Ichibei Hyosube holds the title of the monk who calls the name, and we identify him as the leader of the zero division, the one in charge of arguably the most hyped and most powerful group within Bleach. He has many sides to his character. Looking through his jolly and oversized personality, there is a sinister side, one that we get hints of within the Thousand-Year Blood War Arc and we learn more about within the Can’t Fear Your Own World light novels.
In this blog, I’m going to be talking about every aspect of each base character, although he doesn’t appear much within the manga. I want to dissect all of his appearances, including his battle with Yuhobach and the comments that he makes to Ichigo and the others after he is defeated, as well as the reveals that we get about Ichibei within Can’t Fear Your Own World. So join me as I break down and analyze the high priest Ichibei.
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Through his character design, he may not strike you as being one of the most powerful Shinigami or the individual who has chosen all of the names for everything within the Soul Society, including the names of zanpakuto, shikai, and even Bankai. While being oversized, bald-headed, and donning a really long black beard, the most striking feature of his appearance are his red eyes.
He wears a standard black Shinigami shihakusho under his white long-sleeved zero division coat, and around his neck, he has a subtle, very large red prayer beads which help us with identifying him as a monk. These prayer beads are pretty similar to those that Akuma wears within Street Fighter.
While initially, we perceive him to be this big jolly character who is constantly smiling and remains positive, our perception of him is quickly shifted when we see him battle Yuhobach. We then get to appreciate how sinister his smiling really is. Like I have mentioned, he maintains a very lively expression on his face, but each bait is not to be messed about with.
He fully carries out the responsibility that he’s been handed down as the leader of the zero division, and he does not compromise on his authority as a Shinigami who has been tasked with protecting the Soul King. Like a lot of the characters within Bleach, he does not mix his words, and he’s very upfront with what he thinks.
Ichibei constantly taunts throughout his battles, which is evidently an intimidation tactic. Yuhobach even comments upon this in chapter 606 when, after Ichibei had resolved to kill Yuhobach, he says that Ichibei appears to have become happier now that he has resolved to kill him.
During his battle against Yuhobach, Ichibei condescendingly cuts Yuhobach’s power in half, as he does not want to completely humiliate him by tarnishing his reputation with his underlings if he were to have defeated him at his full power, which Ichibei is pretty confident that he could do.
The Soul King had bestowed upon each way a powerful title, as he is referred to as the monk who calls the real name. And like I have explained, he is the one who had named everything within the Soul Society. With him being the leader of the Zero Division, he was actually the very first Shinigami who had evolved his zanpakuto into a second release date. He had achieved this even before he had named the second release of his unbox doe Bankai.
Ichibei refers to the evolved form of a zanpakuto as shinuchi. He makes his debut appearance after the Soul Society is completely destroyed by the Quincy following the death of Head Captain Yamamoto. He, along with the other members of the Royal Guard, traveled to the Soul Society and spoke with the Gote 13.
When Shunsui questions why they are here, each of them states that they have arrived following orders from the Soul King. They have come to rebuild the Gote 13, but before this, he states that Ichigo needs to be taken to the Soul King’s Palace. Senjumaru then appears with orbs containing several injured Shinigami, as well as an orb that contains Ichigo’s broken Bankai.
When Ichigo questions why they are taking him to the Soul King’s Palace, Ichibei states they’re taking him for a different reason. He says this with a very stern expression on his face, and this reason is only revealed within the first volume of Kantvia on World, which I’ll talk about shortly. Ichigo agrees to go with them after Ichibei reveals that while his zanpakuto cannot be completely fixed, it can be restored to something that is similar to its original form by using Kukakushiba’s Canon.
Ichibei and the others make their way back to the Royal Palace. After arriving, he tells Ichigo that he should be proud of himself, that it’s not every day that an ordinary Shinigami is allowed here. But Ichibei then cracks himself as he states that he’s not sure if he can call him an ordinary Shinigami.
When Ichigo questions that he thought that they needed an Oken to enter into the Royal Palace, each Abyss states that upon entering into the Zero Division, their bones were altered by the Soul King, meaning that the key to enter into the Royal Palace is literally the bones of the Zero Division.
He states that there are two ways to enter into the Royal Palace: the first is that they are let in by choice, or the second is that they come with the Zero Division. Eisen, on the other hand, had tried to create his own Oken, so in other words, he had tried creating the Zero Division by using his own spiritual powers. We see Ichibei again in Chapter 545 when he comments on Rukia and Renji’s progress. He states that they are doing very well with their training as he then asks if the two of them want to train with him in his inner room.
We learn in Chapter 564 that during their training, Ichibei had told Renji that he only knows a portion of his Bankai’s real name, and the fact that his zanpakuto had only taught him half of its name indicates that it only partly acknowledges him. It was difficult for Ichibei to tell this to Renji, especially after how long Renji had fought alongside with his zanpakuto. He offers to tell Renji the real name of his Bankai as he reveals that he was given an ability by the Soul King as the monk who speaks the true name.
