Shunsui Kyōraku is an exceptionally powerful and intriguing character from Tite Kubo’s Bleach. Initially introduced as a laid-back character, Kyōraku proved to be one of the strongest and most reliable Gotei 13 Captains from the whole lot. Despite his attitude, Shunsui Kyōraku was regarded as one of the best Captains and this status earned him the promotion to Captain-Commander after Yamamoto’s death, despite his unwillingness to accept the function. Kyōraku also had one of the most interesting Zanpakutō in the story and, according to Ukitake, one of the most dangerous Bankai in the series. In this article, we are going to talk about his Bankai.
Having been foreshadowed during his fight with Coyote Starrk, the reveal of Kyōraku’s Bankai was a major moment for Bleach, and since that moment, as well as the Bankai, were so special, we have decided to write an article explaining its powers and abilities to you. Kyōraku’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. There will be spoilers, so you have to be careful how you approach certain parts of the article.
What is Shunsui Kyōraku’s Bankai, Katen Kyōkotsu: Karamatsu Shinjū?
Katen Kyōkotsu is the name of Shunsui Kyōraku’s Zanpakutō. His Zanpakutō is the only dual-bladed one, along with Jūshirō Ukitake’s Zanpakutō, and, after Nimaiya’s reforging, Ichigo Kurosaki’s; but, Kyōraku’s, unlike Ukitake, is dual both in its unreleased state and in its Shikai form, whereas Ukitake’s is dual only in Shikai form. As said, even in the sealed form, Kyōraku’s Zanpakutō consists of two swords: a katana and a wakizashi. The guard plate of both swords is rectangular, with rounded corners and a blue hilt.
The Zanpakutō Spirits of Katen Kyōkotsu first appeared in a filler arc, although – interestingly enough – both designs appeared later in the manga (it is unknown how much Kubo actually contributed to the designs of these Spirits in the anime, so it could be that he provided the initial designs that were used in the anime or that he used the anime designs later in the manga, which would make at least part of that arc canon, retroactively).
It turned out that Katen Kyōkotsu were two women. A slightly older woman who dresses elegantly, wears an eye patch, and also has a few bones and a skull in her hair; as Shunsui correctly recognized, this is the Spirit of his katana. The Second Spirit is an approximately 13-year-old girl who dresses almost like a ninja, wears a mask, never speaks, and fights more than the woman; the girl is Shunsui’s wakizashi.
Since Shunsui recognized them immediately, one might assume that the spirits are the true form of the Zanpakutō Spirits. Like Shunsui, the katana woman loves to drink sake, play, and relax instead of attending work. She is the only one who talks and also seems to have a certain amount of wisdom.
The Wakizashi girl tends to seem very emotionless, fights more, and loves to play with her opponent in battle. The Wakizashi girl prefers childish, reckless games such as pulling off an insect’s legs. Nevertheless, she also has a certain fondness for flowers and their blossoms.
In his duel against Starrk, Kyōraku said that he loves his Zanpakutō, but that it’s a bitch because it causes him so much trouble in Shikai form. The Shikai is released by the following command (the longest of all): “The Flowery Winds Become Disturbed, The God Of Flowers Sings, The Heavenly Winds Become Disturbed, The Devil Of Heaven Sneers.” In their released form, the swords take the form of two oversized scimitars.
Kyōraku interlaces the two blades, then draws them out before uttering the poetic command. When the release is done, Katen Kyōkotsu has transformed into two powerful curved black Chinese scimitars with silver corners. The handles and ends are the same as in the Sealed Form, but now have short red ribbons attached to the handles. Although the two swords look exactly the same in this form, Shunsui has determined that one (the wakizashi) is good for quick attacks and the other (the katana) for powerful strikes.
However, the swords were only really used in the fight against Starrk. Katen Kyōkotsu’s ability is to turn children’s games into reality, and everyone within Katen Kyōkotsu’s spiritual reach must play along. Rules are set by the swords themselves. Whoever wins stays alive; whoever loses dies. The known techniques (and games) include:
- Bushōgoma: The technique consists of Shunsui rotating his blades quickly, thereby creating a wind barrier that can be used for defensive and offensive purposes. Shunsui can trap his opponent inside that barrier, which can damage him and also disorient him.
