Yeade (zincpiccalilli) wrote in soul_society,

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Is Urahara a Vaizard?

New member here! In celebration of the return of plot to Bleach, let's have a big, plotty discussion! There's also a chance this theory will soon be confirmed or debunked; I, for one, want to set my ideas in text so I can look back and laugh at them in the future. Please be warned that this is a very, very long read.

· · ·

Is Urahara a Vaizard?

A lot of the following was previously posted at the Bleach7 forums in the thread Urahara a vizard? My contributions start on p. 8.

Before discussing the two known methods of creating a Vaizard, let's deal with a bunch of related issues.

Gigai, A Technical Overview

One of the common arguments for Vaizard!Urahara is that, unlike pure Shinigami, he can use his zanpakutou while in a gigai.

Please note that Hitsugaya, Matsumoto, Ikkaku, and Yumichika all have their zanpakutou out while wearing casual clothes prior to the third Arrancar attack. However, they're instantly back in Shinigami blacks by the time the fighting starts, so this may be a fluke. Or perhaps Shinigami can materialize their zanpakutou for training purposes in gigai form but generally fight as spirits for better mobility and power efficiency. (Urahara's been fighting in a gigai all this time?!)

The complement to the above is that none of the Vaizard have been shown to carry zanpakutou when definitely in gigai. Shinji's likely in a gigai at school, but his sword's always missing in action then. For example, when Chad and Orihime follow him after class. Hiyori has her zanpakutou when they meet her. Shinji, OTOH, only has his bookbag, which he drops in exchange for Hiyori, lol.

31 omake
Anyways, Urahara might not be in a gigai at all. The one time he interacts with normal humans is at the Don Kanonji special. A few points of interest:

Urahara, of course, uses his cane to knock Ichigo into Shinigami form. Also, seems he hits Ichigo directly above the nape of the neck. Ichigo's held by 3-5 guards, yet none of them have any idea what happened. Even though, from what I can see of the angle, Urahara's cane must've passed between the heads of two of the guards.

One of the guards taps Urahara on the shoulder. Then starts asking him, IMO, really rhetorical questions about whether he knows Ichigo and Rukia considering he called both by name and was carrying on an animated conversation with Rukia.

The guards eventually catch up to Rukia, who gave herself away by yelling a warning to Ichigo. Did Urahara erase only memory of himself (Tessai, Jinta, Ururu?) when he used his Soul Society widget? This would be typical of him, I admit. Otherwise, it's strange that the guards can't spot a tall, blond man in green traditional dress and that ridiculous pinstriped hat.


1.5 Even regular spirits can temporarily become visible to normal humans. I understand the dead girl does this to scare the skateboarders at the very start of Bleach.

183.8-11 Gifted humans and Shinigami in gigai can interact with wholly spiritual objects as if they were material. Ichigo's substitute Shinigami badge is a good example. I'd bet Rukia's glove and the gikongan dispensers are similar. Zanpakutou and, specifically, Urahara's cane? Maybe. Not to mention all these fights between Shinigami, Hollows, etc. deal a lot of very real property damage. Due to active use of power?

Shinigami who've disavowed their roles as soul balancers or otherwise been severed from their Shinigami duties can apparently wear whatever they want. Check out Tousen's new look—cool in white, zanpakutou in hand, chillin' on Earth! In contrast, despite being out of circulation for two decades, Isshin's still in Shinigami blacks, complete with captain's haori.

In conclusion: Inconclusive! ^^;;

Urahara in Crime and Punishment

The more I think about Urahara's exile, the weirder it seems. I'm almost positive Central 46 wouldn't banish Urahara to Earth. At least not without first neutralizing his power.

After all, Soul Society probably doesn't want rogue Shinigami running amok on Earth any more than Hollows. The whole point of lieutenant and captain limiters is to minimize the influence Shinigami have on humans. Surveillance is kept on spiritual activity, and a retrieval team was sent after Rukia as soon as she was located. Aizen changed the roster, but it seems sending somebody (the Onmitsukidou) to investigate overlong stays on Earth is standard operating procedure. Yoruichi turned cat and Isshin got a gigai (one of Urahara's illegal specials) that made him undetectable. The Shinigami are hunting Aizen and company primarily because he has evil overlord aspirations; however, I believe they would've been fugitives regardless of what they did.

