Spoiler alert! This article contains spoilers for Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War.
When it comes to anime with enormous casts of characters and dozens of names to memorize therein, Bleach is probably one of the biggest offenders among the more popular series. The series revolves around Ichigo Kurosaki, a delinquent youth who works as a substitute Soul Reaper who protects the spirits of the deceased from malevolent ghosts known as Hollows while saving the world of the dead and the living.
Ichigo often collaborates with the Gotei 13, an official organization of Soul Reapers. It's here that the large and unwieldy cast of characters comes into play. The Gotei 13 is comprised of 13 squads, each with their own captains, vice captains, and squad members who all have their own names and minor arcs. Not to mention they often fight against enemies with their own factions and subsections.
The cast is so big that characters who were once vastly important can fall to the wayside, including Rukia Kuchiki. Luckily, she gets a chance to shine again.
Why is Rukia Kuchiki so important in 'Bleach'?
Longtime Bleach fans will certainly remember (if not mourn the fact that) Rukia Kuchiki was once a major character in the story. She plays an important role in the anime's early days.
At the beginning of the story, Rukia is introduced as a Soul Reaper sent to Karakura Town to get rid of a Hollow terrorizing the city. When she is incapacitated, Ichigo comes to her aid. Left with no alternative, Rukia decides to grant Ichigo some of her Soul Reaper powers in order to fight.
Unfortunately, she didn't account for Ichigo's vast innate potential as a Soul Reaper, and he accidentally takes all of her power instead. Trapped in the world of the living, Rukia decides to train Ichigo to use his new powers to protect his hometown from Hollows. Throughout their training and subsequent battles, Ichigo and Rukia become closer as allies and even as regular friends.
Their friendship is put to the test in the second major arc, where Rukia still plays an important role.
Eventually, Rukia is approached by her older brother and Captain of the Gotei 13's sixth division, Byakuya Kuchiki. Having violated several Soul Society regulations in granting Ichigo Soul Reaper abilities, she is brought back to Soul Society to be formally executed. This prompts Ichigo and his gifted friends to infiltrate Soul Society in order to rescue Rukia before her execution.
Though her execution was revealed to be part of the machinations of Sōsuke Aizen, a Soul Reaper captain-turned-traitor, she is still rescued by Ichigo as well as Byakuya, who reveals that he deeply cared for Rukia the entire time. She is subsequently returned to her position as a Soul Reaper.
Unfortunately, later arcs don't feature Rukia quite as prominently as the first two did. She remains present in many of the major battles of Bleach where she is able to unleash her true power as a Soul Reaper. She even has has some tender moments with Ichigo to reflect the series' humble beginnings. By and large, however, her status as a main character would wane as the cast became larger.
Luckily, she gets a chance to be in the spotlight again in Thousand-Year Blood War. She faces off against a member of the elite Stern Ritter in a large scale battle between Soul Reapers and nigh-extinct Quincies. She is revealed to have been training extensively with her icy zanpakuto, Sode no Shirayuki, in order to unleash its true potential.
She is even able to unleash her Bankai, Hakka no Togame, against the Quincy. After overcoming some initial difficult, she is able to dispatch her opponent relatively easily. Rukia's powers will no doubt prove useful as the battle against the Wandenreich rages on.
New episodes of Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War premiere every Saturday on Hulu.