Bleach is well known for its Arrancar tale, in which the unscrupulous captain Aizen uses his army of Espada, the strongest Arrancar, to betray Soul Society. The various Espada, whose abilities combine Hollow and Shinigami, each represent a different facet of death (loneliness, emptiness, etc.).
Their unique designs, formidable abilities (rivalling even the captains of the Gozei 13), and diverse personalities made them fast fan favourites. However, the in-universe ranking system that assigns the Espada the numbers 0 through 9 can be deceiving, since some appear to be stronger or weaker than their position would indicate. Which one is therefore the most powerful? These are the top ten most powerful Espada in Bleach! There are spoilers ahead.
10. Aaroniero Arruruerie
Aaroniero possesses the unusual ability to absorb dead Hollows and gain their power, allowing him to perpetually evolve, and after acquiring Metastacia, he possesses all of Kaien Shiba’s skills (and can take his form). Aaroniero demonstrates mastery in his borrowed state and shrewdness in exploiting his psychological advantage on Rukia by having her battle the apparition of her previous tutor.
If Aaroniero had the opportunity to absorb his fallen allies, he could have become the most powerful Espada.
9. Zommari Rureaux
Like Aaroniero, we don’t get to see Zommari in many battles, but he claims to be the fastest Sonido user among all Espada, faster than even Byakuya Kuchiki of Soul Society. He is nimble enough to generate “clones” that allow him to attack enemies on numerous fronts.
His release controls up to 58 targets, transforming comrades into foes and even causing the target’s own body to betray them. Zommari would have presented a much greater threat to Ichigo’s allies if not for his arrogance (he had multiple opportunities to hit Byakuya) and the fact that his opponent’s Bankai perfectly negates his ability (it splits into too many blades to control).
8. Nnoitra Gilga
Nnoirta is possibly the most ruthless of Aizen’s Arrancar, having been elevated from his previous position as the eighth Espade. While he is most famed for his melee prowess (nearly surpassing the renowned Kenpachi), he is also notable for his mouth-fired Cero energy beams, his armoured body that resists most blows, and his tremendous Reiatsu (spiritual pressure).
In addition, he is one of the few Espada with a degree of regeneration, and upon his release, he spontaneously grows extra pairs of arms for sneak strikes. He is also not beyond attacking wounded foes, making him a threat against which you should never turn your back.
7. Tier Harribel
While by no means weak, Harribel’s third-place ranking has always felt a bit excessive. She is defeated by Hitsugaya, a lower-ranking Gotei 13 captain, despite the fact that she later performs well against him and two Visored, her water skills providing an intriguing contrast to Hitsugaya’s ice mastery.
Harribel, who is intelligent and well-respected, finally gains charge of Hueco Mundo following Aizen’s defeat; she even had the desire to strike him after learning of his contempt for the lives of his Espadas.
6. Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez
Grimmjow, one of Ichigo’s most notable adversaries, is brutal and aggressive, yet strangely honourable, going out of his way to heal Ichigo and ensure they have a proper match. His release augments his already-impressive speed, strength, and resistance, he wields the unique Desgarron ultimate weapon, and he seals Ulquiorra (the fourth Espada) using a Caja cube.
Some fans believe Grimmjow allowed Ichigo to impale him on purpose during their final bout (saying he could have avoided Ichigo’s final attack), but that is a topic for another discussion.
5. Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck
Nel, Ichigo’s childlike companion, regains her adult form and memories as the former third-rank Espada Nelliel. She has defeated Nnoitra several times using her signature Cero Doble ability, which allows her to reflect Ceros and add one of her own to the explosion.
In contrast to other Espada, Nelliel possesses a strong sense of compassion and mercy, side with Ichigo even after retrieving her memories, and her spiritual pressure mirrors his (which was at times even stronger than Ulquiorra’s) to the point that Renji briefly confused the two.
4. Yammy Llargo
Yammy is initially one of the weakest Espada at rank ten (and is easily defeated by Ichigo’s Bankai alone), but when he releases, he receives a massive strength boost, and his rank drops to zero. Upon transformation, Yammy swells enormously, resembling a Japanese kaiju.
Back-to-back, he battles Renji, Rukia, and Chad, then a weakened Ichigo, and then two of the strongest captains, Byakuya and Kenpachi, before ultimately perishing.
3. Baraggan Louisenbairn
Baraggan, the former monarch of Hueco Mundo, has the ability to rapidly age anything he touches, allowing him to break captain Sui-arm Fon’s (by turning it old and brittle) despite her lieutenant’s assistance. Baraggan must also contend with the Visored Hachi, whose defences become key in thwarting his assault.
Barragan’s talents render the majority of missiles ineffective against him, as he just ages them into irrelevance. The only reason the Shinigami were able to narrowly defeat him was due to Hachi’s ingenuity (he surmised that Barragan’s absolute powers may also operate against him).
2. Ulquiorra Cifer
Why is Ulquiorra’s Espada so weak compared to his actual strength? Ulquiorra actually possesses a second transformation that not even Aizen was aware of. This is due to the fact that Aizen based the rankings on each individual’s initial release, and Ulquiorra had a second transformation that Aizen was unaware of.
With only his first release, Ulquiorra destroys Hollow Mask-Ichigo; only a deux es power-up for Ichigo saved the day after his second release. Ulquiorra possesses immense strength and speed, but he is unique among Espada because to his extraordinary regeneration, which grants him unparalleled endurance. In addition to being one of their most intelligent members, his green energy lances detonate over a vast area.
1. Coyote Stark
With his other half, Lilynette, Stark possesses all three qualities: speed, intelligence, and power. He fires the most powerful and quickest Ceros of all Espada, can unleash them with his dual pistols in his freed form, and can conjure an army of spiritual wolves that explode upon biting their victim. Additionally, he is a remarkably polite and laid-back Espada who lacks much zeal for Aizen’s cause.
Stark nearly defeated two captains, Ukitake and Kyoraku (the latter of whom would eventually become Captain-Commander), as well as two Visored; in reality, he fought more honourably, allowing his opponents opportunities to flee as they attempted to backstab him. With his speed, rapid-fire Ceros, and keen mind, Stark’s estimation is accurate, and he remains the most powerful Espada to date.
In Bleach, What Happens to the Espada?
Bleach’s anime run was cut short, unlike rivals such as Naruto or Dragon Ball, but its manga persisted, and we finally realised that not all Espada are truly extinct; read the manga (or the Bleach wiki) to learn their specific fates.
To most fans, Espada are the apex of the series, serving as formidable adversaries for Ichigo and the Gotei 13 captains. Although they are apparently emotionless, their distinct personalities and occasional displays of sympathy reveal otherwise. Vote for your favourite Arrancar, and I’ll see you at the next anime poll!