The 6th Division Captain, Byakuya Kuchiki, is one of the most important and popular Bleach characters in the whole series. Kubo has intentionally given him a lot of time in the plot, which is what helped Byakuya become so popular. He was consistently present in all the major arcs, both canon, and filler, and he, thus, plays a vital role in the Quincy War arc as well. But, his story in this arc did not start off well, as he lost his Bankai early in the story to Äs Nödt, the Sternritter “F”, who seemingly killed him afterward. In this article, we are going to tell you whether Byakuya Kuchiki really died in the story and what actually happened to him.
Byaukya Kuchiki had his Bankai stolen by Äs Nödt not long after the Quincy launched their invasion of Soul Society. Thanks to the Bankai Plundering ability, Byakuya was left without his Bankai and was almost killed in the subsequent duel against the Sternritter “F” with his own Bankai. He survived but was on the brink of death before being saved by the Royal Guard in the Tenchūren, although with much difficulty.
The rest of this article is going to tell you two things – you’re going to find out how and why Byakuya Kuchiki almost died during the Thousand-Year Blood War arc, as well as how he recovered and returned to the battlefield stronger than ever. As far as spoilers are concerned, they are going to be present in this article so be careful how you approach it.
Did Byakuya Kuchiki die in Bleach?
The story of how Byakuya Kuchiki almost died in Bleach brings us to the Quincy War arc and its very beginning. Yhwach launched his grand-scale invasion of Soul Society while Ichigo Kurosaki was occupied fighting Quilge Opie in Hueco Mundo. Yhwach took advantage of Ichigo’s absence. The original plan called for waiting for five days, but Yhwach is, as we know by now, a cunning villain who rarely keeps his word.
Now, as the various Sternritter engaged the Shinigami in various areas of the Sereitei, Byakuya’s 6th Division was horrified by the appearance of Äs Nödt, the Sternritter “F” – The Fear. Äs Nödt was one of the creepiest villains in the whole series and the fact that he silently slaughtered his enemies spoke for itself. He also had the ability to induce inhuman fear in his opponents, as well as take their fear away from them. Lieutenant Renji Abarai stepped in and confronted Äs Nödt just as he was about to murder some Division 6 members. The latter was then assisted by Mask De Masculine, but Captain Byakuya Kuchiki’s entrance prevented his intervention.
Byakuya quickly got rid of Masculine and went on to face Äs Nödt together with Renji. Although Byakuya was able to injure Äs Nödt, his Blut technique was still strong enough to fend off Byakusa’s and Renji’s attacks. At that point, Byakuya decided to take a risk and activate his Bankai in order to test his opponent’s powers. Namely, the Gotei 13, at the time, thought that the Quincy were only sealing their Bankai, which is something that Mayuri Kurotsuchi was testing out during the fighting, only to come to a completely different conclusion in the end.
Byakuya, as well as three other Captains throughout the Sereitei, activated their Bankai only to be faced with a horrible revelation – the Sternritter did not seal their Bankai, they were stealing them from them. Mayuri Kurotsuchi came to the same conclusion almost simultaneously, which is why he was furious with the four Captains who had already had their Bankai stolen by the Sternritter.
Byakuya was shocked to see his Bankai being stolen and although he still went on to face Äs Nödt with Renji, the two never stood a chance against the already powerful Quincy, especially without Byakuya’s Bankai. Renji wanted to use his Bankai as well, but Byakuya did not allow him to do it and tried to defeat Äs Nödt with his Shikai, but was not successful. Äs Nödt then used his ability to induce fear into Byakuya, which shocked the Captain, as he had not experienced that emotion for centuries.
As Byakuya was struggling with his inhuman fear, Äs Nödt used his Bankai against him and as Mask De Masculine kicked Renji into oblivion, Byakuya was left alone as Äs Nödt kept butchering him with his own Bankai. When Byakuya ended up in a wall, bloodied and on the brink of death, his Senbonzakura broke into pieces. As he was dying, Ichigo arrived in Soul Society and visited Byakuya, who told him the following:
“I fear I will not last much longer. As a Captain of the Gotei 13, to be unable to defeat the foul intruders who dirty the soil of Seireitei, who have brought about the deaths of many soldiers and brought sadness to those soldiers’ subordinates and families… to lose my life in defeat at the hands of such wretches brings me great shame. You, meanwhile, are a human. By all rights, you should never have become involved in this conflict. Indeed, you should never even have come to this place. Yet now, at the end of my life, I ask you to forgive me the vile hubris of making one request of you. Please… protect Soul Society.”
Byakuya was aware of the damage he had taken and just as Ichigo went to save the others, his sword fell down and completely disappeared. Later, though, it was revealed that Byakuya had barely survived but he sustained the gravest of injuries and was in a comatose state on the brink of death, being healed by Unohana. So, what happened next?
What happened to Byakuya Kuchiki after the fight with Äs Nödt?
The arrival of the Royal Guard had a big impact on the evolution of the story, but also on Byakuya’s fate specifically. Senjumaru Shutara arrived to see Byakuya, Rukia, and Renji and told Unohana that she had to take them to the Royal Guard’s Tenchūren, from where they would be taken to the Royal Palace. Although Unohana insisted that Byakuya was too weak to be transported, Senjumaru told her that if he was left there – that he would die. After that, Unohana agreed to let them go with the Royal Guard.
When they arrived in Reiōkyū, the three Shinigami were immediately taken to Tenjirō Kirinji’s headquarters, where he placed them in his “Blood Hell Pond” hot springs. The “Blood Hell Pond” had exceptional healing properties and it was the only hope of Byakuya’s survival. Renji and Rukia recovered relatively quickly, but Byakuya took the longest of any person ever, and even after the healing was complete, he was still quite weak, as he told Kirinji himself.
After recovering, he told the Royal Guard that he would take the time to recover completely and regain his former pride. He was later seen training with the Royal Guard before eventually becoming strong enough to regain his Bankai with the help of Urahara’s Shin’eiyaku. He then returned to kill Äs Nödt, which he did successfully.