|Zf6hellion's Shitty Guides to Characters|
Ready for round three, folks? No? Ha, too bad.
Today we're going to talk about one of the more complicated aspects of Bleach: the hybrids. Hybrids are a common thing in most any kind of fiction, half-elves, half-dragons, half-aliens and so on. Its an incredibly common trend, because it allows people to be "unique", after all, when everyone around is an Elf, you'd stand out for being that one woman with the Human ears. Many forms of fiction will set out to accommodate this kind of thing, like rulesets in D&D for a variety of half-and-half races, or a fairly popular example that can be found in the recent superhero series Boku no Hero Academia where 80% of the population of Earth in its universe have gained a "Quirk", in other words, super powers. The world is specifically set up to allow for hybrids from the very first couple of chapters with the explanation that a child of two people with a "Quirk" is likely to end up with one of their parents Quirks, both of them, or some mixture of the two. This creates a great sense of natural variety as you can mash just about any two elements together to create something new.
Like Hero Academia, Bleach has also set up various rules to govern its own form of hybrids, the primary one being that it is exceedingly rare. See, everything in Bleach is made up of "shields" or barriers that help keep everything separated so that they remain intact. This is because things like souls have a natural predisposition towards seeking each other out, such that an imbalance in the populous of the Human World or Soul Society would cause one of those worlds to start merging with the other. Everything is locked behind little barriers, allowing them to interact but not truly connect with one another. When you're given the ability to manipulate these shields, as Orihime can, you end up with some incredible power. But, what happens when you don't have access to your own portable Kurosaki-kun Yeller 5000? Well, Soul Suicide happens. When a soul tries to merge with a different soul, the differences inherent between them effectively cause the two to "wash" together and breakdown on a fundamental level. Think of it like a fresh painting being splattered by a random can of paint, it ruins the work entirely, because you can't get the new layer of paint off as its already muddied what was underneath and mixed together. Only thing you can do is start again with a new canvas, which is what happens to hybrids here, only with a lot more death.
BUT. Hybrids clearly exist, so there has to be a means of achieving it, right? Yes, yes there is. So, read on and find out.
Types of Hybrid
There are two primary types of Hybrid in Bleach (with a far more murky third version), two of which are Shinigami-to-Hollow hybrids, and one of which is a Hollow-to-Shinigami Hybrid, otherwise known as Arrancar. Lets cover each of them, one by one.
Shinigami-to-Hollow (Or more correctly Soul-to-Hollow) hybrids are probably the most complex of the bunch, as they are the hardest to properly make. For one thing, they do not have an actual name within the series. The Visored as they are typically referred to as, is not the name of them as hybrids, but the name of the group all of them are a part of. There is only one true hybrid on this side of the scale, Kaname Tōsen, and he is never referred to as a Visored, because he's not with that group. People will most likely refer to them as Visored regardless of what I say here, but I felt the need to at least bring up the fact that they don't have a real name, they're just Hollow-Shinigami, or Hollow-Soul, hybrids.
How do they work, though? Well, there are two types, the "failures" and the "successful". The failed hybrids, which comprises all of the Visoreds gain access to the ability to summon a Hollow mask, white bone masks of various designs that augment their physical abilities and give them access to the generic powers of a Hollow, namely, Cero. The successful version, which is Kaname, gains access to his own mask as well, but in addition to that he also possesses a Resurrección a merging of the concept of Hollow powers and a Shinigami's Zanpakutō.
They are the hardest to make because the means of achieving successful hybridisation is incredibly rare. The most natural outcome is that the soul is destroyed and the person attempting to become a hybrid is killed off. All of the Visored are rendered failures because they would have died if Kisuke Urahara did not halt their conversion. This gave them the lesser form of hybridisation, and kept them alive. Likewise Kaname achieved his through the use of the Hōgyoku, a device that can grant wishes. So, there are means, they're just incredibly difficult to get to.
Hollow-to-Shinigami hybrids are the easiest to achieve, relatively speaking, and they also happen to be the best documented in that regard. Unlike the Shinigami which require an outside source to get themselves all masked up, the Arrancar method is incredibly simple. They remove their masks.
