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What Are They?
Shinigami are one of the races of the Bleach setting that oversee the oversee the governing of the Soul Cycle. They are souls that have acquired greater power and are often associated with the primary military force of the Soul Society. While many are tied to the organisation it is not impossible to see shinigami operated independently whether due to being exiled or abandoning the Gotei United throughout the realms.
How To Become A Shinigami?
Method One - Birth: An individual born from a union involving a shinigami has the potential to develop shinigami powers through heritage.
Method Two - Training: The most common method which a shinigami will come to be. If a plus has suitable reiryoku levels they will potentially develop into a shinigami, most commonly through the process of the Shin'o Academy.
Method Three - Zanpakuto: This is a rather uncommon method but if a shinigami were to pierce the chest of a human with their zanpakutō and target their spiritual energy into the human's body, it may transform this human into a shinigami permanently or temporarily; based upon the amounts of energy placed into them. Though, it's worth noting that this process does not have a high chance of success. If the method does fail, then the individual will die.
Powers & Traits
As supernatural beings they possess a couple of characteristics which are inherent to their race.
Soul Sleep & Soul Chain: Within the shinigami's chest is the Soul Chain and Soul Sleep. The Soul Sleep is responsible for the storage and generation of their reiryoku whereas the Soul Chain is responsible for amplifying and exerting it as reiatsu. Either of these being damaged will result in a great deal of detriment to the individual and both being damaged can seal shinigami's powers, potentially permanently.
Highly Robust: Shinigami have a high level of innate robustness which gives them a great deal of resilience. This is not the same as necessarily being durable but their survivability is quite exceptional. Extreme wounds could potentially be survived where chunks of their body and important organs are missing and the amount of time they can survive mortal wounds is far longer. This gives rise to the belief that the only way to truly be sure that a shinigami is dead is if they are decapitated or their head is destroyed but it is not an absolute rule.
Longevity: Due to their nature as souls, a shinigami will have an exceptionally long lifespan where some shinigami can live up to thousands of years and be of various different ages in their appearance.
Zanpakutō: All shinigami have the potential to develop a zanpakuto, though only through Oetsu Nimaiya's asauchi is one able to harness the full power of the zanpakuto which are lent to shinigami upon entering the shin'o academy. While this is the case, a shinigami can develop one independently in the case of substitute shinigami or those that acquire power from another.
Zankensoki: The four fundamentals of the shinigami which are Zanjutsu, Hakuda, Hoho & Kido. Zanjutsu follows a shinigami's skill with using their zanpakuto. Hakuda is unarmed combat where the user makes use of their body. Hoho is movement techniques which involve the utilisation of their shunpo. Kido is the application of their reiryoku to cast spells for a variety of purposes.
In order to create hybrid techniques ie. Shunko the user must have at least Advanced in both shinigami arts they are trying to merge.
Shikai (始解, Initial Release): The initial release of a shinigami's zanpakuto which requires the user to hear the name of the spirit. Requires the shinigami to have at least adept in their Zanjutsu before they can unlock shikai and at least advanced before they can be said to have mastered the release itself.
Bankai (卍解, Final Release): The perfect release which is a union of the shinigami and zanpakuto's power either by subjugation or mutual understanding which allows for the second release of the shinigami's zanpakuto. The shinigami requires at least advanced in zanjutsu before they are able to achieve bankai itself in an immature form, at elite the shinigami possesses a mostly developed bankai where most can be called "complete". It is once the shinigami achieves master in zanjutsu though that a bankai has gone beyond the expected and achieved proper mastery of it.
Shikōkai (至高解; Supreme Release): The third and final release which is incredibly rare to see, it is the total fusion of shinigami and zanpakuto to achieve a power beyond bankai. Shikōkai is something that cannot be maintained for long and has the additional stipulation that only a pure-blood shinigami can acquire it which means vizards and hybrids are unable to achieve the release state.
Shunkō (瞬閧, Flash War Cry): In order to utilise shunkō, a shinigami requires at the minimum Advanced Hakuda and Kidō. At this level the individual only possesses an incomplete shunkō which is aligned to a basic element - as displayed in the first fight between Yoruichi and Sui-Feng.
Once a shinigami has Elite in either on of these fields they are able to complete it and develop derivatives such as Sui-Feng's Mukyū Shunkō and Yoruichi's Shunkō: Raijin Senkei. Finally, when either of these reach Master they are able to perfect it further in the case of Yoruichi's Shunkō: Raiju Senkei: Shunryū Kokubyō Senki.
