One name that everyone in the Soul Society fears is Kenpachi Zaraki, the bloodlust-filled Captain of the 11th division and the rightful owner of the title Kenpachi, a title granted to the strongest fighter of the era.
The lieutenant of such a capable and fearsome captain is the playful and happy-go-lucky Yachiru, whose childlike appearance should not be taken lightly. Her abilities are something one should be very aware of. Still, during the TYBW arc, she mysteriously disappears when Zaraki comes in to fight Gremmy Thoumeaux.
After taking the title of “Kenpachi” from Unohana, Zaraki not only vanquished the real image of the kind and serene Captain of Division 4, he also unlocked a new power inside himself.
According to recently appointed Captain Commander Kyoraku Shunsui, the strength required for Zaraki to master to defeat the Quincies was the ability to utilize a Zanpakuto effectively.
But as Zaraki learned to use Shikai and progressively Bankai, Yachiru was nowhere to be found. Is it a mere coincidence or is there something more to it? That is what we are going to cover today and without further adieu, let’s get right into it!
Spoiler Warning: Massive spoilers if you aren’t up to date with Bleach manga and novels, so read at your own risk!
Who Is Yachiru and How Did She Meet Kenpachi?
We know very little about Zaraki’s Lieutenant, Yachiru Kusajishi. We need to go years back, to the true form of the Gotei 13 according to Yhwach, who were criminals, and the most fierce of them all was the ruthless Yachiru Unohana.
Not the Yachiru in question but the future 4th division captain and healer of the Soul Society. She was known as the first Kenpachi and her bloodlust could never be satisfied no matter the amount of warriors she would slay.
One fateful day she met a young boy wielding a sword who challenged her to a fight. He was different from the rest and the only fighter who could keep up with her. She received a deep wound on her chest whose marks never healed and she realized that it was that young boy who could satisfy her will to fight.
It was none other than Zaraki himself whom she fought. Although he lost, they both had found each other the strongest opponent they could fight. But interestingly, we also get to see another moment from Kenpachi’s past which is shown in the picture below:
We see here a toddler Yachiru fondling a young, slightly wounded Kenpachi in Rukongai, the 79th district of Kusajishi (thus her name being Yachiru Kusajishi).
At some point in time, she suddenly appeared in front of him and started playing with him, unfazed by the fact that he was covered in blood. Kenpachi decided to keep her with him and become her guardian.
He also named her Yachiru, after his rivalry and admiration with the former 11th-division captain and mentor. Also, the fact that she never left his side and followed him for so many years strengthened the bond between them.
As she went on to become his lieutenant Yachiru also had her own zanpakuto which possesses weird abilities. Let’s get a good look at her abilities as a shinigami.
What are Yachiru’s Zanpakuto Abilities?
Yachiru wields the Sanpo Kenju (三步剣獣) which translates to Three Step Sword Beast. When Sanpo Kenju is released, two monsters appear to battle with Yachiru. One of the animals is Boney, who is tall, bone-like, and has teal hair. It is dressed in a black cloak and has a big bone running vertically through its skull.
The second monster Lumpy is chubby and coated in yellow fur, with only a portion of its eyes exposed, and it wields a cleaver. When Yachiru strikes an opponent, the two monsters use their own weapons to imitate her sword. The smaller creature’s attack comes first, followed by the larger creature’s attack, essentially guaranteeing a hit.
Her Zanpakuto is also considered one of a kind according to Isane Kotetsu, as she mentions that a Shikai that manifests its power within creatures while the blade itself remains unchanged is unheard of.
She uses her Zanpakuto momentarily against Guenael Lee, as he gets hit by the beasts before getting killed by one of his own.
Also, if you look closely at the chubby spirit sword it resembles the cleaver-like form of Nozarashi i.e. Zaraki’s zanpakuto in its shikai as well as bankai form.
This could mean that Kenpachi is yet to master his zanpakuto and during the TYBW arc has only learned the name of his sword.
Thus leaving room for growth.
Coming back to Yachiru, let us find out how Yachiru disappeared after Kenpachi Zaraki’s battle with Gremmy.
What Happened To Yachiru Kusajishi In Bleach TYBW?
Yachiru can be seen picking up the eye patch that Zaraki left before he went to ‘train’ with Unohona. She then helps Isane with the treatment of the wounded but they are suddenly attacked by the Sternritter Guenael Lee inside of the infirmary.
As he tries to disrupt the operations of the treatment, Gremmy Thoumeaux, the Sternritter V – The Visionary makes an appearance and kills him.
But thanks to great timing and the heroic appearance of Zaraki, they did not have to fear fighting the monster Gremmy on their own.
It was during this fight that Zaraki released his Shikai Nozarashi and since then Yachiru has been nowhere to be found. As the Gremmy-Zaraki fight ended with the latter as the victor, he started looking out for his lieutenant.
How strange. The release of Nozarashi and the disappearance of Yachiru.
She later makes her appearance during the final moments of Zaraki’s fight against the Schutzstaffel Gerard Valkyrie. Zaraki couldn’t make much of a difference even when he went on to fight without his eye patch. It was during this moment that we get this fantastic scene:
As she suddenly makes her appearance again like the first time, she specifically uses the words “If you would just use me properly”, which implies a lot.
But as we know the result of that fight is Kenpachi turning into a demon who was able to single-handedly cut down Vollstandig Gerard, who is one of the strongest Quincies ever. With this, he gained a new ally in the form of Nozarashi but also lost Yachiru.
So Is Yachiru Zaraki’s Bankai or Zanpakuto Spirit?
We have good news. The good news is that we do not need to bother ourselves with speculation as Tite Kubo himself has talked about this topic on his fansite. In response to a Q&A regarding the aforementioned topic, Kubo said that Yachiru was the Bankai manifestation of Nozarashi.
Nozarashi’s true form is that of an adult woman but the Bankai separated from the Zanpakuto and manifested in the form of Yachiru. As Zaraki did not rely on his Zanpakuto as much as he did on his spiritual pressure, Yachiru was living freely in her corporeal body.
When Zaraki finally released Nozarashi, he heard the voice of the blade and that is also when Yachiru disappeared and merged back with the Zanpakuto. During Zaraki’s wounded state, she stepped out and said “If you would just use me properly”, confirming Kubo Sensei’s explanation of her being Zaraki’s Bankai.
For further clarification, Kubo Sensei compared the relationship of Yachiru and Nozarashi to the likes of Tensa Zangetsu and Zangetsu, the Bankai and Zanpakuto spirits of Ichigo. Tensa Zangetsu was the Bankai manifestation of Ichigo.
Yachiru being the happy-go-lucky Lieutenant of the 11th division had a life-defining past with the ruthless Kenpachi Zaraki. Suddenly appearing in front of Zaraki and playing with his Zanpakuto, he decided to take her in and become her guardian. Fighting countless battles together, they two formed one of the best teams in the Soul Society.
As the times got difficult, tough decisions were to be made by Zaraki as he went on to fight the 4th division Captain and former criminal Yachiru Unohana. After defeating her, he finally began to hear the voice of Nozarashi but in turn, lost contact with Yachiru.
Making her final appearance during the fight against Gerard Valkyrie, she is revealed to be Zaraki’s Bankai as she had merged before with Nozarashi. Using her properly, he was able to unlock Bankai and again gain the worth of the title Kenpachi. She continues to live on inside of his Zanpakuto.
What do you think? Do you find Yachiru’s presence and importance in the story enticing? Do you think her ending was satisfactory? Let’s all engage in healthy discussion in the comments below.