Now that sounds incredibly easy, but one has to remember that breaking a Hollow's mask is also the primary method of killing them. Hakuda in particular has a nasty predisposition to absolutely punching the shit out of those masks, and the results don't tend to give us happy Hollows. The stablising factor isn't established, but we do know that both artificial and natural Arrancar can occur, so it is likely the result of random chance or a factor of a particular Hollow's power when they try to invoke the transformation.
As a result of "Arrancarification", a Hollow gains a humanoid body with the physical characteristics of your average Human, though they have a series of fragments around their face, which are the remnants of their old Hollow mask. Their internal physiology becomes similar to a Shinigami (Meaning they gain their weaknesses), and they are capable of sealing their unique Hollow powers into the form of a sword, an equivalent to the Shinigami's Zanpakutō. If they activate these powers, through the aforementioned Resurrección, they regain a lot of their old Hollow traits, and enhanced forms of their original powers. For example, if Shrieker were to become an Arrancar, his Resurrección would revolve around his little critters that shoot exploding leeches.
The power of an Arrancar depends on when it was made, as well as the method used to make it. After all a Menos Gillian will be weaker than an Adjuchas if both of them became Arrancar at the same time. As well, Natural Arrancar are stated to be weaker than the Artificial Arrancar that were made through the Hōgyoku, so its probable that a Natural Arrancar suffers a penalty for the transformation, if not the Hōgyoku simply being better at its job.
Ichigo Kurosaki: The Beast of Circumstance
There is a third type of hybrid, which is best summed up as simply, Ichigo Kurosaki. Due to the sheer amount of contrivances surrounding his birth, he has ended up with a combination of most of the races in the Bleach universe. He is a Quincy by birth, through his mother, with a predisposition towards Shinigami through his father. On top of that, as his mother was infected with a Hollow, and only kept alive by Isshin acting as a balancing point for her Quincy powers and White's Hollow powers, those same Hollow powers would migrate into Ichigo's body after his birth. It remained dormant for most of his early years, and only woke up when Rukia Kuchiki bestowed her Shinigami powers upon him.
After he lost those powers, he was able to attain his own Shinigami powers by turning his Hollow powers into his Zanpakutō, albeit unknowingly. Through out the majority of the series, his Hollow powers act as an antagonistic force, trying to consume Ichigo and manifesting outwardly in means similar to the Visored. He is able to manifest a Hollow mask, but unlike the others, he can also assume a full on Hollow form, turning him into an outright monster. The closest anyone else has to this is Kaname, when using his Resurrección to assume a Hollow form of his own. While acting as an antagonist, Ichigo's Quincy powers filled in for the Hollow, acting as his Zanpakutō abilities in the mean time. After losing both of them at the end of Sōsuke Aizen's run as the main villain he then attains Fullbring powers, because as a Human with Hollow Reiryoku he fulfills the pre-requisite to use their powers as well.
By the current arc his Shinigami powers have been returned, and having reforged his sword and come to terms with their identities, he is now able to wield both Shinigami and Hollow powers unlike anyone else does. For one thing, he's the only non-Arrancar in the series to perform Gran Rey Cero so far, and still the only one with a Hollow form without an accompanying Resurrección. He can, at least unconsciously, tap into Quincy abilities such as Blut Vene as well.
What's my advice for this craziness? Stay away, Ichigo is a fuckin' abomination.
Name & Appearance
Naming these guys is pretty straightforward, they're Shinigami in most cases, so you simply follow the established rule set for them. In canon this is strictly Japanese names, but I feel you can stretch this to encompass any number of cultural spheres so long as you stick within reason. As in, a guy born in 3000 BC wouldn't be named Billy Madison, because English didn't exist at that point in time. You could feasibly have a Captain from just about anywhere in the world, but they shouldn't predate a point where they could logically show up. It takes all of five minutes to find out when and where most cultures came into existence, even in a prototypical form and that is often enough to say Gaius Maximus of the Seventh Division became a Shinigami in 15 AD, because the Roman Empire had been around for a long while at that point.
