Bleach: What Is Ukitake’s Bankai? Theories Explained!
In the Bleach universe, the Bankai is the final and complete form of the Zanpakutō; it is the culmination of his training. For the Shinigami to obtain it, it is necessary to force the spirit of the Zanpakutō to materialize. Achieving Bankai is rare, and even once obtained, it takes another ten years of minimum training to perfect its mastery in most cases. A Bankai can be extremely powerful and thus extremely dangerous, which is why they are so intriguing. But, not all Bankai have been revealed in the series so far, and Jūshirō Ukitake’s Bankai is one of them.
In this article, we will talk about what Ukitake’s Bankai could be. Namely, we know that Ukitake has mastered Bankai, that much is clear, but his Bankai has not been revealed, and as it stands, it is not going to be revealed unless Kubo decides to change things a bit. While we wait for Kubo, we are going to discuss the theoretical possibilities surrounding Ukitake’s Bankai.
Ukitake’s Zanpakutō: Understanding Sōgyo no Kotowari
Captain Jūshirō Ukitake is one of the most powerful characters in the Bleach universe. He is far stronger than most of the Captains of the 13 Divisions, themselves powerful fighters, as has been confirmed by Captain-Commander Yamamoto himself. Ukitake is one of the series’ best swordsmen and is likewise an expert in all other fields, were it not for his fragile health. He would certainly have been more in the forefront. But nevertheless, Jūshirō Ukitake was revered and respected by all the members of the Gotei 13, and his Zanpakutō, Sōgyo no Kotowari, helped him achieve that reputation. In this section, we are going to explain the nature of Ukitake’s Shikai.
Jūshirō Ukitake’s Zanpakutō is called Sōgyo no Kotowari (spelled in Kanji as 双魚理, literally meaning “Truth of Pisces”). His Zanpakutō is the only one, alongside Shunsui Kyōraku’s, that consists of two swords, but unlike Kyōraku’s Zanpakutō, Ukitake’s only becomes dual-bladed in its Shikai; unreleased, it is a single Zanpakutō blade.
Sōgyo no Kotowari is, in reality, a twin spirit in child form who made their very first appearance in a filler arc, although Ukitake didn’t recognize them right away, which probably means that this is not the true form of the Zanpakutō spirit. Because of their childlike appearance, the twins are naturally childish and play together. They both wear the same type of costume that looks like a fish. For example, the hats represent the dorsal fins of a fish. That would also fit their name.
Also, they always hold hands. This fact seems to embody the chain between the two, which also appears when Sōgyo no Kotowari’s Shikai state is released, connecting the two blades together. In the story, the spirits were on their way to First Division Headquarters along with Katen Kyōkotsu and Minazuki when we first saw them. As it turned out, Muramasa sent the two and Katen Kyōkotsu to subdue Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto as he was trying to get Ryūjin Jakka, but was unable to do so as Yamamoto sealed himself in a barrier. Since then, Sōgyo no Kotowari, Katen Kyōkotsu, and Minazuki have tried to destroy the barrier in Muramasa’s lair but failed. When they later found out that Muramasa only used them, they opposed him but were defeated.
Ukitake releases his Shikai form by reciting a poem, just like Kyōraku, saying the following verses: “All Ye Waves, Become My Shield. All Ye Thunder, Become My Blade” (Japanese: 波悉く我が盾となれ雷悉く我が刃となれ, nami kotogotoku waga tate to nare, ikazuchi kotogotoku waga yaiba to nare); Viz Media also translated it as “All Waves Rise, and Become my Shield, Lightning, Strike now, and Become my Blade.”
When released, his Zanpakutō vlade splits into two swords, with two small blades forming over the handles, which grow out of the main blades, and at the ends of the handles, a chain connects the two swords with each other, from which several small metal leaves hang. It didn’t really come into use until Ukitake intervened in Kyōraku’s fight against Coyote Starrk in Fake Karakura Town.
And while we have had the chance to glimpse into the powers of Ukitake’s sword, many of his Zanpakutō’s abilities have not been revealed, alongside many of Ukitake’s powers in general. His main ability is absorbing an enemy’s attack, such as a Cero, and redirecting it back at the opponent. The attack is amplified from the left sword by the five talismans on the chain and accelerated to the right, and fired. The attack is absorbed and guided by the talismans and fired stronger.
