?When Bleach first began, it gained a massive amount of popularity for its immersive storyline filled with great characters and jaw-dropping twists. Well, that and the ridiculously amazing battle scenes that often featured crazy-ass sword fights, badass super powers, and the occasional giant Buddha baby/caterpillar hybrid that burps out toxic gas.
The manga and anime series also excelled through its main protagonist, Ichigo Kurosaki. In the beginning, fans really connected to the veritable everyman, who overcame the impossible odds he found himself thrust into through sheer determination and a conviction to doing the right thing and protecting his friends. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much as far his character goes. Every single battle he found himself in, no matter how much more impossibly stronger the opponent, Ichigo always managed to win because “he has to.” He literally says that. It’s like the writer was talking to the audience saying, “It doesn’t matter how. He just has to. Accept it and move on, assholes.”
As Ichigo grew increasingly more dull and boring — the only character worse than him being his love interest Orihime, whose sole purpose is to say “Kurosaki-kun” over and over again as her only line of dialogue — it quickly became apparent how far more awesome and interesting the characters around him were. Whether through complex characterization, a certain air of mystery or by simply being just that damn badass, the members of this list display precisely how kickass they are and how comparatively lame Ichigo really is.
10) Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto
?The Captain Commander of the Gotei 13 speaks for himself with his zanpakuto release phrase: Reduce All of Creation to Ash. He’s like if Yoda fused with the Rock. Seriously, the old man is freakin’ ripped. It took two of the most powerful captains to even put up any semblance of a fight against him, a brawl that left the majority of the area around them reduced to ash. Regrettably, his age must be getting to him, as he seems to forget his own insane power levels. Why the hell else wouldn’t he just fight Aizen himself and save everyone the trouble? Either he wins and everyone goes home happy or he loses and everyone says, “Fuck it,” and goes home alive.
9) Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez
?Impulsive, rude, incredibly short-tempered and never willing to give up in a fight, Grimmjow represented an excessively violent, dark reflection of Ichigo. However, where the previous all made him a good villain, his obsessive need to prove himself added a deeper level of complexity to the truculent character. His defining moment came in his final confrontation with Ichigo during the Hueco Mundo arc, where Bleach simultaneously treated fans to one of the series’ awesomest fights and Grimmjow’s tragic backstory. By the end, you feel bad for him — especially considering he ended up losing that fight because, surprise, surprise, only Orihime motivated Ichigo to win. After a child explained to her that she needed to support Ichigo, who came all this way to risk his life for her. I guess Orihime was too dumb to figure that part out on her own.
8) Kenpachi Zaraki
?The first of the Gotei 13 captains Ichigo battled one-on-one, the mountainous Kenpachi brought the hero to the brink of death with but a single swipe of his jagged blade. This character pretty much defines the anime trope of brutal badass. As the head of Soul Society’s infamous “strongest division,” Kenpachi lives to fight. He even became captain by killing the poor sap that previously held the title. Not to mention he does all his ass kicking while being unable to use Kido and not knowing the name of his sword, which allows shinigami to use their special abilities. He just slashes the shit out of whatever gets in his way, which we highly recommend against doing. If you do, try curling into the fetal position and crying. He doesn’t kill babies. At least, we’re pretty sure he doesn’t.
7) Sosuke Aizen
?In Bleach‘s greatest plot twist, the seemingly good-natured Aizen delivered a swift kick to the face of fans when he revealed himself as the series’ villainous mastermind. He subsequently proceeded to beat the ever-living crap out of everyone who stood against him, even stopping Ichigo mid-attack with just two fingers. Aizen’s almost psychotic shift from kind father figure to sadistic, smirking bastard makes him one of the most intriguing characters in the series. He’s insanely powerful and terrifyingly evil. However, not much is really known about his history. Where did he come from? How did he get so powerful? Why is he such a dick? We’re not sure about any of the answers to those questions, but we think he lost it when he discovered his bankai was to rain candy from the sky. If that’s not enough motivation to completely lose your shit and overcompensate by trying to become a god, what is?
6) Gin Ichimaru
?“Mysterious” sums up the character of Ichimaru. And creepy. That, too. Just look at the man. But beyond his outwardly bizarre appearance, many readers took to Ichimaru’s sarcastically polite manner of speech and constantly questionable actions. No qualms about, Ichimaru isn’t a good person. He killed a superior officer in cold blood shortly after graduating from the Shinigami Academy, and he most recently SLICED POOR HIYORI IN TWO during the Karakura Town battle. Despite all this, Ichimaru’s past and motives remain shrouded in mystery. We know next to nothing about him except that he enjoys teasing people and he saved Rangiku Matsumoto from dying when they were kids. In fact, Masumoto seems to be the only person he genuinely cares for. Twice in the series he refused to fight after she got involved, and his goodbye to her marked one of the only times he ever actually stopped smiling. Then again, looking at Matsumoto, who wouldn’t feel lachrymose leaving those, I mean, her behind?