Physically, a Hollow-Shinigami experiences absolutely no changes to their appearance. You look as Human as the day you died. What they gain however, is a new tool, the Hollow mask. These come in all shapes and sizes. They are primarily white in colour, just like actual Hollows, and have a few common features, namely a jagged maw of diamond-shaped teeth and the eyes gain blackened sclera with yellow pupils. This is not always the case though, as some Hollow masks come without the altered eyes, or hide them entirely, and some likewise have no teeth to them. The masks themselves often depict something similar to a variety of masks found in the real world, such as a plague doctor or depictions of Oni. The masks also have a variety of patterns to them, similar to the estigma of Arrancar, which can alter as a hybrid grows in power, as shown through Ichigo's mask as the series progressed.
The Hollow guys, on the other hand, gain a whole slew of physical traits. Where, before they were a variety of animalistic monsters, or giant walking bed sheets, they now gain a Human-looking body. The vast majority of Arrancar look entirely Human in appearance, they can appear male or female and run the gamut of physical characteristics, they can be short, they can be huge, they can slim, fat, or rippling with muscles as Mr. Perfect Specimen likes to attest. What sets them apart is the fragments of their old mask that they wore as Hollows, all Arrancar will have these somewhere on their face or around their head, and rarely will they be elsewhere (As is the case with Starrk). Broken pieces of white that reflect some portion of how they used to look, they come in a variety of forms such as Barragan's crown, or the jaw on Yammy Llargo, they can even be odd accentuating features like Szayelaporro's glasses or Zommari's Mohawk for ants. In addition to their mask fragments, they also each possess a Hollow hole just as they did as regular Hollows. Where this turns up usually has implications for the character's personality, and they have a tendency to end up in a variety of odd locations, such as Nnoitra's eye socket, or Ulquiorra's throat. They can also have a variety of tattoos known as estigma which are likely to have come from the way their Hollow masks looked in the past and simply carry those attributes over. Ulquiorra's "crying lines" thing is one such example, which were present on his mask as a Hollow.
Of course, despite becoming humanoid, they don't have to look identical to them. Among the cast, they are the ones with the most flavour amongst their hair colours, sporting a variety of blues, reds, greens and so on where the other races rarely use more than the natural hair colours (with a few exceptions). Aaroniero Arruruerie is notable for having a completely different head from the rest of the cast, which is two small fleshless little things kept inside a liquid-filled case. Why this is, isn't explained, but given that he's the only Gillian-class Arrancar among the Espada suggests that the further down the evolutionary chain you are when you become an Arrancar, the less Human you end up looking. If not, then its probably to do with his Resurrección, which is weeeeeeeird.
Names for Arrancar are, unusual. They follow two themes, the first of which is double letters. If you look through the list of Arrancar that I've mentioned in this guide, you'll notice that every single one of their names contains a use of double letters at some point, be it the first name, surname, or both. A lot of the time these names also come across as gibberish, and this is intentional. The second theme that they follow is being named after various designers from the real world. Aaroniero was named after Eero Aarnio, a Finnish designer, and Starrk was named after Philippe Starck, a designer from France. There is also the implication of name change.
All of the Hollows we encounter in the series have more odd names. Grand Fisher, Fishbone D and so on, they act more like descriptors than true names, and none of the Arrancar share this trait except for Grand Fisher, who kept his Hollow name after becoming an Arrancar. Its likely that had he been able to spend a decent amount of time as an Arrancar he would've changed his name as well. So, that leaves an easy way of deciding which way to go. If you have a new Arrancar, give him a descriptive name that lets us know he's only recently changed, and if he's been an Arrancar for a while, well, time to familiarise yourselves with some interior decorators, my friends.
History, Personality, "Theme"
There is little we know about the history of Hollow-Shinigami hybrids in the series itself, save for one fact: They have occurred before the Visored ever became hybrids. See, after they were saved by Kisuke, they were taken before Central 46 and they were sentenced to death, for the act of gaining Hollow powers is illegal. Law tends to work on precedent, most human rights laws in the real world came into being after those rights were already abused (Because they weren't rights at the time), and a lot of other laws work this way too. Just the same, loopholes are amended in a law as they come to light. So, following this logic, it stands to reason that those living in Soul Society have gained Hollow abilities in the past which gave way to a law forbidding that very thing.
We don't know how it was achieved without the aid of the Hōgyoku, but we do know that it can, and that is about all the grounds you need to start coming up with ideas for your own method.
