This is a list of Soul Reaper (死神, Shinigami
?, literally, "Death god") characters featured in the anime and manga series Bleach
, created by Tite Kubo. Soul Reapers are a fictional race of spirits who govern the flow of souls between the human world and the afterlife realm called the Soul Society
. The Bleach
story tells of how Ichigo Kurosaki becomes substitute Soul Reaper in Karakura Town in place of Rukia Kuchiki. He assumes her duties to protect souls and put them to peaceful rest, as well as to fight against dangerous, lost souls that could not rest, called Hollows. As the series progresses, however, Rukia is arrested by the Soul Society's Soul Reaper military for giving her powers to Ichigo, and she is prepared for execution. Ichigo and his friends go to save her and are forced to fight against many of the Soul Society's Court Guard Squads. Eventually, the Fifth Squad Captain Sōsuke Aizen, the third Squad Captain Gin Ichimaru, and the ninth Squad Captain Kaname Tousen all defect from the Soul Society at the time of the rescue and start a plan, interrupting Ichigo's battles, to gain greater power with the Arrancars, focusing the story with Sōsuke Aizen as the main antagonist.
was first conceived from Tite Kubo's desire to draw Shinigami
("Soul Reaper" in the English adaptations) in a kimono, which formed the basis for the design of the Soul Reapers. Before deciding the use of kimono, Kubo thought of giving black suits to male Soul Reapers and any forms to female Soul Reapers, but thought that it was too generic and changed it to a kimono. Several characteristics from them, such as the kidō
spells and the zanpakutō
swords are also based on Japanese literature. Instead of using zanpakutō
, Kubo wanted to give the Soul Reapers guns, with the exception of Rukia, who would use a scythe. Seeing that guns are not suitable for kimono, he changed them with swords. When asked which of the Court Guard Squad captains and assistant captains were his favorites, Tite Kubo answered by saying that he liked "all of them" and that he likes to "support" characters "disliked by readers." Early plans for the story did not include the hierarchical structure of the Soul Society, but did include Ichigo's Soul Reaper heritage.
Soul Reapers can only be seen by other spiritually aware beings, which excludes most humans. Additionally, they can be injured and die, like regular humans, though it takes considerably greater injuries to die than it would for regular humans.[citation needed
All Soul Reapers possess a zanpakutō
(斬魄刀?, literally, "soul-cutting sword"), a weapon which reflects aspects of their soul and personality. Some zanpakutō
spirits even possess similar physical traits to their wielders such as hair color and eye markings.[citation needed
] By learning the name of the sword's spirit, and through training, Soul Reapers can unlock more powerful transformations of their zanpakutō
. The first transformation, known as shikai
(始解?, literally, "initial release"), changes the sword's appearance to better facilitate its special abilities. A shikai
also acts like a binding contract between a Soul Reaper and the sword and assures that no one but the owner of the weapon can use it to its fullest. The second transformation, known as bankai
(卍解?, literally, "final release"), can require hundreds of years for a Soul Reaper to master. Once achieved, the Soul Reaper can unlock the full potential of their zanpakutō
, increasing their own power several times over. Though rare, it is not impossible for two people to manifest the same zanpakutō
and spirit. This is considered the ultimate taboo of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads and the individuals who manifest the spirit are forced to fight to the death to determine the zanpakutō
's true master, as in the plot of Bleach: The Diamond Dust Rebellion. Many Soul Reapers are able to use kidō
(鬼道?, literally, "way of the demon"), a form of magic that can be performed by reciting a specific incantation. Most of the kidō
spells seen in the series are used as attacks, defensive measures, or to bind others, though they can also serve more specialized needs such as healing wounds or communication over long distances. Spells are ranked on a scale from 1 to 99, indicating their complexity and overall power. Low-level spells can, however, be as effective from a skilled kidō
user (e.g., Byakuya Kuchiki).
Soul Reaper operations are based out of the Soul Society, which is an afterlife realm in Bleach
. Travel between the human world and the Soul Society is extremely limited and monitored, but some Soul Reapers are stationed in the human world to carry out their duties. If this Soul Reaper is an assistant captain or a captain then they will have a Gentei Reiin
, or a Spirit Restriction Seal, on some area of their body. This seal will limit their spiritual powers to one-fifth of their full power and it can only be released in a state of emergency. In addition to these laws, it is a crime for a Soul Reaper to remain in the human world for longer than directed. A Soul Reaper's duties include leading wandering spirits to the Soul Society by giving a soul funeral (魂葬 (こんそう), konsō
?), and to cleanse Hollows (fallen souls) of their sins. High-level Soul Reapers and similarly powerful beings are able to levitate by standing on the spiritual energy in the air.