Ichigo Kurosaki is one of the most popular anime protagonists of all time. I’m sure that many of you would agree with this. However, there was a time when I wasn’t much of a fan. This was because I never tried to understand much about his character even though I liked Bleach a lot.
In fact, I’m one of those who has been waiting for the TYBW arc to be animated for many years. Back to the man again, Ichigo is a great character because he was shown to be mysterious, yet he had very simple and relatable characteristics which made him connect much more to the viewers.
I think this is enough for an overview of his character, will talk about his character in more detail in another blog. This time, I will stick to the different forms and abilities Ichigo displayed in the anime and manga.
Different forms of Ichigo Kurosaki
Bleach is an anime based on Soul Reapers and we were introduced to Ichigo as a normal human (even though the scenario has changed a lot). Even though he was a human, he was able to see spirits and he helped them in any way he could.
We got to see his first-ever Soul Reaper powers when Rukia transferred her powers to him which turned him into a Soul Reaper with a huge blade. Let’s start with that!
- Borrowed Soul Reaper form
Ichigo had the capability of seeing spirits even as a human and had insane physical prowess compared to other humans. He was also blessed with huge spiritual pressure that was sleeping inside of him.
Back when the series displayed the first soul reaper which was Rukia, we were introduced to the concept of spiritual pressure (reiatsu), soul reapers, and hollows. However, to Rukia’s surprise, Ichigo had immense spiritual pressure. It can also be explained by the fact that when she was trying to transfer only half of her powers, he forcefully took all of them.
This was the introduction to his first form which used his reiatsu and Rukia’s soul reaper powers to turn him into a substitute soul reaper. Now, even though, it was not his own power it allowed him to defeat many hollows with ease. The problem was that since it was only borrowed powers, he could not stand up to Renji and Byakuya even with their powers suppressed in the human world.
This defeat was a good build-up to awaken his own Soul Reaper powers. This is when the training arc starts with Kisuke Urahara teaching him the ways of a Zanpakuto and awakening his own powers.
- Shikai (Zangetsu)
After training with Urahara, Ichigo learns the name of his Shikai and was able to awaken the power of a Soul Reaper that was dormant within him. He finally called out the name, Zangetsu.
Gaining control over his own spiritual pressure led his strength to increase manifold. Unlike his borrowed form, where he couldn’t even land any hit on suppressed Renji. This form allowed him to not just face him but also defeat him even when they were fighting in Soul Society. He was also able to defeat Kenpachi Zaraki with only his basic Shikai powers and his skill with the sword.
In this form, his sword takes on the form of a big knife and is always in the released form, unlike all the other Shikai that are released only after calling out their name. This is why it is only remained wrapped up inside a cloth and unveils itself when Ichigo draws the sword.
Then came the next stage, when he was headed to rescue Rukia and face-off against Byakuya. This was also the moment that he is still not strong enough to defeat a Bankai.
- Bankai (Tensa Zangetsu)
Realizing that his powers were still not enough, he gets taken away. This time by Yoruichi, to train him for his Bankai. Bankai is something that is rare even among the Soul reapers in the Soul Society. It takes years of training by the talented few to be able to use one.
However, being the protagonist in a shounen anime, Ichigo was able to do it in three days, which was also the time he had, to go back to save Rukia.
Ichigo’s Bankai is very different from all the other Bankai in the series. One major difference is where other Bankai gets larger after the transformation, his got smaller in size. Also, the Shihakkusho of any other Soul reaper stays the same whereas Ichigo’s changes its appearance.
This reflects that his Sword and Shihakkusho are part of his Bankai. However, it’s not just the appearance that changes. His immense spiritual pressure is condensed in his sword and the changed Shihakkusho boosts his physical abilities to a whole new level. His Getsuga Tensho also packs more explosive power.
His first-ever Bankai transformation was not just an improved Shikai but rather an altogether huge upgrade. He was able to dominate Byakuya to an extent that he was forced to use his strongest technique to keep up with Ichigo. Just when Ichigo started to lose grip on the battle, his inner hollow took over with the appearance of the hollow mask.
That was the foreshadowing of the next power-up for Ichigo Kurosaki.
- Hollow mask form
So as I mentioned that the hollow mask form took over and it gave him an even bigger boost to his already broken Bankai. However, there was a cost to it. Ichigo had no control over that power and that is why despite having the ability to defeat Byakuya with that power, he had to suppress it.
Later on, he had to go to the Visoreds in order to gain control over his Hollowification. Gaining control of the hollow powers inside him allowed him to boost his physical prowess even further. It also enabled him to use the Black Getsuga Tensho which was an advanced version of the Getsuga Tensho.