5) Shunsui Kyoraku
?First, yes, he wears a pink kimono and secondly, yes, it is awesome. With that out of the way, Kyoraku ranks as one of the oldest captains in the Gotei 13, yet holds one of the goofiest personalities in all Soul Society. He’s extremely lazy and loves flirting with his female lieutenants (can’t blame him for that, though). What really makes the character interesting, however, is that even though it’s been stated numerous times throughout the series that he ranks as one of the most powerful captains, he takes almost every opportunity to abstain from fighting. Originally, this seemed like an extension of his laziness, but during his battle with Starrk, readers finally discovered the real reason. Apparently, his zanpakuto only fights at full power whenever it feels like it and whenever it does, it likes to “play games” that can even take the life of Kyoraku himself. It’s brilliant characterization when the guy who enjoys life so much is forced to take one every time he draws his weapon. The only thing more terrifying than Kyoraku releasing his zanpakuto is when he takes off that pink kimono. That’s when you know shit’s about to go down.
4) Byakuya Kuchiki
?When it comes to complex characters look no further. Although Byakuya seemed fine with the idea of his sister being executed over a ridiculous set of laws, he hid underneath his apparently emotionless exterior a paradoxical conflict. On one hand, he swore an oath to his dead parents to uphold the law. On the other, he swore to his late wife to keep Rukia safe. Being the epitome of the Japanese ideal, he found himself in one hell of a mental shit storm when these two promises came into opposition. Everything came to an epic culmination with his awe-inspiring battle with Ichigo, the single greatest clash in the entire series for its visual splendor and emotional magnitude. The ending of that fight even solidified how incredibly skilled and badass the character was. Despite conceding defeat, Byakuya still managed to FLASH STEP AWAY afterward, leaving Ichigo barely alive lying on the floor. Also, he does his ass kicking with cherry blossom petals. That’s right, not only will this guy royally fuck your shit up, but he’ll do it in the goddamn prettiest way possible.
3) Yoruichi Shihoin
?She’s playful, intelligent and able to kick pretty much anyone’s ass in seconds flat without breaking a sweat or even using a zanpakuto. The “Goddess of Flash” Yoruichi represents not only the best female character in all of Bleach, but also one of the best characters in all of anime. She acts very informal despite her wealthy upbringing and thoroughly enjoys joking around with a number of her peers, including teasing Byakuya and making Ichigo incredibly uncomfortable with her random displays of nudity. Even while engaged in battle, she exchanges playful quips with her opponents. But beneath that fun-loving attitude, Yoruichi is extremely loyal to her friends and does whatever she believes to be right no matter the consequences, going so far as to even abandon her position as 2nd Division captain in order to help Urahara and Tessai escape Soul Society. Yoruichi also possesses the uncanny ability to transform into a black cat with a male voice. There’s a disturbing joke in there somewhere, we’re sure, but it’s probably best left unsaid. For all our sakes.
2) Kisuke Urahara
?An extremely random and eccentric character when first introduced, Urahara hid his genius intellect and pure concentrated awesomeness behind a deceptively laid-back and jovial attitude. Contrary to the way he acts, this guy always knows exactly what’s going on and more than often had a hand in shaping key events in the series’ past and present. As the series progressed, revealing more about Urahara and his history, the more amazing the character became. He’s the former captain of the 12th Division, he’s the founder of the Shinigami Research & Development Institute, and he created almost all of the shimgami’s real-world equipment. He’s also one of the only male shinigami to possess a sword with a female spirit. And although he rarely fights, when he does he displays abilities and power far beyond that of the show’s standard stars. We’re not even sure as to the full extent of his abilities, but we’re positive the day we find out, heads will explode. Maybe as part of his power, but mostly just in sheer excitement over the moment Urahara says the word bankai.
1) Isshin Kurosaki
?Ichigo’s off-the-wall, goofball dad spent most of the early days of the series providing comic relief through surprise dropkicks to his son’s face and hilarious interactions with his daughters. Then in a move worthy of Lost, Bleach pulled a surprise twist that answered so many questions and asked countless others: Isshin Kurosaki was a captain-level shinigami. Suddenly, Ichigo’s ability to use shinigami powers so efficiently and even his mother’s untimely death all fell into place. Beyond that, Isshin also revealed he full well knew about Ichigo’s shinigami activities, going so far as secretly providing his son with a protection talisman early on in the series. He even shares a friendship with both Ishida’s Quincy father and Urahara. How deep his current involvement with the goings on Soul Society runs and what division he previously belonged to for now remains a mystery. But Isshin’s former shinigami status makes him the single most curiously fascinating character in the series. So, congratulations, Ichigo. You’re far less interesting and more lamer than your dad. That’s quite an accomplishment.