusajisji mysteriously disappeared at about the same time Kenpachi unlocked his Bankai, and Kenpachi later confirmed that she was indeed gone. Still, Kubo has not confirmed any of the theories so far, so it is impossible to know.
The rest of this article is going to be divided into three separate sections. The first one is going to introduce Yachiru Kusajishi and explain her disappearance; we won’t be bringing you her whole story. The second one will explore the peculiarities of Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō, while the third one will finally tell you all that we know about the main question of the article – are Yachiru and Nozarashi the same? There are going to be many spoilers in the article, so be prepared.
Who is Yachiru Kusajishi in Bleach?
Yachiru Kusajishi was the Lieutenant of the 11th Division of the Gotei 13 under Captain Kenpachi Zaraki until her mysterious disappearance. Yachiru is very childlike in many aspects, as shown by her size, activity, and mostly carefree nature. She mostly clings to Captain Zaraki Kenpachi’s left shoulder.
However, she can also be surprisingly intimidating, especially when upset. Like Kenpachi, she has no sense of direction, but since Kenpachi relies on her directions, it is always difficult for them to get to their destination without help.
Yachiru resents any kind of criticism and likes to attack the person who criticizes her. Another point that underlines her childish nature is that she likes to give people nicknames.
Yachiru also turned into a Shinigami when Kenpachi traveled to Seireitei and murdered the previous 11th Division Captain to become the present one. About Yachiru’s life before Kenpachi discovered her, nothing is known. She had no name, though, and was raised by herself in Kusajishi, the 79th Ward in North Rukongai. She most likely arrived there after passing away in the real world. She would not have survived if Kenpachi hadn’t found her and taken her.
Despite her childlike and innocent appearance, she is as bloodthirsty as Kenpachi, which is always evident, even if she doesn’t fight herself. Kenpachi, who didn’t have a name himself at the time, named her after the only person he had ever treasured.
He chose both his and her surname after the Rukongai districts they came from. Since that day, Yachiru’s entire life revolved around Kenpachi, as she told him even after his fight against Ichigo.
During the second Wandenreich invasion, Yachiru is hiding in an underground room with Isane Kotetsu, where the latter is treating injured soldiers, including the two Captains, Kensei Muguruma and Rōjūrō Ōtoribashi. Yachiru, meanwhile, has gathered supplies and beds for the wounded from the surrounding buildings, whereupon Isane says it was far too dangerous.
Shortly thereafter, the Sternritter V, Guenael Lee, appears, whom Yachiru punches in the face. The Quincy uses his ability multiple times and disappears from the consciousness of his two opponents, but Yachiru still manages to attack him out of sheer instinct.
Angered by the ineffectiveness of his powers on her, Guenael attempts an ambush, but Yachiru evades and injures Guenael in the face with her unleashed Zanpakutō, Sanpo Kenjū.
Shortly before Quincy can start his counterattack, the actual Sternritter V, Gremmy Thoumeaux appears, who summarily kills the fantasy creature Guenael he created. He easily deflects Yachiru’s attack and then uses his abilities to turn her bones into cookies, incapacitating her.
At that moment, however, Kenpachi appears, who opposes Gremmy in battle. As the argument progresses, Kenpachi manages to get the Sternritter’s attention, causing the effect on Yachiru’s bones to disappear.
At the Captain’s request, she makes her way back to Isane. When Kenpachi unleashes his Zanpakutō to stop the meteorite Gremmy created, Yachiru recalls the first time the two met. After the battle is over, she appears to have disappeared, leaving behind her shinigami uniform and Lieutenant’s badge.
Yachiru then reappears after Kenpachi suffers severe injuries while fighting Gerard Valkyrie. She asks Kenpachi why he’s down and says it’s pretty stupid of him not to have understood “it” yet: If he used her properly, he’d be able to knock down any opponent. Yachiru then seems to transmit the Bankai’s power to Kenpachi.
After that battle, she disappears once again, with Kenpachi later commenting that she’s gone.
Nozarashi: Explaining Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō
For a long time, it was thought that Kenpachi would never hear the name of his Zanpakutō, thereby being unable to access its full powers. But, during the Quincy War, Kenpachi found out the name of its Zanpakutō – Nozarashi – and used it to help the Shinigami defeat the invaders.
