With all of us excited for the return of the Bleach anime in just a few months, I thought what better time than now to dive into the most mysterious and powerful group of individuals within Bleach. I’m of course referring to the Royal Guard. I’m starting off by analyzing the first member of the Zero Division who was mentioned within the manga during the “Turn Back the Pendulum” arc.
I am referring to Kiryo Hikifune, the former captain of the 12th division who had left an impression upon a subordinates like Kyori prior to her promotion into the Royal Guard. In this blog, I will be talking about everything that we know about her character, including the relationships that she shares with the other Royal Guard members and her former subordinates who remember her fondly.
In addition to this, we will be speaking about the role that she plays within the Thousand-Year Blood War arc, how she assists Ichigo and the others with their training, and how she battles against Yuhobach when he arrives within the Soul King’s Palace. So without further delay, let’s get into my breakdown and analysis of Kiryo Hikifune.
For only 20% of the people who actually watch my content are subscribed to the channel. If you enjoyed these blogs, then subscribe and stick around for more content just like this. Now let’s get back to the topic of the blog. Kiryo Hikifune does make her debut appearance within Chapter 516 of the manga, but as I have mentioned, we do hear about a character before this during the “Turn Back the Pendulum” arc.
Hikifune has two physical appearances, which are very different from each other. The first is the oversized look that she is first introduced with. She appears to be a well-fed purple head lady with very noticeable black lips. She is the first female character to showcase to us a different body type with a rounder, more plump physique, which is similar to the appearance of the Vizard Hachi.
When Shinji sees her, he states that she appears to look very different from what he remembers of her during her time as a captain of the Gote 13. The true form of Hikifuni is revealed to us in Chapter 521, as we see a design that is more in line with Kubo’s signature slender style of drawing characters. We learn that Hikifune takes up this larger form in order to withstand and provide the large amount of riatsu that is required for her cooking techniques.
Because it uses almost all of her raatsu, she is left with no choice but to gain as much weight as possible so that her body can withstand the process. Hikifune is a kind and cheerful character with a very animated, bubbly personality. Even when she’s escorting others, she continues to smile.
Like in Chapter 517, we see her striking Shinji for not greeting her upon her arrival to the Soul Society. We learn about her motherly side during the “Turn Back the Pendulum” arc, where Hayuri refuses to accept Urahara as her new captain, citing that Hikifune was too kind and caring to be simply replaced by anybody. This motherly side is highlighted once again in Chapter 555 when she gives Ichigo rice balls prior to him departing from the Soul King’s Palace to battle the Sternritters.
Hikifune has a lot of pride in preparing her food because of her strong love for food. Contrast interestingly, we do see that she is stunned and confident in her abilities while she was facing off against the Shootstaffle. So now that we know a solid background of a character, let’s dive into everything that we know about her past prior to her first appearance within the manga.
The Turn Back the Pendulum Arc takes place 110 years before the current timeline of Bleach. It is here that we learned that Hikifuni was promoted from the captain of the 12th division to a member of the royal guard. She was given this opportunity because she invented the artificial Soul.
This invention was recognized by the Soul King. Hikifune was supposed to attend the captain ceremony of Kisuke Urahara, but for some reason, she was unable to attend it. Despite not seeing her, we are aware that she leaves a lasting impression upon all those who were close to her, notably Yuri, who struggles to come to terms with their promotion to the point that she hates Urahara for not being Hikifune.
During the present timeline of the story, we are properly introduced to Hikifune after the first devastating invasion of the Quincy with the Soul Society in a dice situation. After the death of Head Captain Yamamoto, the royal guard, who typically do not intervene with matters of the Soul Society, are forced to lend a hand to the Gote 13.
Hikifone strikes Shinji after he fails to recognize her until she speaks about Hiyori’s well-being. He was genuinely surprised with the change of appearance as he states that she seems to be a different person, and it is obvious that he was more familiar with her in her slender form.
The royal guard revealed the true reason for that appearance as they take Rukia, Renji, Biakya, and Ichigo to the Soul King’s Palace. Hikifune shows her motherly caring side in chapter 519 when she scolds her fellow Royal Guard member, Tenjiro Karinji, for not properly explaining the Soul King’s Palace to Ichigo.
She then proceeds to tell Ichigo about the layout of the palace and how each of the zero division members have been given their own city within the Soul King’s Realm. Ichigo and Renji arrive at Hikifune’s city, Gatodan, in chapter 521. She proceeds to prepare food for the two of them, encouraging them to eat as she explains that it is her job to feed them, and it is their job to ensure that they get full off of her food.
During the chapter, we get to truly appreciate the techniques and abilities of this particular member of the Royal Guard. She reveals to us that she has a passion for cooking food and feeding it to others. When she leaves to make the two of them dessert, she returns in her true form, which is her slimmer appearance that I explained earlier. Her sudden change in appearance shocks Ichigo and Ranji.
Hikifune explains that she utilizes all of the Ratsu in her body while she is cooking, thus explaining why she is forced to gain weight prior to cooking so that her body can withstand the pressure that her cooking has on it.
She explains that each of the members of the Royal Guard have invented an item which has profoundly benefited the Soul Society, and thus gaining the recognition of the Soul King who requests for the individuals to be enlisted into his Royal Guard. Hikifune was responsible for creating the artificial soul and the ability to insert them into a body.
