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Sōsuke Aizen by Tite Kubo

Sōsuke Aizen is a fictional character and major figure in the anime and manga series Bleach created by Tite Kubo. He is the captain of the 5th Division when first introduced, but then he betrays Soul Society and becomes the main antagonist of the series. His former lieutenant is Momo Hinamori.

Character outline Edit

Background Edit

Aizen spent much of his career in the 5th Division,[1] eventually becoming its lieutenant under the former captain, Shinji Hirako.[2] Shinji kept Aizen under his view during this time because he felt there was something dangerous about him. 100 years ago, Aizen's experiments on Soul Reaper/hollow hybrids involved using an unknown method to cause spirits to transform into hollows, eventually culminating in the creation of the Visoreds. He framed Urahara for the hollowfication process and forced him to leave Soul Society.

During that time, Aizen met Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tōsen, and lured them to his side. Aizen became captain of the 5th Division later on, and Ichimaru became his lieutenant and right hand man. Ichimaru and Tōsen later became captains of the 3rd and 9th Divisions, respectively, but remained loyal only to Aizen. According to Aizen, even when Hinamori was his lieutenant, he thought of no one but Gin as his subordinate.

At some point, he also saw the potential of Momo Hinamori, Izuru Kira, and Renji Abarai, and took them all into his division. While Kira and Hinamori were obedient and loyal, becoming the lieutenants of the 3rd and 5th Divisions under Ichimaru and Aizen, respectively, Renji proved to be too rebellious and was transferred to the 11th Division (and later to the 6th, where he too became a lieutenant).

PersonalityEdit

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Aizen, in his new clothing after his defection, alongside Gin and Tōsen.

Aizen is a soft-spoken intellectual, accented by glasses during his time as a Soul Reaper captain. While he appears to be very kind to his subordinates, he cares very little for them in truth. According to Aizen himself, he is not bound by morals and will therefore stop at nothing to further his ambitions, including manipulating or killing anyone if he deems it necessary. Tite Kubo stated in an interview that "part of Aizen's appeal is that he's mysterious," and for this reason he didn't think it's a good idea to go too much in-depth with the character.

Aizen controls his new minions either through acquired respect, as revealed through Ulquiorra Schiffer's conversation with Orihime Inoue where he tells her that they are all here to further Aizen's ambition, or through fear, such as when he threatened to kill Grimmjow Jeagerjaques if he attacked Kaname Tōsen. It was also stated by the arrancar Iceringer that they follow Aizen because he has no fear, which beings born from fear and despair find inspiring. Other arrancar occasionally have reasons for following Aizen unique to themselves, such as Szayel Aporro Granz, who follows Aizen with the hopes that he eradicates the world of all non-hollows.

It has been conjectured that Aizen's true objective is to overthrow the king of Soul Society. To do this, he needs the royal key, a tri-pronged golden key that opens a portal to the dimension that the king resides in. While the location of the key is known only to General Yamamoto, Aizen knows how the original was created and how to manufacture another. In order to create the key, Aizen needs to gather 100,000 souls in Karakura Town,[3] which has an unusually large concentration of spirit particles. Aside from killing the many souls used in its creation, creating the key will also vaporize most of Karakura Town.

During their ascent to Hueco Mundo, Aizen removes his glasses and sweeps a hand through his hair, revealing menacing eyes and a very different hairstyle. As he had previously revealed to Renji Abarai that the Aizen they all knew never existed, this would seem to be a visual representation of that claim. Before he leaves, he tells Jūshirō Ukitake that no one had started out in heaven, not even God.[4] He then says that he will be the one to stand in the heavens and end the unbearable vacancy on the world's throne. Aizen is later shown in Hueco Mundo wearing clothing similar in style to the arrancar he has been creating; he is also seated on a throne, implying that he has some level of political power.

Abilities Edit

KyokaSuigetsu

Kyōka Suigetsu creates an illusory corpse.

Aizen is an extremely potent combatant, well above most captain-level Soul Reapers. He goes on to state that the only way for him to advance beyond that would be to gain and master hollow powers. His mastery of the regular skills are such that he is able to stop fully released zanpakutō, including Ichigo Kurosaki's bankai, with one finger, and he can defeat several captain-level opponents at once. A hint to his actual level of spirit power is given when he turns Wonderweiss Margera into an arrancar. When preparing to activate the Hōgyoku, he states that despite its half-awakened state, it can be fully activated when temporarily fusing with someone with twice as much spirit power as a captain-level Soul Reaper, referring to himself.[5] The force of Aizen's spiritual pressure is also great enough to bring the 6th Espada,[6] Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, to his knees without any visible effort from Aizen himself.

Aizen's zanpakutō is Kyōka Suigetsu. In its sealed form, it looks like a normal katana. Its shikai is both activated and deactivated with the command "shatter". The phrase kyōka suigetsu suggests its illusory properties; the moon reflected in water and a flower in a mirror are things that can be seen but not held. It is a Chinese idiom for seeing and desiring something that is a dream that cannot be easily grasped in hand, teaching people about temptations.

