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During the fight against Aizen, Hirako uses the power of his zanpakuto. He says to Aizen that because he didn't trust him, he never revealed the power of his bankai, but he isn't shown to actually say "bankai", only to release his zan. So which did he use, shikai or bankai ? His power seems incredibly powerful for a shikai (then again he is among the oldest captains), and he knows full well he has to use everything he's got if he wants to beat Aizen (but then again, many other shinigami like Isshin, Urahara and Shunsui chose not to use bankai). By the way, the fact that Urahara and Isshin in particular didn't use bankai is incomprehensible for me, since (contrary to Shunsui and Ukitake) they were not one-shotted by surprise and were clearly aware that they were being whooped. Even if their bankais had no relevant powers to the strategy they had prepared, the boost in reiatsu alone should made it a no-brainer...
Same question for Aizen : the way I understand it, the condition for the activation of "complete hypnosis" is the activation of shikai, but the power of "complete hypnosis" itself is his bankai. We've never seen him activate it because it was shown from the point of view of characters who were under the influence of hypnosis, or because he activated it discretely beforehand so as not to warn the opponents that he was using it.
However, I heard some people disagree with this and think that Aizen's bankai was never revealed. Though the question might be moot now that he fused with his zanpakuto, what is the consensus on this ? Can you really believe that Aizen has an even more haxed power that he couldn't use against his final fight with Ichigo because he had discarded his zanpakuto ?
What we have seen from aizen and hirako are simply shikai so far. The manga has not really cared to show their bankais yet, that much is fact. Aizen has been painfully specific about his shikai ability. The same with shinji. Complete hypnosis is aizen's shikai, not bankai, reverse world is shinji's shikai, not bankai. The manga has never actually said anything we have seen corresponds with aizens or shinji's shikai at all.
As far as aizen fusing with his sword... wasn't he just loosing his powers? Overall he did kinda fuse with it for a while but then by the time he said that it was the specific moment where he lost enough power to be affected by shinigami kido. I thought it context he was supposed to have lost all his power then.
Is there any point in the manga where they clearly state it was shikai (in either Aizen's or Hirako's case)? Or is this just deduced from the fact that we didn't see either say explicitly "bankai" ?
Considering that there isn't a single character whose bankai we saw before their shikai, what we saw from Shinji was
probablydefinitely his shikai.
Why Urahara didn't use bankai:
1. He knew it wouldn't work.
2. He'd already planned on using his sealing kido.
Why Isshin didn't use bankai:
1. He knew it might not have worked
2. It apparently puts some sort of strain on his body
3. He was overpowered before he got the chance to?
Perhaps the issue at hand is that bankai is too ulweildy to be used when you fight with team mates. Overall the general attitude shinigami have when releasing bankai is along the lines to "You'd better get the hell away from here unless you want to become involved in the fight". So ultimately a proper team fight would be impossible if captains are at risk of taking out their team mates. Hitsugaya did use his bankai but there is the consideration that his bankai is painfully substandard without the use of his weather control.
If the consensus is that in both cases it was shikai, then I guess you are probably right. However the argument "because every other character displayed shikai before bankai" is extremely circular. Also, what are your thought on Aizen ? Shikai also ?
And I'm not really convinced by the reasons you pur forward for not using bankai. It might not have worked, but like I said, it was a desperate fight. It made no sense to not try it. Even Urahara's most powerful trick, the sealing kido who decided it in the end, didn't work at first. From there, Urahara had already played his best card and had to be aware that it was getting desperate, especially after Aizen beat a few combo attacks. At this time, both he and Isshin were still in good enough condition to do bankai. And if nothing else, bankai would have increased the power of their base attacks and abilities (GT for Issin, and Benihime's powers for Urahara).
---------- Post added at 02:50 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:48 PM ----------
As far their abilities being bankai and not shikai.... does it look like bankai? Both abilities are rather abstract so they don't necessarily have to be as large and overwhelming as bankai usually are but the biggest clue here is that neither of them looks in the least like bankai. Not only they did not actually say bankai but they used standard release commands like shatter or whatever shinji did. Generally bankai does not require a release command, shinigami just kinda release it. heck, bankai even allows the user to bypass the command thing altogether. At least appearance wise their abilities are 100% shikai. If they were bankai the two of them would be distrinctly different from every other bankai user in the manga considering they did not even have to release the usual huge dramatic amount of reiatsu which usually follows at least the first time bankai is used. overall there is no indication whatsoever that their abilities are actually bankai.
shikai based of the commands. They never said bankai. I doubt kubo would make someone use a bankai without showing shikai.
I agree with others that everything seems to indicate that they are both shikai abilities. When a shinigami goes bankai, he always makes it clear by saying "bankai", followed by the name of the bankai, I don't recall any exceptions. Aizen seems to have lost his zanpakuto but I guess we'll at least see his bankai in a flashback. There must be a reason why he's still alive after all.
As for why all shinigami didn't use their bankais against Aizen in FKT arc, we need to see these bankais first to assess if they would really be useful. If they weren't useful, all these bankais would go to waste but they can now be used for dramatic effect in the story when it's time. Even if they were useful, it would still be counterproductive for the progression of the plot, I mean would it be a better conclusion to the arc if it was Isshin who defeated Aizen? Kubo himself hinted that Shunsui's bankai might be troublesome for Aizen and implied that Ichigo was supposed to defeat Aizen, not Shunsui. At the end of the day the plot dictates how characters behave.
OK, you have convinced me for the shikai/bankai thing. But I can't really imagine anything more powerful than "complete hypnosis" related to illiusions...
About the use of bankai in the FKT arc, I agree it that it was necessary for the plot to not have Kyoraku and co. defeat Aizen themselves and reveal already their ultimate power. Of course I believe this is why Kubo did not showed it to us at this point. I am just disappointed that this seems to be completely motivated by shonen standards (the hero must save the day, the most badass moves must be saved for the final arc of the manga) at the cost of incoherence from the character's perspective.
Shinji says, "You don't know my zanpakuto's powers," not "my bankai." Then he says, "Collapse, Sakanade," which doesn't sound like anything but a shikai release command.
As Zeta42 said, they might've wanted to protect their bankais. Also, had they released theirs, Aizen would've just done this:
It's very possible they wanted to try catching Aizen off-guard in shikai rather than find out how unfairly hax his bankai is.
Aizen, shinigami in Shikai vs Shinji, shinigami (took his mask off) in Shikai (didn't activate Bankai). But Kyoka Suigetsu proved to be better than Sakanade.
I think captains can control their bankais to at least not kill off everyone. Shinji could use his Sakanade only on Aizen when Hitsugaya attacked. Or... he used it on everyone and hoped they would just stand still for now... xD
Yamaji is an exception. He could easily kill everyone with his reiatsu. I don't think his body could control it. He was being reffered to as a monster, he was shown clad in fire armor in a picture, that Shunsui's saw and just activating his Bankai could kill everyone in SS. I still don't get how his Shikai was as strong as entire G13 and how comes, that his shikai has more techniques than 90% Bankais in Bleach and why Renji's, Hiyori, Lisa's and TONS of people out there have Shikai that just change it's shape. That's why Sakanade and KS are so confusing. Their strength esily rival that of Bankai. Hell, they're exceeding most Bankais. KS is practically invincible in Shikai. What can it do in Bankai? Make one wish become reality? I wrote "ONE" there only because anything else would be overkill... That ability is just perfect. No variation of illusion can hope to be better than COMPLETE hypnosis.