This time around the topic is what comes to mind first for most guys when they think of Bleach; a constant, rubbed-in-your-face presence of jaw dropping, shiny, beautiful, plentiful, larger than life, multicoloured, multisized swords.
Swords has been the weapon of choice for the vast majority of the series characters, be they shinigami, arrancar or fullbringer, and as such they and their abilities form the core of the fights of Bleach. Naturally, this meant that Kubo needed to make the blade of the series’ protagonist special, fitting of the beloved shonen trope of the one of a kind wunderkind. And if there’s one thing Final Fantasy VII has taught us, it’s that you simply cannot go wrong with a sword so big that it should do more damage to the hero’s spine than the enemy.
I believe Asakura Yoh is the current record holder -that tentlike thing he’s in is the swords hilt
Thus we arrive at Ichigo and his Megazanpukoto, and to put the cherry on the superpowered protagonist cake, the soul cutters size is reflective of ones Power Level. The fact that this is no ordinary sword/powerlevel is established as early as chapter one by a wide eyed Rukia, and later echoed by an incredulous Renji, who repeat the thoughts of any reader over 16 when they declare Ichigos sword the most ridiculous thing they have ever seen. At this point Kubo probably realized that having Ichigo steamroll his way through the entirety of Soul Society because of his unheard of strength would make for a terribly dull arc.
Solution: Renji proclaims that though Ichigos sword is long, it isn’t used to its full potential; Ichigo just isn’t as good as a man with that big a sword should be. So since Ichigos swordsize was just indicative of his true full potential, strong opponents running around with smaller swords than him isn’t that weird since his abilities hadn’t caught up with his swordzise yet. Problem solved!
….but if that was the case I wouldn’t have a post would I?
Fast forward to after the SS arc. Grand fisher reappears, arrancarized, wielding a sword that makes Ichigos look like a toothpick, menacing as fuck. As he faces down Isshin, he points out that, in perfect agreement with everything in the story so far, he has a damn bigass sword, and as such, Isshin can consider himself royally boned. Isshins retort?
“fair point. But I need to be elevated post haste to a top tier fighter, so sucks to be you”
See, apparently sword size means absolutely jack, since as duh everyone except dumb hollows knows, anyone of Captain strength or higher is constantly suppressing their zanpakutos size since otherwise they’d run around with swords the size of skyscrapers. This makes Renji and Rukia the most easily impressed shinigami in existence, because ignoring that any shinigami with the slightest bit of intelligence would figure out the sword compression deal, it should be most obvious to people either related to or subordinates of Captains… Like sisters or vice captains for instance. So unless they’ve started making skyscrapers less than two metres tall, Rukia and Renji have absolutely no business gaping at Ichigos sword like it’s the most impressive thing ever.
Because when we have a reference point called “skyscraper!” for the captain level, logic dictates that there ought to be a general transition towards that length across the shinigami ranks. In other words: if random pathetic fodder shinigami KO’ed by chad has a 1m sword, Renjis should be the size of a schoolbus. That is of course, unless your sword just changes a few millimetres when ascending from lowly mook to vice captain and then explodes into the Empire state building at the captain rank, which doesn’t sound very plausible to me.
Which makes this guy one of Soul Societys top dogs. Who knew.
As it stands, Kubo could have spared himself quite a few plotholes if Isshin had said that “vice captains and captains” compressed their swords rather than just Captains. For a time this seemed plausible; Renji once brought up restraining his power in the human world, but his was later revealed to be the limiters, an external compressor, not a conscious internal one. Meaning that in SS, strength gauging by sword size is still completely fair game outside of captains.
And while the surprise of Rukia and Renji would still be as nonsensical as ever, sword compression would have helped alleviate one of Bleachs’ most obvious issues: Powerlevels.
Oh don’t worry, I’ll Be getting to that down the line.
Remember Grand Fisher? Remember his absolutely gigantic sword? Remember the fact that he was an arrancar just based off a single hollow? Grimmjows fraccion (I’ll be harping on them a lot) were arrancarized adjuchas, which means that they’re each thousands of Grand Fishers mashed together. Strangely this doesn’t seem to give them anything but standard-sized swords, but maybe Aizen taught them compression…and somehow Fisher didn’t notice…I don’t know, but let’s just roll with it. One thing is sure though, their “true” sword size should be much bigger than Fishers, which in turn was much larger than Ichigos. See where I’m going with this?
These guys get absolutely butchered by vice-captains and seated officer level shinigami. With non-compressed swords, smaller than, or same size as the arrancars. Even though Ichigos swordsize was appearantly unheard of.
And this is where the biggest contradiction with Rukias/Renjis surprise at Ichigos strength reveals itself: They both ought to have bigger swords than him. You could argue that Renji went through a powerup, but Rukia certainly didn’t, and Rangiku neither, and at this point I’m starting to ramble and I’d better end this because my head is starting to spin and this could go on and on…
Aside from the obvious reason of making Isshin have a badass moment, Kubo perhaps thought he was patching up a plothole that ultimately is unpatchable. But the reason we have an issue at all is likely because, as stated by the man himself, Kubo had not thought up the concept of captains and head captain of SS when he started the series, and as such hadn’t factored in how their strength would compare to Ichigos. And then come the arrancar arc, also thought up on the fly as SS arc was ending, he needed the series now huge cast to be relevant à logic be damned, these guys can take out Menos Grande on steroids now, where before Renji and Rukia shat their pants at them. Bottom
line is that Kubo introduced a concept that he subsequently neglected, which as we will see is a staple of his, but unlike so many other plot points he actually brought it up again, only to create a whole new mess of other issues.
So, the entire concept of swordlenghts as powerlevels, I declare you a bona fide PLOTHOLE!