We learned that he had actually come up with the name Zambakto, and that every Shikai and Bankai Ichibei was responsible for naming. In addition to this, all of the countless phenomena that occur within the Soul Society, it was Ichibei who had named them. He is aware of all the names of every Zambakto from the moment it is formed by Owatsunimaya, and this Asuji is handed to a Shinigami, thus explaining how he was able to tell Ranji the real name of his monkey after Ichigo’s training is complete.
We see each Bay again in chapter 555, where he tells Ichigo that he doesn’t have to worry whether he will make it in time or not for the battle against the Quincy, since they have already started attacking the Soul Society about three hours ago. This prompts Ichigo to immediately rush down to the Cerate. When Hikifune comments that Ichigo has gotten so strong, Ichibei states that it’s not that he’s gotten stronger, it’s the fact that he has grown. Ichigo is stronger in body and spirit, as Ichibei states that he has now become a true shining army.”
“In chapter 588, Ichibei senses that Uriu Hashwalt and Nuew Habak have arrived at the Soul King’s Palace. Upon their arrival, Ichibei uses his powers to hide the Royal Palace from the Quincy. Yuhobach wastes little time in confronting Ichibei, calling him by his name and asking whether he is going to let him pass or not.
But Ichibei tells Yuhobach not to speak his name so lightly, if he doesn’t want to lose his voice, thus beginning the battle between Ichibei and Yuhobach. Throughout this battle, we get to see Ichibei utilize his full power, similar to Head Captain Yamamoto as the leader of the Zero Division. It was very rewarding as we got to see him unleash his full power and the true extent of his Bankai abilities.”
“Throughout this battle, Ichibei was very confident, maintaining that sinister smile on his face for the majority of the fight. Yuhobach was utterly overwhelmed, and it’s not an understatement to say that he was beneath Ichibei’s feet. Even I had assumed that Ichibei had easily won their encounter. But unfortunately, the tables were turned after Yuhobach revealed his ability, The Almighty, a power that can overcome any other ability.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Ichibei’s powers are to be taken lightly. In terms of his Shikai, it is released when he says the command ‘painted black.’ His Zambakto, Ichimonji, transforms as the brush turns into a short-tipped blade. While in his Shikai, Ichibei swings his Zambakto, Ichimonji, as it releases ink, and anything that this ink covers loses its name and its powers. Because Ichibei’s power derives from the color black, every time Ichibei releases Ichimonji, all of the color black from all beings, whether they are dead or alive, becomes his power.”
“Ichibei’s Bankai, Shirafude Ichimonji, perfectly complements his Shikai, and it actually relies upon the abilities of his Shikai, which some would say is a weakness of his Bankai. Upon activating his Bankai with the command ‘Shinuchi,’ Ichibei is able to change the name of any one of his opponents as long as they have been hit by the ink of his Shikai.
Shirafude Ichimonji utilizes a white ink, and by writing on the bodies of its targets, he is able to change their names, thus bestowing upon his target the properties and powers of the name that he is granted. An example of this is when he changes Yuhobach’s name to a black ant, giving him all the power and strength of an ordinary ant.
The only way Yuhobach was able to overcome this ability was via his own broken the almighty power in chapter 610. After Yuhobach states that he is no longer nameless and powerless, he destroys Ichibei’s body from the inside out by blowing up his torso. Ichibei’s dismembered head falls to the ground as he loses his battle against Yuhobach. After Ichigo and the others arrive at the Royal Palace, Ichibei calls out to Ichigo, telling him to call out his name.
After saying Ichibei’s full name, he reveals that all power dwells within names. Thanks to Ichigo saying his name, he had received a small portion of Ichigo’s powers which helped him heal himself. It is here in chapter 611 that Ichibei tells Ichigo that he needs him to stop Yuhobach. The fate of reality is in his hands now that the Zero Division has fallen. Despite the fact that Ichibei has regained his body, it’ll be too late by the time his strength returns.
He cannot think of anybody else who has the power to stop Yuhobach. Right now, he is not asking Ichigo to kill him, but rather just to stop him. The Soul King is the key to the world, he states, and if the Soul King dies, the serotate the world of the living. All of reality will collapse in on itself and disappear. He apologizes to Ichigo for handing him such a heavy task, but the fate of reality is now in his hands. In chapter 612, after Yuhobach impales the Soul King, we see Ichibei speaking to himself as he apologizes to Ichigo and his friends, revealing that they have no chance of defeating Yuhobach now.
This is very strange of him to say, especially after he had encouraged Ichigo and the others to go and face Yuhobach. This is the darker side to his character being revealed here, as he was completely aware that they had no chance of defeating him but was still okay with them challenging Yuhobach, even if it meant that they would die.
He then says to himself that Ichigo and the others have nothing to fear because this is what peace is all about, as he then refers to Yuhobach, saying, ‘Isn’t that right?’ It is because of moments like this that Ichibei’s character is disliked by a lot of fans of the series, including myself.
Despite being the most highly regarded and powerful Shinigami, through his actions, we cannot help but think very lowly of him. He is somebody who places the interests of the Soul King above everything else, and it is because of his devotion to this mission that he can come across as being very evil and not forthcoming with his true motives and objectives.
