The Gotei 13 are a pillar of Kubo’s Bleach. The 13 Divisions of Soul Society, whose shinigami are tasked with protecting the Seireitei, as well as balancing out the souls of the deceased, are composed of numerous intriguing and powerful characters. But, while most fans only know the organization’s recent history, it has to be said that the Gotei 13 are actually much older. And while we’ve had a glimpse of the original members back in the original manga, Tite Kubo has recently revealed the designs and, later, the names of the original Captains of the Gotei 13, who then made a cameo appearance in the anime series, thus expanding the original canon.
In this article, we are going to go back to the history of the Gotei 13. We are going to tell you how it was founded, when and who the original 13 Captains were, as well as their Divisions. Now, we have to say that we don’t know anything about them save for a couple of remarks by Yhwach and Kyoraku, respectively, so don’t expect too much information, but with such a major reveal, fans are hopeful that they might be playing a bigger role in a possible continuation of the Hell arc.
When and how were the Gotei 13 founded?
It all started with this panel:
This was the original panel sketched by Tite Kubo that appeared in the Bleach manga, showing off the original members of the Gotei 13. At the time, we only knew that Yamamoto and Unohana were part of the original group, and they were also the only ones recognizable on the panel (center and next to him, on the left, respectively). The other Captains were not generic, but they were indistinguishable silhouettes, and we knew nothing about them.
While he was talking to Yamamoto during the Quincy War, Yhwach revealed that the original Captains were “just a bunch of murderous thugs”; they were “defenders” only in name, and they enjoyed fighting more than anything else. They were brutal, had no empathy, and were even willing to sacrifice their own squad members to achieve their goals. This was indirectly confirmed by Yamamoto himself when he referred to his old self as a monster that should never return to Soul Society.
The Gotei 13 was founded by Yamamoto, the strongest Shinigami ever, to protect Soul Society and the Seireitei. Originally, Yamamoto was ruthlessly pragmatic, and the other Captains followed this; like Yhwach, they considered their subordinates to be expendable since the protection of the Seireitei was the most important thing. They, of course, changed their philosophy over the centuries, although the exact circumstances of this change remain unknown, as well as how the 11 newly-revealed Captains reacted to the change (since we know that Unohana and Yamamoto adapted to it, as well as Yamamoto’s Lieutenant, Sasakibe).
Shunsui Kyōraku, the current Captain-Commander, considers this iteration of the Gotei 13 to be the most powerful in history.
Who were the original Captains of the Gotei 13?
As we have said, Yamamoto and Unohana were, for a long time, the only two members of the original Gotei 13 known to fans. The others were just unnamed silhouettes. But, things changed in November 2022, when Tite Kubo gave us this color illustration:
Released in Japan in late November, this colored illustration showed us what the original Captains of the Gotei 13 looked like. Finally, after years of waiting, the indistinguishable silhouettes actually became real characters and we finally got to see a new piece of Bleach history. Fans, of course, knew that this meant that the Captains would be appearing in the anime, since the scene was coming up, and that actually happened. Kubo had already stated that the new anime would contain additional scenes never seen in the manga, scenes that would – of course – be canon, and that is exactly what this was. It was an expansion of the original manga canon and the fans were given a true gift by the mangaka.
Fans were sure that after seeing them in action, that their names would also be revealed with time, and that also happened, with Tite Kubo providing us with a series of individual character illustrations that revealed both the names of the original Captains, as well as the Divisions they headed. You can check the illustrations here:
Fans, of course, had some theories even before this reveal, and most of them – if not all – proved wrong. Fans actually got to see these guys in action, and that was truly amazing, knowing how important this reveal actually was. We don’t actually know, at this moment, whether these guys are going to appear in the potential Hell arc; namely, this was a major reveal for just one or two minutes of the anime series and while Kubo is known for teasing and trolling fans, so this could be just that, fans are hopeful that these characters, now that they have been revealed, will definitely make a return and that we will see them walk, talk, and battle.
This is one for the future, and we hope that Kubo will make bleach fans happy once more, but until we get some official info, we are going to work with what we have and introduce the original Captains of the Gotei 13 here.
