The final arc of the long-running Bleach anime and manga series featured an epic and climactic war between the Soul Society and the secretive Quincy empire known as the Wandenreich. After many arcs where few major characters were killed off, the stakes were raised in this endgame storyline.
Both sides suffered devastating losses, with several notable Bleach heroes meeting their demise. Some of the early deaths were of minor Sternritter enemies, but soon the fatalities included figures who had been part of the series for many years.
These shocking deaths upended the status quo and showed no character was truly safe.
A few of the major heroic figures who fell included Yamamoto, the formidable Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13, and Byakuya Kuchiki, the proud leader of the Kuchiki clan.
Their deaths left the Soul Society reeling. Meanwhile, the mysterious Uryu Ishida had aligned with the enemy, further shaking up the dynamics.
Top 15 Significant Character Deaths in Bleach Thousand-Year Blood War
After being gone for a decade, the anime finally returned in 2022 to adapt this consequential arc. As the culmination of 15 years of manga storytelling, it featured heavy casualties and life-changing events for the main characters.
This raised the stakes and drama to epic new heights as Bleach approached its grand finale.
15. Royd Lloyd
The initial invasion of Soul Society by the Quincy forces known as Sternritter led to several early casualties on their side, showing the ruthlessness of this long-awaited battle.
Captain Kenpachi Zaraki, always eager for a good fight, cut down three Sternritter with seeming ease, proving the Captains would not hold back against these invaders. However, the Sternritter had their own tricks and strategies.
One named Royd Lloyd used his special “Yourself” abilities to mimic the Quincy Emperor Yhwach and engage the formidable Head Captain Yamamoto. Though Yamamoto defeated who he thought was Yhwach, it turned out to be a decoy.
Royd’s noble sacrifice distracted Yamamoto long enough for the real Yhwach to arrive and steal the Head Captain’s bankai.
The willingness of Royd and others to give their lives for their Emperor’s plans showed the depth of the Sternritters’ commitment to victory at any cost. Their cunning ploys and strategies immediately put Soul Society on the back foot, setting the stage for a long and devastating war.
When Did He Die: Episode 372
Head Captain Genryusai Yamamoto, the longtime leader of the 13 Court Guard Squads, met his end at the hands of Yhwach, the Quincy Emperor who had been his foe for over a millennium.
Despite Yamamoto’s best efforts, even releasing his powerful bankai, Yhwach managed to steal his bankai using a special medallion. Without this ultimate technique, Yamamoto was overwhelmed by Yhwach’s strength. The mighty Head Captain was sliced in half and obliterated completely, a shocking defeat.
Yamamoto’s death left the Soul Society reeling and created an enormous leadership vacuum. It also established just how dangerous and cunning Yhwach really was.
In the aftermath, Captain Shunsui Kyoraku was appointed as the new Head Captain, taking on the burden of leading the fight against Yhwach.
For Kyoraku, this was a solemn opportunity to step up in the absence of his respected mentor Yamamoto. He also had to find a replacement Captain for Squad 8, adding to the wide-reaching fallout from Yamamoto’s impactful demise at the hands of the Quincy emperor.
When Did He Die: Episode 373
13. Chojiro Sasakibe
Days before launching their invasion, the Quincy forces infiltrated Soul Society to directly declare war on Head Captain Yamamoto. During this confrontation, a Sternritter named Driscoll Berci brutally attacked Yamamoto’s loyal Lieutenant Chojiro Sasakibe using his “Overkill” abilities.
Sasakibe was severely injured after being impaled, and despite Yamamoto’s efforts, he soon died from these mortal wounds right in front of his Captain. Sasakibe’s sudden death deeply affected Yamamoto, who had known him for over a millennium.
This ruthless killing revealed just how serious and lethal the Quincy threat was. Besides the revelation that they could steal bankai, Sasakibe’s unnecessary death also left Yamamoto uncharacteristically shaken and furious. When the main Quincy army arrived later, Yamamoto’s judgment was clouded by anger over this loss.
Sasakibe’s brutal murder emphasized the Quincies’ merciless tactics, while also showing they sought to undermine Yamamoto’s leadership in any way possible. This early tragedy set the stage for the no-holds-barred war to come.
