A Zanpakutō (斬魄刀; soul-cutter sword) is the weapon used primary by Shinigami and Visored, and are used in a different form by Arrancar. The Shinigami art of wielding a Zanpakutō is called Zanjutsu (斬術; swordsmanship).
Zanpakutō are the primary weapon wielded by the apparitions known as Shinigami. In its sealed state, a Zanpakutō has the form of a Japanese sword, however, can grow and take on different shapes depending on the wielder's soul.
Capable of cutting spiritual bodies such as fellow Shinigami and ghosts, they are amongst the few weapons which can be used to combat Hollows. Every Shinigami carries a Zanpakutō, and, with very rare exceptions, every Zanpakutō is unique to the Shinigami who wields it. The swords are a reflection of a Shinigami's soul and power, and can be considered separate beings created from the Shinigami's soul. The Zanpakutō's name is also the name of the living spirit that empowers the sword and lends its strength to the Shinigami who wields it. These beings can vary greatly in appearance and have their own distinct personalities which match their owner's.
A Zanpakutō's shape and abilities are based on their Shinigami's soul, and it is born through a Shinigami's Soul Sleep (魄睡, Hakusui) , also known as the Gate of Death (死門, Shimon), or simply the Eighth Gate (八目門, Yatsumon) in Humans and other living beings. Zanpakutō connect to their Shinigami through the Soul Sleep, which functions as the gate that separates the two souls. Through this connection, Shinigami and Zanpakutō can communicate with one another, and the Shinigami can learn their Zanpakutō's name, and gain strength together. Zanpakutō are born with their Shinigami and they die along with their Shinigami.
Just like with Shinigami, an Arrancar's Zanpakutō is their primary weapon in addition to their own Hollow abilities. While being fairly identical to a Shinigami's Zanpakutō, an Arrancar's key difference (besides the lack of a spirit) is that an Arrancar's Zanpakutō is is an embodiment of the Hollow's power. An Arrancar's mask shields the soul's bare instincts from the world. When the mask is broken, the power must be sealed, and Arrancar traditionally seal their power in a Zanpakutō, but have been shown sealing it in a manner that create's new entities entirely.
Powers & Abilities Edit
The Zanpakutō's most well known ability is it's ability to change it's shape and powers. A Zanpakutō has two forms, the Shikai (始解, Initial Release) and the Bankai (卍解, Final Release), and are akin to "upgrades" for the Zanpakutō, giving it abilities far beyond that of its simple use as a sword. Shinigami usually carry their Zanpakutō in the sealed state and activate the released forms as necessary. However, the ability to use both of these forms depends on the Shinigami's bond and level of communication with their Zanpakutō. To become a Captain in the Shinigami Gotei 13, one must be capable of both Shikai and Bankai, although there are notable exceptions.
In addition to the various unique abilities each Zanpakutō has, they also share abilities used by Shinigami to aide in guiding the dead.
- Konsō (魂葬, Soul Burial): A Zanpakutō's primary, non-combat ability, this is the process by which a Shinigami sends wandering Souls in the living world and send them to their respective place. Either Other World if they are good in life, or to Hell if their life was full of evil acts (such as murders, theft, etc). Konsō is performed by using the hilt of the Shinigami's Zanpakutō, tapping the soul on the head and transporting them to the afterlife
- Hollow Purification: When a Hollow is sliced with a Zanpakutō, it is cleansed of the sins it committed as a Hollow, and is led into the Other World to be judged. This is called sublimation.
The Shikai (始解, Initial Release) the second form of a Zanpakutō, after it's sealed state, and is the first upgrade that a Zanpakutō can take on. The most common way to take on the Shikai form is for the Shinigami to learn the Zanpakutō's name, however, as with every rule, there are exceptions, as a suitably powerful Shinigami's reiatsu can force a Zanpakutō into it's Shikai state in a permanent release, however, it's power will be severely diminished. Due to being a living entity unto itself, a Zanpakutō has it's own name, a Shinigami cannot simply name it like they would a pet. To be able to hear the name, a Shinigami must be in harmony with their Zanpakutō, which requires being able to speak to the spirit within its world.
In order to release Shikai, one must change a Kaigo, a release incantation, which, combined with the name, releases the Zanpakutō's Shikai. Zanpakutō each have unique phrases, though some can sound similar. These release commands can range from a simple, one-word command, to a short poem or sentence. Shinigami who are experts in the use of their Bankai can skip the release command however, providing an advantage in battle.
The use of Shikai signifies control of a Zanpakutō, and to progress within the ranks of a Shinigami and become a seated officer, Shikia is necessary to cope with the difficulty of the missions assigned.
The Bankai (卍解, Final Release) is the second and final upgraded form of a Zanpakutō can take on. Achieving Bankai is much different, and much more difficult, than achieving Shikai. To achieve Bankai, a Shinigami must materialize their weapons spirit and subjugate it, defeating it to gain it's power. Materialization means the opposite of getting dragged into the Zanpakutō's inner world. Instead the wielder needs to summon the Zanpakutō's spirit into the physical world. It usually takes 10 years or more to achieve, plus the experience needed to master it.
The power and forms of Shikai and Bankai are dependent on the Zanpakutō, but they are always related in some manner. Through the use of Bankai, a Shinigami's power can increase as much as 10 times. It is said that only the strongest Shinigami can use Bankai, and even within the Four noble families, whose members are always exceptionally talented, have a member capable of Bankai only every few generations.
Weakness: A high enough level of spiritual energy can be used to disrupt the rhythm of a Bankai. The biggest flaw of Bankai lies in the overwhelming power it releases. Its power and form are often far beyond that of a normal weapon. This is the reason that in order for one to become capable of using it completely and effectively, one needs to train at least 10 years with Bankai. Any Bankai before that period of time has been reached should not be used in battle. A broken bankai can never be returned to its former state. The only exception are Bankai whose owner shares a bond so strong with the spirit that when one is injured the other reflects that damage but the bankai is healed when Shinigami is healed.
Resurrección (帰刃 (レスレクシオン), resurekushion; Spanish for "Resurrection", Japanese for "Returning Blade") returns the essence of an Arrancar's offensive Hollow abilities to their humanoid bodies.