Saisenkō (切斬閧, Killing Stroke War Cry): Similar to shunkō, it is the fusion of zanjutsu and kido where the shinigami's zanpakuto is utilised as a conduit to achieve the same effect. It scales the same as Shunkō however Zanjutsu in place of Hakuda. Like its unarmed counterpart it possesses an elemental alignment.
Note: In order to demonstrate multiple elements or change elemental alignment your character would be required to have significant investment into the pathway ie. Master/Elite or higher.
Hakuda: The unarmed discipline of the shinigami. From the zankensoki this field is a demonstration of the shinigami's usage of their entire body as a weapon which combines multiple martial arts with their reiryoku to empower and achieve incredible feats with nothing but their bare hands.
Untrained: At an untrained level of hakuda, the shinigami is quite genuinely incapable of utilizing their energy for the purposes of martial arts. Regardless of their strength, or their actual martial ability, they are currently incapable of actually amplifying their strikes spiritually.
Beginner: While a Beginner in hakuda is still lacking in any particularly developed ability to utilize their body’s energy for the purposes of martial arts, there is at least something. A Beginner in Hakuda is capable of utilizing techniques which directly fortify their own capabilities, though not in any sort of direct sense. Examples of this would include the Tessho or the Kazaguruma.
Adept: At the level of Adept, a shinigami has at least trained enough that they are capable of utilizing their body’s energy for more than simple fortification and enhancement of themselves. This is the point at which they have gained the mastery necessary to outright create force through simple manipulation of energy, radically increasing the impact of even the slightest touch. Techniques such as the Tsukiyubi or the Mashiro Super Kick are examples of these intensified strikes.
Advanced: This is the stage at which a shinigami’s capabilities have begun to reach the level of outright superhuman, not simply unfeasible for a normal person but outright impossible without the application of Hakuda techniques. Whether this be temporarily enhancing their body to limits well beyond what it normally might be capable of, or even basic applications of externalizing their energy for an attack, a shinigami at an Advanced level of Hakuda is a grave danger with their own body. Techniques at this level of skill would include the Raioken or the Oni Dekopin.
Elite: Those shinigami with an elite in Hakuda have reached the point of understanding that their energy does not need to stop at their fists, and indeed that said energy is simply one more avenue for their martial arts. They may not only externalize their energy to a fairly notable degree in the pursuit of martial technique, but in some cases may outright begin influencing the body of an opponent by striking them, creating weaknesses where there previously may have been none. Techniques of this caliber include the Kagamibiraki, the Ikkotsu, and the Mashiro Drop Kick.
Master: Masters of Hakuda have completely moved beyond the notion that their energy need only be manipulated through their own bodies. These practitioners of hakuda are often so deadly that even a simple touch is more than enough to create a lethal spiritual strike from within an opponent’s own body, and they can amplify even the most basic of attacks into something that is truly to be feared. An example of this level of destructive capability would be the Sōkotsu.
Grand Master: When a shinigami has reached the Grand Master level of skill in Hakuda, even the slightest physical touch should be treated as a potentially lethal action. Their ability to manipulate spiritual energy through martial combat is so precise, and so well practiced, that there is no universal way to describe what is possible at this level. Every Grand Master is unique, but what can be said with absolute confidence is that their body is a weapon on par with even the greatest zanpakuto.
Hohō: Among the four arts, Hohō is a collection of step techniques. The most common expression of this skill is the shinigamis' shunpo and it measures their ability to utilise the high-speed movement technique to dash around the battlefield. Great practitioners of the art can demonstrate unique step techniques which weaponise the movement such as Senka or use shunpo to create speed clones.
Untrained: You may be better off running. You are essentially incapable of doing any form of shunpo with any real form of accuracy. If you do manage to do it well, you might end up going to the wrong place or hurting yourself in the process.
Beginner: At this point, you are capable of doing a shunpo without hurting yourself. However expect it to be clumsy, and you aren’t capable of utilizing it more than a handful of times in a short span without feeling some sort of strain. This still can be a viable method of long-distance travel.
Adept: With competence, you are capable of using this more than a handful of times in a short period. You can maybe do a simple variation or unique twist of the shunpo technique but it won't be very incredibly distinct.
Advanced: You have reached the upper levels of a shunpo user, at this level one can begin to start doing more advanced techniques such as applying afterimages to create speed clones or techniques which are fast enough to interfere with a person's senses from the speed at what it is executed.
