Soul Reapers are a race of spiritual beings that act as enforcers and psychopomps who all share similar supernatural powers. They are souls with a high level of innate Spiritual Energy, recruited from the ranks of the residents and nobility of the Soul Society. Like all spirits, they cannot be detected by normal humans. Shinigami use their Zanpakutō, supernatural swords that are the manifestation of their owners' power, to perform soul burials on Pluses. Soul Reapers also use their Zanpakutō as well as magic known as Kidō to fight their arch-enemies, the Hollows.
Soul Reapers are souls that have supernatural powers. As such, their bodies are composed of Spiritrons (spirit particles) instead of atoms. This means that just like most other types of spirits, they can only be seen by other spiritually aware entities, which excludes most humans. Nevertheless, they are quite capable of influencing their environment. When souls with exceptional spiritual energy train their bodies, they reach the level of Shinigami. The most talented of them become affiliated with various organizations like the Thirteen Court Guard Companies and the Stealth Force. Sometimes, a Shinigami is born among the residents of the Rukongai, and in some rare cases from Seireitei.
Soul Reapers are the personification of death. Their job is to send spirits to the Soul Society (the afterlife) in order to maintain a balance of souls between it and the material world, and to exorcise evil spirits. Because of their duties Shinigami possesses supernatural abilities such as:
- Longevity: While they can age and die of natural causes or as a result of physical injury as regular humans, Shinigami have extended life-spans and it is not uncommon for one to live for thousands of years.
- Enhanced Endurance: While they can be injured and die like regular humans, it takes considerably greater injuries for the latter to occur than it would in regular humans.
- Reiryoku: Soul Reapers also naturally give off Spiritual Energy, which varies greatly in magnitude with the strength of a Soul Reapers. Additionally, unlike humans, they do not have to eat anything to sustain themselves, though they engage in the act none the less as Soul Reapers and other spiritual beings only become hungry when they used too much Spiritual Energy within a short amount of time.
- Kidō: The technique that Soul Reapers use to focus their Spiritual Energy into magic spells of various powers.
- Hohō: A variety of techniques associated with movement, including jumping and shunpo (flash step).
- Zanpakutō: The most prominent supernatural power possessed by a Soul Reaper is their Zanpakutō, a supernatural sword (which can be in the form of any kind of Japanese sword) generated from the Shinigami's soul. A Zanpakutō is a physical manifestation of this force concentrated into a blade.All Shinigami have a Zanpakutō, but not all of them carry one with them.
Shinigami operations are based out of the Soul Society, where departed human souls reside. Travel between the Human world and Soul Society is extremely limited and monitored, but some Soul Reapers are stationed in the human world to carry out their duties and therefore must often travel between the two.
It is also implied that Soul Reapers receive salaries, like workers in the real world.
There are some Soul Reapers who exist in exile, namely Yoruichi Shihoin, Tessai Tsukabishi and Kisuke Urahara. They will work with the 13 Court Guard Squads and other Soul Reapers like Ichigo Kurosaki, but still exist in exile.
- Main article: Visored
Soul Reapers who have gained Hollow abilities, and use them to gain power far exceeding and beyond that of a normal Soul Reapers or Hollow.
Most Soul Reapers appear like Humans, a notable difference being their mostly old-fashioned garments by 20th-21th century standards (see 13 Court Guard Squads Uniforms and Stealth Force Uniforms), and their Zanpakutō which is in most cases tied to their obi sash.
There are, however, a few Shinigami who are less Human-like in appearance. For example it seems that between Shinigami there are much greater variations in body-sizes than between Humans, as there are real giant-like entities (e. g. the four guards of the four gates to Seireitei) and also ones with extremely small stature among them (e. g. Yachiru Kusajishi). This variation seems to occur not just between Shinigami, but also between regular dwellers of Soul Society, too.
Variations do not just occur in size but in overall appearance, too, the most notable example being Captain Sajin Komamura, who appears like an anthropomorphic canine.
Konsō: the process by which a Shinigami sends wandering Pluses (souls) in the living world and send them to their respective place. Either Soul Society if they are good in life, or to Hell if their life was full of evil acts (such as murders, theft, etc). Konsō is performed by using the hilt of the Shinigami's Zanpakutō, tapping the soul on the head and transporting them to the afterlife.
- Hollow Cleansing: When a Soul Reaper slays a Hollow (evil spirit), with their Zanpakutō they cleanse their sins. Once this takes place a Hollow will return to its former state as a Plus and is led into Soul Society. This is called sublimation. Souls that live in the Soul Society are reborn again into the human world. Not all Hollows are sent to the Soul Society. Since Zanpakutō are only capable of cleansing sins committed after becoming a Hollow, Hollows that committed serious crimes when they were still Human are sent to Hell when they are slain.
- Also, if they are destroyed by a Quincy, Hollows are completely vanquished and cannot ever return to the Soul Society.
- Soul Governance: Soul Reapers are responsible for governing the flow of spirits between the Human World and Soul Society. This is commonly carried out by balancing the total number of souls by moving and managing them in the human world. All of the soul-related jobs are under their authority.