When Did He Die: Episode 367
12. Quilge Opie
Quilge Opie was the first member of the Sternritter that readers were introduced to in the Thousand Year Blood War arc. With the ability “The Jail,” he proved a deadly foe.
Quilge first defeated some Arrancar enemies, demonstrating the Sternritters’ might. He then battled Ichigo’s group in Hueco Mundo, keeping Ichigo trapped in an inescapable jail while Yhwach invaded Soul Society.
Though Ichigo ultimately broke free using his new powers, the clever Quilge had nearly delayed him long enough for Yhwach’s victory. Before Quilge could imprison Ichigo again, Kisuke Urahara and a surprise returning Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez arrived to finish him off.
Quilge’s resilience and repeated use of The Jail emphasized just how persistent and tough the Sternritters could be. Only by working together were Ichigo and his allies able to stop Quilge for good, allowing them to finally travel to Soul Society and join the escalating war.
When Did He Die: Episode 371
11. The Zero Squad
The Zero Squad were the five most elite and legendary Soul Reapers in Soul Society, tasked with protecting the Royal Palace and Soul King. However, after Yhwach’s Auswählen technique re-empowered his Schutzstaffel, the Zero Squad met a quick demise.
Kirio Hikifune, Senjumaru Shutara, Tenjiro Kirinji, and Oetsu Nimaiya – four of the five members – were killed in short order by the boosted Schutzstaffel. Only Ichibei Hyosube narrowly survived through sheer luck.
These shocking deaths underscored just how unstoppable Yhwach and his Sternritter forces had become. If even the legendary Zero Squad could not contend with them, it highlighted the immense threat facing Soul Society.
In the anime adaptation, the Zero Squad has put up a longer fight so far. But if they end up dying later in the arc, it would carry a similar weight and meaning – the last line of defense has fallen, raising the stakes even higher as Yhwach’s victory seems inevitable.
Their deaths would solidify the anime’s darkest turn.
When Did He Die: Number of chapters
10. Unohana Retsu
One of the biggest reveals in the Thousand Year Blood War arc was Unohana’s true identity. The seemingly benevolent Captain of Squad 4 was actually the first Kenpachi, Yachiru Unohana, back when the Gotei 13 was founded. In the past, she was a vicious fighter without equality.
After Yamamoto’s death, Unohana knew Soul Society needed Kenpachi Zaraki to reach his full potential if they were to stand any chance against Yhwach. So Unohana put Kenpachi through a brutal, no-holds-barred battle to the death to draw out his dormant power.
Though sad to see her die, Kenpachi emerged stronger than ever before, finally living up to his title of Kenpachi thanks to Unohana’s sacrifice. Her willingness to give up her life to unlock Kenpachi’s strength was instrumental to the war effort.
Unohana met her end contently, passing the torch to Kenpachi to carry on the Kenpachi legacy she had started. Her death marked the end of the kindly healer persona she had long projected, cementing Kenpachi instead as the most powerful and intimidating Soul Reaper Captain.
When Did She Die: Episode 376
9. Äs Nödt
During the initial Sternritter invasion, Captain Byakuya Kuchiki was defeated when his bankai Senbonzakura was stolen by the fearsome Quincy Äs Nödt. This was a major blow to Byakuya.
Later, Byakuya’s sister Rukia stumbled upon Äs Nödt and challenged him to protect Soul Society. Though initially overwhelmed by Äs Nödt’s Vollständig, Byakuya intervened, allowing Rukia to unlock her newly achieved bankai and strike down Äs Nödt.
This symbolized Rukia’s growth as a Soul Reaper and brought pride to the typically stoic Byakuya. By fighting Äs Nödt again with his own strength, Byakuya also reclaimed his lost honor.
The Kuchiki siblings teaming up to defeat the Sternritter who had humiliated Byakuya earlier demonstrated their resilient bond and personal growth amidst the deadly stakes of the war.
When Did He Die: Episode 385
8. The Soul King
The enigmatic Soul King was revealed to be essential to maintaining the very fabric of Soul Society and the connected realms. When Yhwach set his sights on absorbing the Soul King to gain greater power, Ichigo and his friends raced to try and prevent this.
Despite their efforts, Yhwach succeeded in confronting and killing the Soul King. This marked a climactic turning point in the Thousand Year Blood War arc, with the stakes raised astronomically.
