Ichigo Kurosaki is the protagonist of Tite Kubo’s Bleach and is, thus, one of the best-known anime characters in history. Bleach is a trademark brand in the world of anime and it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that we at Fiction Horizon keep writing about it. In this article, we are going to talk about Ichigo Kurosaki and his powers. Namely, Ichigo is a unique blend of powers and abilities in Bleach and this article is going to serve as an introduction to his powers and abilities, as we are going to explain to you whether Ichigo is a Quincy, a Hollow, or a Soul Reaper in Bleach.
Ichigo Kurosaki is primarily a human in Bleach and a Quincy, due to his mother being a pure Quincy. He is also a Substitute Soul Reaper, but since he is not a Soul yet, Ichigo cannot be a pure Soul Reaper, although he probably will be one when he actually goes to Soul Society. He also has Hollow powers, again due to his mother, but he is not a Hollow, although he was close to permanently becoming one on more than one occasion.
The rest of this article is going to focus on the three major groups of characters in Bleach, aside from the humans. We are going to tell you whether Ichigo belongs to them, i.e., whether he is a Quincy, a Hollow, or a Shinigami (Soul Reaper) in the world of Bleach. This article might contain some spoilers so be careful how you approach it.
Is Ichigo a Quincy in Bleach?
The story of who Ichigo is, is an intriguing one primarily because he, as the protagonist of Bleach, actually has a unique blend of powers that is not seen in any other characters, even if they do present a combination of certain traits. Now, Ichigo is primarily a Human, that much is known, but he is not an ordinary Human. Namely, from the very beginning of the story, we know that Ichigo is able to see and talk to ghosts; his younger sisters Karin and Yuzu are also able to do it, but to a lesser degree, although their powers do increase with time. Their father, Isshin Kurosaki, seems to be the only one who cannot see Ghosts.
But, we were in the dark for almost the whole manga. Namely, the origin of Ichigo’s powers was wrongly thought to be his father, who turned out to be a former Shinigami and the former Captain of Division 10 of the Gotei 13, where it was actually his mother who gave Ichigo his powers. This was revealed during the Quincy War Arc.
Namely, Masaki Kurosaki, Ichigo’s mother, was the last of the Kurosaki family, which was one of the few “pure” Quincy families. She was adopted into the Ishida family by Ryūken Ishida’s mother, which is why she always called Ryūken’s mother aunt from then on. During a rainy night, Masaki felt two great Reiatsu converging in the vicinity. She couldn’t sit idly by and wanted to see if she could help. Ryūken initially wanted to stop her but couldn’t. Masaki encountered the wounded Captain Isshin Shiba of the Gotei 13’s Division 10.
This was in a fight with the Hollow White. With her abilities, Masaki was unable to hit the Hollow, so she let him attack her. White bit Masaki’s shoulder and Masaki took the opportunity to kill White with an arrow. Isshin thanked his rescuer, who introduced herself as a Quincy. Both then returned to their homes but still thought of each other for days.
They would later meet after Kisuke Urahara noticed something odd about Masaki, who was actually slowly turning into a Hollow after being bitten by White. Isshin wanted Urahara to help her, but he couldn’t do it without Isshin sacrificing his powers, which the latter did without hesitation. Masaki was thus saved, but Isshin stopped being a Shinigami and went to the Human world, where he would end up marrying Masaki.
Masaki was thus a Quincy with Hollow powers and she transferred those powers to Ichigo after his birth. This is why Ichigo was able to see ghosts even before he became a Substitute Shinigami, but he did not know about his heritage so he did not know how to use his Quincy powers and abilities before the final arc.
Is Ichigo a Hollow in Bleach?
As far as Ichigo being a Hollow is concerned, the basis for that was explained in the previous section, in which we have established that Ichigo’s mother was bitten by a Hollow and almost turned into one; although healed, she retained the remnants of a Hollow’s Reishi and she passed it down to Ichigo during birth. This is how Ichigo was able to access Hollow powers in the first place. But no, he was never a Hollow, although he did come close to turning into one permanently on several occasions.
