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well captain level VR are:
3. Ass Nodt
7. Guy fighting shunsui
9. One who stole hitsugaya bankai
10. One who stole soi fong bankai
12. Guy who kicked renji
these are the ones for sure at captain level (coz they stole captains bankai or defeated captain level shnigamis) ...they can be weak captain to strong captain level...there are others which maybe vice-captain level so didnt include them... apart from these there were VR fighting ukitake,shinji,kensei so 16 captain level VR sounds ok...now they lost some of them so maybe there will be some new VR that will join later...they could be real strong
p.s. also didnt include the ones kenpachi off panelled...
I'd say there's 26 for 2 reasons;
- There are 26 letters in the English alphabet; one assigned to each member.
- It might be purely coincidental, but before the war there would have been a total of 26 VR and 26 G13 Captains / Vice Captains. With the losses to each side it looks like this is still the case.
I think they simply use a german alphabet. It makes a tad more sense and if we can trust wikipedia it does not actually include the weird non letters such as ß. I think we can expect weird letters for soldiers that fulfill some special function though.
---------- Post added at 12:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:31 PM ----------
We can't exclude quilge from the stern rittern. He had a letter assigned to him so he is every bit a stern rittern as every other stern rittern we ever saw. Given the logic of the manga I would argue that there are indeed 26 stern rittern. It makes sense with the number of gotei 13 titled captain shinigami (13 captains and VC) and there being 26 letters in the alphabet. There is also the consideration that juhabach didn't necessarily send all the stern rittern to sereitei. It is perfectly possible that he intended to leave a few behind in order to not leave the palace without defense.
As far as the actual strength of the stern rittern, I would think all of them are actually superior to VCs at least. Not a single VC got anything resembling a victory during the invasion and so far it would seem all the stern rittern are capable of volstandig,