The death of Bleach‘s Captain-Commander Yamamoto was both an unexpected and shocking turn of events. And while it did make sense from a plot-wise perspective, the death of Yamamoto created a huge hole in the Soul Society that had to be filled. Namely, his death vacated both the positions of the Captain of the 1st Division and the Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13. It was ultimately the Central 46 that picked Yamamoto’s successor and they opted for Shunsui Kyōraku, the Captain of the 8th Division. In this article, we are going to explain why Kyōraku was picked as Yamamoto’s successor.
Shunsui Kyōraku was picked as Yamamoto’s successor because he was the ideal candidate. He was Yamamoto’s former pupil and was one of the most skilled and powerful Captains in the Gotei 13. He was also healthy and was able to handle the stress of the position, despite his relaxed nature. He also had the authority necessary for the position and was trustworthy enough to be chosen as Yamamoto’s successor.
The rest of this article is going to elaborate further on the answer we have given you while focusing on the character of Shunsui Kyōraku. Now, this is going to be a story about him and his abilities, which is going to give you a detailed insight into why Central 46 picked him out of the remaining Captains. There are going to be some spoilers in this article, so be cautious about how you approach it.
How did Shunsui Kyōraku become the Captain-Commander?
When the Wandenreich attacked Soul Society, Shunsui was one of the first to confront the enemy. After hearing about the Sternritted being able to steal the Shinigami’s Bankai, he says they can usually rely on Mayuri Kurotsuchi’s expertise. But considering that there are no opponents that can be defeated without Bankai, sooner or later someone had to be sacrificed.
Without answering, his opponent, Robert Accurtone, approaches him and draws his Spiritual Weapon, a pistol, and shoots off Shunsui’s hat. He then appears behind him, activates his Quincy: Vollständig, and hits Shunsui’s right eye. He distances himself a little and admits that his opponent surprised him.
Later, when he feels Yamamoto’s reiatsu moving around the battlefield, he tells the Sternritter that it feels like Yamamoto is scolding him because he has problems with his opponent and he didn’t raise him as a coward. Shunsui injures Quincy with an attack, to which Quincy replies that it’s understandable that Shunsui’s fighting spirit has returned, but Shunsui is wrong because his boss would defeat Yamamoto, and that they weren’t the only ones who gained strength because their respective leaders were about to clash.
Shunsui replies that such logic doesn’t work with Yamamoto, whereupon a huge explosion can be seen in the distance, which surprises the Sternritter. Later, when Shunsui’s lip starts bleeding for no reason, he notices that Yamamoto activated his Bankai, Zanka no Tachi. After he realized that Yamamoto had, indeed, been defeated, Shunsui was startled and wanted to rush to him, giving his opponent a chance to hit him with a few more shots.
After Yamamoto’s death, the attackers from the Wandenreich retreated. After the battle, the Captains mourn the loss of their Captain-Commander and there is even a fight when Shunsui suddenly intervenes and calms everyone down and says that they have to face the tragedy that has befallen them head-on. He explains that Yamamoto would have smacked them all if he saw them like this and that their primary duty is not to mourn the loss of the deceased, but to ensure Soul Society’s defense. Later, he appeared when the Royal Guard arrived to greet them.
As Ichigo, Rukia, Renji, and Byakuya were taken to the realm of the Soul King, the Seireitei started working on rebuilding itself. Yamamoto’s death left two important vacancies – the Gotei 13 was without a Captain-Commander, while the 1st Division was without a Captain and a Lieutenant, as both Yamamoto and Sasakibe were dead. The Central 46 jumped in and they decided to pick Kyōraku as Yamamoto’s successor, which wasn’t something that Kyōraku wanted, although he did accept it.
He then goes to the Central Chamber of the 46 and persuades them to let Kenpachi Zaraki learn more fighting techniques, which they initially vote against as he was already extremely strong without training. Shunsui then suggests that the first “Kenpachi” take over Zaraki’s tutelage and calls for Retsu Unohana. He would continue to lead the Gotei 13 throughout the final arc and remained in that position even later, as shown in the Hell arc.
