In the Bleach universe, the Bankai is the final and complete form of the Zanpakutō. The power of an individual Bankai varies from Zanpakutō to another and from the user. This is why there is a notable number of extremely powerful Bankai, some of which have even been forbidden.
The concept of a forbidden or banned Bankai has only been mentioned and never truly elaborated, but it would signify a Bankai so strong or with such specific powers that it would, ultimately, become a threat to the Soul Society itself or the user’s allies. The Central 46 issues these bans, and while the procedure has not been explained, and neither have the criteria, and there is one list of forbidden (banned) Bankai, or at least those whose activation is either forbidden, restricted, or discouraged. Usually, a Bankai can always be activated – no known Bankai cannot be activated under any circumstances – but sometimes it cannot be activated for too long, in a certain place, or around certain people. In this article, we are going to explain the forbidden Bankai.
There are four known Bankai that could be classified as forbidden
1. Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto’s Zanka no Tachi
Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto was the First Division’s captain and the Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13. He was also the founder of the Gotei 13 and was confirmed to be the strongest Shinigami born in more than 2,000 years.
He was the leader of the Gotei 13 for more than 1,000 years until his demise in the fight against Yhwach, when he was tricked and ultimately killed. His Zanpakutō was called Ryūjin Jakka, and in its sealed form, it looked like a normal katana kept hidden inside the old Shinigami’s walking stick. It is a fire-based Zanpakutō and the strongest of its kind.
Yamamoto’s Bankai has been mentioned as being extremely dangerous on multiple occasions, and we finally saw it during the first invasion of the Wandenreich when he used it to kill the fake Yhwach with it. His Bankai is called Zanka no Tachi, and through this, the flames are concentrated in the blade, which appears as if it were burned and ruined by the fire, reaching temperatures of 15,000,000 degrees.
From the moment of activation, the whole surrounding environment is affected by a drought condition; moreover, from the commander’s thoughts, one can sense that even his own body would be in danger if the release were to continue for a long time.
The Zanka no Tachi has four distinct techniques, each associated with a cardinal direction. They are:
- Zanka no Tachi, Higashi: Kyokujitsujin is the technique where all of Ryūjin Jakka’s flames are concentrated on the blade’s edge. According to Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, it simply destroys everything that comes in contact with it, which is easy to believe since he just completely dissolved a large area with a single blow.
- Zanka no Tachi, Nishi: Zanjitsu Gokui is arguably Yamamoto’s Bankai’s most dangerous technique. It is invisible until he wants someone to see it. His body is engulfed in flames, reaching temperatures of up to 15,000,000°C, making it impossible for anyone to even touch him. Yamamoto compares it to him and his sword being clothed in the sun’s flames. Likely, this technique is also the reason for the great drought.
- Zanka no Tachi, Minami: Kaka Jūmanokushi Daisōjin can be used only after Yamamoto recites an incantation. After reciting it, armed skeletons appear and support Yamamoto in battle. The skeletons are all Yamamoto’s enemies killed with Ryūjin Jakka so far. These attack Yamamoto’s opponents until their bodies turn to ashes.
- Zanka no Tachi, Kita: Tenchi Kaijin is Zanka no Tachi’s final technique through which Yamamoto concentrates all of his Bankai’s powers into one single cut, easily cutting through the opponent.
And while Yamamoto’s Bankai wasn’t technically restricted or banned, it was rarely used. Captain Unohana hypothesized that Zanka no Tachi’s power was so great that if left active for too long, it could set the whole Soul Society ablaze. It completely drained all moisture from the air, and knowing how Yamamoto’s power was truly amazing, we can conclude that this Bankai was restricted in terms of time, as it had a limit during which it could be active before causing complete destruction.
2. Shunsui Kyoraku’s Katen Kyokotsu: Karamatsu Shinjo
Shunsui Kyoraku succeeded Yamamoto as the Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13, being the Captain of the 8th Division before that; this shows just how powerful he was and how respected he was among the Central 46. He was one of the most powerful Shinigami ever, and even Yamamoto considered him quite strong since he (and Ukitake) were his best pupils. His sword is called Katen Kyōkotsu and is dual-bladed, containing two separate spirits that manifest their powers through games.
