Bleach fans will certainly remember the first time they met Shinji Hirako, as he had an introduction that one does not easily forget. The eccentric Visored later turned out to be the former Captain of the 5th Division and one of the most powerful Shinigami in the whole series; he was even able to injure Aizen in Fake Karakura Town. But, aside from his battling skills, Shinji Hirako has been fascinating Bleach fans with both his appearance and eccentric behavior, as well as his amazing skills and powers, which have long been a topic of debate among Bleach fans. Now, Shinji Hirako, as fans will know, was reinstated as the 5th Division’s Captain and Aizen’s successor, so he participated in the battle against Ywhach and the Sternritter. And while the original manga has given us only a glimpse of true potential, the anime adaptation is set to finally reveal Shinji’s full power. In this article, we are going to focus on Shinji Hirako’s Bankai and explain why it is so unique in the world of Bleach.
Due to its specific evolution and all the notoriety that surrounds it, Shinji Hirako’s Bankai has become a major part of the Bleach lore, and because the Bankai was so special, we have decided to write an article explaining its powers and abilities to you. Hirako’s Bankai is quite specific in the world of Bleach, and it was essential for us to explain how it works, how it was activated, and why it is so special ahead of the big reveal in the anime, which was confirmed in the trailer. There will be spoilers, so you have to be careful how you approach certain parts of the article.
Shinji Hirako’s Zanpakutō: Understanding Sakanade
Being a Captain of the Gotei 13, Shinji Hirako has high Spiritual Pressure, in addition to being a Visored, which gave him additional powers and abilities. Hirako has shown himself to be insightful and analytical, being one of the few people who could see through some of Aizen’s lies, although he was also ultimately tricked.
Hirako has shown to be very skilled at using Zanjutsu, being able to hold off Mashiro with just her sealed Zanpakutō while Mashiro was under the effects of Hollowfication. Also, Hirako was able to overpower and push Grimmjow back by just using his Hollow mask and his sealed Zanpakutō. Shinji combines the best of the Shinigami and the Hollows and is thus a formidable opponent that deserves this spot. He has an amazing Bankai and is known for being one of the most formidable fighters in Soul Society, making him stand out and earning him a spot so high on our list.
Shinji has one of the most powerful illusion-type Zanpakutō in the series; its name is Sakanade. Sakanade was first shown during the collective battle against Sōsuke Aizen in Fake Karakura Town, as Shinji confronted his former lieutenant and showed us his Zanpakutō and its Shikai.
Before releasing it, Shinji comments on how Aizen’s Kyōka Suigetsu isn’t the only Zanpakutō that can control the senses. This means that Sakanade is actually a Kidō-based Zanpakutō, or, to be more precise, an illusion-subtype Kidō-based Zanpakutō. Sakanade is unleashed with the command “Collapse.”
In its Shikai form, Sakanade’s blade widens with five holes in it, and at the end of his hilt, a large ring is created, allowing Shinji to wield his Zanpakutō. He puts his hand through the ring and is probably controlling the sword with his Reiatsu since it stops spinning after he grabs the ring rather than keeping his hand inside the ring.
Apparently, he can also affect the speed of turning, since in the fight against Aizen (when he fought alone), the blade turned slower than in the fight with all (known) Vizards and the commanders against Aizen. This is also an indication that Reiatsu moves Sakanade’s blade.
Sakanade has a special ability known as Sakasama no Sekai (transl. “Upside Down World”), one of Shinji’s Zanpakutō’s well-known special abilities. Shinji’s Zanpakutō can create an illusion in which all directions are reversed. So right becomes left, top becomes bottom, front becomes back, and vice versa. In this way, the direction from which an attack comes is swapped with the viewing direction. Your own movements also act in the opposite direction. Shinji calls the illusion for the opponent the Upside Down World.
When Aizen said that Sakanade’s Shikai was just a matter of habit, Shinji replied that it was impossible to mentally reverse all directional changes in the heat of battle. However, this illusion is triggered via nasally ingested gases, as Shinji asked Aizen if he smelled anything good and said it was too late to hold his breath now.
This implies that his blade could also be categorized not as Kidō- or illusion-based Zanpakutō but rather as poison-based. Since Shinji can also use his Shikai for team attacks, it’s safe to assume that he can choose who is affected by Sakanade’s illusion or not. This is important because we cannot observe the same effect when his Bankai is questioned.
Shinji’s Bankai, Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari, explained
Most Bankai of the Gotei 13 have been introduced at one point or another. Byakuya’s was, for example, introduced early in the story, whereas Kenpachi’s Bankai was introduced just before the end of the story, but most have been shown in one moment or another. Notable exceptions include the former 5th Division Captain, Sōsuke Aizen; former 2nd Division Captain, Yoruichi Shihōin; former 7th Division Captain, Love Aikawa, and – Jūshirō Ukitake, former 13th Division Captain.
