Thursday, 14 July 2011

Side order of ramble: Zword Kompression 2, and the woes of being Ichigo Kurosaki

Back when I did my last piece on sword sizes, and reused the phrase “compressed sword” quite a few times, I got to thinking about bankais. Bankais are supposed to be the ultimate sword release, where the blades full potential is unleashed into an over-the –top piece of weaponry that may or may not resemble a sword. Compared to their normally compressed states the swords are almost unrecognizable, but that’s why it’s called a sword “release”. So why did I start thinking of bankais? Well, specifically I just thought of Ichigos’.

By the time Ichigos was revealed, the bankais we’d seen were:

- A giant Samurai warrior who follows your movement

- A giant baboon skeleton snake whip-thing

- A million pieces of flying shrapnel that you can control and shape into whatever you want

- A giant poisonous fetus caterpillar with swords poking out of its torso

- A giant sphere that locks down all the senses of everyone in it, besides the user

The unique trait of Ichigos bankai is to compress his power into the size of a normal sized blade. Well that’s a bit anticlimactic but it sure is unique compared to all the extraordinary other ban –


The special ability of Ichigos bankai is what every single other captain level zanpakuto wielder is subconsciously doing to their swords all the time. And Ichigo gets stronger by compressing his power, whereas everyone else gets stronger by releasing it. Not only is Ichigos method thus opposite of the Standard Rules Of Transformation of the shonen genre (Freezer wasn’t strongest in his first form, was he?), it goes against all the captains and arrancar of Bleach itself – and thus infers that everyone would potentially be better off not releasing their swords at all.

But that’s not really my issue here, that’s just tangential rambling. What really got me was the realization that the only unique thing about Ichigos bankai was something every other relevant character could do. But wait! Unlike everyone else, Ichigos bankai gives him a huge speed boost! None of the other guys have that!

Well, apart from the Bleachverse having separate speedboosting techniques for Qiuncies, Shinigami, Hollows AND fullbringers, speed based fighters in Bleach are not exactly scarce. Yourichi, Soifon and Byakuya are all known as speedsters of soul society, Zommari had his afterimages, Grimmjow and Ulq had speed increasing transformations, Aizen could move in the blink of an eye, Jackies boots make her fleet footed, and even Chad got faster in Hueco Mondo. So I’m not exactly giving Ichigo points for originality just for being a little speedy –especially when that “power” is rendered completely unimpressive come the arrancar arc.

Ah, but his bankai gives him his trusty signature attack, Getsuga Tenshou! That’s Ichigos thing, his trademark!

…Which is also used by Urahara, and Isshin. Plus, as some may forget, it is not a bankai specific skill; Shikai Ichigo was launching flying sword slashes too, all his Bankai did was color it black. And really, Getsuga Tenshou as a signature technique and pretty much ONLY technique of the series main character is just plain not cutting it. Go through any shonen series that features a swordsman, and odds are they’ll launch a flying slash from their blade.

Hell, even Naruto has introduced this move lately, used by Samurai warriors, ranking pretty low on the fodder tier list. Whereas main character Ichigos GT comprises his entire repertoire, and is differentiated from everyone elses by being chocolate flavored.

Well…his bankai does come with a wardrobe change…he gets a slightly matrixified black garb, compared to his usual black garb.

Except yawn. A shikai-bankai comparison of Ichigo is completely and utterly unremarkable compared to every arrancar transformation ever, and Renji and Jackie have the clothes-transformation skill too. And we can’t forget Lord Aizen and his faaaaabulous last minute array of outfit changes. So, the only thing unique Ichigos bankai leaves him with is that his amount of clothing serves as a gauge of his strength, which as far as abilities go, is hard to describe with a straight face.

But maybe Ichigos’ bankai didn’t need to be anything special. After all, being part shinigami part hollow made him different, since it gave him his mask, and-

I think I’ll just stop here. Suffice to say, Ichigo moveset wound up as interesting as his character, and his latest Ranger suit seems to mix things up very little: Move fast, cut stuff.

But why? Why did Ichigo end up this way? This time I’m not even going to pretend I don’t know. If you are to introduce a powerup for your main character that he will be relying on for the foreseeable future, consider this:

What is easier to draw?

- A giant baboon skeleton snake whip-thing


- A slightly different black cloak and a new sword, and the same old fighting style

And which weapon is easier to write fights for?

- A giant baboon skeleton snake whip-thing


- a sword that shoots beams

And there you go.

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