As it turned out, Kenpachi could not hear his Zanpakutō’s voice because of the discord between Zaraki and his blade, as noted by Zangetsu, who claimed that this was the cause of their ongoing injury. Because of the absence of harmony, Nozarashi had very little spiritual strength, which made it vulnerable to injury and resulted in a sword with many notches in its extension and noticeable wear on its edge.
Nozarashi, despite its outward look, has the ability to cut through things with ease and was an exceptionally powerful blade. Zaraki used it to cut through Ichigo’s Zanpakutō and later used it to effortlessly split a building in half by releasing his spiritual force. Later, when Kenpachi defeated Retsu Unohana in battle and unleashed his real might, he finally heard his sword’s voice.
Before Kenpachi discovered its identity, the Soul Society thought that Nozarashi constantly remained in its released state due to Zaraki’s enormous spiritual power, mostly because of the sword’s intricate design. Nozarashi has incredible attack strength in its released condition and can destroy a meteorite with a single blow. Zaraki’s power to slash has also improved, enabling him to pierce through the bodies of his adversaries and even space itself.
And while the spirit of Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō was never revealed, it seems to be tied to Yachiru, who seems to have a special connection to Kenpachi’s Zanpakuto: it should be borne in mind that she disappeared without a trace at the very moment he awakened his Shikai, and reappeared just before he gained Bankai.
Before that moment, it was generally thought that Nozarashi’s Zanpakutō Spirit appeared in the form of Yachiru Kusajshi (this is something we will discuss in the next section). In addition, the Lieutenant said that if Kenpachi would just “use” “her” (Yachiru) as intended, no one would remain that he couldn’t cut. However, the exact nature of this relationship is not yet known.
Are Yachiru and Nozarashi one and the same in Bleach?
Now that you have the complete background, we can answer the question that has been bugging Bleach fans for over a decade. Tite Kubo has, of course, not given us a definitive answer to this question, so we have to inform you that, sadly, we don’t have any official canon answer to this question, but all the evidence points to one theory being correct, despite a few discrepancies along the way.
Kubo wouldn’t leave such a plot hole in the story, so we think he enjoys fans debating and doesn’t want to reveal the answer, but the answer is almost certainly there.
As for the issue at hand, there are only two possible theories. Either Yachiru Kusajishi is a manifestation of Kenpachi’s Nozarashi, or she is not. Let us discuss the theories.
There is a lot of evidence that points to Yachiru being Nozarashi. Okay, you might argue that the names are different, but we’ve seen bigger shocks in Bleach than this. She seems to have appeared, conveniently, while Kenpachi was fighting. She had no name, and she was ultimately drawn to Kenpachi, despite him being a bloodthirsty killer; she was not afraid of him; on the contrary – she stuck to him, and he took her in and protected her.
Later, we see Yachiru follow Kenpachi wherever she goes, and although she is quite carefree and childish, she seems to be somewhat different, more serious, when Kenpachi is fighting in a serious or dangerous fight.
Now, the first part of the manga never really bothered much with Yachiru’s true nature, as she was perceived as being Kenpachi’s Lieutenant and nothing more. Sure, there were scenes that we, retrospectively, could have interpreted as being hints, but when the story was initially published, no one really suspected this.
Only during the Quincy War did this theory come into prominence, and only after Kenpachi finally heard the name of his blade. Zangetsu had remarked that Kenpachi was in discord with his sword, which would make sense in Yachiru’s case, as he perceived her as a baby girl he needed to protect and not the true source of his powers.
A manifested Zanpakutō Spirit is nothing unusual, even if we disregard the anime-only arc, and these tend to take on different shapes and sizes; just remember Renji’s and Ichigo’s Zanpakutō Spirits.
This would mean that Yachiru being such a manifestation, certainly wouldn’t be strange or impossible. She was with Kenpachi the whole time, and she cared for him and cheered him on, wanting him to become more powerful along the way.
When Kenpachi activated his Shikai, Yachiru suddenly disappeared, leaving only her uniform and badge. It was thought that it was the end for her, but when Gerard Valkyrie knocked down Kenpachi, she seemed to briefly appear once again.
Namely, at that very moment, Nozarashi manifested itself in front of Kenpachi in the form of none other than Yachiru Kusajishi. This might just be a coincidence, as Zanpakutō Spirits can manifest in different forms, but this seems too far-fetched and too big of a coincidence to be true.
Namely, we’re not aware of the fact that Zanpakutō Spirits can change their shape however they want, which means that Nozarashi couldn’t have chosen to appear as Yachiru on that one occasion simply because it deemed it best at the moment.
