Hello folks, this is my first essay for Bleachness, so don't judge me too harshly! >.< What I wish to focus on is Ichigo and Rukia's Zanpakutō's, Rukia possibly Bankai, Sofion Suzumebachi and Orihime's Shun Shun Rikka . Most notable what they can tell us about the characters personality and in Rukia's and Orihime's case, possible future character development.
Zangetsu name means cutting moon or moon cutter according to the Bleach Wiki (which I'm using as my primary source on translations) and there a few way to interpreted this name...
Moon's are often used as a symbol of hope and Ichigo is a figure of hope. (For examples consider the SS arc and Shinji belief in Ichigo in more recent chapters). So on a simple level Zangetsu name could simply mean “the blade of the man who brings hope”.
Another interpretation is that its a direct shout out to Ichigo's connection with Rukia who is sometimes considered the “white moon”. So Zangetsu naming could be taken as that he is a blade of the moon (Rukia). This fits nicely with Ichigo's origin story and funnily enough fits with both platonic/romantic interpretations. of Ichigo and Rukia's relationship.
Its a double meaning name and both theories are correct.
Ichigo special attack name Getsuga Tenshō (Moon Fang Heaven-Pierce) doesn't really add or remove much to either theory, but does suggest one of Ichigo character traits, he will go to any length to complete his objectives (pierce heaven even) . The form the attack takes (a huge blast of energy in a straight line) is also representative of Ichigo straightforward and often overwhelming blunt solution to problems, direct straightforward action. The Heaven-Pierce part of his attack name could also be reference to his SS arc activities, a attack on the heavens, especially when you considerer its Bankai's name...
It Bankai's name is Tensa Zangetsu (Heavenly Chain Moon Cutter or Heavenly Chain Cutting Moon). Heavenly Chain is the new addition here and connects in with his special attack name and shed a little light on it. Since the literal chain on his sword is all but identical to a Chain of Fate of a Plus in appearance, suggesting the “Heavenly Chain” is the Chain of Fate of a Shinigami .
On his swords form. Its Shikai form is a large and rather brutal cleaver like sword who's features are of cloth and no hilt are references to how Ichigo regained his powers under Urahara . Its form also help reinforce the image of who Ichigo is, a uncivilised but scarily powerful warrior who not going to be stopped in his task.
The notable changed it undertakes upon Bankai are clues to a maturing Ichigo. Gone is the huge clever, replaced by a elegant and simple black sword of normal length. His cloths still have a hint of the savage about them, but a somewhat more civilised savage. His new appearance helps put across the image of Ichigo who is far more in control than the one who archived Shikai. It's powers help explain reasons behind this more in control Ichigo as they are speed and endurance, two tools that he needs to save Rukia specifically and people in general.
To put it simply Zangetsu in Shikai shows Ichigo as the unstoppable savage warrior, but his Banki shows him as a more focused protector and a saver of life's. Another interesting feature of Ichigo Zanpakutō is that compared to other Zanpakutō is very simple. It has two special attacks, and the second is nothing but a upgraded form of the first. It doesn't have any fancy tricks like playing with minds or making its opponents blade get heavier. It just hacks things up and sometimes shoots direct beam attacks at people.
It's like Ichigo, simple but effective.
Sode no Shirayuki
Sode no Shirayuki (Sleeved White Snow) is a very contrasting sword to Zangetsu. In fact I go so far as to say that its a deliberate mirror of Zangetsu in the same was as many of Rukia's traits mirror Ichigo's.
But first lets start with a bit of name exploring. The “White Snow” part of its name. I think it is designed to invoke a image of purity and beauty by extension. A theory I believe supported by its pure white Shikai and the fact its been called “the most beautiful Zanpakutō of the Soul Society”. The sleeved part its name to me suggest a hidden aspect to its nature. Its unreleased form has a rather simple and a little ugly brown handle. This “hidden” quality also fits in with its owner personality, a woman who acting skills are quiet good and has a habit of hiding in closets....
So to summarise it name, it could be read as the blade of hidden beauty and purity.
Now on Sode no Shirayuki attacks, it has a fair few when compared to other Zanpakutō of a similar level. So far we seen three dances come out of it with plenty of room in the plot for Rukia to learn more.
Some no mai, Tsukishiro, (First Dance, White Moon)
Tsugi no mai, Hakuren, ( Next Dance, White Ripple)
San no mai, Shirafune, ( Third Dance, White Sword)
Ok let examine them as a group shall we? There all dances with a white in there title somewhere, and I would argue are deigned to reinforce a image of refined beauty. Her first dance is also called the White Moon, somehow I find the idea that KT forgetting that Ichigo's sword was the Cutting Moon or the Moon Cutter laughable and so I'm inclined to believe this is KT trying to suggest that Sode no Shirayuki and Zangetsu are linked... and since there manifestation of there owners spirit I think this name linking is further evidence of the link between Rukia and Ichigo.