Elite: After hitting the standard peak of hohō you're among the best. You're able to make adjustments to your shunpo on the fly, developing unique variations here and there. Jumping between the fight as a blur for those who can't keep up or being almost undetectable by how fast you can move.
Master: Once you've attained the master level of shunpo, And the quickness in which you are able to unleash your attacks will make you a legend in these arts of high-speed movement. You are comparable with being considered a legend amongst your peers and some might even believe you are unmatched by all those below the absolute zenith of mastery only seen by Grand Masters.
Grand Master: Legendary, that would be the best way to describe your level of prowess with shunpo. You are capable of utilizing it at a level of mastery that can be considered flawless to those less skilled. Your proficiency allows you to use this skill as easy as one would breath, being able to utilize it an innumerable amount of times as you please without worry of failure or stumbling and you can almost appear to be teleporting around the battlefield with a step.
Kidō: The Magic that the shinigami employ. They are divided into two primary categories - though some high-level users show unique groups - which are Hadō and Bakudō. These two categories deal with offence and support making them quite helpful to a shinigami in combat. The spells are triggered via incantation and evoked through reiryoku and while it can be abandoned, the spells are generally weaker if done without the incantation.
Untrained: At this level one has no knowledge and/or capacity to perform kidō. In the event that a person tries they will cause the spell to backfire and likely hurt themselves quite a bit in the process.
Beginner: Reaching into the beginner realm of the kidō field, the shinigami is able to perform basic spells with some capacity which is enough to pass the Academy requirements. One can perform kidō spells up to level 31 though they are not yet skilled enough to be able to cast them without the incantation. A person could do the most minor of modifications such as Renji Abarai using shakkaho as a torch but no more.
Adept: At this level of expertise the shinigami is able to reach into casting kaido, though basic applications of it, additionally a shinigami of this level would be able to utilise Incantation Abandonment but it would cut the spell's overall potency by half to do so. They are able to make minor modifications to kidō spells which are more practical than a beginner could but they are still limited in quite a bit of ways to the point that the spell's alterations may only range from increased output or one simple attribute which wasn't in the original spell.
Advanced: Someone in the range of an advanced user in kidō is reaching quite high, they are able to utilise Incantation Abandonment and only lose a quarter of the potency in the spell. Spoken-after incantation is now possible where the individual can empower the spell after firing it rather than needing to announce the incantation. A shinigami can begin to be a bit more creative with their kidō's shape and attributes but should still be reminscient of the original spell. Additionally, a shinigami at Advanced can begin utilising the Seals and Barrier type spells in the Bakudo field.
Elite: Upon reaching the upper echelons of the field, most shinigami will be able to comfortably cast kidō spells up to 89 but no further. They are able to utilise Incantation Abandonment with only a ten percent loss of efficacy to its effect. The individual in question is able to make use of the two-fold incantation technique where two kidō spells are simultaneously casted through the mixing of the incantations. Their modifications are quite varied and a user of this level could make the kidō far more potent and/or only reminscient of the original spell in the broadest sense.
Master: After reaching beyond the expectated ceiling it becomes possible to make use of Sacrificial Kidō and those that number above number 89. A Kidō Master can abandon the usage of the incantation for the spell with no loss of power and freely manipulate their kidō spells in such a manner that they are sorcerers' of extreme versatility and power in their magic.
Grand Master: A person who has reached into the realm of Grand Master are transcendent in the usage of kidō. So much so that what they achieve with their kidō can be wondered if it is even kidō itself for the sheer control and power that they command with their magic. A Grand Master could potentially create entire new fields of kidō at a whim and their imagination is the only limit of what they could achieve.
Zanjutsu: The renown way in which a shinigami fights with their zanpakuto, it is a mixture of swordsmanship but more importantly the understanding one shares with their zanpakuto itself. Because of this it is typically referred to as an essential part of the shinigami arts despite some being able to overcome the requirement of a zanpakuto.
Untrained: Your character might as well have just gotten their asauchi at this level or they do not possess an actual zanpakuto to have trained in. Having untrained means that there is no growth of either the sealed zanpakuto or being near attaining their shikai.
- Ichigo's sealed state in his first appearance, this state there is effectively no growth or development.
Beginner: At your beginner stage, one will tyically have achieved some semblance of asauchi development. Whether their weapon suggests hints towards its nature like the blade being warm/very hot to signify it is probably a fire-type. The shikai has yet to be obtained at this stage but one can potentially see a sealed ability or two pop-up here.
- Rose's sealed zanpakuto ability from the Winter War. Rose demonstrates the ability to utilise an ability involving his zanpakuto without releasing it, on PH a person could see something like this hinting at development.