This either means that Nozarashi really does look like Yachiru, which would mean – in the case that Nozarashi and Yachiru are not the same characters – that there are two identical characters in the series, which wouldn’t really make much sense knowing the lore of Kubo’s canon works, or that Nozarashi and Yachiru are one and the same, which makes a lot more sense when you consider all the facts.
Still, there is a possibility that Yachiru and Nozarashi are not the same people. This would make sense from the point of view in which absolutely no hits had been given to the contrary during Yachiru’s initial appearances, but it would cause a lot of narrative issues and plot holes.
One of the facts that proponents of this theory keep stressing is the fact that Yachiru has her own Zanpakutō that is completely different from Kenpachi’s, and that she has her own Shikai, also completely different from Kenpachi’s and that is something we haven’t seen in a Zanpakutō Spirit before.
This can be explained by the fact that Yachiru’s Shikai is not a real Shikai but rather just a power she has. This, of course, has not been confirmed or denied by Kubo, so we cannot know for certain, but it could be a possible explanation.
The issue with the theory that Yachiru and Nozarashi are not the same is that it creates a massive plot hole in which Yachiru simply vanishing has absolutely no explanation whatsoever; it also doesn’t make sense from a plot-wise perspective. Also, this wouldn’t explain why Yachiru appeared again right before Kenpachi activated his Bankai and why she said what she said then. It also wouldn’t account for Nozarashi and Yachiru looking exactly the same.
And this is why we think that Yachiru was, from the beginning, a manifestation of Kenpachi’s Zanpakutō. You have to understand that Kenpachi named Yachiru because he did not know her name, just like he did not know the name of his Zanpakutō.
When he actually heard Nozarashi calling out to him, Yachiru, as a manifestation, lost her purpose, and she returned to the sword and became one with it. She appeared later to give Kenpachi the power to activate his Bankai. All of this makes perfect sense and is lore friendly in the sense that we have seen such and similar plot elements throughout the story.
Still, until Kubo confirms it or gives a different explanation, we can only speculate, but we think we’re not far from the truth with our theory.
Did Kenpachi know that Yachiru was Nozarashi?
The last interesting question related to the relationship between Kenpachi, Yachiru, and his Zanpakuto is whether Kenpachi knew or not Yachiru’s real identity. As we’ve said, when Yachiru first appeared as the personification of Kenpachi’s sword, she was a nameless baby whom Kenpachi had to name. At that point, it is obvious he was not aware of who Yachiru was, but he knew nothing about the Zanpakuto at the time – he was simply a killer who stole a sword from a dead man.
Later, as their bond grew, Yachiru was always there for Kenpachi. She helped him and encouraged him to be better.
And while Kenpachi undoubtedly grew fonder of Yachiru, and he trusted her more than one would expect from a guy like him, it did not seem like he knew anything about her.
Although Yachiru hinted that there was more to her throughout the story, Kenpachi did not get these hints and simply lamented how he was sorry that he did not know the name of his blade, which would significantly increase his battle skills.
After his training with Unohana, Kenpachi finally heard the voice and, with it, the name of his Zanpakuto. At that moment, Yachiru disappeared. And while Kenpachi did seem like he understood that there was a relationship between her disappearance and him finding out the name of his Zanpakuto, he still wanted to go look for her and ordered his Division to find Yachiru as a priority, even though the Seireitei was in a state of war.
Also, when he saved her from Gremmy, he behaved normally, and after she disappeared afterward (which was not long after Kenpachi activated his Shikai for the first time), he was quite confused, despite being only slightly suspicious.
When Yachiru appeared later in the Wahrwelt, Kenpachi was confused as to how she got there because she was not with them, which once again confirmed that Kenpachi did not know who Yachiru really was. She then told him that she had a new power for him, his Bankai, which he activated soon after, and with that, Yachiru Kusajishi seemingly disappeared forever, although she, as far as the running theory is concerned, just merged with Kenpachi’s blade and became what she actually was the whole time – his Zanpakuto.
So no, we don’t think Kenpachi ever knew about Yachiru’s real identity. It is possible that he suspected something or that he sensed something, but on a conscious level, he was not aware that she was a manifestation of his Zanpakuto, and we’re not certain that he realized that even later. Yachiru was and remains an important part of Kenpachi’s story, but for him, she will always remain the pink-haired baby girl he took care of while she was there.