Looking back at how Tite Kubo’s Bleach influenced the world of anime, along with Naruto and One Piece, one cannot help but remember the epic battles we’ve witnessed over the years. Bleach certainly had its share of amazing battles from the very start and while we’re preparing for new battles to hit the screen during the upcoming Thousand-Year Blood War series, we are going to revisit one old rivalry from the series – the one between the story’s protagonist, Ichigo Kurosaki, and one of the most intriguing characters in the whole Bleach series, the Espada Ulquiorra Cifer. In this article, we are going to tell you who the stronger of the two is.
When Ulquiorra lost to Ichigo, Ichigo accessed his Hollow powers, which was his peak at the time, and he defeated Ulquiorra. Now, with Ichigo having even more power and experience than before, he would defeat Ulquiorra with more ease. So yes, Ichigo really is stronger than Ulquiorra and the original fight was an objective representation of their skills and abilities.
The rest of this article will further elaborate on the above-given answer, as we are going to compare Ichigo Kurosaki and Ulquiorra Cifer in more detail. Through several categories, you are going to see who the stronger of the two is and why our answer is like it is, i.e., why Ichigo was ultimately able to defeat Ulquiorra when they fought.
Ichigo Kurosaki and his powers
Ichigo Kurosaki is a fictional character and the protagonist of the manga Bleach, as well as the anime adaptation of the same name. He was created by Tite Kubo and is a 17-year old high-school student who can see ghosts. After an unfortunate incident, a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki transfers her powers to him so he can save his family, after which he becomes a Soul Reaper himself.
Ichigo does not rank like Shinigami but his strength is great enough to fight on par with captain-level Shinigami. When in his Shinigami form, he already has great speed and his strength is much greater. Because Ichigo has more spiritual power than his body can handle, he is constantly leaking power. This prevents him from suppressing his spiritual power.
Ichigo’s Zanpakutō is called Zangetsu. Unlike other Shinigami, Ichigo’s Zanpakutō is always in the Shikai form. The Zanpakutō is so big because Ichigo cannot control his spiritual power. Zangetsu’s soul is a middle-aged man with sunglasses and a long cloak. He is portrayed as a wise and calm man who likes to test Ichigo in unusual ways.
Zangetsu’s Bankai is called Tensa Zangetsu. Ichigo’s Bankai causes his Zanpakutō to shrink and his uniform changes. He can also move faster and his reflex has improved. Zangetsu’s special attack is the Getsuga Tenshō, which launches an energy attack from the top of Ichigo’s sword. The soul of Tensa Zangetsu is a younger version of Zangetsu, about Ichigo’s age. He is also aggressive.
In addition to his Shinigami powers, Ichigo also has Hollow powers. After losing his first fight with Byakuya Kuchiki and losing his Shinigami powers with it, he went to train with Kisuke Urahara to regain the Shinigami powers. During that training, Ichigo also partially became a Hollow. The Hollow’s strength grows throughout the series.
Unlike Ichigo, the Hollow fights like a berserker. The Hollow disregards Ichigo’s injuries and surpasses Ichigo’s speed and strength. Ichigo has been taught to control the Hollow by the Vizards, who let him summon his Hollow powers without the Hollow taking control. After controlling the Hollow, Ichigo trains to extend the time he has to use the power. His limit is 11 seconds, but during his fight with Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, it is considerably longer.
After his fight with Aizen in Karakura city, all Ichigo’s powers have disappeared and he has become an ordinary person. But after training with Xcution, Soul Society has given him back his powers.
Ulquiorra Cifer and his powers
Ulquiorra Cifer is the Cuatro Espada of Aizen’s Arrancar army, making him the fourth most powerful Arrancar, and one of the first Espada seen along with Yammy Llargo. As the story progresses, he becomes Orihime Inoue’s kidnapper and one of Ichigo Kurosaki’s greatest rivals.
Ulquiorra is a very strong fighter. Before his final battle against Ichigo, he appears to have no trouble dealing with opponents, instead fighting with his hands in his pockets, which he only uses to block attacks or stab enemies unarmed. Only in the last fight does he finally draw his sword, with which he is also very skilled. His other abilities are listed here:
Ulquiorra can easily fire bright green Ceros from his fingertips with tremendous force. He also wields the Bala, the faster but weaker version of the Cero, which is powerful enough to severely injure weaker Shinigami. However, he prefers the stronger. He can also fire the Cero Oscuras, a black and extremely powerful Cero that resembles Ichigo’s Getsuga Tenshō. Its destructive power is great enough to nearly incapacitate Ichigo.
The Espada is incredibly strong for its physique and could even easily stop Yammy from attacking, or throw other opponents far away with half-hearted attacks. His melee skills also rival those of Ichigo in their first fight in Hueco Mundo. He tends to pierce his opponents’ chests with his hand in order to kill them, showing clear physical strength of high magnitude.
His defensive power is just as great, allowing him to parry powerful attacks with just one hand. Any form of Ichigo’s Getsuga Tenshō deals little or no damage to him. In its transformation forms, the Hierro is so strong that no normal attack seems to be able to harm it. However, in his second Hollow form, Ichigo can easily injure Ulquiorra and even rip off an arm.