Division 1: Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto
Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryūsai’s extensive experience, incomparable on any scale to the rest of the Bleach characters, makes him one of the most powerful characters in the series, if not the most. Sōsuke Aizen himself has recognized the superiority of Yamamoto, a Shinigami capable of facing two high-level captains at the same time and putting them on the ropes without even suffering a scratch, or of facing bare-knuckle an enemy like Wonderweiss, who had previously defeated Kensei Muguruma, despite the fact that he had released his Bankai.
The immense spiritual power that Yamamoto possesses is capable of taking her breath away and almost drowning a Lieutenant, just by looking into her eyes. The moment he deploys her energy, it can be felt at great distances as a fiery aura, charged with menace and aggressiveness, whose very presence makes experienced Shinigami such as Shunsui Kyōraku and Jūshirō Ukitake shudder.
As he could not be otherwise, Yamamoto excels in the four disciplines that Aizen distinguishes as the basic ones in the training of any Shinigami. The General Commander of the Gotei 13 is a master of the Shunpo, with which he can move at incredible speeds, as he demonstrated in the Soul Society Saga by surpassing Kyōraku and Ukitake, arriving even before them at the place where they were going to fight, and afford to sit and wait for them.
Division 2: Chika Shihōin
Chika Shihōin proves the inseparable connection between the Shihōin noble family and the Gotei 13’s Second Division. This new Captain was actually the only one that was quite obvious, as he physically resembles Yoruichi Shihōin, the most famous member of his family and the former 2nd Division Captain; they both have olive skin and golden eyes, as well as a flamboyant fashion sense. The hair color is different, but he was actually a sure guess right from the start. It is known that he was a Hakuda expert.
Division 3: Kinroku Izuhara
Kinroku Izuhara was the former Captain of the 3rd Division of the Gotei 13. He seems to be a calm and very calculated man, as well as a cold-blooded executioner, as was seen in the anime. He was an expert swordsman, but aside from that, we know absolutely nothing about him. He does give off a similar aura as Izuru Kira, although the two of them are not related in any way as far as we know; they just give off the same vibe.
Division 4: Chigiri Shijima
Chigiri Shijima, the former 4th Division Captain, doesn’t seem like much. He is slim, looks physically weak, and quite frail, but as we have seen in the anime, he left a bunch of massacred Lichtreich soldiers in a pool of blood behind him, showing just how great of a swordsman he is. Now, he was Unohana’s predecessor, as well as Kirinji’s predecessor, but it is highly unlikely that the 4th Division of Shijima’s era specialized in healing, as it wouldn’t make much sense. It was probably after his tenure that it became the Medical Division of the Gotei 13.
Division 5: Danjirō Obana
Danjirō Obana looks like your standard Shiba clan member, but he is a standalone character not connected to one of Bleach‘s most famous families. Obana is a physically powerful man with large muscles, but he was also an expert swordsman, as was seen in the anime, where he easily cut down Yhwach’s troops. He was the former 5th Division Captain and was, eventually, succeeded by Shinji Hirako.
Division 6: Furōfushi Saitō
Furōfushi Saitō was the former 6th Division Captain. She is a young woman/girl with purple hair and an eye patch, a motif seen with both Kenpachi and Kyoraku, although it is unknown whether she wears it to control her spiritual pressure, like Kenpachi, or because she lost an eye, like Kyoraku. She was shown to be an excellent swordsman and a brutal fighter, as she genuinely seemed to love the killing; some other Captains seemed to do it because it was necessary, but she actually seemed to be enjoying it fully.
It is unknown whether she has any connection to the Kuchiki clan, but at one point after her departure, her Division became the principal Division of the Kuchiki clan, as she would eventually be succeded by Gineri Kuchiki.
Division 7: Nobutsuna Shigyō
Although it is a long shot, it somewhat makes sense that Nobutsuna Shigyō is the head of the 7th Division. We know that Komamura was brought to the Gotei 13 by Yamamoto, which means that there is no tradition surrounding the anthropomorphic Captain, but Shigyō’s appearance actually fits the bestial motif associated with Division 7, as Shigyō also looks somewhat like a monster/demon; the dead animal around his neck only emphasizes that additionally. Why his skin looks like it does is unknown. It is known that he was a brutal fighter.
