The Zanpakuto is the most important weapon in Bleach, and has two main levels of combat: Shikai, who makes the sword reveal its powers; and Bankai, which requires the wearer to manifest their Zanpakuto spirit and is much more powerful than the previous form.
At the beginning of the story, it is mentioned that a Bankai is at least five to ten times more powerful than a Shikai, a general rule that is more or less precise. However, this scale of power is not universal, considering that the strongest Shinigami possess Shikai that are enormously overwhelming, while there are some Bankai that are quite … mediocre.
10 Shikai stronger than Bankai: Ryujin Jakka
The Shikai of the Captain Commander, Ryujin Jakka, is an overwhelming force of fire. Its temperature is such that it burns the earth below your feet, as well as the heavens above.
Very few people have the reiryoku to handle a battle against this Shikai, considering that Shunsui and Ukitake together fail to quell their hell. In fact, Aizen’s creation of Wonderweiss has the sole purpose of preventing the old man from accessing Ryujin Jakka.
9 Bankai weaker than Shikai: Kinshara Butodan
Rojuro Otoribashi’s Kinshara Butodan is impressive indeed, as Bankai becomes a gigantic metaphor for music. The Shi no Butodan, or “Dancers of Death”, use sound to generate some truly spectacular effects, such as “Sea Drift”, “Prometheus” and “Ein Heldenleben”.
The only downside, and it’s one of the biggest, is that anyone who can’t hear Kinshara Butodan will be completely immune to it. This Bankai really borders on uselessness.
8 Shikai stronger than Bankai: Zangetsu
Zangetsu has been shown to be capable of taking on highly trained combatants without much damage to himself and his user, Ichigo Kurosaki. However, the double Zangetsus, incorporating the inner Hollow and Quincy of the young Shinigami, forms a Shikai much stronger than ever.
In this state, Ichigo is able to completely deny the attacks that would take down an ordinary captain, and it doesn’t take much effort either. Unfortunately, it has almost no effect on Yhwach.
7 Bankai weaker than Shikai: Tekken Tachikaze
Tekken Tachikaze looks super cool, especially when its wielder, Kensei Muguruma uses it as gigantic hand blades. In theory, managing to concentrate all of his power within such a small Bankai is impressive, because it means that just one of his blows could destroy half a city block.
Too bad that technique makes no sense in a world built on reiatsu magic, because Kensei loses miserably to the Arrancar, Wonderweiss Margela, who is later ripped apart by Yamamoto Genryusai with her bare knuckles.
6 Shikai stronger than Bankai: Kyoka Suigetsu
Aizen’s Shikai, Kyoka Suigetsu, is one to watch out for, except that there is no way to do it if his opponent has already seen his release without being aware of it. It seems that every powerful Shinigami in Soul Society is under his spell, granting him immeasurable manipulative power during combat.
Kanzen Saimin, or Perfect Hypnosis, tricks anyone in the vicinity into believing that Aizen’s illusions are, in fact, reality. Also, there is the fact that it cuts Kokujo Tengen Myo’o, the Bankai of Komamura, in half.
5 Bankai weaker than Shikai: Ryumon Hozukimaru
To be fair, Ikkaku hasn’t trained enough to fully develop his Ryumon Hozukimaru, but as he currently stands, his Bankai is not worth mentioning in the least. First of all, it’s huge, which makes handling it a bit tricky if you’re inexperienced. And secondly, Ryumon Hozukimaru’s strength increases the longer the battle lasts.
If that’s the case, then why did a simple Fraction successfully tear it to pieces? Sure, Edrad dies in the process, but Ikkaku can no longer use his Bankai properly.
4 Shikai stronger than Bankai: Nozarashi
Zaraki Kenpachi’s Nozarashi blew up a meteor aimed at the Seireitei, and all you have to do is turn it in the direction you want. Gremmy Thomeaux’s Visionary falters before his sheer power, and anything the “stronger” Sternritter throws at him is simply denied.
The best example to show Nozarashi appears in the fight between him and Gerald Valkyrie, a member of Schutzstaffel who is seemingly invincible in every aspect of the word.
3 Bankai weaker than Shikai: Jakuho Raikoben
Soi Fon’s diminutive Shikai transforms into the gigantic Jakuho Raikoben, a gleaming golden rocket whose destructive power is out of the ordinary. When it explodes in the fight against Baraggan Louisenbarn (at close range), it severely damages the Second Sword and also creates fractures in an almost unbreakable seal, Shiju no Saimon.
The problem, however, is that Soi Fon cannot use her Bankai multiple times, and more importantly, it is unnecessarily cumbersome to use. All a skilled enemy has to do is dodge.
two Shikai stronger than Bankai: Ichimonji
Ichimonji, as used by Zero Squad’s Ichibei Hyosube, has almost editorial powers: he can prevent attacks simply by removing the so-called name of the technique (or the one who launches it). In addition to mastering all “black” things, Ichimonji’s unique ability lies in his loyalty to his master.
For example, when Yhwach activates Sankt Altar, everything he takes from Ichibei is returned. Also, how can any common Bankai acquire a skill like Futen Daisatsuryo?
1 Bankai weaker than Shikai: Hihio Zabimaru
Abarai Renji’s latest Bankai, So’o Zabimaru is a force of nature, but his original version, Hihio Zabimaru, is lukewarm, to say the least. His reiatsu increases, but the actual power present in his offensive moves is minimal.
He is no match for Yammy Llargo, the Zeroth Espada, or Kuchiki Byakuya (though it should be noted that the latter requires his own Bankai to defeat Renji). Ultimately, Hihio Zabimaru is one of the less inspired Bankai in the series.
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