However, Starrk has found that Ukitake absorbs attacks rather than reflects them, meaning he can only reflect a certain number of attacks. It is unknown whether this works only on energy attacks or if it can also interact with physical attacks and other techniques, such as some Bankai (e.g., it would be interesting to see if it could counter Hitsugaya’s or Byakuya’s attacks).
Because of the verse recited during its release and its name, when the Shikai’s abilities were not yet known, it was thought that Sōgyo no Kotowari was a Water-based Elemental-type Zanpakutō, which explains why Ukitake has some water-based attacks in the older Bleach video games. However, when its powers were officially revealed, it became apparent that it was actually a general Kidō-type Zanpakutō.
On a concluding note, it thus becomes clear that Sōgyo no Kotowari is a very effective and powerful Zanpakutō that allows Ukitake to take on some of the most powerful techniques in the series and use them to his own advantage. This makes Ukitake’s Shikai effective both in terms of offense, as it allows him to send powerful counterattacks back at his opponents, and defense, as it basically makes him invulnerable to some types of attacks, as he is able to simply absorb them.
Of course, there is a limit to that, but knowing how powerful and skilled Ukitake is, we don’t think he would have too many issues. Now, this concludes the story of Sōgyo no Kotowari in this aspect, and we can now continue with the story of Ukitake’s Bankai.
Why hasn’t Ukitake’s Bankai been revealed in Bleach?
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. 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 (Shinji’s and Hisagi’s Bankai have been shown in the light novel).
Now, 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 can). And while we do have some information about Aizen’s Bankai, Ukitake’s Bankai is a complete mystery in every aspect.
And while Ukitake is certainly not the only one, Kubo not revealing his Bankai is still a mystery. As we’ve said, Yoruichi’s and Love’s somewhat make sense, and we could definitely say that Aizen’s Bankai not being revealed could be because it is overpowered. There was no way or reason to insert it elegantly, but there really was no obvious reason why Ukitake’s Bankai was never revealed. Heck, it wasn’t even referenced in any of the materials, which is strange, as even Aizen’s Bankai was referenced at one point in the light novel.
The only reason that makes sense, since even Kenpachi eventually got a Bankai, and we’ve seen both Yamamoto’s overpowered Bankai and Unohana’s true Bankai, is that Kubo had to rush the ending of the manga. He had to cut Ukitake’s Bankai from appearing. Kyōraku’s Bankai was, comparison-wise, referenced before eventually being revealed, but Ukitake’s Banakai is still a mystery. As we’ve said, it could be that Kubo wanted to include it as well and give Ukitake a big(ger) fight in the final arc.
Still, with the ending of Bleach being rushed and Kubo admitting that several ideas had to be abandoned at some point, Ukitake’s Bankai simply did not make the final cut, which is a shame. Aside from that, we don’t see any other reasonable explanation for why Ukitake’s Bankai is such a mystery.
What could Ukitake’s Bankai be?
So, now that we have told you everything about the background surrounding Ukitake’s Bankai, we can actually tell you what it could be. There are multiple theories online, but we won’t be relying on them for one specific reason. Namely, the recent revelation of the original Gotei 13 Captains, the ones Kubo introduced as silhouettes back in the original manga, sparked a lot of fan theories surrounding them, their background, and the Royal Guard. Most, if not all of them, have been proven wrong. Tite Kubo is a very specific author, and it wouldn’t surprise us if he, personally, read the theories and then wrote something completely different just to troll fans (although it’s unlikely), so each guess is usually shot in the dark.
Because of this, we won’t be concentrating on any theories related to Ukitake’s Bankai. It would not make sense at all. We will describe what we imagine Ukitake’s Bankai would look like based on what we already know about the Bankai and the entire series. Our hypothesis will be supported by the evidence we have from the franchise, and given what we know about Kubo, it’s safe to say that it’s as good as any other.
Before we explain everything, here are the facts we must consider. First of all, in most cases, the Bankai amplifies the Shikai’s basic powers. There are numerous examples, such as Shinji Hirako’s Bankai, Byakuya Kuchiki’s Bankai, Sajin Komamura’s Bankai, Toshiro Hitsugaya’s Bankai, Mayuri Kurotsuchi’s Bankai, and others.
