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14 September 2009 @ 11:22 pm
A shikai theory: physical and metaphysical  
I vaguely put this theory together while walking home today, and am throwing it out for consideration.

Basically, this theory states, there are two forms of shikai: the "physical" and the "metaphysical". (I'm leaving bankai out of the question for the moment.)


The "physical" type of shikai has an active and perceivable physical effect on the world around it (ice, soundwaves, steel blades, huge whips, fire, etc). On the positive side, it's always useful, particularly when dealing with hordes of low-level enemies. On the negative side, when the shinigami is up against particularly powerful enemies, it can be dodged/parried/avoided, or even countered.

Examples of this type of shikai are: Yamamoto (who just pumps so much power into his that it can affect anyone), Hitsugaya, Kuchiki Byakuya (steel cherry blossom petals), Momo (fireball blasts), Ichimaru Gin (long blade), Ikkaku (power hit), Komamura (big power hit), Tousen (sound waves or blades), Ichigo (blasts of power).

On the other hand, the "metaphysical" type of shikai are basically hax. They have some sort of special effect, and quite often the user keeps quiet about what the special effect is in order to be able to use it more effectively. On the positive side, they seem to be able to affect an enemy of almost any power level, if they hit.

On the negative side, the "metaphysical" type of shikai carries an element of risk. It has some form of inbuilt weakness or way of avoiding its effect. The more powerful it is, the bigger the "risk" is. Most users of this sort of shikai try to minimise the risk by training to lower the opponent's chance of interference, keeping quiet about its exact powers, or choosing their fights carefully and using strategy.

To clarify what I mean, please consider the shikai that I would call "metaphysical" by this definition:

Aizen: Kyouka Suigetsu (yes, we all know what this one does)
Risk: if someone doesn't see the release, then it doesn't work on them at all.
Strategy: don't tell anyone what it actually does till after they've seen it.

Kira: Wabisuke (increases weight of opponent's weapon or body)
Risk: if you can't actually hit the other person, it's not much use.
Strategy: use tactics and kidou to lure the other person in for close combat.

Soi Fong: Suzumebachi (two-hit kill)
Risk: if the other person is too fast, or if she can't close with them (cf Barragan), then it won't work.
Strategy: increase personal speed so that she can close with the opponent and hit them twice.

Yumichika: Fujikujaku (drains energy)
Risk: while we haven't seen a specific weakness in this zanpakutou yet, I suspect that such a weakness does exist.
Strategy: don't tell the other person what it does till it's too late.

Ukitake: Sogyo no Pisces (absorbs and returns energy blasts)
Risk: if the other person isn't firing energy blasts at him, it's less useful.
Strategy: when fighting someone throwing ceros around, hit them first and explain later.

Shunsui: Katen Kyoukotsu (forces opponent into life-and-death children's game chosen by zanpakutou)
Risk: if Shunsui loses the game, he gets hurt and might even die. Also necessary to give some explanation of the game to the other person so that they'll "play".
Strategy: hope the zanpakutou picks a game that allows surprise strikes and cunning play.

I would note that in the above listing, it would seem that the higher the potential "risk" factor in "metaphysical" shikai (Aizen, Shunsui), the more powerful the shikai.

The "metaphysical" type of shikai may be what Yumichika means when he refers to "kidou-type" zanpakutou: I'm not sure.

Comments/criticism welcome.
 
 
 
pony_rocks: pic#84544780pony_rocks on September 14th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... it's really interesting.
Metaphysical ones really might be the "kido type". And they are definitely scary - much scarier than physical ones.
(Shunsui's gave me shivers today... so good!)
blackmarquiseblackmarquise on September 14th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
Very Interesting.
I was thinking a lot about this, lately, because of the last anime arc: with that Zanpakutou revolution you better have an "axe" type zanpakutou... It easier to fight and less unpredictable (we still haven't Byakuya).

I was wondering something: Is Renji's Zabimaru a kidou type or notN
I mean,he usally ues it as an axe, but he also have that cannon thing, and this other attack when the pieces are detached and they suddenly re-attach themselves.
in any case, renji's sword has a weakness that we're aware of:
renji is vunernable when Zabimaru is ellongated, besides he doesn't his shikai enough, let alone Bankai to use it at full strength
incandescensincandescens on September 14th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
I would think that by the definition I've suggested, Renji's is a physical type zanpakutou, even if he can separate the pieces and move them around at a distance. I believe the "bone cannon" is actually part of his bankai rather than his shikai.

