Usually and on a general level, the Sternritter were, more or less, straightforward characters, but some of them were special in some way or another, and the carrier of the “S” – “The Superstar” power was one of them. This issue has long been debated by fans, but after Kubo had done it in one of his Q&As, the anime has also finally confirmed who the true Sternritter “S” was and in this article, you are going to find out whether it was James or Mask De Masculine.
As was confirmed by Kubo in Q&A #185 and in the anime, James was the true holder of The Superstar, which means that James was actually the Sternritter “S.” Mask De Masculine thus exists in a similar way to the manifested Sternritter created by Gremmy Thoumeaux – he is the ideal representation of James’ superhero, so he was created as a sentient figment of James’ imagination as a result of The Superpower. This was confirmed when Renji defeated Mask, and Yhwach said: “So, James is dead. You did well. Now return.” This scene was included only in the anime, and it settled a long debate.
This article is, thus, going to be dedicated to both James and Mask De Masculine, as we are going to tell you about the relationship they have and what it actually represents in terms of the role they have in the story. The truth about the real Sternritter “S” was finally revealed, and in this article, we are going to clear everything up and answer all the questions you might have about it, which will help you fully understand everything. This article will contain many major spoilers, so be careful if you haven’t actually read the Bleach manga, as this article will reveal a lot.
Initially, it was thought that James was just an appendage, but as it turned out – James was always the real Sternritter “S”
So, the story of the Sternritter “S” is one of the more intriguing ones in Bleach, although it did not seem like one in the beginning. When Mask De Masculine was first introduced during Byakuya’s and Renji’s fight against Äs Nödt, he seemed like a dimwitted yet physically powerful Sternritter whose overall ability was not too impressive. But the second invasion actually revealed that he was exceptionally dangerous but also reckless and… well… dimwitted.
Mask De Masculine appeared in front of Ikkaku, Yumichika, and Hisagi, who easily defeated him. But soon after, Mask rose up and beat them senseless. Captains Muguruma and Otoribashi saved them, but they soon suffered the same fate due to James’ intervention.
James was enraged that the Shinigami Captain killed Mask after Kensei Muguruma appeared to have won their fight. Thanks to his “The Superstar” skills, James cheered on “Mister” and the dead Sternritter came back to life, seemingly stronger than before.
As James supports Mask, his physical abilities renew and grow. To stop James from supporting Mask during his battle with the 3rd and 9th Company Captains, Otoribashi even killed him and sliced him in two pieces, but that was not enough. James soon regains consciousness, though, and is able to give Mask another power boost, despite only his upper half being “alive.”
Mask’s special ability, The Superstar, increases his strength, endurance, and strength when he has at least one other supporter, enabling him to knock two Captain-level Shinigami out with a single blow. He develops the fortitude to face Kensei’s Bankai’s repeated direct assaults. The ability also enables him to recover from injuries; James’ cheers restore his injured eardrums, despite Mask not being able to hear anything. This actually showed us the true nature of The Superstar.
Namely, had Mask been the real Sternritter “S,” then James wouldn’t have been able to heal him with his cheers, as Mask was completely deaf, meaning that he couldn’t do anything. But, since James was the actual Sternritter “S,” he could, thus, simply imagine Mask healing, as their relationship was more symbolic than anything else. Namely, as Kubo himself stated, James was the actual carrier of The Superstar, while Mask De Masculine was just his creation, someone James considered his ideal superhero. In that aspect, whatever James imagined, regardless of the conditions, could become real, and when he would imagine Mask coming back to life stronger, he would.
When he imagined Mask defeating the “villain” Renji, he cheered him on, and despite the fact that Mask was deaf, he could hear him, because James’ mind was the most important thing here.
But, now that we know this, what kind of a character was Mask, then, in the first place? James is now, without a shadow of a doubt, fully real and not just a projection of someone’s mind, as it was initially assumed, due to the manga not addressing this issue properly. This is significant to note because Gremmy Thoumeaux, the Sternritter “V” (“The Visionary”), actually used his power to construct two Sternritter (Guenael Lee and Shaz Domino), so such characters aren’t that unusual for Bleach. James is a very significant component of Mask De Masculine’s skills, but as it turned out, the relationship went the other way around.
So, what was Mask? This is a very difficult question to answer, as he was a standalone figure, despite James being the true Sternritter “S.” There is no doubt that Mask was completely sentient as a character, which is also evidenced by the fact that he was able to kill James, stupidly believing that he would defeat Renji. But, without James to revive him, Mask was permanently destroyed as well, and Yhwach then confirmed that James died, not Mask, taking his Reishi as is usual and expected of Yhwach.
We don’t think that Mask was like Guenael Lee or Shaz Domino, the two creations of Gremmy Thoumeaux, but he does seem to be a proper manifestation of James’ powers in that aspect, but not simply a vision of his. The Superstar obviously granted James the ability to create an ideal superhero, and since James was childish (which explains Mask’s sill outfits) and once he did it, Mask became a fully sentient character, although connected to James, as James could heal him, revive him, and make him stronger.
As long as James was alive, Mask couldn’t die. But it also worked vice versa – namely, as long as Mask was alive, James couldn’t die, and despite dying, he would somehow return. The only issue here is that Mask died before James was revived, ultimately leading to both dying.
So yes, we can now finally confirm that James is the true Sternritter “S” and that this very special relationship between the two of them finally has a proper canon explanation. Although seemingly funny and relatively uninteresting, the Sternritter “S” ultimately turned out to be one of the most interesting and intriguing enigmas when the Sternritter were concerned, and we’re glad to have been able to explain everything to you now.