- Takaoni: This is one of the games of Shunsui’s Shikai and, as he explained, is played so that whoever is higher up “wins.”
- Kageoni: The second game of Shunsui’s Shikai, which is played so that whoever gets their shadow stepped on, “loses.”
- Irooni: The third game, which is play so that the player calls out a color and can only cut that color from then on. If a player doesn’t have that color on them, then the damage is minimal, regardless of its actual intensity. On the other hand, if a player has a lot of said color on them, the damage is multiplied proportionally, meaning that someone wearing white robes, if the color called is “white”, will take massive damage because the damage is proportional to the quantity of the color.
- Daruma-san ga Koronda: The fourth game is actually a representation of the red-light green-light game, where one opponent is “it” and has to be chased by the other; if he sees the other player, the other player loses and dies, but if the one catching manages to catch the one who is “it” without being seen, he is the winner.
- Kageokuri: If a player stares hard enough at their shadow, they can project an image of them to a different location. The authenticity of the image depends on the user’s actual powers.
Now that we’ve explained all the basics, let us discuss the Bankai. The Bankai of Shunsui Kyōraku is called Katen Kyōkotsu: Karamatsu Shinjū. Arguably one of the most powerful Bankai out there, Shunsui only uses it as a last resort, as it also poses some risk to close allies. It is first seen in his fight with Sternritter Lille Barro. When Shunsui activates his Bankai, he holds his two swords in front of him, blade tips down, touching the ground.
Branch-like shadow arms then emerge from their own shadow and spread out in all directions. He also creates a gloomy aura in a large area around himself. Anyone within this area finds the world around them bleak, desolate, and cold. Furthermore, most feel a certain melancholy and sadness. Due to the fact that his Bankai works in a very large area, he only uses it when he is sure that all allies are far enough away. Shunsui’s Bankai consists of four “acts” that build on each other:Ichidanme: Tameraikizu no Wakachiai (Act the First: Hesitance and Apportionment of Wounds): Any injury you inflict on an opponent, you suffer instead. Conversely, the opponent also receives any wounds they intend to inflict on the user.
Nidanme: Zanki no Shitone (Act the Second: The Pillow of Shame): If you injure yourself as a result of Act the First, you will contract an incurable disease “out of remorse” about it, which will cause large black dots to form all over your body. This is based on the tale of a warrior who was full of remorse over the fact that he injured himself in battle. The embodiment of his tremendous grief turned into an incurable disease.
Sandanme: Dangyo no Fuchi (Act the Third: The Severing Abyss): Due to the remorse of Act the Second, the opponent throws himself into the “rising waters.” This means that anyone who is “sick” of remorse can no longer live with it and kills themselves. The opponent and user are trapped underwater until each reiatsu has expired.
Shime no Dan: Itokiribasami Chizome no Nodobue (Final Act: Thread-Cutting Scissors upon a Blood-Streaked Throat): The user ties the opponent’s throat with a white thread, then the user cuts the thread at the neck, severing their throat with reiatsu or even severing their entire head. The background of this technique is based on the love of a woman. “The love of a woman is extraordinarily cruel. If her husband makes a noise, she no longer pays any attention to him. Instead, the white thread of regret shines around her beautiful neck”. This act also builds on Act the Third, as only a woman’s love can save those trapped in the water.
When and how did Kyōraku activate his Bankai for the first time?
Without going into too much detail (as that will be covered in another post), we can just say that Shunsui used his Bankai against Lille Barro for the first time. To the surprise of Shinji Hirako, Shunsui Kyraku decides to act as a decoy to draw Lille’s attention. Then, to the surprise of Quincy, Shunsui appears behind Lille, successfully cutting off part of Lille’s gun, and Lille then looks at him seriously for an upcoming battle. Lille Barro had already eliminated some Shinigami, among them some lieutenants.