Besides, Urahara's mind is more dangerous than any other of his many abilities, IMO. Exile to Hell, Hueco Mundo, or the dangai makes some sense, I suppose. Except there's still the chance Urahara could find a way out. And, if I were ruling Soul Society, I'd be wary of bitter geniuses with charisma, connections, and a grudge.

I'm actually growing very fond of the theory that Urahara was to be executed. Interrogate him about his research before and during the grace period. Then never have to worry about what other doomsday devices his particular brilliance and loose morals might create.

Yoruichi had another motive to help Urahara escape besides friendship or romantic entanglement in this situation, too. She felt Urahara's sentence was needlessly harsh and unjust.

Is the reiatsu-sucking gigai a severe enough infraction to merit death though? Aizen sort of implies the stealth gigai was the root of all Urahara's troubles with Soul Society but, according to Akon, possession of such skill is more likely to result in exile. Granted, anything that strips a Shinigami of his power and essentially turns him into a human is taboo. I still think the Hougyoku and Urahara's encroachment on the even more forbidden territory of merging Shinigami and Hollow played a large part in Central 46's sentencing. Central 46 was certainly aware of the Hougyoku; Aizen got information on the Hougyoku from the locked research in the sections of the great Soul Society library only accessible to Central 46. Lastly, I doubt the Hougyoku and the related gigai was the first time Urahara invented something dangerous and potentially capable of throwing all of Seireitei into chaos. His three-day bankai process upsets the delicate balance of power within the Gotei 13. Yoruichi omniously reveals other Shinigami tried and failed, too, with unknown but probably dire consequences. Central 46 perhaps decided the world's safer with Urahara dead. Urahara himself might not fault them for this view, IMO.

Now, if Urahara was originally slated for fiery immolation by giant phoenix, why did Central 46 commute his sentence to exile?

For starters, any Shinigami in pursuit have to contend with the formidable combination of Urahara's mad scientist smarts, Yoruichi's uber ninja tactics, and their inside knowledge of Soul Society's sensing and tracking capability, respectively.

Another possibility is that the Shinigami broke or sealed Urahara's power after he was arrested and imprisoned, likely as a precaution against him escaping. While his genius is still a problem, it's far harder for him to implement his ideas without reiatsu of his own. Not to mention the psychological shock. He'd be easier to subdue and kill if he does turn up, as well. Obviously, the Shinigami intended this to be permanent. Urahara, being Urahara, did the impossible again and found his way back to his old self. ‹coughShatteredShaftcough

Several decades of fruitless hunting later, the Shinigami back off a bit. Central 46 barred Urahara from returning to Soul Society after his escape and now figure exile's good enough if he doesn't make trouble.

Urahara sets up shop in Karakura, a town with a naturally strong spiritual presence. The remaining years until the start of Bleach are spent contacting other exiles and runaways—Isshin, the Vaizard? Depending on whether Urahara sensed a malicious interest in his work on the Hougyoku, he might also be recruiting allies for the worst case scenario of an evil overlord stealing the Hougyoku. I'd say Yoruichi's gathering intelligence, with Soul Society contacts in Kukaku, Ukitake, and Kyouraku.

110 omake
111 omake
112 omake
Other Gotei 13 higher-ups are aware of a black market vendor in Karakura but not exactly who the seller is. Luckily for Urahara, people who might recognize him on sight don't often visit Earth and, as he's not a subject taught at the Academy nor spoken of freely, the younger Shinigami don't have a clue. I'm pretty sure Shinigami usually get their gigai, gikongan, cell phones, memory erasers, and whatnot from the 12th and conjoined Research Institute of Technology. Rukia's a special case in that she doesn't want to contact Soul Society and bring a heap of pain down on her and Ichigo over the power transfer. Iemura, too, isn't seeking Urahara out for regular Soul Society tech but for experimental spirit laser eye surgery, lol. So, I figure if the Shinigami who frequent Earth see Urahara as a sort of shady last resort for cleaning up messes they don't want their superiors to find out about, they'd have motivation to keep quiet about their dealings with Urahara.