Why was Kyōraku chosen as Yamamoto’s successor?
Knowing what transpired after Yamamoto passed away helps us to understand why Kyraku was picked as Yamamoto’s successor above the other Captains. But first, some background information. Shunsui Kyōraku is the second son of the illustrious, aristocratic Kyōraku family, which has a long history of producing martial artists. His teacher, Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, told him that he was exceptionally clever for his age, but despite coming from such a great and ancient family, he was reluctant to practice and learn and led an unpredictable life.
He was consequently forced to attend the Shinigami Academy. There he met Jūshirō Ukitake, a fellow Captain and best friend. He, Jūshirō, and Retsu Unohana were the first Shinigami to achieve Captaincy status through the Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto-founded academy. Additionally, Yamamoto personally trained him.
Shunsui, Jūshirō, Retsu, and Yamamoto themselves are the oldest captains of the Gotei 13, having been in office for around 310 years. In retrospect, this was one of the primary reasons why Kyōraku was one of the main candidates to fill Yamamoto’s position. Now, this wasn’t an easy task as Yamamoto was basically irreplaceable, both because of his power and his experience. This is why Central 46 needed to choose the one Captain who was closest to the idea that Yamamoto embodied.
Now, the only three Captains who fit this description were Kyōraku, Ukitake, and Unohana, as all of them served under Yamamoto for centuries. The younger Captains were immediately eliminated because they did not have the necessary experience, nor the authority that came with it (e.g. Byakuya and Kenpachi were often seen competing with each other, Mayuri was a loner whom everyone avoided if possible, three of the Captains were actually Visored, etc.). The former three did, with Unohana being the oldest among them (she was also the first ever Captain of the 11th Division of the Gotei 13), and that is why the successor had to be chosen among them. Now, why was Shunsui the best candidate?
When compared to Unohana, the two were on a similar power level and Unohana was a more skilled healer than Kyōraku. On top of that, Unohana was both feared and respected by all the other Captains, which means that she had both the power and the authority to succeed Yamamoto. So why not Unohana? She was the oldest, the most skilled one, and she was very strong, so why not her? Well, Kubo never really told us about the debate among the Central 46, but we assume that Unohana was not chosen because of her past.
Namely, before joining the Gotei 13, Unohana was known as Yachiru Unohana, the 1st Kenpachi. She was Soul Society’s most powerful and dangerous criminal before being persuaded by Yamamoto to join his newly-founded organization. And while she was undoubtedly fiercely loyal to the Gotei 13, the Central 46 probably considered her history when they decided not to pick her.
As far as Ukitake is concerned, this decision was probably based on a completely different fact. Namely, Ukitake was well-respected among the other Captains, probably even more than Kyōraku, because he was more serious, whereas Kyōraku was often perceived as being lazy. He was also on the same power level as Kyōraku and had the necessary authority; he also shared the same history as Kyōraku, as the two of them were best friends during their days at the Shinigami Academy. So, why not Ukitake?
Well, this is probably due to Ukitake’s disease. Namely, Ukitake was an exceptionally powerful Captain, but due to his lung disease, which he had contracted as a child and survived solely thanks to Mimihagi, he had a potential problem. His disease would incapacitate him from time to time, as was seen during his fight against Metastacia or when Ichigo and his friends first came to Soul Society (Ukitake was sick and resting while all of that happened and would appear only later to try to save Rukia). This disease would have made him incapable of fulfilling his duties from time to time and since the Captain-Commander had to be on guard all the time, Ukitake was also rejected as a potential candidate.
And that is where Kyōraku came in. He was one of the strongest Captains in the Gotei 13, with his skills probably being closest to Yamamoto’s. He knew Yamamoto quite well and was, like Ukitake, considered to be a prodigy by the former Captain-Commander; he was also his pupil for some time. Kyōraku also had the necessary experience, as he had faced numerous powerful opponents over the years, including Coyote Starrk, the Primera Espada. He was well-respected among the other Captains and ultimately had enough authority to hold them all together, as was seen when he calmed the quarreling Captains down while they were mourning Yamamoto’s loss.