The first time when Ichigo accessed his Hollow powers was during his training with Urahara, during the Soul Society Arc. Namely, after Byakuya Kuchiki took the Shinigami powers Rukia had given Ichigo, Urahara explained to the latter that he still has his inherent powers and trained him to access them. In order to do that, Ichigo had to access his inner Hollow powers, powers he had not even been aware he had before that. During this painful process, where his Soul Chain almost ate itself, Ichigo risked being turned into a Hollow permanently, but he took the risk for Rukia’s sake.
He ultimately ended up Hollowfied, as was witnessed by the employees of Urahara’s Shop, but it was just a shell, as Ichigo returned to his normal self quickly. Still, his inner Hollow was now active (also called White Ichigo), and it constantly fought for control over Ichigo’s body, which causes him problems on more than one occasion; sure, White Ichigo gave Ichigo a power boost, but he risked his sanity and his life. When it all started spiraling downwards, Ichigo was approached by Shinji and the Vizoreds, who had gone through that same ordeal about a century earlier.
The Vizoreds were former members of the Gotei 13 that had been turned into Hollows by Aizen; these events led to their expulsion from Soul Society, but also to the banishment of Urahara and Yoruichi. The Vizoreds learned to control their Hollowfication, which gave them a significant boost in battle and they wanted Ichigo to join them so they could teach him how to control his Hollow powers as well. Before going to Hueco Mundo to save Orihime, Ichigo did – indeed – train with the Vizored and he learned to control his inner Hollow, although he risked becoming one again during the process.
His final confrontation with his inner Hollow happened in Hueco Mundo, during the final clash against Ulquiorra, when Ichigo was seemingly killed by the latter, but due to his sense of commitment to Orihime, he came back, but as a Hollow. This was actually a proper Hollow as Ichigo lost all traces of his humanity in this form and it enabled him to actually defeat Ulquiorra, one of Aizen’s most powerful Espada. Ichigo was a destructive beast in that form but was ultimately saved by Orihime.
So no, Ichigo is not a Hollow. He has Hollow powers – which also enabled him to become a Fullringer during the short Lost Agent Arc – and he almost became a Hollow twice, but the process was never completed and Ichigo never became a Hollow in Bleach.
Is Ichigo a Soul Reaper (Shinigami) in Bleach?
The final question is a rather intriguing one because it involves us making a distinction that is – nominally at least – not that clear to non-hardcore Bleach fans. Namely, everyone knows that Ichigo is a Soul Reaper – he dresses like one, he calls himself one, he does what Soul Reapers do, etc. – but what if we told you that he is not actually a Soul Reaper? Namely, if you’ve been careful enough, you’ll have noticed that Ichigo actually referred to himself as a Substitute Soul Reaper. This, although seemingly just a lexicological remark, is actually very important because it goes to show that Ichigo is actually not a Shinigami, although, at the same time, he is one. Let us explain.
As we’ve said, Ichigo could see ghosts from an early age, but he never manifested any proper powers. His Spiritual Pressure was enormous and he could even see the Shinigami, which is how he saw Rukia when she entered his room for the first time. A big Hollow then wanted to eat him and his family, so in order to save them, Rukia gave him her powers and thus turned him into a Substitute Soul Reaper. Ichigo would later lose those powers, but awakened his own Shinigami powers thanks to Urahara and would go on to be Karakura Town’s Substitute Soul Reaper in the future as well.
There is absolutely no doubt that Ichigo has all the powers of a Soul Reaper but he is not a proper one, no. He will probably become a Shinigami in the future, but at the moment – he cannot be more than a Substitute Soul Reaper. Why? Well, simply because he is alive! Namely, the Shinigami are Souls, i.e., dead people who reincarnated in Soul Society and became Shinigami there. Souls are not alive, and although they do look like the humans they were before dying and can also travel between the worlds, they are not alive.
This means that Ichigo cannot become a Soul Reaper while he is alive, at least not completely. He can be a Substitute Soul Reaper, just like Ginjō was before, but he cannot become a proper Shinigami while he is alive. Due to his immense powers, there is no doubt that he will become a Shinigami after his death, but for now – he is a Human Quincy with Hollow powers, who works as a Substitute Shinigami in the Human World.