But, aside from this group, there are also two Bankai that have not been introduced in the official manga but rather in one canon light novel, and they are Shinji’s and Hisagi’s Bankai. Shinji’s Bankai is, of course, going to be the topic of this article, but allow us to give you a brief introduction before we reveal what you need to know.
As for the Bankai that have not been introduced, we don’t know why Kubo hasn’t shown us, or at least described, the Bankai of these characters, but while Yoruichi and Love are somewhat understandable (the former never fought with her sword, while the latter had a small role in the story overall), Aizen and Ukitake remain a mystery, especially since there was space to introduce both (Ukitake’s Bankai has been hinted at in the Brave Souls video game, but that is not canon). And while we do have some information about Aizen’s Bankai, Ukitake’s Bankai is a complete mystery in every aspect. But let us move on from that.
Hisagi’s Bankai is of no interest to us here, but it is interesting to observe that Hirako’s Bankai had not been shown in the original manga, especially since he did play an important role in fighting the Sternritter.
And while we initially had no idea why Shinji’s Bankai was left out, we’ve actually gotten to see it in action in the Bleach: Can’t Fear Your Own World light novel written by Ryōgo Narita, with Kubo providing illustrations, ideas, and being credited as the co-writer of the light novel; the novel was subsequently confirmed to be part of the canon, which meant that Hirako’s Bankai was also canon, even though we had not seen it in the manga. This was additionally reinforced recently.
Namely, while teasing what we can expect from the second batch of the Thousand-Year Blood War anime, Kubo revealed that there would be a new battle in the anime that he initially wanted to include in the manga but could not due to various restrictions, so the idea was there, but the battle was never shown. Fans have speculated a lot about it, but the recently-released trailer for the series seemingly confirmed that it was a battle involving Shinji. Take a look at this:
This is only part of the aforementioned trailer that focuses on Shinji. This battle was definitely not included in the original manga, and it finally confirmed that Shinji’s Bankai would appear in the anime. Whether this was the scene that Kubo referred to is unknown (seeing how he mentioned that the scene involved two characters, and there are more than two in the scene we’ve seen), but we can definitely confirm that Shinij’s Bankai, as seen in the Bleach: Can’t Fear Your Own World light novel is going to debut in the anime and that Shinji’s amazing powers are finally going to be revealed to a wider audience.
So, now that we have told you everything about the background surrounding Shinji’s Bankai, we can actually tell you what it is. Before we start, though, there are two facts we must clarify.
First of all, in most cases, the Bankai amplifies the Shikai’s basic powers. There are numerous examples, such as Byakuya Kuchiki’s Bankai, Sajin Komamura’s Bankai, Toshiro Hitsugaya’s Bankai, Mayuri Kurotsuchi’s Bankai, and others. Shinji’s Bankai is not an exception here.
Secondly, we must consider that Shinji Hirako is one of the series’ most powerful and skilled characters, which would certainly be reflected through his Bankai. In a way, the Bankai is always a reflection of the Shinigami. That is why Hirako’s personality and approach to his function are quite relevant facts that must be considered when discussing Shinji’s Bankai. Now that we’ve gone over this let us finally discuss Shinji’s Bankai.
The name of Shinji’s Bankai is Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari (transl. “Reversed Evil Eight Treasure Blockade”). It is a very specific and – in a way – unique Bankai that, as Shinji himself noted, turns everything upside down for everyone aside from him. In that aspect, it is a highly-powerful augmentation of his original Shikai abilities, which also, if you remember, turn everything upside down for the enemy. But Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari functions in a completely different way.
Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari is what you’d call 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.
It is one of the most dangerous Bankai in the Seireitei, which is why it is among the so-called forbidden Bankai (another notable example is Kyōraku’s Katen Kyōkotsu: Karamatsu Shinjū, and so was Yamamoto’s Bankai, but it could be activated for a limited amount of time only). Why are they forbidden? Well, these Bankai are forbidden because they indiscriminately target both enemies and allies and due to their large radius, they are equally dangerous to both (this is a fact that even Shinji himself has acknowledged, stating that his Bankai is extremely dangerous for his allies).
Shinji will be able to activate it because the Gotei 13 are in a state of war, but if you observe the clip, you’ll see that he is surrounded only by his enemies, which is why he can use it freely. So, what does Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari actually do?
Well, as we’ve said, it changes the perception of all those affected, but not in a spatial way – it changes their moral compass completely. If affected by Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari, a person will see all of their allies as enemies and all of their enemies as allies. This is why this Bankai is so effective when Shinji is surrounded by a large group of enemies, as shown in the scene; when we finally see him activate his Bankai, all the Quincy archers targeting him will start to kill each other, as they will start to see each other as enemies. Shinji remains the only one unaffected by the Bankai.
As you can see, Sakashima Yokoshima Happōfusagari is highly powerful and we hope we’ve shown why it is listed as a forbidden Bankai. Still, it has one major downside: it is virtually useless if Shinji is not surrounded by a group of enemies, a downside Shinji has acknowledged. Be that as it may, we cannot wait to see it in action in July!