Kenpachi Zaraki by Tite Kubo
|First appearance||Bleach manga chapter 65
Bleach anime episode 20
|Created by||Tite Kubo|
David Lodge (Episodes 20-243)
Patrick Seitz (Episodes 244-366)
|Title||Captain of the 11th Division|
Kenpachi Zaraki (更木 剣八 Zaraki Kenpachi?) is a fictional character and an antihero in the anime and manga series Bleach created by Tite Kubo. He is the captain of the 11th Division within the Gotei 13. His lieutenant is Yachiru Kusajishi.
Zaraki has a wild and aggressive appearance, fitting with his personality. He wears his captain's jacket without sleeves, and with a more ragged look to it—-he acquired his jacket from the previous 11th Division captain, whom he defeated and killed in a duel in order to become captain. He styles his hair into liberty spikes with bells at the tips, which, Tite Kubo has remarked, makes his hair one of the most difficult to draw in the series. He also wears a special eye patch on his right eye lined with a strange creature created by the 12th Division. It absorbs the bulk of his power. Both of these are meant to give enemies an advantage, similar to his habit of fighting one-handed, as in an unhandicapped state he would defeat them so quickly that he would not be able to enjoy himself sufficiently to delve into a state of bloodlust, that being what he treasures most. He has a huge scar on the left side of his face, apparently gained well before his time in Soul Society (and even before finding Yachiru).
Despite his initial introduction as a lethal foe, Zaraki later begins to play the role of the comical anti-hero in Bleach: though still self-centered and violent, his actions tend to be for the best and his relationship with his division and others is always portrayed comically. This comical shift is primarily centered around his appearances in the Bleach anime and omake stories, with the exception of the occasional diatribe between himself and Yachiru. He is depicted as having a very poor sense of direction, and is often depicted in omake stories asking his lieutenant Yachiru for directions to a particular place (who then randomly points in a direction even though she herself has a terrible sense of direction).
Zaraki lives for battle (evidenced by his method of attaining his rank) and enjoys a good fight more than anything. He restrains himself in battle in order to prolong and savor the fight. Kenpachi believes that injury and death are nothing more than the price one pays for a good fight. Despite his squad's reputation as the most bloodthirsty of the Gotei 13, they have their own code of ethics, different from the set rules of Soul Society, fitting with Zaraki's portrayal as a free spirit. On various occasions, Kenpachi is seen putting fun before work. Despite his violent tendencies, Zaraki will usually give up on a fight if his opponent is too injured to fight back, claiming that the fight is no longer fun. However, he will unhesitatingly kill his opponent if they refuse to end their fight on his terms as seen during his battles with Tōsen and Nnoitora.
Prior to entering the Soul Reaper ranks, Zaraki resided in District 80, the most lawless district surrounding the Soul Society. He became very proficient with swordsmanship, or at least fighting, while he was there, and eventually adopted the district's name, "Zaraki", as his surname. He stole a Zanpakuto (current form named "Asauchi". In this form Zanpakutos are given to Soul Reapers, then they transform it into their own forms) from a corpse and shaped it to his original. During that time, he met a kindred spirit in Squad 11's Retsu "Yachiru" Unohana, both leaving their opponent with a scar during their duel. After leaving the district he found a small girl who, despite her young age, did not fear his sword. Since she had no name, he named her Yachiru after Unohana while christening himself "Kenpachi", Unohana's title which has been associated with one who has killed many. Yachiru became inseparable from Zaraki from that point further, following him wherever he went, usually clinging to his back.
After some time had passed, Zaraki found his way into Soul Society and killed the previous captain of the 11th Division, thus gaining his seat in the Gotei 13. As a new captain, Zaraki was begrudgingly forced to learn Kendo, something he hated because it personified his sword, though he did agree on one point: a blade swung with both arms is more powerful than with one arm. As such he makes it a point to avoid using it in battle in order to prolong the experience of fighting as long as possible.
In an interview, Tite Kubo noted that he would like to go into more depth about Zaraki.
After Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends arrive in Soul Society, Zaraki begins to hunt the strongest fighter in their group before finding Ichigo. During their fight, Ichigo becomes enough of a challenge that Zaraki removes his eye patch, thus releasing the extra power it has been devouring. The battle ends in a draw, with Ichigo falling first and Zaraki shortly after, both admitting defeat (though Zaraki's sword breaks in the end, after it is deflected by the sudden manifestation of Ichigo's hollow mask, which spared the latter from death). Much later on, while searching for Ichigo with his friends in tow, they are headed off by 7th and 9th Division members. Zaraki battles their captains Sajin Komamura and Kaname Tōsen respectively, defeating Tōsen and fighting off Komamura before Komamura runs away to find Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryūsai. He does not see Ichigo and his friends off when they leave the Soul Society. He tells Yachiru that he and Ichigo will certainly meet again because they are the only ones who are what they seem to be. Zaraki also helps fight off the Bount invasion, and successfully defeats Maki Ichinose, a former member of his squad who left after Zaraki killed his captain.