My opinion of Ichibei had changed after his final appearance within the story when he had apologized to Ichigo and the others, knowing full well that they had no hope of defeating Yuhobach. It is like he had accepted that Yuhobach was going to kill the Soul King and that nobody could do anything about it.
Maybe this was a part of his ego speaking. If Ichibei, the leader of the Zero Division, was unable to stop Yuhobach, then what chance does Ichigo have of stopping him? We then learn more about Ichibei’s true motives and the reason why he had wanted to take Ichigo into the Royal Palace. We would indeed caught for your own world light novels.
It is here where we learned that Ichibei had actually wanted to kill Ichigo and to cut up his body and use his partially conscious corpse as the new Soul King. And this is the reason why he had trained Ichigo in the first place. I’m sure that this would have happened if Ichigo didn’t end up killing Yuhobach after the end of the Thousand-Year Blood War Arc. Ichibei had actually used the partially conscious corpse of Yuhobach and turned him into the next Soul King.
Despite how sinister and evil his plans were for Ichigo, he doesn’t regret that he had them. During a conversation between Shunsui and Ichibei, as they discussed the nature of the current Soul King, Shunsui states that he is relieved that Ichigo didn’t need to be cut down, but Ichibei states that Ichigo got lucky, as he didn’t expect him to defeat or survive his battle against Yuhobach.
In volume 3 of Kantfy Your Own World, we learn more about each base past and motives during this final installment of this novel. He explains the true history of the world as he states that originally reality was in chaos. There was neither life nor death, progression and regression were taking place at the same time, and it had taken 100 million years for the world to even stabilize.
Eventually, Hollows had emerged in the world and had started to eat human inhabitants, thus disrupting the balance of circulating Souls. This had eventually given birth to the first Menosgrande. Due to the disruption of Hollows, the worlds had stagnated until a new being had emerged called The Soul King.
This transcendent being had ended up destroying the Menos. Ichibei had admitted that at the time, other special beings like himself had also emerged, but there was nobody who was on the level of the Soul King. This helps us to understand that Ichibei’s existence predates the Royal Palace and the Soul Society.
He was alive alongside the Original Soul King in his form prior to him becoming a linchpin. The Soul King had continued to destroy Hollows to protect the world, but it had caused the world to regress back towards chaos. In response to this, five powerful beings from that time had worked together in order to restore the world.
We learned that these five individuals were the ancestors of the five Great Noble Families. Ichibei states that he worked alongside them to split reality into three separate worlds. In order to do so, they needed the power of a transcendent being, and it is for this reason that they had captured and sealed the Soul King in a crystal.
Ichibei was a witness to the Soul King’s powers being used to create these separate concepts of life and death and the three separate worlds, and this was the start of the cycle of souls. The cycle of souls is the balance of souls in the human world and the Soul Society, and this is maintained by the Shinigami who kill Hollows who disrupt this balance. Ichibei states that he is unsure as to why the Soul King had cooperated with them.
He speculates that it was because he had foreseen the future and had seen that agreeing with the ancestors of the noble families was the best option to take, but like I said, this is mere speculation. As Ichibei goes on to describe how one of the ancestors from the Sunni Ashiro Noble family had mutilated the body of the Soul King, removing his limbs and organs, thus resulting in the Soul King that we know of today.
Ichibei is convinced that the Soul King had chosen to live this life as a linchpin, but it is hard to say who would want to be mutilated and put on display as a false ruler. It can be said that it is Ichibei who is the true ruler, as he speaks for the Soul King and is the one who is maintaining this lie. From what we know, he is the only surviving person who is aware of the true history of the world, how it was built upon a crime that was worse than murder.
Ichibei had lied to everybody and had supported the five Great Noble families in the capture and mutilation of the Soul King. If anything, he is a false leader who has shown his loyalty to the ancestors of the five Great Noble families. He is far from being a noble soldier of the Soul King. Ichibei never truly obeyed the Soul King, and he is responsible for a millennia of lies that society and reality are built upon.
While Ichibei plays a key role within the story and fulfills his purpose as the leader of the Zero Division, the information that we learned about him from Can’t Fear Your Own World helps us to see a completely different side to his character as he becomes a key figure in the history of the Soul Society.
He has some of the most broken powers and abilities within all of Bleach, and just because he was defeated by Yuhobach doesn’t mean that his Shikai or Bankai is to be underestimated. They had a truly incredible battle, one that I’m really looking forward to seeing animated.
Now, while within the manga we didn’t know much about his true motives, thanks to the novels we get to understand more about him, and it’s for this reason that I started to explain a lot of the goings-on within Can’t Fear Your Own World, as I believe that it helps us to understand more about Ichibei.
I wouldn’t have been able to do justice to his character analysis if I didn’t mention these key points. If you enjoyed me diving into novel exclusive material, then definitely let me know, and if you enjoyed my character analysis on Ichibei and if you learned something new, then definitely continue the discussion in the comments. Thank you for sticking around till the end of the blog, and whatever you contribute will mean a lot to me.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.