Genryusai Yamamoto is the captain of the Gotei 13, and the strongest shinigami in Bleach. He is so formidable that every foe who appeared in Bleach, made sure to have a back-up plan just to counter Yamamoto. Aizen making Wonderweiss and Yhwach himself coming to the frontlines was a proof of this.
It was certainly a sight to see, as Yamamoto, with a fire that could burn everything in his path, entered the battle with the Quincy who had infiltrated the Soul Society. Instead of going after the minnow, Yamamoto, like a boss, goes straight for the head of the enemy, Yhwach himself.
But, he is strongest there is, so fans might have expected to see a fight for the ages, a battle from thousand years ago, playing out in front of our eyes again. But things didn’t go as planned. Yamamoto’s defenses were breached by Yhwach without much resistance.
Can a legendary fighter fall so easily? Is Yamamoto really dead in Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War?
But it would surely spell doom for the soul reapers if their captain got killed at the start of the battle itself. It is always a wise move to take down your enemy’s captain in order to destroy their morale. Were the Quincy purposely planning on riling up Yamamoto and bringing him out to fight?
Is Genryusai Yamamoto dead? How did he die?
The short answer is yes, Genryusai Yamamoto is really dead. He was killed by Yhwach when they faced off in the soul society. He does not return at any point again in the Bleach manga.
As he entered the battle, Yamamoto effortlessly burnt Sternritter O, Driscoll Berci, to ashes and then proceeded to go face Yhwach himself. He was in rage and was planning to go all out. This time, he was determined to end Yhwach, unlike the battle 1000 years ago.
In order to take him down, the old man releases his bankai. As Yhwach is stalled and pulled down by the corpses of his dead comrades, Yamamoto attacks him with Tenchi Kaijin, and makes a hole in his body. The captain believes that he has taken down the enemy and turns back.
But Shigekuni Yamamoto, the captain, the legend, the man who was fire himself, had only fallen for a cheap trick that Yhwach employed.
The man he killed was not the real Yhwach, and instead it was just R of Royd Loyd who was impersonating him.
The old man realizes his folly as the real Yhwach makes an appearance. As he is about to release his bankai, Yhwach steals it. Losing his bankai made him a sitting duck in the fight, and the Quincy’s king takes down the head of the Gotei 13 very easily.
How did Yhwach kill Genryusai Yamamoto so easily?
Yhwach was only able to kill Yamamoto so easily, because he was able to steal his bankai. This might seem like an asspull to fans who witnessed it, however, this is only a short answer and the more we look into the whole battle and Yamamoto’s mind, the more insight we get into his loss.
Yamamoto was in a blind rage after Sasakibe’s death. He knew all the chaos happening in Soul Society due to the Quincy was partly, or majorly, because he did not kill Yhwach when he had the chance to. As far as Yamamoto was concerned, his mistake had come back to haunt him. And this time, the adversary was way more stronger.
And due to this rage, he went all out on a fake Yhwach, exhausting himself to a certain extent. Old age might have played its part too.
True, Yamamoto should have been able to identify the Reishi signature of the fake Yhwach. Royd could only imitate a person’s appearance and memories, and not their powers and abilities completely. So it begs the question as to why he ignored it. Also, as a battle hardened veteran, he should have been suspicious of how the Yhwach seemed completely unprepared for his attacks.
However, instead of being suspicious, the old man becomes more bold, his pride and rage dictating terms in his head.
Yamamoto comes to the conclusion that the Quincy were wary because they considered him too powerful. He believes that they never made an attempt to steal his bankai, because it was too strong for them. Overconfident and too brash. These are the words that could perfectly describe Yamamoto’s approach at that time.
But there is an explanation for this too.
As Yhwach explains, Yamamoto was no longer the soul reaper he once was. The years of peace had softened the old man, and he came to care about others.
The captains of the original Gotei 13 that Yamamoto founded, was a bunch of cold-blooded killers. They came to be feared by everyone, and the only one who could keep them in line was Yamamoto himself. He was a whole different beast back then.
He pulled no punches, and used any means possible to exterminate and slay his enemies.
However, after the battle with the Quincy, as peace descended on them, Yamamoto had more to protect and more to love, according to Yhwach. A sense of justice and pride overtook him and his stance changed a lot from what he was before.
Furthermore, his pride as a shinigami refrained him taking any help from humans. Which is seen from the fact that he was reluctant to let Orihime heal his arm or let Ichigo be a soul-reaper.
The Yamamoto of past wouldn’t have been bothered by Sasakibe’s death. He would only think of decimating his enemy. But, here the old man was visibly disturbed and angry. And his blind rage spells his doom.
In the end, Yamamoto is dead and gone. Thematically speaking, it also establishes how big of a threat Yhwach is. And that the soul reapers and Soul Society will have to go all out to beat this adversary.