Division 8: Batsu’unsai Katori
Batsu’unsai Katori looks like she doesn’t belong here. She appears as a young, innocent-looking girl with glasses and a very childish face. There doesn’t seem to be anything brutal about her. Knowing how anime, and especially Bleach, work, she is probably one of the most brutal and bizarre Captains of the whole lot, exactly because she doesn’t look like one. She has a very peculiar-looking Shikai and was shown to be quite proficient with it. As the former Captain of Kyoraku’s 8th Division, she fits the meganekko trope associated with the division due to Nanao Ise and Lisa Yadomaru.
Division 9: Entetsu Kumoi
Entetsu Kumoi looks fit for Mayuri’s Division 12, but he is actually the former Captain of the 9th Division, which would eventually be led by Kensei Muguruma and Kaname Tosen. Muguruma was a powerhouse character, but both Tosen and he had a very philosophical side to them. Kumoi doesn’t look like he’s much of a philosopher, but he does look like a proper powerhouse character. Looks can be deceiving, so it’s possible that there is a side to him that his looks hide.
Division 10: Furuoki Ōtogawa
Furuoki Ōtogawa actually looks like he was the Captain of the 10th Division. These Captains were very talented but did not stand out physically and looked like regular Shinigami. Although he gives off more of a Kuchiki clan-type vibe, he is not connected to them, as far as we know at the moment. He wears a trademark straw rice hat, although not always. He was shown to be a master swordsman.
Division 11: Retsu Unohana
Although her abilities are never highlighted, as “first Kenpachi”, a title issued only to the most powerful shinigami, she is supposed to be a skilled fighter. The name Yachiru derives from the fact that she knew all the sword techniques of the shinigami and that she was able to handle any weapon. Added to this is her skill in the healing arts, which makes her the most skilled doctor in the whole Soul Society and a captain of Division 11.
She actually perfected herself in the healing art to satisfy her true and bloodthirsty nature, as opposed to and at the same time identical to that of Zaraki, i.e., to be able to cure herself continuously in order to continue fighting and savoring the battle for as long as possible.
Her Zanpakutō is called Minazuki (肉雫唼). Instead of bringing it to her waist, Unohana uses a lanyard to carry it on his shoulder, or he lets Isane Kotetsu carry it. In sealed form she looks like a normal katana and, specifically, she resembles a nodachi. When she is released, she takes the form of a giant flying manta ray, capable of carrying numerous people on her back (about a dozen, judging by her size). The power of this Shikai is to swallow the wounded allies inside her body and perhaps heal them with her gastric juices.
In reality, Zanpakuto may still have other powers. Her Bankai, Minazuki (皆尽) is revealed during the fight against Kenpachi Zaraki. Although its use is still unclear, it seems that the blade is covered with a thick dark liquid similar to blood, which literally oozes from the sword itself and which literally dissolves everything it hits as if the victim were immersed in acid.
Division 12: Uhin Zenjōji
Uhin Zenjōji is, as expected, the former 12th Division Captain. Although his appearance is very similar to that of the Division’s current Captain, Mayuri Kurotsuchi, Zenjōji seems to have been a wholly different type of character. It is now known why his skin is pale, nor why he has paint on his face, but this might just be a simple nod to Mayuri, as Kirio Hikifune and Kisuke Urahara, both former 12th Division Captains, did not have such unusual features. He is also a very large and physically imposing character, and he was so powerful that he could crush skulls with his hands.
This is wholly different from Mayuri and since we know that the laboratories were founded after Zenjōji’s tenure, it is possible that he was not a scientist at all.
Division 13: Saizō Sakahone
When Saizō Sakahone was first introduced, we were unsure where to put him as he did not fit any Division of the Gotei 13. The revelation that he was Ukitake’s predecessor came as a shock because this vile-looking old man, who was also a brutal and effective killer, had nothing to do with the gentle and caring Ukitake. Still, this might actually be a good contrast exactly because Yamamoto wanted to change the 13th Division completely.
Be that as it may, this guy seems to be something, as it was suggested that he could float around or levitate, which seems to be different from the usual Shinigami abilities. He also had a hunched back, so he must have been quite the killer if he had been so feared while having all of these disabilities.