During the Arrancar arc, Zaraki appears to Ichigo as his instinct and desire to win, explaining to him that they were both the type of people who live to fight (or fight to live) battle after battle. After Orihime is taken to Hueco Mundo, Zaraki arrives with Byakuya Kuchiki to retrieve Tōshirō Hitsugaya's group and bring them back to Soul Society. Later, in Hueco Mundo, Zaraki comes to Ichigo's aid during his battle with the arrancar Tesla, dealing the arrancar a mortal blow with a single strike and then engaging the Espada Nnoitora in battle. Despite having "more fun than he has had in a long time," he suffers enough injuries to realize that he may die if the fight continues. He flashes back to his Kendo training, and grips his sword with two hands to deal Nnoitra a vicious, incapacitating blow. Unfortunately for Nnoitra during the ensuing fight Zaraki's eye-patch, which is a special seal that strongly 'consumes' his Spirit Pressure (this way battles will last longer allowing him to have more fun,) is cut off allowing Zaraki to fight at full power. When Nnoitra refuses to accept defeat and charges Zaraki, the latter kills him with another strike. Zaraki then stands over Nnoitra's corpse, telling him their battle "was a blast". He later appears to save Ichigo from the Cero Espada Yammy by cutting off one of his legs, and further engaging him in combat with Byakuya Kuchiki. When it seems that Zaraki and Byakuya are about to defeat him, Yammy undergoes a monstrous new transformation. Byakuya and Zaraki ultimately defeat their opponent, though Zaraki thought the fight was "boring". He is last seen being reprimanded by the Captain-Commander for losing his captain's haori in battle.
Seventeen months after the fight with Aizen, Zaraki, along with all the other high-ranking members of the Gotei 13, are ordered to restore Ichigo's reiatsu. He arrives with Byakuya, Hitsugaya, Ikkaku, Rukia, and Renji to aide in combating the organization Xcution. Zaraki is engaged by Giriko Kutsuzawa and quickly kills the Fullbringer, finding him "boring".
After these events, a group of Quincy called the Wandenreich appear and send their invading force of Sternritter to take over Soul Society. Zaraki manages to single-handedly kill Berenice Gabrielli, Jerome Quizbatt, and Loyd Lloyd without much difficulty. Zaraki then confronts Yhwach, revealed to by Loyd's twin brother Royd Lloyd in disguise, and is defeated. After the Wandenreich leave, Zaraki recovers and engages Unohana in what both expect to be a fight to the death to train him in dealing with the Wandenreich. Despite being brought to the brink of death several times,and captain Unohana finally releasing her bankai Zaraki ultimately cuts down Unohana, subsequently learning the name of his Zanpakutō. Later when the Wandenreich invade again, Zaraki uses his Zanpakutō against the Sternritter Gremmy Thoumeaux in a fight that exhausted him to the point of being left at the mercy of a quartet of female Sternritters.
Kenpachi is the only captain of the Gotei 13 who became captain without knowing the name of his Zanpakutō, and therefore not achieved bankai. In addition, Kenpachi possesses considerable knowledge and skill in kendō, however, Kenpachi who despises using skills and techniques learned from another source, only uses Kendō as a last resort as seen in his fight against Nnoitra Gilga and has no apparent skill (or interest) in Kidō and Shunpō. The Bleach Official Bootleg databook ranks his talent in the former as zero. However, he more than makes up for his faults in sheer power. His spiritual pressure is such that, even when wearing the energy-sealing eye patch, Kenpachi can fight on-par with and defeat other captain-level opponents, even when they release their zanpakutō in either shikai or bankai form. Its concentration is so great that it acts like armor against weaker opponents. During their first duel, he allowed Ichigo one free attack before the duel began. That attack failed to pierce his body, and Ichigo's left hand was wounded in the process. By releasing the bulk of his spiritual pressure, he was also able to cancel out the strongest attack of Maki Ichinose's Nijigasumi during their battle in the Bount Arc. It is revealed later on that Central 46 members forbade Kenpachi being able to learn Bankai or Shikai, fearing that if he did he would become too powerful. Later however the new Central 46 members under some pressuring from now Head Captain Shunsui Kyōraku agree to allow it.