The catch with this power was that he had only learned to control the form for a limited time and it was not even all of its power. The complete hollow form was seen for the first time when Ichigo almost died at the hands of Ulquiorra. This gets us to his next and one of the strongest transformations ever.
- Hollowification (complete)
After almost dying fighting Ulquiorra, he had been left with a hole in his chest. Faced with despair and fading consciousness, his inner hollow completely took over. He did not just have a mask but also grew horns and lost all of his consciousness.
This transformation got him to a level unbeknownst to anyone. Ulquiorra, who had the upper hand, the majority of the time, was helpless against completely hollowified Ichigo. However, the cost was too great as he could not even tell allies apart from enemies and would have killed even his friends had he not regained a bit of consciousness.
This form allowed him to use the abilities of a Vasto Lorde, on top of Shinigami’s abilities. His durability had also reached a whole new level as he was able to tank attacks from Ulquiorra.
This event had struck fear in Ichigo’s heart and he starts hesitating using his hollow mask. Then, we get to the next arc where Ichigo, once again surprises everyone and surpasses his limits.
- Final Getsuga Tensho
In order to defeat Aizen, Ichigo had to, once again, gain strength. This is where his father came in as he told Ichigo about the Final Getsuga Tensho. I also find this form to be the most mysterious transformation of Ichigo, the reason being, there was not much background provided for this.
But anyways, let’s focus on the coolest transformation Ichigo has ever had. In this form, he becomes the Zanpakuto itself. This was why Aizen was not able to read his spiritual pressure at all. His appearance had changed a lot in this form as he turns much taller than before and has a dead cold expression on his face.
His hair turns black when finally turns into the final Getsuga Tensho and a cloud of black Shihakusho surrounded him. This time he did not have any blade as he was the blade himself. In order to defeat Aizen, he used a new technique that was specific to this transformation. It was called Mugetsu where he unleased the strongest attack able to penetrate Aizen in his perfected form. The drawback to it was that Ichigo had turned into a normal human unable to see any spirits.
While everyone had thought that everything was lost, there was another source of power that was waiting for Ichigo. He was introduced to the fullbringers and they told him that he can regain the powers he thought were lost forever. They taught him how fullbring worked and the ability of things to have memories that can be restored.
It was done with the help of his substitute soul reaper badge. Even though the fullbring could not bring out all the power inside of him, it did enable him to be able to fight again. There were many stages of transformation when he was learning to use his fullbring and its completed stage was when he wore a skeleton sort of outfit. Ichigo was finally able to imitate his powers of being a substitute soul reaper.
However, these powers were soon taken away, or rather they were stolen. This paved way for the next form of Ichigo. This was possible only because fullbring had only brought out the surface of his powers as stated by Rukia herself and the rest was still inside him as a memory.
- Shikai and Bankai (Renewed)
After getting his fullbring power stolen and being powerless again, Ichigo was lost in despair again as he felt powerless. This was the moment when Rukia appeared and did what she did at beginning of the series as well. She stabbed him with a special sword that was made by Urahara.
That sword contained reiatsu of all the captains and vice-captains of Gotei 13 as their thanks for saving soul society. The sword then awakened the power of a soul reaper once again that was dormant inside Ichigo. However, this time his appearance was different. He was also much stronger than his original Shikai and Bankai.
His appearance was symbolic of his soul reaper powers but also had traces of fullbring as well. His sword was also different from his original. This is what I call the renewed Shikai and Bankai transformation. We can also say that he was at his peak after his renewed powers until he realized his identity as a Quincy and was able to reach even greater heights in the TYBW arc.
- Soul King palace trained form
This is yet to be shown in the anime but since I have already read the manga and am aware of this transformation, I will talk about it as well. When his Bankai was broken in the TYBW arc, he was again left powerless as there was no way to recover a broken Bankai until Squad 0 showed up.
They told him that it cannot be remade but it can definitely be reforged and he was taken to the Soul King Palace to train and reforge his Bankai. However, this was more complicated as he was not originally a soul reaper. This made him go back and learn about his origins. Then he was finally able to understand himself and gained a new power that was unlike any other.
When he realized his true origins, he was able to gain the powers of Quincy, a soul reaper and a hollow at the same time. This was the moment when he finally gained control over all of his powers and was ready to take on Yhwach.
In this form, he had a horn and white face signifying his hollowification, and two blades that symbolize the mix of Quincy and Soul Reaper. There’s a catch here as well. I have a theory that even this was not the max power Ichigo possessed. My reasoning for it is that one of his horns was broken in the battle against Ulquiorra and his Bankai was also broken as well which got him to lose a portion of his powers.
However, this is only a speculation as I don’t have evidence to prove it. So anyways, this form also had Shikai and Bankai. I described the Shikai and his Bankai was not much different as the only major difference was that the two blades merged together giving him an even bigger boost than his already boosted strength.