Adept: The first stage has been attained. One has reached the level of shikai by now. You have heard your spirit's name, you have unlocked what is probably an immature release of your shikai but still receive increase in power by unleashing your zanpakuto to boost your capabilities by 200% during shikai. Your martial prowess is both impressive and dangerous when wielding your zanpakuto as the energy bleeds through from your spirit to empower your strikes from your sword that will only improve as you develop.
- Ichigo's Shikai. Gotei Thirteen Vice-Captains. At this stage this is very broad as up until the point where one's shikai is so overwhelmingly developed this stage tends to represent the having just attained the release and towards the upper levels is the level most vice-captains display.
Advanced: Once this level of skill is achieved a person can safely be said to have understood their shikai and matured it, naturally still leaving it open to grow if one were to persist studying it through these ranks. What is the biggest milestone is most people that have reached this stage have or are eligable to learn bankai however it will probably be very immature and needing development to grow into its full-power. When utilising shikai you see an increase of power by 300% and the release of your bankai will see you an increase of power by 500%.
Around the level of advanced one can also begin to expand on traits of their zanpakuto, altering the physical parts such as adding barbs along the blade as a minor example to completely shifting the appearance of their sealed zanpakuto into something else.
- Shunsui Kyoraku's and Kisuke Urahara's shikai. Renji Abarai's First bankai.
Shunsui and Kisuke possess an incredibly developed shikai, being able to utilise just their first release to face most opponents.
Renji Abarai in this state of development was noted that his bankai was very weak compared to others and later shown to be due to his spirit lacking respect for him.
Elite: You've reached the level that most people are content with, you've achieved your state of bankai and grown it. You can materialise your zanpakuto's spirit but they cannot utilise their energypool for the sake of combat and this manifestation is temporarily as they are still dependent on you. When using your bankai you see an increase of your capabilities by 750%.
- Gotei Thirteen Captains. Renji Abarai's True Bankai. Aside from special cases, the average captain of the gotei thirteen shown in the series possesses this level of development with their zanpakuto, due to reaching maturity Renji's bankai changing to reflect his spirit's respect for him would be a symbol of reaching this stage.
Master: A step beyond. This is where you've mastered your final release, you have either altered it to a state where your bankai is exceptionally enhanced and able to be expanded on in ways that most wouldn't comprehend. Your bankai could become mastered to a point where it has changed to reflect that power and be completely different and the power increase is at a total of 1000%. At this state one can begin to manifest their zanpakuto as an independent entity even beginning to draw on large portions of their spirit's energy reserves without needing to release their sword because of their relationship and bond, such is the point where even a bankai that has a time limit could become released indefinitely.
Finally this is around the stage when Shikokai becomes possible however it will typically be unstable and hard to use as it is truly a feat of skill that only the greatest zanjutsu practitioners could achieve. A Shikokai can be maintained for three rounds and boosts the wielder's capabilities by 1500%.
- Toshiro Hitsugaya's True Bankai. Mayuri Kurotsuchi. Sajin Komamura.
These are people who are a step above the average captain level, Hitsugaya's bankai reaching maturity is growth beyond the level of a typical zanpakuto hence it being hailed as the strongest of all Ice-type zanpakuto in the series.
Mayuri's understanding of his zanpakuto is to such a degree he can freely alter it, destroy his bankai and repair it as well as simply create another Konjiki Ashisogi Jizo with an ability.
Lastly Sajin Komamura understands his zanpakuto to a degree they share a very deep bond, present in the bankai being a reflection of each other.
Grand Master: You are unrivaled, you are on par with someone such as the God of the Sword. You have such unparalleled skill and wisdom that you could create a zanpakuto from scratch if you so pleased, your zanpakuto could manifest independent of you and operate on its own if you so desired because of the unbreakable relationship with it as well as them leaving their energy reserves open to you for your usage as you please.
Your release forms; every single one, is a massive threat to even release and one could feasibly just utilise their sealed form as a dangerous weapon that could massacre landscape and people. Someone of this level has or could achieve a perfect Shikokai, a feat that is typically only seen once every ten generations of a great noble family which can be maintained for five rounds of posting and grant the shinigami a 2000% increase of power for the duration.
- Oetsu Nimaiya. Midori Koizumi.
Oetsu holds the title of creator of the zanpakuto, he possesses various abilities that reflect this such as being able to make them and all asauchi are said to be made by his hand.
Midori created an alternative means to produce zanpakuto and has immense mastery with her shikokai.
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