Despite his seeming disregard for any strategy in his fights and his self-admitted aversion to thinking during battle, Kenpachi is adept at finding and exploiting weaknesses in his opponents' techniques. While he claims to have no sanity or common sense, Kenpachi is actually very perceptive and notices traits in people that others would not notice. For example, he correctly singles out Kaname Tōsen and Gin Ichimaru as the only captains who are afraid to die. He observes that Maki Ichinose is "..like an ivy vine, clinging to the trees." an observation on the latter's overarching trait of fighting for others causes while having none of his own. During his battles with both Tōsen and Nnoitora, he formulates strategies to work around his disadvantages, such as losing most of his senses or fighting an opponent with six arms, though that strategy may simply consist of removing the arms one by one.
Kenpachi has tremendous quantities of physical strength, proving able to both kick Tōsen through a building in their battle, and grab Ichigo's giant sword barehanded to reel both him and it in for an attack. In the Bleach movie "The Diamond Dust Rebelion",he has been shown lifting a mountain sized obstacle with little effort. His physical strength is matched by his endurance; Kenpachi has been shown to easily ignore most of the injuries he sustains in battle, not suffering any debilitation despite suffering multiple lacerations that would disable normal humans. He even allowed himself to be stabbed just to grab Tōsen's blade and break his bankai 's effect. The majority of his fight with Nnoitora was a one-sided brawl in Nnoitra's favor, with Kenpachi only taking things seriously when he finds himself in actual danger of dying from bleeding out through the sheer number of lacerations he had received. Kenpachi was proven strong enough to stop Nnoitra's Cero with his bare hands, effortlessly, without showing any sign of injury in the process.
Kenpachi finally discovers his Zanpakutō's name, Nozarashi (野晒 ,"Skull"?), in chapter 577. In its regular form, the sword's hilt looks like a multi-sided diamond. Kenpachi's aura, or reiatsu, resembled a skull during his first battle against Ichigo. The blade is very notched, representing Zaraki's love for battle and as a result of the disharmony between the two. Nozarashi's release command is "Swallow" (or "Drink" in other translations), and it causes the sword to transform into a huge (bigger than Kenpachi himself) halberd-like axe with a long, cloth-wrapped handle and a tassel attached to the top. In this form, it is powerful enough to destroy a huge meteorite with a single blow.
Unlike all previous Gotei 13 Captains, Zaraki was the only one who did not know of the name of his Zanpakuto in the beginning of his series. When clashed against Ichigo, he describes a Zanpakuto as merely a tool rather than a partner. Zaraki has only asked his zanpakutō for its name once, right after his tie with Ichigo, but receives no answer. In the manga series chapter 527, Zaraki finally hears the call of his zanpakutō. Expressing surprise that they can now communicate, his zanpakutō mentions it has watched Kenpachi longer and closer than anyone else and is pleased they can finally meet properly. Although Nozarashi does not seem to have any particular abilities yet, Kenpachi's over-flowing spirit energy can make his swings more powerful and sometimes cause huge explosions to occur.
Appearances in other media
Zaraki appears in the second session of Bleach: Beat Collection, together with Yachiru, Ikkaku, and Yumichika. He has a minor (yet comical) role in the Bleach OVA, and also appears briefly in Bleach: Memories of Nobody, making sport of one of the Dark Ones. He also appears in the second movie, being the first to charge in and attack Sōjirō's new dragon form; he helps out in the final battle as well. In the third movie, he fought an altered Mayuri Kurotsuchi and was consumed by white substance that immobilized him for much of the movie. He was finally released in a comical fashion and aids in the final battle. Zaraki also appears in most of the Bleach video games. He also appears in four of the Rock Musical Bleach performances: Dark of the Bleeding Moon, No Clouds in the Blue Heavens, The All, and Live Bankai Show Code 002. He is portrayed by Shōgo Suzuki.
Zaraki's lust for battle has made the fights he appears in enjoyable for various critics. Calling him the "toughest Soul Reaper in business," IGN comments that "any battle with Kenpachi is always fun to watch just because of the fact that he has so much fun in his battles" and adds "almost every battle seems lopsided in Kenpachi's favour due to the fact that Kenpachi enjoys the battle all the way through".
- Weekly Shonen Jump interview, year 2004, issue 42.
- Kubo, Tite (2008). "Chapter −108". Bleach, Volume 36. Shueisha. ISBN 978-4-08-874603-6.
- Kubo, Tite (2008). Bleach SOULs. Official Character Book. Viz Media. p. 244. ISBN 1-4215-2053-2.
- IGN: Gin Ichimaru's Temptation, Resolution Shattered Review