And that is why Shunsui Kyōraku was the ideal candidate. Okay, sure, he did not want the position, he was devastated by Yamamoto’s loss because he was so close to him, and he was usually very relaxed, but Kyōraku knew how to be serious when needed and he was the only one who could effectively lead the Gotei 13 at the time. This was shown when he clashed with the Central 46 over having two lieutenants, as well as over Kenpachi’s training, both of which were done as he wanted, and not like the Central 46 had wanted. This was a level of authority and initiative that was worthy of Yamamoto’s successor, which proved that Kyōraku was the best possible pick.
How powerful is Shunsui Kyōraku?
Although he uses two different types of swords, he can switch them between his hands and vary the strength and balance of his blows from both hands at will. Another shinigami martial art that Shunsui excels at is hakuda. He was able to throw the strongest human that has appeared so far, Yasutora Sado, a few meters with two fingers.
In the fight against Aizen, he once again shows his physical strength when he only used his Shikai attack to destroy a barrier that Aizen had erected to protect his blind spot. For comparison, Ichigo couldn’t destroy them when he used Getsuga Tenshō in Bankai mode. One of the strongest Captains Soul Society has ever seen, Shunsui is also skilled in kidō, although it’s not his favorite martial art.
He was the first to use Hado #1. As one of the oldest Captains and also from a noble family, Shunsui Kyōraku has an incredible amount of spiritual pressure. He is also very resilient, having suffered no major damage after a (relatively brief) battle with Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryūsai and his Zanpakutō Ryujin Jakka, said to be the most destructive in all of Soul Society.
What is perhaps Kyōraku’s greatest help in his battles is his experience and ability to see the truth behind things, as well as his high intelligence. So he realized that it was wrong to have Rukia Kuchiki executed and he also mostly tries to settle conflicts by talking instead of fighting. This ability was highlighted by Yamamoto and he said that Shunsui possessed this ability from a very early age.
Furthermore, due to Shunsui’s experience, he can quickly analyze techniques and spot patterns in his opponents’ movements, as he proved in the fight against Chad. Shunsui’s zanpakutōs are called Katen Kyōkotsu. His Zanpakutōs are the only ones with Jūshirō Ukitakes that consist of two swords. More at Katen Kyōkotsu.
He is a master of Hohō, which is also confirmed by his master, Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto. For example, he can carry Nanao off the battlefield with a single Shunpo and return just as quickly, after she had been incapacitated by Yamamoto’s gaze. He’s also quick enough to dodge Starrk’s attacks without damaging his hat or kimono. His Zanpakutō, Katen Kyōkotsu, is unique in that it exists as two entirely different swords. This set is referred to as a daishō. It consists of tachi and wakizashi.
The tsuba is rectangular, the corners are cut off and the handle is wrapped in a dark blue braid. He holds her at the waist on the left. Like other zanpakutō, Katen Kyōkotsu has a distinct personality that determines the sword’s abilities. Katen Kyōkotsu’s personality is more dominant than that of other Zanpakutō, and this is sometimes manifested in battle. Because of this, Shunsui doesn’t like to “play” with “her”. Despite this, Shunsui understands the soul of his sword very well.
While some of his abilities have already been shown in the Soul Society Saga, Shunsui’s true strength was only shown in the series in the Fake Karakura Town Saga, and it has also been implied by several characters so far and in the Bleach Bootleg that he is one of the strongest Shinigami and Captains. He also fights the Primera Espada Coyote Starrk in the Battle of Karakura Town.
Although he prefers to stay out of fights, he is a very strong fighter who is skilled in many areas. He is an excellent swordsman who can adapt his fighting style to many situations, so he struck down Yasutora Sado with just one blow without killing him. He can also fight with both one and two swords and is one of the few fighters in Bleach who has a dual Zanpakutō, Ukitake being the other.