Rukia’s Bankai is one of the most unique in all of Bleach. Here’s a closer look at it.
- Rukia’s Bankai, Hakka no Togame, is a beautifully dramatic final form that combines Shinigami and Zanpakutō, standing out as one of the most gorgeous sequences in the Thousand-Year Blood War adaptation.
- The name “Hakka no Togame” translates to “White Haze Punishment,” reflecting Rukia’s icy powers and her noble background. The use of uncommon kanji highlights her rootedness in an older time.
- Rukia’s appearance in her Bankai form is like that of an Ice Queen, with a snow-white body, billowy sleeves, and a regal comb of ice in her hair. Her Bankai not only showcases her beauty but also symbolizes her nobility and her journey of overcoming fear and despair.
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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+.
One of the most anticipated moments in the adaptation of the final arc of Tite Kubo’s BLEACH manga is the reveal of Rukia’s achievement of the series’ iconic power-up: the Bankai. Rukia’s journey throughout the series, and even prior, is a long ride and her exhibition of this level of mastery as a Shinigami is one of the BLEACH series’ best moments. Her defeat of Sternritter F – The Fear, Äs Nödt, was the triumph of the beauty of Rukia’s soul over fear and despair, and bears incredible thematic significance when it comes to the development of Rukia as a character.
Her Bankai is a dramatic final form that combines Shinigami and Zanpakutō in ways that most do not, and stands out as one of the most gorgeous sequences to come out of the Thousand-Year Blood War adaptation yet. Here is an in-depth explanation and analysis of Rukia’s Bankai: Hakka no Togame.
BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2, Episode 6, “The White Haze” was the polar opposite of its first cours counterpart, with “The Fire” being replaced with the calm, biting cold grace of Rukia’s Bankai: Hakka no Togame (“Censure of the White Haze”). The Bankai is a beautiful extension of the concept first introduced through her Zanpakutō, Sode no Shirayuki (“Sleeves of White Snow”) in Shikai form, a form in which it is considered the most beautiful Zanpakutō in Soul Society. Sode no Shirayuki is written 袖白雪; while there is no “no” denoted in its name written in kanji, there’s a reason for that. Sode no Shirayuki’s Shikai release is “Dance”, and each of Rukia’s special abilities were themed as such. Initially, it was thought that Rukia’s Zanpakutō emits freezing air from its tip; however, Rukia came to realize that its true ability is reducing the temperature of its wielder, with the blade acting as an extension of this freezing body.
Upon activation, a gust of cold air is sent in all directions as the blade, hilt, guard and pommel become pure white, and a white ribbon attaches to the pommel; which has itself assumed a hollow, snowflake-like appearance. This appearance is what makes people consider Sode no Shirayuki to be the most beautiful Zanpakutō, and its beauty continues into its Bankai. During her fight against Äs Nödt, Rukia revealed the true extent of Sode no Shirayuki’s power, as she displayed the ability to enact a temporary cryostasis and reach Absolute Zero; a power she can only use for four seconds before it has adverse effects. Her Bankai took this effect even further, with its activation sending out a freezing gust of snow and ice in every direction and completely froze the transformed Äs Nödt. His frozen body fell apart almost immediately as Rukia stood victorious. At this stage, she still needs more time to master it as it is still a very dangerous ability to use.
Rukia Bankai Hakka no Togame Closeup – BLEACH Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2 Episode 6
Rukia’s Bankai, Hakka no Togame is perhaps the most beautiful Bankai in BLEACH for its dramatic change to Rukia’s appearance. Written 白霞罸 in kanji, the name doesn’t have too convoluted a path to translation from Japanese to English, and only the final kanji presents some kind of variance in the possible translations. While “Censure of the White Haze” is an acceptable translation, VIZ translates “Hakka no Togame” to “White Haze Punishment”. What complicates the English translation are the last two kanji, which are translated easily enough to equivalent concepts, but aren’t commonly used to denote these concepts in Japanese. Essentially, the characters that give rise to “haze” and “censure/punishment” aren’t the ones that would usually be used to mean those things. The kanji for “haze” in this sense is referring less so to the equally-likely phenomenon of mist granted the ice powers of Rukia’s Zanpakuto; however, the kanji is used in reference to the meteorological effect known as an “afterglow”; which is an arc of light seen in the sky resulting from the scattering of fine particles in the atmosphere that have a scattering effect on light shining on them from a certain angle, creating a purplish-red hue.
On the other hand, 罸, pronounced “batsu“, to mean “punishment” is used over a far more common kanji for punishment – (罰), which differs from this one by a single radical, which changes one component in the kanji, and thus, some of the implication regarding its meaning. Another interesting aspect to this character is it being pronounced “togame“, which invokes a different character entirely (咎), meaning “rebuke or blame. “Censure” refers to severe reprimand in an official capacity. If one considers the radical (討), the operative unit that separates aforementioned kanji of punishment, an interesting picture is painted. In Chinese, this character carries various connotations of “attack”, with attacking with intention to subjugate, destroy or condemn.
Clearly, it isn’t necessarily the use of unusual variants of certain characters that makes understanding their implications difficult, but the reason for their use in the first place. Both Rukia and Byakuya speak a dated form of Japanese, possibly due to their position as members of a noble family in Soul Society, and the Kuchiki Clan’s strictness. When Rukia first arrives in Karakura Town and starts attending school with Ichigo, one of the first things he tells her to fix if she hopes to avoid rousing suspicion, is her manner of speaking. This was in response to what had already been an attempt by Rukia to “modernize” her speech patterns. Basically, Rukia’s “classical” manner of speaking is reflected in the nomenclature of her Zanpakutō – Sode no Shirayuki is written without hiragana, more specifically, without the “no” particle usually used to tie subject to object like an apostrophe -s would. However, it is not seen in the written names of the Zanpakuto or the Bankai.
Without getting into too much detail, essentially, the manner in which the names of Rukia’s Zanpakuto and Bankai are written in a manner that is archaic. The point of this is to illuminate the connection between Rukia’s own speech patterns; the Edo-esque appearance of Soul Society; Rukia’s age and connection to nobility are all aspects that affect her Zanpakutō, meaning that the use of unusual kanji for the sake of Rukia’s nomenclature illustrates her rooting in an older time. The omission of the “no” in the written form of Hakka no Togame is a dated convention often seen in place names and some surnames; while other times, a variant of the particle is used specifically because something is a popular noun.
The White Haze
Rukia Thaws Her Bankai – BLEACH Thousand-Year Blood War Part 2 Episode 6
Hakka no Togame changes Rukia’s appearance, making her entire body appear white as snow and like ice, with her Shihakushō replaced with a glass-like kimono that bares her shoulders but flanks them with billowy sleeves that have a large rounded base similar to the wide shape of her collar. Various white ribbons are attached to her while her snow-white hair is ornamented with a comb of ice, another nod at her regality. Her Zanpakutō retains its Shikai beauty, but in the case of her Bankai, Sode no Shirayuki lives up to the name with dramatic sleeves being one of the form’s notable aspects. The blue-purple of her eyes is a much more pronounced purple.
Overall, she looks like an actual Ice Queen while in this form, and the fact that her signature abilities were “dances” makes complete sense once one sees her Bankai. Hakka no Togame is the most beautiful Bankai of the series visually for its reflection of the gorgeousness of Sode no Shirayuki, but also conceptually, it bears Rukia’s nobility; an aspect that brought her much suffering, determination, as well as her experiences with guilt and the overcoming of fear and despair.