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May be or may be not
I think the Zero division is probably on a higher level than the Gotei 13, because joining it requires a promotion from a regular captain position. Also the Zero squad seems to be a big threat on its own, without having to be 13 divisions. Maybe it's just packed with captain-level shinigami?
If Isshin turns out to be any indication, you probably have to be atleast twice as strong as a captain to join. Basically, it's to a captain what a captain is to a vice-captain
Oh, you're right. Just reread it and Hikifune's promotion did indeed come before Urahara's. But good god man, calm down with then aggressive tone, eh?
Anyway, I guess that raises the question of what criteria have to be filled for someone to get the promotion. Maybe it's to do with how long they've served as Captain? But then Shunsui, Ukitake and Unohana should have been promoted, unless they simply turned the offer down. It could be power level, but that doesn't really make sense to me. A Captain is supposed to be someone who has reached their peak. Of course, they can still have room to grow, but I don't see how there can be a cut-off point. Captain-class is Captain-class, that's all there is to it.
And it's strange that the Royal Palace can just demand that a Captain be relocated to their squad immediately. What if SS doesn't have anyone else fit to take the position yet. In Hikifune's case, they had Urahara, but if he hadn't already achieved Bankai, what then? Does the VC just run the division until someone skilled enough comes along to become the Captain? Look how long it took them to fill the seats Aizen and co. left behind when they defected, and that was only because the Vaizards where lurking around.
Well, aggressive was a strong word, but it came off as needlessly argumentative. Eh, whatever.
What if the Soul King is actually some kind monster (as Aizen hinted), and Zero Squad's job isn't actually to protect it, but to keep it under control? According to Urahara, if it's ever removed or destroyed, Soul Society goes with it, but maybe it's not there by choice. Maybe it's actually imprisoned in the Royal Realm. Perhaps it tries to break free every now and then, and that's why Zero Squad needs a constant influx of Captain-class Shinigami, to make up for the casualties the 'King' inflicts when it gets restless? Or even worse, they have to sacrifice strong souls, like that of a Captain, to it to keep it placated.
So in other words, they may be shinigami that have merged with their zanpakutos somehow.
If Isshin turns out to have been one of them, he does have an unusual connection with his zanpakuto doesn't he?
So his FGT might be a sign of that and the reason why he seems so strong.
pantsuniform that much when talking about them).
But there are plenty of other ways of hiding reiatsu (like being a quincy or having Urahara-like tools or whatever), so I'm not trashing it.
But (another but) merging with their zan is something that hasn't been confirmed in any character so far (AFAIK), and even if someone did, I wonder if it'd actually make the reiatsu disappear (if it doesn't actually give an insane boost in power and RG is far stronger than captains, see above), and doubt it'd be frequent enough of a circumstance that an entire division could do it.
Yeah the 'Zero' might as well not have anything to do with their abilities. Maybe they are just very stealthy in general.
But I still do wonder if someone beyond a captain's power would begin to merge with his/her Zan. Not on Ichi's level of course, but you know, enough to be considered beyond a captain.
I'm curious why someone like Shunsui isn't in the royal guard, maybe Im overrating him or he just sticks to the Gotei out of loyalty and pride for Yama.
Does anyone else think that some of the Shinigami with Yamamoto on this page could turn out to be members of the RG now?
The royal guard being THAT strong would beat the point of there being stern rittern though. I mean, even a few of them would be able to handle the lot of stern ritern if they were at that level. I would argue the royal guard at this point is simply meant to even the field against the stern rittern so basically we would have the leader of the royals who would be someone about as strong as yamamoto (not as strong though) and the rest which are captain level shinigami. Looking back it seems all of the stern rittern are actually significantly above captain level, even renji got one shoted by one (it was a sneak attack but the wounds he sustained are not something which IMO would be caused by someone of mere VC level strength). Even if there are stern rittern of VC level there would still be the issue of volstandig which is something which would likely be difficult if not impossible for a VC level shinigami to deal with. All in all vandenreich lost 5 stern rittern ( the 3 kenpachi killed and the two yamamoto killed) and maybe that domino guy who might or might not have been killed by ichigo. If we go by letters then there were at least 27 stern rittern to begin with along with the leader and perhaps a few others who might have secret letters or whatnots which leaves more than 20 enemies left. Without yamamoto there are 12 captains assuming kenpachi and byakuya somehow recover, ichigo, inue, chad, hiyori, lisa, love, hachi, urahara, tessai, yoruichi, maybe a few arrancar and perhaps the ishidas and ishin. Technically that is more than 20 however so far each faction seems to move individually to some extent and adding the bankai stealing badges it might still not be enough to deal with the stern rittern and bach. The royals would be specially necessary if a bankai-volstandig combination is actually possible, that would be something which even several captain level shinigami would have trouble with and that would not even take in consideration the case of it being a particularly strong stern rittern.