Seniority of the SS Captains & Implications on Their Strength

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Zeus-Tails

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Okay, I just want to give my input on how powerful the captains are at this stage in the game and relate that to the power of Ichigo and the Espadas.

First, I'd like to emphasize a detail in the manga. When Aizen, Tousen and Gin left, there were 5 remaining senior captains and 5 remaining non-senior captains.

Seniors:
Yamamoto
Shunsui
Ukitake
Unohana
Mayuri

Non-Seniors:
Kenpachi
Byakuya
Soi Fon
Hitsugaya
Komamura

And the rescue squad is comprised of 2 Senior captains and 2 Non-Senior captains. I believe that these 4 captains are the middle ground. They are in-between the weakest and the strongest captains. Yamamoto probably sent them because he needed someone to be strong enough to retrieve Ichigo N Pals and fight off any Espada around, but he didn't need to send the strongest because it would be unnecessary overkill.

The remaining captains are Yamamoto, Shunsui, Ukitake, Soi Fon, Hitsugaya and Komamura. The remaining senior captains, Yamamoto, Shunsui and Ukitake, are obviously the strongest with Soi Fon, Hitsugaya and Komamura being the weakest of the captains.

[Side Note: Before you guys rant about Soi Fon having shikai that can kill when swiped twice, think for a second. It's easy to hit someone once, but very hard to hit them in exactly the same spot and it is almost impossible to hit someone twice in the same spot when they are faster than you and I'm betting that she'd have a rough time doing that 2-hit kill against any Espada. Yoruichi was able to stop her even without using her zanpakutoh.]

Now Yamamoto, Shunsui and Ukitake could probably go in, clean house and leave with Ichigo N Pals in like 5 minutes, but that would probably put Aizen on the defensive and start the war prematurely. Aizen won't be so much on defense if the middle-ground captains come and he probably won't see a need to start the full-blown war because of their presence. Furthermore, you need the strongest captains to protect the home turf, Sereitei. He can't send the weaker captains because they'd probably just go in there and die.

Okay, now I want to talk about how these middle captains compare to the Espada and Ichigo. I'm sure that Top 3 Senior Captains > Ichigo > Bottom 3 Non-Senior Captains.

-----Kenpachi and Ichigo - Simply put, if Kenpachi has learned the name of his sword, it already multiplies his reiatsu by a lot and he is probably a bit stronger than Ichigo (Vizard) at that point. If Kenpachi learned bankai (with Urahara's method), he would be leagues about Ichigo and the other captains. If he is in the same state as before but got a little stronger through natural fighting, he's probably on par with Ichigo (their match in the SS arc was a stalement, although Kenpachi could have won anytime he wanted to).
-----Kenpachi and Espada - I know some of you are going to complain that Noitora's 2-minute fight with Nell completely drained him =\ The only real damage Noitora took was when Nell cracked his zanpakutoh. Now, from what I've learned in this manga, unless their zanpakutoh is broken (this refers to Shinigami), their power shouldn't be drained by much. In terms of Espada, I'm pretty sure Noitora will be at full strength when he releases. Those zanpakutohs of Espada, mind you, simply hold the released forms of the Espada and their main point is to release, so I truly believe Noitora will be at full strength when he releases.
Also, pay attention guys, because the way Kenpachi beat Noitora will probably give us a hint of how Ulquiorra will match up against Kenpachi. Kenpachi vs Ulquiorra would be one of the best matches as Ulquiorra does his melancholic rant while Kenpachi is yawning and telling him to hurry up and fight.

-----Byakuya and Ichigo - This is simple. When Byakuya first appeared, he was way stronger than Ichigo. Ichigo got stronger and stronger by training, learning shikai and then bankai. Once Ichigo learned bankai, he was on par with Byakuya or a little stronger. The only reason he slowed down vs Byakuya was because of his inexperience with his bankai. After that, Ichigo became a Vizard which propelled him above Byakuya and that's how it will stay. Ichigo is stronger than Byakuya, period. The leaps Ichigo has made to become stronger can not be matched by Byakuya (who was at final release for a long time and possesses no hollow powers). Byakuya can get a little more stronger from training, but he cannot catch Ichigo anymore.
-----Byakuya and Espada - This is going to be a neck and neck battle. Byakuya's strength is probably equal to Le Roux or and little more. I personally think Byakuya would be wrecked by Grimmjow because Ichigo is far beyond Byakuya and Grimmjow is on par, or a little weaker, than current Ichigo. Le Roux will probably be defeated by Byakuya is going to be pushed to the max before that.

I don't want to compare Mayuri and Unohana to Ichigo because we don't have much basis. Mayuri will probably defeat Szayel, but Szayel won't die. There are still things we need to know about Szayel before they can kill him off. This probably won't prove Mayuri's dominance over Szayel because he will be fighting someone who was already fighting 4 people at once. Unohana vs Execution Squad won't be as one-sided as everyone imagines unless Unohana has a really strong ability. I doubt the Execution Squad are push-overs and furthermore there are like 7 of them, so if each of them have enough reiatsu to at least cut Unohana, then it's not going to be a walk in the park.

Future fates for top 4 Espada:

Halibel - defeated by Nell
Stark - defeated by combination of Ukitake and Shunsui (we should get to see the legendary teamwork in action)
Old Man River - Defeated by Ichigo
Ulquiorra - Defeated by Ichigo

Gin - Turns good or Rangiku will play some part in his defeat
Tousen - Turns good or Komamura will play some part in his defeat
Aizen - Has a grueling fight with Yamamoto, but defeats Yamamoto and then Ichigo will have to step in to finish the fight
 

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