His cover's been totally blown, of course. Really, I think Yama-jii did a fine bit of extortion on Urahara after the Aizen fiasco. Urahara got a choice between taking commands from Soul Society or the Shinigami renewing their pursuit of him as a death row fugitive, IMO.

added 2008-03-10: As myuki_chan so kindly pointed out (thread), the scanlators got lazy about figuring out Iemura's scrawl in the Chapters 110-112 omakes. He's actually complaining about Kyouraku and the 11th Division, lol. No experimental spirit laser eye surgery! Quite an embarrassing mistake for me because I've read the official Viz translations and remember this part... At any rate, I'm leaving my argument as is for everybody's amusement. Just, er, ignore what's totally made up when in serious discussion. The rest should still be good. I think. ^^;;

Yoruichi and the Mask

116.16-18 Honestly, I have a hard time reading Yoruichi's reaction to Ichigo's Hollow mask. On the one hand, she seems surprised to see it: Does she think it's some sort of novelty piece? A Hollow good luck charm Ichigo carries around with him? OTOH, she's worried about it—implying knowledge of what it is, what it means for Ichigo, and how it might've gotten there, IMO. The source of her information could be Urahara. Either through his ties to the Vaizard or because he underwent a similar experience, i.e. he's a Shinigami-Hollow hybrid. As the former commander of the Onmitsukidou and Keigun, Yoruichi was in charge of monitoring Hollow activity and punishing fellow Shinigami who've broken Soul Society's laws. The Vaizard perhaps?

My suspicion is that the Shattered Shaft is not the only way to unlock latent Shinigami powers in a human. Urahara purposely made Ichigo into a hybrid and, until she saw the Hollow mask, Yoruichi was under the assumption Urahara used another method. I did speculate about this in more detail but, in an attempt (futile?) to not derail the topic, please read this at the Bleach7 forums.

A good question to ask in general about all Vaizard!Urahara theories is how much Yoruichi knows.

130.9-12 The two seem very close and have a long history together, true. Yet their relationship strikes me as one where each respects the other's silence, trusting the other's judgment on whether anything needs to be shared. I always think of Yoruichi's response to Urahara never having revealed his ex-Shinigami status to Ichigo. She's amused and exasperated, IMO, but not surprised that Urahara's keeping secrets. That's what he does and, apparently, what he's been doing since they were young. I imagine, at some point between the Hougyoku's creation and Urahara's exile, Yoruichi got a nasty shock when her friend/lover/whatever finally confided in her about how far his research had gone.

So, depending on how Vaizard!Urahara got that way and whether he had to struggle as hard with his inner Hollow as Ichigo did, I believe Yoruichi might not know. If Urahara could keep the whole matter under wraps with no adverse consequences, he might've. This is all the easier if the two were only periodically in contact after they left Soul Society, and Urahara's motivation to do so would've been stronger if he thought it'd be dangerous for Yoruichi to get involved, as she would've likely insisted.

Isshin and the Exposition Fairy

188.3-15 The most obvious interpretation of Isshin and Urahara's conversation is that, while both know of the Vaizard, neither are affiliated with them. However, as the two seem to be numbering factions in the coming war against Aizen, not being allied with the Vaizard politically doesn't preclude either being a Shinigami-Hollow hybrid. Urahara's accurate prediction of what the Vaizard will do, in particular, can be explained by a past association with them, including as a former member or even leader.

For those who'd like Urahara to be currently in contact with the Vaizard, note that Isshin does nearly all the talking. Urahara's comments after he asks about Isshin's gigai and revenge can be read as him fishing for information or subtly evaluating Isshin's feelings on everything, IMO. When Isshin says the Vaizard's motives are mysterious, for example, Urahara doesn't exactly agree or disagree, instead turning the dialogue to Isshin's speculations about what the Vaizard contacting Ichigo means. He doesn't offer his opinion on the matter either. In addition, I find it somewhat suspicious that Urahara's the one bringing up these topics—the Vaizard, the Arrancar, Aizen and the Hougyoku—in the first place when he almost certainly knows more than Isshin about them as Bleach's foremost expert in hybridization and being more aware of the latest Soul Society news.

182.7-11 Why would Urahara test Isshin's motivations though? One possibility is that Urahara's uncertain what Isshin plans to do now that Masaki's death has been avenged. After all, Isshin's no longer bound by duty to Soul Society and the Shinigami. Urahara's shown a tendency to overestimate how personal a cause must be for the Kurosaki men to willingly devote their lives to it in his dealings with Ichigo.

