Here’s a closer look at the Sternritter Äs Nödt’s Schrift and Vollständig.
- As Nödt, a member of Yhwach’s Sternritter, possesses the ability to induce fear in his opponents, making him deadly in combat.
- As Nödt’s fear-inducing power stems from his own experiences of despair and impending doom, making him a complex and intriguing character.
- As Nödt’s grotesque Vollständig transformation reflects his religious origins and his fear of divine punishment, adding to his creepy and horror-inspired persona.
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The following contains spoilers for BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2, Episode 6, “The White Haze”, available for streaming on Hulu and Disney+.
As a member of Yhwach’s Sternritter, the Quincy known as Äs Nödt was extremely powerful and displayed one of the most effective abilities in combat: fear induction. Through use of this ability during the first invasion of the Seireitei during the first cours of BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Äs Nödt was able to thoroughly decimate one of the strongest Shinigami in the Gotei 13, 6th Squad Captain Byakuya Kuchiki, but was later cut down by Rukia’s shiny new Bankai.
Granted the Schrift “F” by His Majesty Yhwach, Äs Nödt’s epithet “The Fear” was a manifestation of the almost primordial experience shared by all living things. As far as Äs Nödt was concerned, life itself was eternally tethered to fear. Who is Äs Nödt, and how does his ability reflect his character?
Despair From the Dark
As Nodt Flashback – BLEACH Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2 Episode 6
Äs Nödt was originally an ordinary human who by stroke of bad luck lived a difficult life tied up to life support machines in hospital as he struggled to breathe. His condition lacked any hope of improvement, and each passing day, Äs Nödt’s despair grew as he laboured to do something as basic as respirate, and with this resignation to his condition, he grew more fearful of his impending doom. More specifically, Äs Nödt grew increasingly terrified of his fate in the afterlife. Due to his religious outlook on life, Äs Nödt was worried about whether he’d end up in Heaven or Hell. Before his life completely seeped away, Yhwach showed up by Äs Nödt’s bedside, granting the dying man a fragment of power. Having been saved from certain death, Äs Nödt became one of Yhwach’s loyal subjects, with his most pertinent concern becoming the source of his new power. His name is a head scratcher but appears to have Scandinavian or Germanic origins.
Rukia’s Vision of As Nodt – BLEACH Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2, Episode 6
Äs Nödt’s Schrift, F – The Fear, grants him the ability to induce fear in the targets injured by his reishi weapon, a set of reishi thorns that “infect” the wound site with fear that can’t be blocked or guarded against. When Byakuya is hit with these thorns, the resulting visions and hallucinations render him incapable of fighting effectively, as he had been, quite literally, paralysed by fear. The effect is extremely effective, but can be overcome somewhat by those who possess an indomitable will, and has no effect on those who are capable of placing themselves in some kind of temporary death-like state.
Granted that the effect is understood to be universal because of the inherent nature of fear to the very concept of life, those without any fear to begin with are impervious to its effects. Rukia Kuchiki entered such a state through her mastery of the freezing nature of her Zanpakutō, Sode no Shirayuki. During their encounter, Rukia wonders if Äs Nödt’s own fear would be that which does not experience fear; a thought that turns out to be the key to defeating him. Äs Nödt’s entire demeanour and character is constructed in a way to maximise his creepy, horror factor, and his encounter with Rukia leaned heavily into these elements particularly in his approach and his explanation of the inevitability of the permeation of his Fear.
As Nodt’s True Form – BLEACH Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2 Episode 6
While it is a fear-inducing ability, the source of the fear is not necessarily its target. When he activates his Vollständig, Äs Nödt’s pale, wiry frame reminiscent of Sadako gives way to a far more grotesque and sinister-looking form; however, what brings him to that point is Rukia’s insistence that she has caused him to fear for his life over the course of the battle. As he stands, frozen in place by Sode no Shirayuki, Äs Nödt recalls his pitiable existence barely living while hooked up to all manner of life support machines that kept him alive but didn’t help with the pain and difficulty he’d experience doing something as simple as breathing. Fear and despair welled up within him as he considered what his fate in the afterlife would be, and as his life oozed out of him, Yhwach arrived to grant him the fragment of power that would become the Schrift, “F”. As his anger reaches a boiling point, Äs Nödt exclaims that the only fear he could ever have is being “rebuked” by Yhwach, activating the Quincy: Vollständig “Tatar Foras” – translated as “The Fear of God”, because it is written in Japanese as 神の怯え – “kami no obie” (the fear of God).
The phrase “Tatar Foras” is rather unclear in its origins, but appears to be a portmanteau of one half of “Tartarus”, the location in the underworld as well as its embodiment in Greek Mythology; and Foras, the name of one of the 72 demons mentioned in the Ars Goetia, a “president” of Hell who teaches logic and ethics. The name supposedly comes from the Latin, “foras”, meaning “outside”, so “Tatar Foras” describes a demon fresh out of Hell that has convictions regarding morality. In Christianity and other monotheistic religions, a “fear” of God is a mark of true piety and isn’t described necessarily as a fear in the normal sense; but rather an overwhelming sense of awe or complete submission to a deity. The connection lies in Äs Nödt’s own sense of piety and submission to Yhwach, an individual who has been seen as something of a God by other Quincies; however, beyond that, in certain contexts, the fear of God is more specifically the fear of divine punishment – a sentiment that more accurately reflects Äs Nödt’s character. The appearance of his Vollständig is the stuff of nightmares and not only reflects his religious origins, but also the collective fears of people, and most importantly, his own fears regarding his badly broken body.
Punishment of the Egregore
Äs Nödt’s Vollständig activation is grotesque, with his internal organs literally bursting out of him before being violently pushed back into place by a swift suture job the speed of which sounds like a zipper going off. This giant gash that opens up in Äs Nödt stretches to his throat, and as he screams in agony and righteous indignation, the sutures sealing off his throat strain and choke out his voice. The anger at the suggestion that he could be scared before anyone but Yhwach caused his irises to roll back and forth rapidly before revealing the 5-pointed starcross of the Quincies as blood came pouring from his eyes. The sound direction of this mutilating transformation was particularly incredible, and his appearance – one that mashed together the Japanese urban legend of Kuchisake-onna (“Slit-Mouthed Woman”, a malicious spirit said to take on the form of a woman whose lips were slit all the way to her ears to form a sinister and bloody smile. Supposedly this mysterious figure with black hair would ask her target if they think she is beautiful before revealing an unsettling toothy grin extended by her mutilation, before asking again.
After unleashing his transformation, Äs Nödt’s mouth gains a more monstrous quality reminiscent of the aforementioned urban legend. The most striking thing about Tatar Foras’ appearance is that Äs Nödt’s Heiligenschein is a star encircled by barbed wire – or, what’s more likely given his religious inclinations, a crown of thorns. His wings also look like thorn crowns, while a mysterious black substance; possibly the very manifestation of fear, covers his hands up to the forearm like long gloves. Essentially, the Vollständig combines the very clear Christian allegory presented by the Quincies and Yhwach, and Äs Nödt’s own fear of eternal damnation, which in this case is simply falling out of favour with the Quincy King. What completes Äs Nödt’s character is not just his even more grotesque, gigantic form, but his defeat at the hands of Rukia’s Hakka no Togame. Ultimately, the Bankai’s name translates to “Censure of the White Haze”, where “censure” describes punishment, or more appropriately, “rebuke” just as terrifying as that which Äs Nödt feared from the very depths of his soul.