Hikifune states that the food that she makes is also imbued with Ratsu so it serves to enhance the Riyatsu of the one who has eaten the food, elevating the Shinigami’s power. Now before Renji and Ichigo leave her, she warns them to be careful in the Palace of Owatsunimaya as nobody knows what he might do.
In chapter 555, we once again see Hikune express their compassion as she hands to Ichigo a package containing a rice ball that he can snack on if he gets hungry during his trip back down to the Sarita. This, of course, is such a motherly thing to do, and she even comments upon Ichigo thanking her for the food as she notes that Ichigo has changed since he had first arrived within the Soul King’s Palace, as he no longer has wavering and uncertain Ratsu.
In chapter 588 while eating, Hikifune senses the arrival of Udyu Hashwad and Yuhabakh into the Soul King’s Palace. Hikifune confronts Yuhobach and his Elite Guard in chapter 600 as she traps them in a cage made from a tree. When Lilbarrow attempts to shoot the cages, she explains that the tree is immune with her Ratsu so the tree will absorb any Ratsu attacks similar to the attacks produced by the Quincy.
Hikifune is next seen after Yuhobach revives his Fallen Elite Guard. Together with Karinji, she attempts to block an attack from Lilbarrow which was directed towards Nimaya. They ultimately fail as she is surprised to see that the Quincy’s attack had hit its target regardless of their intervention.
Hikifune is last seen within chapter 611 as she appears to have been defeated along with the other members of the Zero Division. Now, I have mentioned this several times, and it is important to emphasize this point about Hikuni’s character, which is that she is a maternal figure and that she is not shy when it comes to looking after her underlings.
During the Turn Back the Pendulum Arc, Shinji had warned the newly appointed Captain Urahara that he would struggle to win over Hiori because she was so attached to Hikifune. She was like a mother to her. So for this reason, it is disappointing that we did not get to see a reunion between these two characters as I would have loved to see it.
It would have also been interesting to see her interacting with her successor Urahara as he would have been explaining to her how we had transformed her division into these Soul Societies research and development Institute.
I have no doubt that this would have made Hikifune incredibly proud considering she was the one who had invented the artificial Soul, proving that she has an exceptional scientific background which rivals the prowess of Urahara and even Miri. Hikifune had instantly taken a liking to Ichigo as she made sure to feed him well and to look after him as if she were his mother.
She even defends him from her fellow Zero Division member Tanjiro Karinji and warns him and Renji about Owatunimaya prior to them setting off for his Palace. Despite her encounters with Ichigo being fairly brief, they were enough for us to understand that she had adopted a motherly role with our protagonist, and ultimately she was proud to see how far he had come after he had completed his training within these sorkings Palace.
Despite the fact that we don’t see her interact much with the other men members of the Zero Division, we do get to appreciate that they all have a mutual respect for each other, and they all approve of their leader, Ichibe. She did express concern over the unpredictable nature of Owatsunimaya, but this was more to forewarn Ichigo and Renji.
As far as Tanjiro Karenji is concerned, it seems as though she has a big sister type relationship with him, as she isn’t shy to scold him when he does something that she disapproves of. Hikifune is regarded as a Master Chef, as in her own words she states that manipulating food means to manipulate life.
Her powers and abilities are best described by this quote, as she uses her abilities to feed her fellow shining Army. By infusing her reyatsu into the ingredients, she is able to make the food that empowers anybody who eats it, as it replenishes that reyatsu. The ingredients found within the food are sourced from her very own body, and she uses these very powers to create the cage of Life Tree.
In chapter 604, we get to see a glimpse of a Zambak doll as it takes up the form of a large walk spoon. We do not know if this is the released or unreleased form of a blade, and sadly, this is the extent of the knowledge that we have over Zambakto, as neither shikai nor bankai are formally revealed within the manga.
In the end, Kiryo Hikifune’s character only appeared within the manga a handful of times, but her impact upon the overall story is not to be understated. Do I feel like more could have been done with a character? Yes, but I feel the same way about all of the other members of the Zero Division, who I will get around to making blogs on.
Despite this, when it comes to Hikifune, I am content with what we know about her. Learning that she had invented the artificial Soul, as well as being the first member of the Zero Division that we are made aware of but we don’t get to see her properly until 200 chapters later. The compassionate and caring aspect of a character was utilized excellently, as we see this side through how fondly Yuri remembers her and her bond with Ichigo that she forms.
I do feel like so much more could have been done with her character, as like I mentioned earlier, it would have been nice to see her have a reunion with Yuri, as well as getting to see more of her powers and abilities, as it would have been nice to see her shikai and bankai.
So with all of these wishes of wanting to see her character expanded upon, I’m fairly confident that we will get to see more of her and the other Zero Division members during the anime adaptation of the Thousand-Year Blood War Arc. Now we are at the point of the blog where I want to hand over the discussion to all of you. What do you think about the character of Kiryo Hikifune?
Is she one of your favorite members of the Zero Division? I would love to see the discussion continued within the comments, so let me know your thoughts. Once again, thank you for making it to the end of this blog, and I can’t wait to see you in my next Bleach blog.
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.