This article references information from the Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Arc that has not yet been released in AnimeYachiru Unohana (aka Retsu) is a gentle, dark-haired beauty in charge of health and safety as the Captain of the 4th Division in Bleach† She does not discriminate and is known for going out of her way to heal all those in need, be it friend or foe. Her personality exudes a distinctly non-confrontational look and a deep sense of duty that make Unohana a very likable character, so many fans were shocked to find out that most of her Gotei 13 colleagues are actually quite terrified of this timid little creature. . At first impression, Retsu Unohana looks the most like her subordinate, Isane Kotetsu, the mild-mannered lieutenant of the 4th Division, than anyone else. However, if you delve into Unohana’s history, it turns out that this Shinigami medic has more in common with the brute force that is Zaraki Kenpachi, who appears to be the polar opposite of Unohana. It seems unimaginable that this delicate lady would have such a bloodlust and passion for fighting, but surprisingly Unohana was a thrilling combat junkie in her early years and the captain of the 11th Division.
Before the Gotei 13 were founded in Bleach, Unohana was a criminal mastermind with sinister intent who caused chaos and murder. However, Yamamoto saw potential in the woman and approached her with a proposal, and together with Jūshirō Ukitake and Shunsui Kyōraku, they set up Seireitei’s defense force. Unohana laid the foundations for the 11th Division, which specializes in sword fighting, and it was not until much later that she began to dabble in medicine, thanks to Tenjirō Kirinji’s instructions. Her bloodlust was still in full force during this time, as the Shinigami manages to find a sinister application of her newfound healing abilities, with the desired results of a prolonged battle. Unohana’s favorite move was to heal her opponents just before they died, for no other reason than to keep them fighting for her own selfish pleasure.
Unohana and Zaraki Kenpachi
As leader of the 11th Division, Unohana was originally responsible for clearing the Seireitei rig. With her mission completed and overcoming so many unworthy opponents, the Shinigami lost interest in sword fighting as she struggled to renew her passion for combat. While making her way through Rukongai, Unohana finds a young man named Zaraki Kenpachi, a surprisingly adept fighter who lifts the Captain out of her depression. She realizes that the youngster has an exceptional ability, able to claim the title of the strongest Shinigami one day, and her faith in finding more epic battles is restored.
The strongest Shinigami
After her first battle with Zaraki, Unohana returned to Yamamoto’s side, but moved up to the 4th Division and focused more on her healing skills than her swordplay. Regardless of her new role, Unohana maintained her title of Kenpachi, which is an honor that only the strongest of the Shinigami of each generation are allowed to wear. The exact reason Unohana was named the Kenpachi over the Captain-Commander has not been confirmed, although fans speculate that it was due to her wider range of abilities.
As powerful as Yamamoto is, he relies heavily on his overwhelming spiritual energy to do the work for him and then worries less about other essential qualities. The best description is from a reddit user (RueOrintier), who compared Yamamoto to a hammer and Unohana to a knife: both potentially deadly weapons, but one requires a lot of skill to be effective, and the other only needs brute force . In a community that relies on the use of Zanpakutos, the knife would receive more praise than the hammer, making Unohana the more respectable choice.
As the Shinigami rules dictate, there may only be one Kenpachi per generation. When she met the young Zaraki, Unohana had to admit to herself that one day she would have to give up this honor. The reason for her shift within the Gotei 13 ranks is uncertain, but Unohana may have had a bigger plan going on. Zaraki was not yet a qualified Shinigami when she found him, but his insane skills with a sword intrigued her. If the boy were to join the Soul Reapers ranks one day, the 11th Division would be a perfect fit as fighting is their number one priority. Knowing full well how fast he could move through the ranks, Unohana possibly stepped aside to make way for her future teammate and passed the title of captain to the man who most deserved it.
It’s only in the Bleach: Thousand Years’ Blood War Arc that Unohana and Zaraki cross swords again, as she is the only Shinigami skilled enough to be a worthy opponent during Zaraki’s training. The Quincy troops are approaching and without his Bankai, Zaraki can’t do much to aid in the battle. Fans will get a real taste of Unohana’s incredible strength for the first time, as she slays the nearly indestructible Zaraki (who has already removed his power-suppressing eyepatch) to a pulp with ease. Jaws drop to the ground as the Shinigami Healer continues her attack, slitting her opponent’s throat. She heals the dying man and immediately continues her attack, fully embracing her long-lost bloodlust.
Unohana states that Zaraki’s powers greatly increase each time he returns from the brink of death, giving rise to her unexpected brutality. However, it’s clear that both Unohana and Zaraki love to go head-to-head again as they push their skills to the limit. In a bittersweet victory, Unohana submits to her wounds and welcomes Death, pleased with Zaraki’s performance and happy to finally be handed the famed Kenpachi title.
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