With the Soul King gone, the destruction of Soul Society and the living world seemed imminent. Yhwach had gained a tremendous boost in strength as well. It was truly a down-to-the-wire situation for Ichigo’s forces, who now had to find a way to defeat Yhwach immediately before all was lost.
The Soul King’s demise ushered in the arc’s suspenseful endgame. It pushed our heroes to their limits, making victory seem uncertain and forcing them to pull out all the stops against Yhwach, whose power now threatened all of existence after absorbing the lynchpin Soul King.
When Did He Die: Chapter 625
7. Jushiro Ukitake
Though he had a relatively minor role in previous arcs, Captain Jushiro Ukitake played a pivotal part in the Thousand Year Blood War. It was revealed that the Soul King’s right arm, Mimihagi, had saved Ukitake from dying of his illness years ago.
When Yhwach devastated the Soul King, Ukitake chose to sacrifice the life that Mimihagi had gifted him in order to try and protect the Soul King. Though ultimately futile, Ukitake’s selfless act demonstrated his unwavering resolve to do whatever it took to oppose Yhwach’s plans.
Ukitake meeting his end in this climactic battle left a vacancy in Squad 13 that Rukia Kuchiki filled years later, as shown in the manga’s epilogue. His impactful death was important to the lore and illustrated Ukitake’s noble character.
Given its significance, Ukitake’s moving sacrifice will likely still occur when the anime adapts this arc, cementing his place among the major deaths that raised the stakes of this final war for Soul Society’s future.
When Did He Die: Chapter 621
6. Nemu Kurotsuchi
Lieutenant Nemu Kurotsuchi, the loyal assistant to Captain Mayuri, is a mostly minor character throughout Bleach’s story. But in the Thousand Year Blood War arc, she finally took center stage against the bizarre Sternritter Pernida Parnkgjas.
Though Mayuri callously treated her as an expendable tool, he uncharacteristically urged Nemu to retreat and live on so she could continue evolving. But Nemu chose to sacrifice herself in order to help defeat the formidable Pernida.
Her selfless act and defiant final stand revealed depths of Nemu’s character rarely explored before. More importantly, Mayuri’s reaction showed that despite his cruelty, he did care for Nemu in his own way.
This emotionally impactful moment of growth for both characters was a pivotal part of Mayuri’s arc in the manga. As such, Nemu’s memorable and meaningful death will likely be preserved in the anime adaptation as well.
When Did She Die: Chapter 643
Yhwach, the powerful Quincy emperor, had grand ambitions that went far beyond defeating the Soul Society. He sought to reshape the universe into one without death, which meant destroying the current world order.
His immense strength brought him disturbingly close to achieving this twisted goal. But in a final climactic battle, Ichigo Kurosaki, with help from Uryu Ishida, was able to defeat and kill Yhwach.
Yhwach’s death cemented the total victory for the Soul Society against the Wandenreich’s invasion, while also saving the universe from Yhwach’s plans to end the cycle of life and death. It protected the spark of hope everywhere.
In the manga’s epilogue, Yhwach nearly revived, but Ichigo’s son finished him off, ensuring the Quincy emperor stayed dead after the Thousand Year Blood War. Yhwach’s downfall marked the end of his threat to all existence.
When Did He Die: Chapter 684
4. Bambietta Basterbine
Bambietta Basterbine, with her explosive “The Explode” abilities, made a big impact as part of the initial Sternritter invasion of Soul Society. She defeated Captain Sajin Komamura and stole his bankai, but later lost to Sajin’s powerful human form in a rematch.
Although Sajin got his revenge on Bambietta for stealing his bankai, he did not actually kill her. Instead, the sadistic Giselle Geweller finished off the wounded Bambietta, in order to add her to Giselle’s zombie collection.
Bambietta was among the first named Sternritter to die in the Thousand Year Blood War. Her death at Giselle’s hands provided early hints about the disturbing extent of Giselle’s powers to reanimate the dead as zombies under her control.
As a formidable early foe, Bambietta’s fall emphasized the lethal stakes at play, while also allowing Sajin to redeem himself after initially losing his bankai to her in the opening stages of the epic war.