Shinōreijutsuin (Spiritual Arts Academy): sometimes called the Shinigami Academy. The majority of training for individuals (that is, souls residing in the Soul Society) wanting to become Soul Reapers is done through the Soul Reaper Academy. It is a six-year academy, during which time its students learn how to use their Spiritual Energy properly, fight Hollows, and perform Soul Burials. While the exact date and details of its foundation are not specified, the academy seems to have been founded by Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto about 2000 years before the Bleach storyline.
Not much is known about the conditions on which a dweller of the Soul Society is admitted to the Academy. One elementary requirement seems to be that the individual has to possess a certain, above-average level of Spiritual Energy, and has to be able to perform some basic feats using that. Becoming hungry seems to be a good sign in Soul Society for hopeful Shinigami candidates, because feeling hunger means that the person in question is capable of using up Spiritual Energy.
It is at the Spiritual Arts Academy where all the military forces of Soul Society are formally taught. While a majority of students are taken into the Gotei 13, there are those who have a special affinity for certain forms of combat that get taken in by the two more secretive and selective branches of the military, namely the Kidō Corps (excelling in Kidō) and the Stealth Force (excelling in Hohō and Hakuda).
The Soul Reaper Academy is one of two groups that is not under the jurisdiction of the Central 46 Chambers.
The cleansing of Hollows is very dangerous task, as most Hollows are no more than mindless monsters thirsty for devouring more and more souls, be it a Plus, a Human soul still in its body, or a Shinigami. Moreover, Hollows who have some of their human consciousness remaining are even more dangerous, as they can be swift, strong and cunning adversaries, utilizing various tricks to avoid purification and catch their prey.
Taking these facts into consideration, Shinigami have to be highly trained in defending themselves and other spirits from being devoured, while being able to land a critical strike on the Hollow itself with their Zanpakutō.
Zankensoki: basic Shinigami fighting techniques. Zan refers to sword fighting techniques. Ken refers to unarmed fighting techniques. So refers to moving techniques. Ki refers to Kidō. as explained by Sosuke Aizen. All of which require the controlled usage of a varying amount of Spirit Energy.
- Main article: Kidō
Kidō are a type of sorcery used by Soul Reapers. They can be used for various purposes, such as healing, attacking, and restraining. Healing seems to be a more general skill, while attacking and binding require an incantation to be recited beforehand. Demon arts spells are divided into two major groups: destructive spells, used for direct attack, and binding spells, which are spells that restrain someone or have other effects. These forms of demon arts spells are performed by calling out a complicated and often long-winded incantation followed by the name of the spell, which causes an effect once the name has been recited. Lesser versions of the spells can be used by calling out the name alone, but their effectiveness is reduced when used in such a fashion.
- Main article: Hakuda
Hand-to-hand combat is not elaborated upon by the majority of Soul Reapers. The Stealth Force troops, however, especially those of higher ranks such as Soifon, are known to be well-trained in this field.
- Main article: Hohō
Hohō (agility), like hand-to-hand combat, is not elaborated upon by every Shinigami. Flash steps (Shunpo), a movement technique that allows the user to move faster than the eye can follow, is implied to be part of this category, and most (though not all) Shinigami are able to perform it to some degree.Another skill, though not necessarily related, is the ability of some Shinigami to walk on air using spiritual power. By collecting and solidifying spiritual particles beneath their feet, Shinigami can gain traction on thin air to either freely move about or to stop themselves from falling.
Zanjutsu (swordsmanship) is the most used form of combat among Shinigami, since their Zanpakutō is the most effective way of dispatching any given opponent. As the name suggests, it involves using a Zanpakutō and its various special abilities to attack an opponent. In addition to its basic form, each Zanpakutō has two enhanced forms: Shikai ("initial release") and Bankai ("final release"), which change the sword's form to unlock its potential and that of its user.
To aid in their missions, particularly when said missions involve more than simply dispatching a Hollow, Shinigami have a number of unique items to assist them in their duties. In addition, it should be noted that all Shinigami captains and lieutenants have their spiritual energy reduced by about 80% when they enter the human world by use of a spiritual limit, represented by a seal called the Gentei Reiin, which resembles the symbol unique to their division, in order not to cause unnecessarily high damage while there.
In extreme cases, where their full power is needed, they can request a limit release. The command to release the seal is Gentei Kaijo
Though not officially named, it seems to be an important tool for Soul Reaper during missions in the real world. It can basically force out one's spirit from a human body or a Gigai (see also below), a human soul or an artificial one alike (see also below). Rukia Kuchiki has the Gokon Tekkō, a glove which has this skull symbol on it, which she uses several times to force Ichigo out of his body. Kisuke Urahara also has a skull symbol on the end of his cane, which can be used in the same manner. The skull also appears on Ichigo's Seal of Approval (see below). They always touch Ichigo's forehead with the symbol, it is unknown if pressing the symbol against other body parts has the same effect or not. (Uryu Ishida uses Ichigo's seal to remove Noba's soul by striking it on his thigh; it seems poking the forehead is only done for dramatic reasons.)