So, what are they like as people? Well, they're still Shinigami, but each of the Hollow-Shinigami hybrids we're introduced to is a lot more obvious about their personal quirks, and tend to come across as more "rough" as a result. This is more than likely a part of their themes, as well as the fact that, though they're the dominant mind here, they are still people that have had their souls stained by the power of voracious predators. Coming across as a little more wild and uncouth is a pretty easy price to pay, I imagine. I'll delve more into what Shinigami are like on an accompanying guide, but until then, I'll leave you in Njalm's lovely hands, who has his own guide on that particular subject here.
Theme, however, is something I can give you here. The Hollow-Shinigami are given three that I've been able to see in the series. The first is ostracisation, a product of both Shinigami and Hollows, they are not welcome on either side and are immediately cast off or killed. Hollow-Shinigami hybrid characters have to deal with the fact that the world considers them an aberration, the fundamental mechanics of the universe itself would rather have seen them dead than exist. Compounding this fact, the moment the Visored stopped being ostracised by the Gotei 13, they lost their worth as characters. The arcs following their re-acceptance into Soul Society saw most of them become barely mentioned foot notes, or worst: abused to show off the power of the Wandenreich. The only one currently gaining any time in the manga is Shinji Hirako and he gets his arse kicked any time a fight is about to start.
The second theme is isolation. Now that might not seem incredibly obvious given that when we're introduced to the Visored, they all happen to be together in one little group. But that's what also makes it obvious. There are eight of them in total, and that's the only people they can truly interact with. Each of the Visored play off of each other fairly well, they act in routine, because those are the only people they have been able to hang around with for the past 100 years. That's a long time to be stuck with the same people in an unchanging environment. This is partly why the Visored are overly quirky when we meet them because they're going stir crazy cooped up and stuck together.
Lastly, they have the theme of inner turmoil. Aspects of a soul can take shape and form, as Zanpakutō spirits do. We are introduced to this aspect of the Hollow-Shinigami hybrid through Ichigo, who has to deal with his "Inner Hollow" in a fight for control over his hybrid powers. We don't see this struggle from the point of view of the Visored, but the strict ease with how they react to Ichigo and bring him in for training stands out as a clear point that they've gone through this before and managed to tame their own inner demon. As Ichigo shows it, it is a fight for control of the body, especially as the hybrid makes use of their Hollow powers. Each time Ichigo falters and weakens, his Inner Hollow breaks out and takes control, almost consuming his physical body during his fight with Ulquiorra.
Arrancar are perhaps best described as being animalistic. They embody all of the traits that make the animal kingdom dangerous, and rarely do they portray the parts that make animals majestic or beautiful to behold. They are raw, violent and selfish, always out for their own gain. Dominance is usually their first and only concern, and something that evolved from Hollows they tend to be predisposed towards fighting and killing. While most of them are ruthless and cruel, its not the only thing that an Arrancar can be. Grimmjow has his own self-constructed honour code that he follows, and his Fracción showed signs of camaraderie, having come together as Hollows to help each other evolve. Likewise they can be cunning and even loyal, as a fair few of the Hollows that served Aizen continued to act as if they were in his service long after the man himself had been sentenced to Muken. At the end of the day, an Arrancar can be anything really, they just have a tendency to look upon the world through a very bestial viewpoint and as such tend to be grim and aggressive when compared to Humans or Shinigami, but they are by no means pigeonholed by that fact.
The themes that follow them, then, are ones of growth, rebellion, and personal achievement. Just as Hollows are defined by their need to progressive up the chain of evolution to become stronger and stronger, the Arrancar are focused on pushing up the lines of hierarchy and dominance. They pit themselves against each other to prove that they have the better might, they seek elevation through Aizen's army, necessitating the existence of the Números and Espada, to give them something tangible to push towards, something that signifies that they are the king of the domain. They are also rebellious, rarely content to sit somewhere and accept it, they seek to usurp the positions of others until they become top dog. There are those that invert these same themes though, such as Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck who was more than happy to accept her position among the Espada, and after losing it, content to live life in the desert with her companions. They are all goal seekers too, we're not introduced to all of the goals of the Arrancar we encounter but you can rest assured that many of them want to sit at the top of the table as Espada, and among the Espada themselves we see the goals of each of them, such as Baraggan's wish to retake his throne from Aizen, or Starrk's desire for companionship. This can be furthered by a theme of obliviousness to themselves, especially with Starrk. He seeks to be free from loneliness, a desire so deep that he split his own soul into two people. Though he now sits at a table full of people comparable to him, it was rare that Starrk lifted a finger to help his comrades even as they were being murdered by Ichigo, his friends, and the Gotei 13.