Though why Urahara fears Isshin wouldn't continue to plot with him when Ichigo's irrevocably involved, I don't know. Urahara might be taking a cryptic stance out of habit.

· · ·

The Hougyoku

229.14 First, let's address Aizen's claim that Urahara sealed the Hougyoku without using it. How does Aizen know what Urahara did or didn't do with the Hougyoku?

Given Aizen's knowledge of the Hougyoku's existence and a certain suggestive manga panel, I've always assumed he was spying on Urahara and the other researchers doing work on Shinigami-Hollow hybrids. It's possible Aizen or his agents were able to observe Urahara making, then sealing the Hougyoku. This is a bit hard to reconcile with Urahara's habit of keeping secrets though. Especially as he's generally successful at doing so. Not to mention what Urahara seals, he can always unseal. What's more, as Aizen clearly didn't know Urahara hid the Hougyoku in Rukia or even what the Hougyoku looked like until the series proper, his intelligence is spotty in areas.

Aizen may have read this information in Urahara's notes, which he had access to after he faked his death. However, there was likely a decent time lapse between the Hougyoku's creation and Urahara getting caught for the reiatsu-sucking gigai; he had opportunity to try to destroy the Hougyoku, then make fairly elaborate plans to hide it. I believe Urahara also burned as many of his reports as he could while possibly writing up new ones that were incomplete or just plain wrong. This is a measure any researcher worth his salt would take if he truly wanted to undo some terrible invention of his. Aizen's mistaken.

Could Aizen be lying? The key here is to figure out why he'd lie, IMO. He must keep up the appearance of omniscience before the Espada? It amuses him? I dunno.

In short, Aizen's statement is far from conclusive proof that Urahara never used the Hougyoku.

Now, would Urahara use the Hougyoku on himself?

One argument is that he wouldn't have created it if he didn't plan to use it. To be sure, he may have pursued hybrid research out of scientific curiosity and made the Hougyoku to see if he could. However, I find Urahara rarely invents anything without a purpose. To review: The Soukyoku retreat and three-day bankai training to become a stronger Shinigami, the green-claw-in-chest soul container process and the stealth gigai to hide the Hougyoku, the Shattered Shaft to unlock latent Shinigami power in a human (Ichigo), the inflatable gigai for use in combat. There's risk in using an experimental doomsday artifact, but danger to soul and life didn't stop Urahara from testing his three-day bankai and inflatable gigai himself. Furthermore, being a guinea pig allows you to more closely monitor what happens and, if you know your limits, decide when to stop.

It's also possible Urahara unintentionally subjected himself to the Hougyoku's effects. He's the only character who's handled the fully awakened and unsealed Hougyoku. Not to mention nobody knows how he made it in the first place. A freak accident while creating, trying to destroy, then sealing the Hougyoku is plausible, IMO.

The Shattered Shaft

As there seems to be some confusion amongst Bleach fans about what, precisely, the Shattered Shaft entails, I suggest everyone review the relevant manga chapters, listed on the left for your convenience. In summation:

The Shattered Shaft is a way to transform a human with innate but inaccessible Shinigami power into a Shinigami, possibly a Shinigami-Hollow hybrid. The soul's chain of fate is cut, then forcibly degraded until the soul begins breaking apart in preparation for reorganization as a Hollow. There's a certain window of time wherein sealed Shinigami power can be found as the dissolution of the soul's inner world reveals all the constituent pieces.

Though Urahara never said he invented the Shattered Shaft, at the moment, I think he's the best prospect; soul mechanics is his field, and he's tied to the human world. I figure Soul Society has no interest and, in fact, would actively avoid turning humans into Shinigami, especially since these test subjects might instead become Hollows. Various Shinigami, Aizen foremost, tried to hybridize Hollows and Shinigami, yes. However, the Shattered Shaft is designed to be used on the living. What good would it do you if your chain of fate is long broken and gone? The bottom line is that everyone in Soul Society is deader than a doornail. It's also rather unlikely somebody stumbled upon the principles of the Shattered Shaft by accident. So, for now, let's assume Urahara's responsible. (Isn't he always?)

Why did Urahara design the Shattered Shaft? To use on Ichigo, you say. Isn't the answer obvious? I say, yes... and no. XD

The Shattered Shaft was certainly the perfect method for Ichigo. He unlocked his latent Shinigami power and thereby gained the strength to go after Rukia. What's more, he got a little Hollow extra as insurance against death when he's outmatched in Soul Society.

