Spoiler alert! This article contains plot details for Bleach.
Throughout the entirety of Bleach, perhaps throughout other popular anime, few protagonists wear as many hats as Ichigo Kurosaki. Within the anime's setting, Ichigo is a substitute Soul Reaper who inadvertently unlocked his latent powers after encountering a full-fledged Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki who was tracking a malevolent spirit known as a Hollow. Since then, he's become embroiled in many of the long-standing conflicts that the Soul Reapers have with other supernatural factions.
And like any Soul Reaper, he's equipped with a special sword known as a zanpakutō. Though they typically take the form of a traditional Japanese katana, a zanpakutō is known to change shape depending on the wielder's abilities, enhancing their combat capabilities.
Having gained his Soul Reaper powers through unorthodox methods, Ichigo's zanpakutō has changed its form several times throughout the course of the series. However, it looks most different in Thousand-Year Blood War. Why is Ichigo's sword so different here?
Why is Ichigo's sword different in 'Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War'?
Bleach fans will remember the beginning of the story where Ichigo's zanpakutō took the shape of a comically-oversized katana, a telltale sign of his vast spiritual powers. As he learned more about Soul Reapers and their natural abilities, he eventually unlocked his zanpakutō's first form or shikai, which is called Zangetsu. As Zangetsu, his sword is more akin to a giant cleaver. He eventually unlocked an even stronger form or bankai called Tensa Zangetsu, a jet-black yet regular-sized katana.
Most Bleach fans will recognize Zangetsu or Tensa Zangetsu as Ichigo's trademark swords. However, his ever-growing set of powers would similarly alter Zangetsu in physical appearance. Ichigo eventually gains the powers of a Vizard (a Soul Reaper with Hollow powers) and even briefly becomes an Arrancar (a Hollow with Soul Reaper powers). He even wears Zangetsu as a sort of suit that boosted his strength immensely at the cost of his Soul Reaper powers.
When he completely loses his powers, he briefly becomes a Fullbringer, humans with the power to manipulate spiritual energy to their liking. And shortly after that, he is able to reacquire his Soul Reaper powers as they take on a brand new form. It's at this point that we finally reach the events of Thousand-Year Blood War.
At this point, Ichigo has regained his lost Soul Reaper powers, though they achieve new heights. Because of his reclamation, however, Zangetsu changes shape once again. Regular Zangetsu takes the form of a stylized cleaver. Meanwhile, Tensa Zangetsu becomes another black katana with several points jutting from the back of the blade.
And believe it or not, Ichigo isn't done changing swords.
Throughout the events of Thousand-Year Blood War, Ichigo eventually learns that he is actually half Quincy, a race of Hollow hunters thought to be all but extinct. As he comes to terms with his lineage, Zangetsu changes shape once more. As of now, he wields two blades at once: one large blade and a shorter knife-like weapon. He now continues his training to perfect his new Zangetsu in the fight against the Wandenreich army of vengeful Quincies.
New episodes of Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War premiere every Saturday on Hulu.