|Created By||Ōetsu Nimaiya|
|Signature||Arrancar, Shinigami, Visored|
Zanpakutō primarily take the form of Japanese swords while in their sealed states, though the designs of these swords vary by the Shinigami. Likewise, the size and shape of these swords are dependent on the amount of spiritual power their wielder possesses. However, sufficiently powerful spiritual beings can control the size of their Zanpakutō.
All Zanpakutō begin as Asauchi (浅打; Literally meaning "Shallow Hit"), which are nameless swords forged by Ōetsu Nimaiya and given to officers of the Gotei 13. By spending time with their Asauchi, a Shinigami imprints their souls upon it, thus forging their own unique Zanpakutō.
The inner manifestation of a Zanpakutō can appear to a Shinigami before they receive their Asauchi, as was the case of Tōshiro Hitsugaya, who met his Zanpakutō manifestation, Hyōrinmaru, when he was still quiet young, before he became a Shinigami. However, according to Nimaiya, a Shinigami cannot release their Zanpakutō without having first imprinted upon an Asauchi. The Asauchi is used as a medium to draw out and imprison the Zanpakutō manifestation within a Shinigami's soul, allowing it to be released. Ichigo Kurosaki is a unique case. He not only met his Zanpakutō before receiving an Asauchi, but managed to manifest it in weapon form and release it without the aid of one.
In exceedingly rare instances, Hollows can become Zanpakutō. In the case of Zangetsu, this was due to a Hollow called White infiltrating the Soul of Ichigo Kurosaki and merging with his latent Shinigami powers. In the case of Ikomikidomoe, it was the result of Nimaiya sealing the mutant Hollow into Zanpakutō form.
Outside of combat, the primary use of a Zanpakutō is to perform Konsō (魂葬, Soul Burial). By tapping a Soul on the head with the hilt of the Zanpakutō, a Shinigami transports that Soul either to Soul Society or Hell depending on its actions in life.
Once a Zanpakutō has been imprinted upon, its Shinigami can learn its name by communing with the manifestation within. This communication technique is known as Jinzen (刃禅; Viz "Sword Zen"; Literally meaning "Sword Meditation") and may require a Shinigami to beat their manifestation into submission to allow for complete unity. However, doing so allows for the Shinigami to learn to perform the two stages of Zanpakutō Release (斬魄刀 解放, Zanpakutō Kaihō; Literally meaning "Soul-Cutter Sword Release"): Shikai and Bankai.
However, a Zanpakutō manifestation, being a sentient Soul, is capable of making decisions regarding their wielder. For instance, in the case of Renji Abarai, his Zanpakutō, Zabimaru, purposely withheld the true name of his Bankai because it did not respect him, causing Renji to wield a false one until he learned its proper name. This rule also works in reverse, as both Yumichika Ayasegawa and Tokinada Tsunayashiro could call their Zanpakutō by false names or use false release commands to disguise their true abilities.
Like Shinigami, Arrancar have Zanpakutō and use them as their primary weapons. However, rather than being forged and imprinted upon as Asauchi, these Zanpakutō are the result of an Arrancar sealing their original Hollow form and abilities into a blade. When an Arrancar releases their sword, they do not use Shikai or Bankai. Instead, they use a Resurrección, which restores their Hollow form and abilities.
It is also possible for an Arrancar to forego the use of a Zanpakutō entirely, implying that blades are not required for an Arrancar to seal away their powers: Coyote Starrk would seal the bulk of his power in the form of another Arrancar, Lilynette Gingerbuck.
Within the nobility of Soul Society, there are also hereditary Zanpakutō. These Zanpakutō were created under more unique circumstances and are passed on from generation-to-generation. Because they were not made by imprinting on an Asauchi, like typical Zanpakutō, inherited Zanpakutō take some time to accept their new masters.
Hereditary Zanpakutō (Zanpakutō passed down in the nobility of Soul Society.)
|Name||Sealed Form||Ability||Noble Family|
|Shinken Hakkyōken||Bladeless Sword||Absorb and Disperse a God's Power||Ise Family|
|Enrakyōten||Katana||Zanpakutō Imitation||Tsunayashiro Family|
|Muramasa||Unknown||Control other Zanpakutō||Unknown|
Zanpakutō can also be divided into certain classifications:
- Bakudō-class (縛道系, Bakudō-kei; Literally meaning "Way of Binding-type"): It is unknown what this classification entails, only that Shūhei Hisagi's Kazeshini is considered to be one.
- Perpetual Release-type (常時開放型, Jōji Kaihō Gata): Zanpakutō who remain in a constant state of Shikai and cannot be confined to a sealed state.
Zanjutsu (斬術; Literally meaning "Swordsmanship") is one of the four combat methods Shinigami are trained to employ. As the Zanpakutō is the primary weapon of the Shinigami, most Shinigami have some degree of skill in this art.
The Zanpakutō is one of the few weapons capable of harming a spiritual body or a Hollow. When a Hollow is cut by a Zanpakutō, their sins as a Hollow are cleansed and the majority rise to Soul Society. However, those who committed egregious sins in life are sent, instead, to Hell.
- No Zanpakutō in existence has a Shikai or Bankai with unrelated abilities. Likewise, Zanpakutō cannot command more than one element.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bleach: Official Character Book of SOULs
- ↑ Bleach chapter 54
- ↑ Bleach chapter 187
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Bleach chapter 529
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Bleach: Official Character Book 2 MASKED
- ↑ Bleach chapter 540
- ↑ Bleach chapter 536
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World II
- ↑ Bleach chapter 1
- ↑ Bleach chapter 408
- ↑ Bleach chapter 564
- ↑ Bleach chapter 321
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World III
- ↑ Bleach chapter 361
- ↑ Bleach chapter 651
- ↑ Bleach chapter 175
- ↑ Bleach chapter 64
- ↑ Bleach chapter 507
- ↑ Bleach chapter 561