The Bankai of Shunsui Kyōraku is called Katen Kyōkotsu: Karamatsu Shinjū. Arguably one of the most powerful Bankai out there, Shunsui only uses it as a last resort, as it also poses some risk to close allies. It is first seen in his fight with Sternritter Lille Barro. When Shunsui activates his Bankai, he holds his two swords in front of him, blade tips down, touching the ground. Like Yamamoto’s, it consists of several elements called “acts”:
- Ichidanme: Tameraikizu no Wakachiai: Any injury you inflict on an opponent, you suffer instead. Conversely, the opponent also receives any wounds they intend to inflict on the user.
- Nidanme: Zanki no Shitone: If you injure yourself due to Act the First, you will contract an incurable disease “out of remorse” about it, which will cause large black dots to form all over your body.
- Sandanme: Dangyo no Fuchi: Due to the remorse of Nidanme, the opponent throws himself into the “rising waters.” This means anyone who is “sick” of remorse can no longer live with it and kill themselves. The opponent and user are trapped underwater until each Reiatsu has expired.
- Shime no Dan: Itokiribasami Chizome no Nodobue: The user ties the opponent’s throat with a white thread, then the user cuts the thread at the neck, severing their throat with Reiatsu or even severing their entire head.
And while Kyoraku’s Bankai also wasn’t really forbidden per se, he was discouraged from using it with allies nearby (Ukitake mentioned that when they fought Starrk) because the Bankai is active in a large area and indiscriminately targets both foes and allies.
Kyoraku was aware of this, which is why he used it only when there were no allies around him. So, yes, this Bankai was restricted because of its spatial effects and because it indiscriminately targeted both foes and allies.
3. Shinji Hirako’s Sakashima Yokoshima Happofusagari
Shinji Hirako is the current Captain of the 5th Division after he was reinstated there following Aizen’s defeat; he was the Captain of the 5th Division before his Hollowfication. He is an exceptionally powerful Shinigami and a Visored, although it seems he has stopped using his Hollow powers after being reinstated as Captain.
His blade is called Sakanade and is an illusion-based Zanpakuto that changes all directions and confuses the opponent, rendering him unable to fight.
His Bankai is called Sakashima Yokoshima Happofusagari, and it is actually a wide-area Bankai, meaning its effects are visible on those inside a certain radius, with the user himself excluded. The user is protected from the Bankai’s dangerous effects by a large flower construct, whose petals close up and protect Shinji from the effects of the Bankai.
What does it do? Well, it completely changes the reality of those afflicted, meaning that their allies become enemies and vice versa. Those affected cannot do anything about it and begin attacking their allies, which is why this Bankai is so effective in a one-against-many fight but also useless in a one-on-one fight.
Shinji Hirako himself said that he was forbidden to ever activate it in the Seireitei because, like Kyoraku’s Bankai, it indiscriminately targeted both allies and foes within the radius of the Bankai. In order to not cause Shinigami to kill each other, Shinji was not allowed to activate his Bankai in the Seireitei, but he still did it after he was sure that there were no allies next to him when he was fighting Yhwach’s Soldaten.
4. Kenpachi Kuruyashiki’s Gagaku Kairo
Kenpachi Kuruyashiki was the former Captain of the 11th Division and the 7th Kenpachi, according to the story Bleach: Spirits Are Forever With You; although not written by Kubo himself, this story can be considered to be canon, as Kubo himself provided illustrations for it.
He was a very powerful Captain, but was ultimately defeated by Soya Azashiro. His Zanpakuto was called Gagaku Kairō and consisted of him summoning several special creatures that consisted solely of a gigantic, ravenous mouth; in that aspect, it was similar to Unohana’s blade, as it manifested living beings.
His Bankai had the same name, and when activated, it would summon just one exceptionally large creature that was so ravenous that it would eat everything around it except Kuruyashiki, both animate and inanimate. It was also so powerful that Soya Azashiro believed that he would have lost against Kuruyashiki had he activated his Bankai; also, whenever he would activate it, he would be unable to use his powers for six months.
Because his Bankai had the potential to destroy the Seireitei and massacre the Shinigami, Kuruyashiki was explicitly forbidden by the Central 46 to use his Bankai within the walls of the Seireitei.