Some are similar to the original Shikai but slightly different, such as Soi Fon’s Bankai or Rōjūrō Ōtoribashi’s Bankai. In contrast, only a few are completely different, such as Kenpachi’s Bankai or Retsu Unohana’s Bankai. This means that the Bankai usually focuses on the basic powers of the Shikai and amplifies their power, speed, and other components (plus, they’re visually cooler).
Secondly, we must consider that Jūshirō Ukitake is one of the series’ most powerful and skilled characters and that this would certainly be reflected through his Bankai. But, Jūshirō Ukitake was also the most peace-loving among the Captains and had the most rational approach to different situations. The Bankai is, in a way, always a reflection of the Shinigami. That is why Ukitake’s personality and approach to his function are quite relevant facts that must be considered when discussing Ukitake’s Bankai.
Third, Ukitake is, in many ways, a counterpart of Kyōraku. The two have been friends since the Academy. Yamamoto considers both of them to be his best pupils. They both faced their former master when defending Rukia; they were often seen discussing things and hanging out. Ukitake was the one who helped Kyōraku during his fight against Stark and so on. They are also the only two Shinigami with a dual-bladed Zanpakutō (we won’t be counting Ichigo in this category, as he only received it later on) and the only two that actually have to recite a poem to activate their Zanpakutō.
The similarities are not just numerous. They are striking, as it does seem that Ukitake and Kyōraku complement each other, as was best seen during the fight against Starrk – Kyōraku was the offensive master, powerful and skilled, whereas Ukitake was the unbreachable defensive wall that was equally strong, but completely different in nature.
Now, these are the three main facts, or sets of facts, that we have to consider before approaching the topic of Ukitake’s Bankai, as we really don’t have any precise clues from Kubo’s work to go on. Taking the first fact into account, we assume that Ukitake’s Bankai would build on his Shikai’s abilities, but it would elevate them somehow. Now, seeing that Ukitake already has a very powerful Shikai and that he is a master swordsman, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to add here. Ukitake’s Bankai would probably further enhance his defensive capabilities, but simply adding to his capacity to absorb enemy attacks wouldn’t make much sense.
Considering his pacifistic nature and the relationship with Kyōraku, we would wager that the Bankai would give him some additional abilities, but in a defensive context. Some have theorized that his blades would turn into a shield or a mirror, which would make sense, and we actually agree with the fact that Ukitake’s Bankai, if executed right, would allow him to deflect both energy-based and physical attacks (for Digimon fans, it would be similar to the abilities possessed by Mercurymon in Digimon Frontier) with ease and would serve as the ultimate defense, as well as a powerful offensive weapon.
Whether we’d actually see a literal transformation is doubtful, but the effects would remain. Also, since Ukitake doesn’t really like to fight, it could also be that his Bankai would drain the energy or the Spiritual Pressure of his opponent at the moment of impact, thus constantly weakening the opponent until they have no energy to continue fighting.
This would allow Ukitake to finish a fight quickly or event convince his opponent to stop fighting, as any impact with his Bankai could be potentially dangerous. Of course, there would be some limits to his powers, but we’re really not sure what they would be since we have nothing to go on; we don’t even know what the downsides of his Shikai are, save for the fact that he cannot absorb multiple attacks at once, but the Bankai wouldn’t probably copy just that element.
This is actually our whole theory on Ukitake’s Bankai, and it actually encompasses all the facts that we have mentioned here and unites them in one single theory. We think that Ukitake’s Bankai would probably be a strong defensive weapon that would brilliantly complement the incredibly powerful offense of Kyōraku’s Bankai since the two of them usually function as a team. It would enhance Ukitake’s abilities. Further, it would build upon his Shikai, and it would make sense as a powerful enhancement to his general abilities.
But, whether we have been correct or not is unknown, as there really are absolutely no clues or hints about Ukitake’s Bankai, and the special form we’ve seen in the Brave Souls video game is somewhat in line with our theory, but the video game form is not related to his Bankai so it’s not overly relevant. Could we see Ukitake’s Bankai?
Possibly. Kubo has already added some narrative elements to the new anime adaptation, those that he had to remove from the original manga, and with the anime definitely being a hit, there is a possibility that an originally deleted scene involving Ukitake might actually appear in the anime, but this is also pure speculation. We just hope we get some information about Ukitake’s Bankai at some point.