Kyōka Suigetsu's shikai has the ability to place anyone who sees it under a state of "Perfect Hypnosis", after which Aizen can make them see, hear, and feel whatever he wants. According to Aizen, the hypnosis is unbreakable, even if the target is aware that they are hypnotized. The only way to avoid the effect is to not see Kyōka Suigetsu's shikai, making the blind Kaname Tōsen immune to its effects. The effect seems to be permanent, or at the very least long-lasting, as Aizen uses it on nearly all of the lieutenants and captains in the Gotei 13 during a ceremonial release of his zanpakutō years before faking his own death. While the illusions Kyōka Suigetsu creates are quite powerful, they are not 100% accurate; Captain Retsu Unohana was able to realize that something was amiss with Aizen's fake corpse, even though she did not realize what until seeing Aizen alive.

Kyōka Suigetsu's hypnotic abilities make it a useful tool in combat as well, as Aizen can quickly create simple illusions to deceive opponents. By creating a decoy of himself, Aizen can hide his own movements and attack with impunity; his opponent, meanwhile, will remain focused on the illusion until it's too late to react. The most prominent example of this is his brief fight against Sajin Komamura, where an illusionary copy of Aizen is seen melting away after the real Aizen has moved close enough to use the devastating Black Coffin kido.[7]

Plot overview Edit

When Aizen hears that Rukia Kuchiki has been spotted in the real world after months of being missing, he kills all the members of the Central 46 Chambers. Aizen quickly manipulates everyone into an elaborate conspiracy. Using the abilities of his zanpakuto, he creates an illusion that Central 46 is still working as usual and controls all the decisions that they are supposedly making. With this, he immediately orders that Rukia be brought back to Soul Society to be executed. She is brought back to Soul Society with the Hōgyoku concealed within her body, and Aizen begins moving Rukia's execution date up, while he does research in the Central 46 Chambers.

He later uses his zanpakutō's ability to trick everyone into believing that he has been killed and has Gin leading everyone to believe Gin himself is the murderer. He also sets up his lieutenant, Momo Hinamori, to believe that he was likely killed by Captain Hitsugaya, her childhood friend, to get her out of the way. Because of the nature of Rukia's sentence and execution method, the Gotei 13 splits into factions and the captains begin to fight amongst themselves. During the turmoil, Gin executes the overt aspects of the plan, which begins to be revealed when 4th Division Captain Retsu Unohana begins to suspect that there is something wrong with Aizen's supposedly dead body. Aizen reveals himself by nearly killing his lieutenant and easily defeating several Soul Reapers. Afterwards, he removes the Hōgyoku from Rukia's body by using information researched by Kisuke Urahara, but does not kill her. Aizen is then brought to Hueco Mundo by several Menos Grande, along with Gin and Tōsen.

From there, Aizen begins to make several arrancar, and begins sending them one by one to the material world to gain information on Ichigo and, later, to capture Orihime Inoue, who Aizen takes an interest in due to her healing abilities, which can save the powers of the deteriorating Hōgyoku. However, this is revealed to be a ruse on his part. By kidnapping her, he inspires Ichigo and his friends to attempt a rescue, thereby depriving Soul Society of a valuable military asset. Furthermore, when four captains assist in her rescue, adding to the three that have already defected, Soul Society is left at half its regular strength. As he leaves to destroy Karakura Town, he seals the portals the intruders used to access Hueco Mundo, effectively stranding them there until Aizen returns. Though Soul Society is able to substitute the town for an abandoned facsimile, Aizen only muses that he will have to travel to Soul Society to destroy the real town after he and his forces defeat the remaining captains. Aizen becomes trapped in Yamamoto's fire prison soon after his arrival, but that does not seem to concern him, for he claims his Espada will suffice to defeat the enemy.

Appearances in other media Edit

Aizen appears in most of the Bleach video games, with the most recent ones with him in his post-Soul Society outfit. He also has his own Bleach Beat Collection, a brief CD of character image songs. The tracks are Hanabira (or otherwise known as (flower) petal), Kyōka Suigetsu and a Voice Message from Aizen's voice actor, Shō Hayami.

Reception Edit

IGN commented that the plot twist in the story and the truth about Aizen was "fascinating and interesting" but also criticized it, saying his Zanpakuto's power was "far-fetched"[8] and overpowered, Aizen didn't have any flaws (something every villain has) and that his betrayal was "too planned out to be believable". Despite this, the change in mood accompanying Aizen's revelation as a villain was also praised; IGN praised the animators' job at "giving his face this evil thing about it" without changing anything about the animation itself, citing that "the Aizen that we first knew was the nicest guy ever, he looked it, and now this Aizen actually looks like the most evil jerk we've ever seen."[9] Carl Kimlinger from Anime News Network comments that Aizen's revelation as an antagonist is "brutally unpredictable". He notes the violence from that part to be frustrating but in the same time satisfying, praising the large number of revelations. Aizen was additionally noted to have a development in his appearance as villain with Kimlinger wondering "If only all villain grandstandings were so thrilling".[10]


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