And I totally agree that physical zanpakutou have vulnerabilities as well. Any shinigami who can extend their zanpakutou (Byakuya, Renji, Haineko, Gin) can have problems if a close-combat opponent gets in to attack while their zanpakutou is at full extension.
gokuma: Travel by soylent_iconsgokuma on September 14th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how the 'keeping quiet about the shikai form' part would work: as far as I can remember there is some kind of tradition (?) of showing shikai and bankai forms to other shinigamis (perhaps only to seated officers and captains, but still). That's why Aizen's hypnosis had worked so well: because he had the opportunity to show his zanpakutou's special power to lots of people at the same time.

We don't know how common this tradition is. However, if it wasn't popular and considered important, some shinigamis wouldn't have showed up to see Aizen's power and wouldn't have been affected by it. I can imagine that if it wasn't some kind of obligation to go and see what your colleague/possible rival have achieved, Shunsui for example wouldn't even to bother to take part in something like this :)
incandescensincandescens on September 14th, 2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Actually, I got the impression that Aizen managed to gather such a crowd to view his zanpakutou (and thus expose them to it) because it was unusual to show off your shikai like that. This allowed him to make a big thing of his nice kind generous nature ("I'm sure it won't hurt anyone to know about it, I have no fears that they'll attack me") and make sure all the vice-captains (and a few others) were under its influence. And he could be sure they'd come, because they so rarely got to see other Captains (apart from maybe their own) demonstrating shikai at that level.
(no subject) - gokuma on September 14th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - incandescens on September 14th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gokuma on September 14th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - gokuma on September 14th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - gokuma on September 14th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - incandescens on September 14th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gokuma on September 15th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - incandescens on September 14th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
_debbiechan__debbiechan_ on September 15th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)

Yes, "metaphysical" was what I was thinking about when Yumi referred to "kidou type" zanpakutou.

Yumichika: Fujikujaku (drains energy)
Risk: while we haven't seen a specific weakness in this zanpakutou yet, I suspect that such a weakness does exist.
Strategy: don't tell the other person what it does till it's too late.


There is no weakness to this zanpakutou other than Yumi's own shame of it for the moment. If he just got over this, he could be among the top. But this shame keeps him from being Captain material, I suppose. Beauty is so solitary and yet he gets a buddy like Ikkaku and Starrk has to divide his soul... *sniff* (I'm still hoping for that Shunsui and Starrk omake with sake!)
incandescensincandescens on September 15th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
Just because Yumichika doesn't know there is a weakness doesn't mean that there isn't a weakness. Could it be overloaded by forcing too much energy into it, maybe? Or somehow poisoned? Or is the "root" of it, the physical zanpakutou that he holds, somehow vulnerable?

After all, it's not as if he's tried it against any really powerful or clever opponents yet. Just a couple of moderate ones, out of sight. :)

(Okay, so I'm biased, but so far even the most powerful zanpakutou have had some sort of weakness.)

At least Starrk seems to be going out on a high note. It took two high-level captains and two Vizards to eventually bring him down . . . if indeed they've succeeded yet.
V to the A to the D-E-R (Vader!)jaina on September 15th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)
Interesting classification. I don't think I buy that certain types of shikai are meant to be kept secret, but that's a valid strategy that works in response to them. Rukia's third dance comes to mind also--it wouldn't appear to be of much use unless her sword is already broken...unless it normally has a different function that was adapted to her situation during the Kaiencar faceoff.
incandescensincandescens on September 15th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
I agree that keeping them secret isn't really an official strategy. Well, unless you expect your shinigami comrades to be trying to attack you and needing to fight them.

Though I'm sure that isn't a general attitude at all. Really.
(no subject) - jaina on September 15th, 2009 12:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - incandescens on September 15th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
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vesperhvesperh on September 15th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
That's interesting! I do see the difference between physical-effect weapons and more 'magical-effect' weapons. Where would you put Kenpachi's weapon at this point in the story?