- Main article: Jigokuchō
Jigokuchō are completely black butterflies that serve various purposes. They guide the Soul Reaper through the Senkaimon when travelling between the Soul Society and the Human World, thereby saving them from the inconvenience of passing through the Dangai Precipice World. Jigokuchō are also used as messengers between Shinigami, often carrying important orders. It is implied that Jigokuchō are bred and taken care of by Soul Reaper in Seireitei, the latter task being carried out usually by new and inexperienced members of the 13 Court Guard Squads. Jigokuchō, like the Soul Reapers themselves, are only visible to spiritually aware beings.
- Main article: Gigai
In certain circumstances, a Soul Reaper will need a way to stay in the human world for long periods of time, interact with the living, and/or recover their powers when the need arises, all of which they cannot do in spirit form. Thus, the Gigai was developed.
- Main article: Artificial souls
Artificial souls, as the name suggests, are souls designed by Shinigami scientists to separate a Shinigami's spirit from a Gigai, should they be inhabiting one, or to evict stubborn spirits from their corpses if necessary. It is commonly called Soul Candy, as the Soul Reaper Women's Association complained that the name "Artificial Soul" was not cute and had it changed.
Modified souls are artificial souls designed to enhance regular human physiology, making them capable of battling Hollows equally. The modsouls are condensed into tiny, candy-like orbs and placed into corpses to achieve their function as soldiers to combat Hollows. They are also more independent to fit with their purpose. The mod souls were exterminated after the experiment was halted due to ethical reasons, since they were intended to be used to reanimate human corpses to use as weapons against the Hollows. But there are still a small amount left; namely Kon, Lirin, Kurodo, and Noba.
In some cases, a human witnesses a Soul Reaper purify a Hollow or affect his surroundings in a significant way. To keep the incident a secret, Soul Reaper perform memory replacement with an item called Kikanshinki. When used, a bird's head pops from the top of the device and produces a puff of smoke. The human it is used on is knocked unconscious and wakes up a while later with a new memory. However, the new memory that the human acquires is random and often based on the limits of what they themselves will believe. For example, Ichigo's family merely believed they slept through a truck crashing into their house when it was used on them. Conversely, Orihime Inoue, who has a much more active imagination, believed that her house was attacked by a yakuza gunman It was altered to a gun-toting sumo wrestler in an anime Episode
- Main article: Denreishinki
A vital tool for any Shinigami stationed in the real world, this variation on a cell phone functions both as a regular phone and as a communication line with the Soul Society. It receives information about the time and exact location of a Hollow's emergence via a Global Positioning System (GPS). A Shinigami's kills are also recorded in the phone and can be used as currency (according to the bounty placed on each Hollow).
A Substitute Soul Reaper is someone who became Soul Reaper by obtaining another Soul Reaper's power, or by going through a much harder and riskier process to transform him/herself into one. Obtaining another Soul Reaper's power is done by thrusting his/her Zanpakutō into the person's chest who wants to obtain the power. However, the percentage of success is low. In the case of success, the person normally obtains around half of the Soul Reaper's powerBleach , and only temporarily. In Ichigo Kurosaki's case however, the whole power of the original Shinigami, Rukia Kuchiki was transferred into him, due to his enormous innate spiritual power.
This practice is forbidden by the Soul Society, as it can give birth to rogue Shinigami with great power, thereby it is only applied as a last resort measure.
In the case the individual borrowing the power being a Human, several difficulties arise, illustrated by the example of Ichigo. In order to be able to fight as a Soul Reaper, he has to leave his body and get into soul state, which can only be done if he is "killed" (at least put into clinical death) by the "skull symbol" of another Soul Reaper, or if he swallows a Soul Candy, forcing his soul out of his body. In the former case, his body needs to be taken care of until he finishes his job and re-enters it.
Soul Society has rules for acting Soul Reaper. If one appears and the Soul Reaper recognizes his/her existence as being beneficial to Soul Society. They will give that person the "Seal of Approval for acting Soul Reaper", thus is how the tradition goes. This item serves several functions. One is to identify the owner in the case he/she meets other Soul Reaper, another is to indicate if Hollows are nearby via an alarm sound. The alarm can only be heard by the owner, and the item itself is only visible to other spiritually aware beings, allowing the owner to keep it with him/herself all day long without attracting unwanted attention. The Seal of Approval can also fulfil the functions of the Soul Reaper "skull symbol", being able of forcing out spirits out of their bodies, which comes in handy in the case of a Hollow attack, when the Substitute Soul Reaper has to leave his/her body immediately. The Seal of Approval has a skull symbol similar to, but not identical to the one carried by regular Shinigami engraved on it.
Darkness within ShadowEdit
Soul Reapers are 1 of the few main races in the series and most of Shadowblood's members comply of Soul Reapers even tho most have hollows powers & soul reaper powers now. the only soul reapers not evil are: Ginrei Kuchiki, Kaien Shiba, Ichigo Kurosaki, and Isshin Kurosaki