Subjectively, it's easy to think Urahara knew exactly what he was doing. He's cool and calm throughout, and he insists on giving Ichigo more time even as his Hollow mask forms fully. Urahara doesn't seem particularly surprised to see Ichigo's chain of fate sprout little Alien mouths that can hurt him or Ichigo emerge as a masked Shinigami either. This level of familiarity with the Shattered Shaft implies Urahara's done it before. Yet Urahara isn't the type to panic, so all this is inconclusive, IMO.

More objectively, Byakuya and Renji take Rukia back to Soul Society on July 18 or 19; Ichigo begins his training with Urahara on July 21 (cf. kasuchi's Bleach Timeline of Epic Proportions). If Urahara came up with the Shattered Shaft for Ichigo, he had about two days to do it. Remarkably, he got his second hit on making a Shinigami-Hollow hybrid, too. Of course, Urahara may be just that brilliant (a sudden brainstorm?). Or perhaps in his research on the Hougyoku, he developed the theory behind the Shattered Shaft but wasn't able to do any application until Ichigo. I'd find it strange that Urahara was investigating humans when his intent was to work on Shinigami, though, unless it's the relationship between Shinigami, Hollows, and humans that led to his Hougyoku breakthrough.

Finally, by far the best implication Urahara's used the Shattered Shaft before, IMO: He gives an exceedingly accurate estimate (three days) of how long it'll take Ichigo's chain of fate to be completely eaten away. Compare this with the Vaizard's knowledge of how long (a little over an hour) Ichigo can fight his inner Hollow before totally transforming into one. Why are they so certain? They'd gone through the same process several times. Why is Urahara so certain? Unless there's an equation for calculating how fast a human with latent Shinigami powers and a cut chain of fate (length?) turns Hollow under whatever kidou or such Urahara's using, Urahara's also run or experienced the Shattered Shaft before. In fact, Jinta refers to others already becoming Hollows by the 70-hour mark.

If not Ichigo, who did Urahara invent the Shattered Shaft for? Recall my earlier speculation that Soul Society wouldn't exile a Shinigami anywhere—definitely not to Earth—without first neutralizing his power. Both the Vaizard and Urahara himself then become candidates for the Shattered Shaft.

70.6-7 From Ichigo et al.'s trip to Soul Society and back, I'm inclined to think, as strange as it is, spirit-matter conversion can basically bring a dead soul back to life, chain of fate and all. Mind you, this only applies to normal spirits. Not Shinigami. Chad, Ishida, and Orihime went through Urahara's special senkaimon living humans and got transformed into wholly spiritual beings. Unless their chains of fate were somehow imprinted on their souls or whatever, they died. After the Hougyoku fiasco, the Shinigami put everyone through another modified senkaimon. Viola! Orihime, Ishida, and Chad are alive again! Apparently fine and human! There's something really fishy about that... I suspect spirit-matter conversion is another proscribed technique Urahara knows that he isn't too adverse to using. -___-;;

At any rate, assuming the above is true, Shinigami who've been sealed from their power can hop through a spirit-matter converter and gain a chain of fate. From there, they can proceed to the Shattered Shaft.

· · ·

Now that all (well, most of, lol) the evidence's been laid out, decide if Urahara's a Vaizard or not. I, er, can't make an actual poll, so I coded a dinky table instead. Please comment with your opinions! If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may e-mail your vote to me at Expect daily updates for a couple weeks.

I also included an option for the really confused and/or ambivalent. Mostly because I'm a chicken and fall in this group myself. -_____-;;

Fake Poll

Is Urahara a Vaizard?
Y! theacidqueen 1
N! jimmy_thesiger 1
?! astonishing_xt,myuki_chan,zincpiccalilli 3
Total: 5 (3/11/08, 7:14 PM EST)
Tags: info, theories

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  • Relative Theory

    It's something I noticed, after watching old BLEACH episodes, and I think it has some relevance considering, It's another of those BLEACH relative…

  • Kubo Tite interview from AnimeInsider October

    a.k.a. The One With Questions That Really Matter. Thanks a lot jaina, our lucky interviewer, for giving Bleach fans something more than…

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