As stated before, Arrancar aren't hard to make in a historical sense. We know they've existed for at least a 1000 years by the fact that Arturo Plateado exists, sticking with strictly anime/manga examples provides us with the point that Arrancar development has seen a decline in the last 100 years before the start of the series, so we know they're still around, even if they happen to be having a moment of rarity. If your Arrancar is artificial, you need to explain what turned them into an Arrancar, was it Aizen, or another force entirely? If the Arrancar is natural, then you describe what allowed them to survive the process of taking off their own mask.
Powers: How to Speak Loudly & Carry Big Sticks
Cero & Bala
Arrancar are all about raw, untamed power. Massive shows of force that nuke the competition right from the get go, and leave nothing behind to mourn over. What better way to show that off than to make the signature general power of evolved Hollows, the same signature of their Arrancar counterparts?
The Cero is a big honking beam of energy that obliterates whatever happens to get in its way, like a Kamehameha if Frieza used it. Its the mainstay of all Hollow life after the basic stage, Gillian, Adjuchas, Vasto Lorde, and, yes, Arrancar and the Hollow-Shinigami have access to its basic form. Members of the Espada, and Ichigo as of recent chapters, can instill their blood into the Cero in order to fire off a more powerful variant known as the Gran Rey Cero. The Cero is a personalised tool that matches the energy of its users, and many of those same users have their own variants of the attack, often locked behind their released states, but they have them nonetheless. Its a good idea to show off how your character acts by instilling part of their character into a Cero. Customise the way they fire it, how they do so and what it looks like, or even if it comes in a different from entirely. Starrk doesn't assume a posture at all when he uses his, they just appear and then explode outward, showing us both his rather lazy nature as well as his speed and power.
While Hollow-Shinigami hybrids only get access to Cero, the Arrancar get a less powerful version of the skill that they can use alongside it, known as Bala. It operates on the same mechanics as a Cero, but is scaled down so as to give them a far faster attack, even if it is less powerful. The same tricks apply in personalising how a character uses it, do they fire them like Yammy does? Large orbs fired one at a time from his fists, or can they shoot forth an entire swarm of them like Findorr Calius?
Hierro & Sonído
All Arrancar possess a form of invisible armour, an innate defense made out of their own Reiryoku that protects them from harm. Enhancing the strength of their skin to the point that it essentially becomes steel, it can allow its users to fight weapon-wielding opponents barehanded without issue. The strength of a Hierro is decided by the strength of that character's spiritual power, as the potency of the latter directly determines how effective the former is. Overall its a pretty basic skill with a very basic weakness, as it becomes worthless if an opponent can adapt to the quality of your spiritual energy. There's little to talk about regarding it, as it is relatively passive in nature and comes without the tactical headache that is Blut.
Continuing the trend of every race having the same damn moves, we've got Sonído (Oh how I hate that flared I).
Like Shunpo and Hirenkyaku, it provides the Arrancar with a means to travel at incredible speeds. It differs from them, though, in that it is an innate ability. Arrancar don't learn Shunpo, they utilise it as an instinctual fact, like a cat using its claws. Mechanically it works the same way Shunpo does, or so we're led to believe as its never given an exact explanation. You gather Reiryoku, and then you move. I tend to differentiate Sonído as "pouncing". Shunpo is used to step, with Hirenkyaku you slide, and with Fullbring you jump. As predatory creatures, it makes sense that when they get serious, an Arrancar would lunge at its victim. The technique is accompanied by a bombastic screech of static, giving further credence to the more raw and visceral nature of its users. It is basically an equivalence for Shunpo in its usage, as shown between Byakuya and Zommari where the two utilised their respective movement techniques to one up each other.
Arrancar have a pretty nifty trick that they can use when they come into being. See, they are given the means to pick and choose which of their plethora of powers they want to have, and which they don't. Those foregone powers are turned into energy and give the powers they keep a boost. Most of the Arrancar in canon give up their primary defense from when they were Hollows, that is High-Speed Regeneration in favour of gaining more power. While the series itself does little with the concept other than the reveal that Ulquiorra isn't as much of an idiot as his compatriots, it is grounds for incredible variety in fanon.