When Did She Die: Episode 388
3. Jugram Hashwalth
As Yhwach’s trusted right-hand man, Jugram Haschwalth held great importance among the Quincy forces. When Yhwach slept and regained power, Jugram would take over leadership duties and gain The Almighty schrift for that interim period.
However, Haschwalth also wielded his own formidable power – The Balance. This ability allowed him to bestow misfortune on those who had good fortune while giving good fortune to the unfortunate.
First introduced early on in the Thousand Year Blood War arc, Haschwalth’s role and backstory were gradually revealed as the manga progressed. Through flashbacks, readers learn of his difficult youth and how meeting Yhwach changed his fate.
Though initially locked in combat with Uryu Ishida, Haschwalth succeeded in defeating the Quincy prodigy. But this victory proved hollow, as he soon fell victim to Yhwach’s Auswählen and lost his life force.
In an ironic twist, it was this betrayal that convinced Haschwalth to assist Ishida in the final moments of the war. And while the anime’s plans remain unclear, the light novels showed Haschwalth living long enough to aid the Quincy retreat.
So despite his allegiance to Yhwach, Jugram’s end aided the very enemies he had long fought against.
When Did He Die: Chapter 681
2. Yachiru Kusajishi
Rather than truly dying, Yachiru was stunningly revealed to have been Kenpachi Zaraki’s zanpakuto spirit all along, only taking on a physical form.
When Zaraki finally learned his weapon’s name and activated its dormant power in the war, Yachiru faded away, no longer needing a corporeal body. So while technically still present as Zaraki’s zanpakuto, the Yachiru known to the Soul Reaper ranks was in essence gone.
To the surprise of Zaraki and Bleach fans, Yachiru evaporated into thin air – her voice barely audible and presence faintly felt.
Though not killed in action, her disappearance carried the weight of death. This dissolution was necessary for Zaraki to tap into the immense strength that had long laid untapped within him.
But it meant the cheerful, candy-loving lieutenant that had provided warmth to the 11th Division was no more. Yachiru’s sacrifice allowed Zaraki to finally achieve his full fighting potential.
So while technically alive as a zanpakuto, the loss of the Yachiru known to Soul Society dealt an emotional blow amidst the bloodshed of the Quincy war.
When Did She Die: Episode 387
1. Masaki Kurosaki
Masaki Kurosaki met her end well before the start of the Bleach storyline, her demise shaping the initial premise. Originally, it was assumed a random Hollow attack had caught Masaki off guard while protecting her son Ichigo.
However, the Thousand Year Blood War arc brought deeper context, revealing Masaki was actually a Quincy who lost her powers in that critical moment due to Yhwach’s Auswählen.
As a skilled Quincy, Masaki should have easily fended off the lowly Grand Fisher Hollow that approached. But stripped of her abilities by Yhwach’s power redistribution, she tragically perished.
This retcon not only redefined Ichigo’s backstory and motivations but established the foundation for the entire Bleach narrative going forward. Masaki’s death emerged as the inciting incident that gave a teenage Ichigo both Shinigami and Quincy abilities.
It retroactively framed Quincy King Yhwach as the looming antagonist who inadvertently created his own greatest threat in Ichigo. So the true nature of Masaki’s passing became a pivotal revelation that reshaped the genesis of Bleach’s expansive mythology.
When Did She Die: Episode 378
More About Bleach TYBW
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War is the official name of the new Bleach anime series adapting the final manga arc of the same name. Also referred to as Bleach: The Blood Warfare, this highly anticipated television adaptation was first announced in 2020 as a direct sequel to the original Bleach anime.
After years of hoping, fans finally got confirmation that the climax of Ichigo’s journey versus the Quincy King Yhwach would receive an animated adaptation. Thousand-Year Blood War aims to adapt Tite Kubo’s full vision of the manga’s ending.
The trailer and visuals premiered in late 2021, further heightening the excitement.
With direction by Tomohisa Taguchi, the series debuted in October 2022 on TV Tokyo. It will comprise four cours broken into parts, spanning over a year.
The first 13 episodes focused on the first phase of the titular conflict and ended in December 2022. Cour two, subtitled The Separation, then aired its 13 episodes from July to September 2023.
The third part, The Conflict, is slated to premiere at a yet unknown date in 2024, inching closer to the finale of this long-running fantasy franchise.