According to Ulquiorra himself, his regeneration skills are even stronger than his attacking abilities. If his body is damaged, the body parts will immediately regrow, making him even harder to damage. However, this ability does not work for his internal organs or his brain. Ulquiorra possesses such a high level of Reiatsu that Aizen has forbidden him from using the Gran Rey Cero and his Resurreccion inside Las Noches.
In his Segunda Etapa, his reiatsu is completely different from regular reiatsu, regardless of the size and consistency. It disturbed Uryu Ishida, who said it felt like an ocean in the sky. Ulquiorra’s Resurrección is named Murciélago and activates with the exclamation Lock! He is also the only one of the Espada who has mastered the second stage, the Segunda Etapa.
Ulquiorra is also extremely fast, like the other Espada. In his transformed form, he seems to get even faster. In his Resurrecion and its Segunda Etapa, he overpowered Ichigo with his power and speed.
He very rarely displays his zanpakutō in combat and only when he deems his opponent worthy enough. Accordingly, his Zanjutsu skills are at a very high level, so that Ichigo initially had great difficulty keeping up with Ulquiorra. The power of a sword attack is devastating, and Ulquiorra can even block a Kuroi Getsuga with the sword. He can stab with incredible speed, and his slashes can throw opponents several meters away.
Ichigo vs. Ulquiorra: Who won?
We could, actually, give you a proper analysis of the things we have written above but that wouldn’t really do the trick when compared with what we have decided to go with. Namely, as Ichigo and Ulquiorra have, indeed, fought in the manga and the anime, we thought that it would be better for us to just recap these fights to confirm what we have said above.
When he learns of Ichigo, Ishida, and Sado’s arrival in Las Noches, he finds and challenges the shinigami to a duel. Ulquiorra proves to be able to block Ichigo’s strongest attack without taking damage. He very easily defeats Ichigo without making use of his Zanpakuto, simply with the help of a classic cero and a blow with his bare hands. He finishes off Ichigo by punching a hole in his chest at the same location as his own, again with his bare hands.
As the Battle of Winter, between the Espada and the leaders of the Gotei 13, begins, he prepares to fight Ichigo again. Ichigo goes into Vizard Mode and begins to attack Ulquiorra, who finds himself somewhat cornered by Ichigo’s attacks. He goes to the top of the Dome of Las Noches and uses his first lethal techniques.
Thoroughly beaten, Ichigo still insists that he will win no matter how powerful Ulquiorra is. The latter intends to make him see the truth in the face and shows us his second form, Resurrección Segunda Etapa. Ulquiorra destroys Ichigo’s mask again, with a simple physical attack, and uses his Cero Oscuras to pierce a hole the diameter of an arm smack in the middle of Ichigo’s chest.
With Ichigo dead, Ishida tries to engage Ulquiorra. Inoue screams for Ichigo’s help, and the latter’s corpse reacts to Orihime’s voice and transforms into a full hollow. Ulquiorra, very surprised by this brutal change and especially by the miraculous resurrection of Ichigo, cannot believe what he sees. The fight begins and Ulquiorra and the Hollow have a cero of the same power.
Ulquiorra then releases what appears to be his Ultimate attack: Lanza Del Relampago (Lightning Spear). The spear, once it hits the ground, triggers a gigantic explosion. The hollow uses a Sonido to trick Ulquiorra’s Peskisa, who is forced to throw the spear at him, however, the Hollow stops the arrow with one hand and inflicts a sword blow on Ulquiorra, who falls to the ground. The Hollow stomps on Ulquiorra’s head lying on the ground, defeated.
Ulquiorra is in very bad shape: he only has the upper part of his body left, with one arm and one wing missing. However, his head and torso remained intact. The Hollow throws the rest of Ulquiorra to the ground before making sure to finish him off completely, but Ishida stops him. Ulquiorra, despite his very poor state, takes advantage of this moment to form a Lanza Del Relampago intended to break one of the horns of the Hollow which formed the Cero and attack from behind.
The shape of the Cero is then defocused and deforms completely until it explodes in all directions. The explosion destroys Hollow’s mask and Ichigo’s face is revealed. Ichigo falls unconscious for a while, after which his body regenerates, and the hole in his chest closes. Ichigo jerks to his feet, as if waking up from a nightmare.
Ulquiorra pulls Tensa Zangetsu out of Ishida’s body and plants him in front of Ichigo asking him to end the fight once and for all. Ichigo flatly refuses, and tells him that if he wants to continue the fight, he’ll have to rip off his arm and leg just like he did to Ulquiorra, to make the fight even. However, Ulquiorra no longer has an ounce of strength and his body begins to crumble slowly. This is the end of the Cuatro Espada.
It was a truly intense fight and Ichigo won, technically. In this Hollow form, Ichigo is stronger than Ulquiorra. At this moment, Ichigo has accessed even more powers and would deal with Ulquiorra even without his Hollow form.