The other interesting thing about Rukia's first two dances in that there complicated and fancy affairs and her first and third dance are what I consider sneaky attacks. To those who's unfamiliar with her abilities, it so very easy to be caught fatally of guard. Just ask Aaroniero Arruruerie!
These abilities also contrast sharply with the no nonsense abilities of Zangetsu. Zangetsu is uncivilised brute force who's designed for toe to toe combat. Sode no Shirayuki is a tricky and civilised blade which does little to improve Rukia''s direct combat abilities and plenty to improve her options and tricks.
At the time of writing Rukia has yet to achieve Bankai. However considering her impotences to the plot and general power creep that common in shounen I think the likely hood of Rukia achieving Bankai before the end of Bleach to be pretty high and I think we can have a few wild stabs at what it might be like based on her existing abilities and the mirroring with Zangetsu.
Its going to be pretty. Seriously the likely hood of the fandom going “oooo” is pretty high. Either that or there going to be a lot of bitching with people going “the most beautiful Zanpakutō of the Soul Society my *****! ”.Needless to say I think KT will make a effort to at least make Rukia look dazzling in a dignified manner.
Its going to have a lot of fancy tricks. Special abilities with a sneaky factor are so going to be in. They may be called “x dance” or perhaps some new theme based on her Bankai's form, but there will almost certainly be a clear link in the naming patten.
Its going to be hard for Rukia to maintain. This idea is mostly based on the mirroring angle. Expect it to have real (plot point relevant level of) power, but not last long.
I suspect it might be winged. Rukia likes high places and enjoys the freedom her heart has had since meeting Ichigo. So highly symbolic wings (I suspect of the white feathered variety) are a plausible feature.
There going to be a lot of white.
We might see a scythe as well, based on Fade to Black version of Dark Rukia.
There also be some features that relate to the arc that Rukia acquire it in. Which we can't really guess at this point in time what they might be however.
Sofion and why the arm cannon fits her perfectly
Jakuhō Raikōben (Hornet Thunder Whip) is probably the most controversial Bankai yet seen. The fandom hate of this Bankai is pretty high in some places and many consider it totally unfitting for Sofion, head of the Convert Ops to wield what amounts a siege weapon on her arm.
Its a terrible weapon for assassinating people with and it not a Convert Ops type of weapon at all. But Sofion isn't just assassin, she's fundamentally a three dimensional person as well. A person with quiet a temper and vindictive steak that's scary. She also the a person who quiet willing to use extreme measures.
Her Shikai is Suzumebachi (Hornet). A Zanpakutō which kills in two strikes. Not subdue, kill. There is no knock-out option on this weapon, Releasing her Zanpakutō make it notably harder for Sofion not to bring down her foe none fatally and whats the step up from unforgiving death for one person? Yes you figured it out folks, its unforgiving death for a lot of people!
A second factor to consider when considering Jakuhō Raikōben is that Sofion has a lot of unresolved internal issues(mostly to do with a certain werecat idol disappearing on her), so perhaps her Bankai is literally her release of all that pent up stress at whoever angered her enough to pull out the embarrassing Bankai of mass annihilation....
Orihime's Shun Shun Rikka
I think that when it fundamental comes down to it that Shun Shun Rikka (Six Flowers of the Hibiscus Shield) is basically a sort of Zanpakutō. Its a reflection of Orihime soul in six little fairy's.
While I can't quiet figure out Baigon , I think I may have figured out what the others represent...
Ayame is Orihime's shyness and gentle nature.
Hinagiku is Orihime's drive and enthusiasm.
Lily is Orihime's outgoing side.
Shun'ō is Orihime's quiet confidence.
Tsubaki is Ohirime's aggression and desire to kill... which probably explain his low body count...
While Shun Shun Rikka clearly is a few steps removed from a traditional Zanpakutō, its does share some notable traits, such as being a manifestation of its wielder warrior self and showing the inner character of its owner. It also has a release command.
Now onto the more theory side of things. I believe Shun Shun Rikka is Orihime's powers at there most basic. This is Orihime's version of Ichigo's giant oversized sword of the first arc. She still doesn't really know how to use her powers, she hasn't really woke them up properly and discovered her warrior side. Its not really surprising that her warrior side split into six separate personalities and notable far behind the other characters at anything other than healing.
So my prediction is thus... Orihime will sort out all her insecurity and self confidence issues and Shun Shun Rikka will change into a weapon of some kind (staff looks likely, sword and shield is not pushing it). It will speak with one voice and have a flower theme. I also suspect Orihime's power level will sky-rocket.
I also suspect it won't be too long before we see this, it seems to me that KT has spent the whole HM arc showing all Orihime's failings and weaknesses. He had Orihime in fact say several times that she's angry with all her weaknesses. And the purpose of this is set up. The sun always shine brightest at dawn, so for Orihime to shine brightly and evolve her abilities to the next level.. she got to go through mental of a night of hell first.
Anyway I hope you all enjoy reading this, constructive criticism and debate of points raised encouraged!