One of the best things about Bleach to me was just intricate the power dynamics were when they were first introduced. You had this entire detailed world-building, with characters that came from multiple different factions. It’s what made the series so fun to witness, with each new character being introduced serving a purpose. It’s why I felt justified in my crush on the resident emo boy, Ulquiorra Cifer. But while he may be cute, is he the most powerful in Aizen’s army?
Ulquiorra Cifer is not the strongest Espada, despite displaying impressive strength and speed. But he does come close. Ulquiorra’s prowess as an Arrancar is only second to Coyote Starrk, the first of the Espadas in Aizen’s Army to be unleashed. Sure, Ulquiorra was able to absolutely decimate Hollow-Mask Ichigo, it still doesn’t put him up as the No. 1 Espada around.
The entire rank system for the army raised by the betrayer, Sōsuke Aizen, is a little convoluted but that’s just how these big-name Shonen work. Tite Kuba, the creator of Bleach, is known for how he expands on the lore that he weaves into his stories and Bleach is no exception. It’s why the plot points work because their payoff feels earned. The characters he creates aren’t just OP for the sake of it. There is always a purpose they are introduced to, and no character is wasted. This is what makes them so interesting.
And so, welcome to Character Analysis – a section on the website where we take our time to look at popular characters from various manga, anime, and even light novels and break their story down, piece by piece. We analyze them to see just what makes them so iconic, and what is their place in the story they are set in. And today, we’ll be taking a look at Ulquiorra Cifer, the melancholic ‘sad boi’ of Aizen’s Army, and where he stands in rank as an Espada!
What Is An Espada?
Before we can break down what it means to be an Espada, we need to discuss how Arrancars play into the world of Bleach. Arrancars are a variation on Hollows, but they were more humanoid. They are only made when a Hollow has their mask removed, and in return, they gain powers that are similar to the Shinigami, or Soul Reapers, like those of Soul Society. They are a strange hybrid between Hollows and Shinigami.
The Espadas were created when Aizen used the Hōgyoku to turn existing beings into Arrancar, but these showed more potential than your usual Arrancars. He took ten of the best most promising Arrancar of the lot, assigning them ranks based on when they were unleashed, and placed them all as the highest and most powerful individuals in his army. Their purpose in the army was to directly counteract the captains of the Gotei 13.
Aizen spent a lot of time and effort in the creation of the Espada, citing them as his biggest preoccupation. But they had existed before Aizen’s defection from Soul Society. Each of the Espada has its personalities, with its convictions. Even if they respond to Aizen alone, they are still merciless beings that aren’t above grotesque and inhumane acts to get what they want.
Ulquiorra Cifer: Embodying The Emptiness Of Death
Ulquiorra Cifer isn’t like the others that share his position. As an Espada, he should be loftier and more power-hungry, but instead, he’s cold, almost callous with how he threatens and fights. This makes sense, considering that out of all the aspects of Death, he is supposed to represent the ‘Emptiness’ that it brings.
He is best described as being indifferent, disregarding his comrades and harming them if they come between him during a conflict. And yet, there is a melancholy about him. Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez had noticed how he would kill his victims by targeting and stabbing the same part of their body that, in his own, would be the site of his Hollow hole.
He even explained to Orihime Inoue how he doesn’t believe in the existence of human emotions, and that the heart isn’t real to him. It explains his detached demeanor towards most things, but that calmness comes in handy when he is caught up in situations.
However, he does change his tune when upon his deathbed, seemingly moved after his last conflict with Ichigo Kurosaki. He comments on his choice to kill him using cero, admitting how merciless the act was.
Where Does Ulquiorra Cifer Stand As An Arrancar?
In Aizen’s Army, he ranks at No. 4 as an Espada. But that rank isn’t indicative of the power he possesses. He is the strongest when it comes to his speed and agility, and the rank follows who was unleashed first.
He’s still one of the strongest, if not the strongest. And he’s tactile to boot. When it came to regeneration, he knew his brethren picked enhanced abilities. But when it came to him, he picked a unique form of regeneration which meant he could replace any part of his body near instantly if it was damaged. Which made him extremely resilient.
However, his most covert ability was something that even Aizen wasn’t aware of. Ulquiorra Cifer could wield a second transformation known as the Segunda Epata, which he deployed against Ichigo to show him ‘True Despair’.
So, while Ulquiorra was not the strongest Espada in Aizen’s army, he was still a fan favorite! His death was voted as being the most impactful death of the year.