Strategy: when fighting someone throwing ceros around, hit them first and explain later.
This strategy seems like it would be useful for almost anybody. ;-)

Strategy: hope the zanpakutou picks a game that allows surprise strikes and cunning play.
This is not much of a strategy. But I confess Shunsui's deal does not make much sense to me.

What do you think about the differences between the way people interact with their weapons? Any thoughts on why some zanpakto communicate with their users and others don't appear to? I've always wondered
incandescensincandescens on September 15th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
Unfortunately I don't think we've actually had any genuine shikai demonstrated by Zaraki: the sword is just conducting his natural reiatsu.

And some strategies are useful anywhere. :)

In canon manga (I'm leaving the anime out of this for the moment), I don't think we've seen many actual viewpoints to discuss zanpakutou communication with them: Ichigo, Renji, Rukia, Hitsugaya, Hinamori? I'd say that for all we know everyone talks with their zanpakutou as much as Ichigo does, but we just don't get to see their viewpoint on it.
manonlechat: Avatar_Dragonmanonlechat on September 15th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
Very interesting. Where do you think Unohana would fit? Minazuki has a physical manifestation but also "sucks out" and stores injuries (which seems more metaphysical).
incandescensincandescens on September 15th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)
I'd class it as "metaphysical": the "risk" factor might be that Minazuki can only work on unconscious patients? (Speculation, I know.)
カルラ (carla): ishihime: the space between usgirls_are_weird on September 15th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
 
very interesting idea! i do see the difference, and it really does make sense.

although i really think it's more of a general culture and/or common sense thing that most shinigami do not show their shikai.  distrustful little bastards, they are  while obviously for someone like aizen it makes sense that he wouldn't go around broadcasting what his zp can do, the same could be said for some of the "physical zp" shinigami. take gin for example-- his zp is obviously physical because it's, well, stretchy (LOL, i love that, it's so awesome), but once you know that it can stretch, you're gonna be expecting it, so by strategy alone it's better for him not to use it too much and/or tell people about it.

so it's not like the "attack first, explain later" is restricted to metaphysical zps. i think it's just that most of the people we've seen go shikai are either too excited of/too proud of/too arrogant about their shikai (awwww, newbies. they're so cute with their bright eyes and pink cheeks! *pinches newbies' cheeks* =3 LOL) and so they feel the need to broadcast, like, say, renji, shiro-chan, rukia, ikkaku, even ichigo himself. or they feel their shikai gives them a needed power boost like maybe hinamori...

but i think a lot of the more experienced shinigami have learned that it's probably not a good idea for other shinigami (/vaizard/hollow/arrancar/whatever) to know what their shikai can do, regardless if it's the case of a physical or metaphysical zp. like, for example, byakuya, tousen, mayuri, gin... they don't start using their shikai's abilities as soon as someone goes "let's get ready to rumble!", and they probably know blabbering about what their shikai can do in that stereotypical villain way can be counterproductive. (although mayuri still does it... but he's just nuts like that).

also, i think that, while it might be harder to dodge or counter a metaphysical shikai, it's probably doable, although this is very much speculation on my part because i don't think i've seen it yet. but what i'm saying is, it's not always up to the shinigami himself not being able to use the weapon correctly or simply making a mistake in judgement. maybe you could close your eyes against aizen's technique and attack him while he releases? or maybe someone with enough willpower (this is shounen, after all) might break through the illusion? (shiro-chan was this close, this close). perhaps you could somehow overload ukitake's zp. and like you said, soi fong's suzumebachi could be taken down by someone faster, even in close combat. these are all counter-moves, in a way, so the line kinda blurs there. granted, you still have to know what the sword does but that's the point-- you always have to know, regardless of if the zp is physical or metaphysical.

but anyway, i'm agreeing with you ^^;;; just thinking out loud (or in pixels, more accurately). what i think is more interesting about this is what this says about the shinigami himself. what qualities warrant getting a physical zp vs a metaphysical one? and what does it say about people who have a metaphysical shikai and a physical bankai (like, say, soi fong). and if there's maybe a pattern that can give us clues as to the bankai we have yet to see...
 
incandescensincandescens on September 15th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed the thoughts, but I have yet to find any pattern to it. :)
(no subject) - girls_are_weird on September 16th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - naughty_gurrl on September 16th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - incandescens on September 16th, 2009 12:16 am (UTC) (Expand)