So you want your character to be absolutely nothing but pure offense? Have them get rid of their Hierro and High-Speed Regeneration to augment the power that they can unleash with a Cero, or their other offensive powers. Do you want a tank? Cast off Bala and Sonído to greatly augment their natural defenses. You get the idea, there's many combinations you can pick and choose from, and a variety of interesting ideas you can get from it. An Arrancar that can't fight at high speed? An Arrancar that requires others to help him leave and return to Hueco Mundo? Maybe even an Arrancar that rid himself of his ability to think for more raw power.
Its a crazy thing to take advantage of, and people really should take advantage of it.
So, I've gone through all the Arrancar powers, of which the Hollow-Shinigami hybrids only happen to get one of (That was Cero, if you were't paying attention). Lets talk about the unique facets of these guys then, eh?
Each of the hybrids is capable of conjuring a mask onto their faces, and upon doing so gain increases to all of their physical attributes, to the point that on a few occasions they would outright ignore attacks, allowing them to smash against them and do essentially nothing. It bolsters their spiritual power, and once the Hollow within them has been subjugated they gain access to a second energy pool separate from their own vastly increasing their resources in combat.
As I mentioned in the appearance section, the designs of these all come with their own looks and differences. From the overall shape to the minute details of the eyes and mouth. They can have tattoos and even ornamentation to them and they are given further individuality in that each of its users all don their masks in different ways. Akin to each user of Cero firing it differently, each of the hybrids have their own way to put on their mask. Ichigo "rips" his away, causing it to manifest, Hachigen Ushōda slips his on with both hands, and so on and so on. When giving your guy a mask, you should really delve into the mind of the character, what are they like? What are they associated with? And then find masks that similar connotations to draw from. Someone embroiled in conflict could be symbolically linked to a mask styled after a Bascinet helm which reflects their turmoil as an iconic item of old medieval wars, for example.
The Arrancar super-mode, also obtainable by successful Hollow-Shinigami hybrids, like Tōsen.
When Hollows becomes Arrancar, they don't suddenly obtain a Zanpakutō Spirit, instead, they separate themselves from their Hollow powers, the unique abilities they had at that time, and seal it away within a container. This container doesn't have to be a sword, it is just the most common object. Nnoitra, for example, cast his off into those wonky halberds he carries, and Starrk cast his off to create an entirely new person in Lilynette Gingerbuck. Their Zanpakutō have names just as the Shinigami versions do, but they're all named in Spanish (Or a corruption of it) and reflect a singular overarching theme. The animal kingdom.
The Arrancar are beasts at their heart, and their physical designs reflected this when they were Hollows. Fishbone D was a walking bipedal fish, whilst Grand Fisher combined the aspects of an angler fish with bird and hamster qualities. For the most part then, Arrancar Zanpakutō are named after animals of every kind, from the lowliest of insects, to the greatest of whales. Those that aren't, are named after emotions, elemental forces, and physical body parts, such as teeth or claws, which continues to reflect the primal nature of them as a race.
These are all enhanced forms of their original powers, so a Hollow that had fire powers wouldn't likely gain ice powers as an Arrancar, as the powers return to them when they activate Resurrección, they don't change from what they used to be. Activating the form brings an Arrancar closer to what they looked like as a Hollow, encasing them in armour and armaments that resembled their old form. Grimmjow, who was a large panther as an Adjuchas covered in segmented armoured plates, regains that look when he uses his Resurrección, coating his humanoid-body in similar armour. As such, you should consider what you want your character to look like when they transform. Are they a dog? A bird? Or maybe a Parastratiosphecomyia sphecomyioides?
The powers, of course, should reflect the kind of creature you're going with. Trees are known to grow fruit and sprout leaves like nobodies business, so its not hard to imagine that Rudbornn Chelute's Resurrección turns him into a tree that sprouts an army of minions for him to utilise. Its just something to consider as you work on your characters.
Bleh. I have grown a sudden dislike for hybrids now, after this. Ah, well, bollocks. If it managed to help anyone on this drafty wiki to get a character concept down then that's all that matters.
Thanks for reading folks, join me next time when I... Maybe take a look at Bounts?