Bleach Backgrounder: Soul Society Heirarchy

This article includes in-character information for the D&D campaign, Seven Days to the Wolves. It is almost entirely copied from the Wikipedia article on the subject, though it has been edited to suite the "alternate universe" setting of the game. No claim of ownership is made over this information, which is entirely derived from the anime/manga series Bleach, by Kubo Tite.

Most of this information will be common knowledge to shinigami characters in the setting, so feel free to have your character draw upon it as you like.

Soul Society is ruled by a royal family, which is protected by a royal guard. The king and the royal family reside in a separate dimension in the very core of Soul Society, which can only be opened with a tri-pronged golden key fittingly named the Royal Key. The location of this key is passed down verbally from one Gotei 13 General to the next, the current holder being Yamamoto-Genryuusai Shigekuni. The king's practical role is unknown, as the shinigami are governed largely by the Central 46 Chambers, nor has the king been implied to participate in any of their deliberations. Supposedly, no shinigami in the Gotei 13 has ever seen the king.

The main authority of the shinigami are the Central 46 Chambers, who serve the shinigami royalty, the ruling class of all Soul Society. The Central 46 Chambers are made up of forty wisemen and six judges. They are sealed into an enclave in Seireitei called Seijoutoukyorin, which no one else may enter, regardless of their military or civilian status. The decisions of the 46 Chambers are final and unquestionable, regardless of what the decision may involve.

The only shinigami forces which do not answer to the Central 46 Chambers are the royal guard, which is said to have considerable power and tactical knowledge, and the Shinigami Academy.


The Central 46 Chambers also act as the shinigami judiciary and are responsible for judging and sentencing shinigami who have committed serious crimes, such as murder or treason. Punishments for less serious crimes may be given by other authorities, such as shinigami captains, and are usually handed over to the 7th Division of the Gotei 13.

After the members of the Central 46 Chambers were killed at the hands of Aizen Sousuke during the recent upset, General Yamamoto has largely taken over their judicial capacity, with the intent that it shall be handed back when the 46 can be replaced. The duty of enacting punishments has been handed to the 7th Division, as it was already responsible for handling more minor crimes.

There are two special forms of execution in Soul Society, though one has fallen out of use in recent times.

  • Spirit-sealing pit: The spirit-sealing pit is an ancient form of execution in which shinigami criminals are thrown into a pit walled with sekkiseki – a type of stone that absorbs spiritual power, preventing those nearby from using their powers. Hollows are then thrown into the pit with the criminals as the means of execution. The practice was considered too barbaric and discontinued.
  • Soukyoku: A form of execution usually reserved for those with extremely strong spiritual powers, particularly shinigami captains. The Soukyoku is itself a zanpakutou; a giant halberd that utterly destroys a soul on contact. When released, Soukyoku takes on the form of a phoenix, called Kikou-ou. This form has the destructive power of one million zanpakutou, and that power is multiplied by a factor of 10 at the moment it pierces its victim.


The shinigami army consists of three unique elements: the Gotei 13 (Thirteen Court Divisions), the Kidou Corps, and the special forces.

Kidou Corps

There is currently little information on the Kidou Corps, except that it recruits students from the Shinigami Academy that excel in demon arts. Amongst other things, the Kidou Corps is responsible for opening the Senkaimon, the gate between the human world and Soul Society.

Special forces

Also called the Secret Mobile Unit/Corps or Covert Ops, the Onmitsukidou has five divisions. The top rank is the Executive Militia, the second is the Patrol Corps, and the fifth division is called the Reversal Counter Force or Correctional Force. The other two division names or functions are unknown. There is little information about the operations of the special forces.

The special forces are currently run by Captain Soifon of the Gotei 13's 2nd Division. She succeeded Shihouin Yoruichi, who departed Soul Society 100 years ago, and has largely dedicated her Division to duties similar to those f the Special Forces.


The head of the special forces is called Commander-in-Chief. The leaders of each on the five divisions are ranked as Corps Commander, the real-life equivalent being Lieutenant General. Although it is unknown how other ranks work in the special forces, like in Gotei 13, the leader of the forces generally also commands its top division, which is the Executive Militia, but unlike in the Gotei 13, the force commander has several bodyguards.


Although the general special forces uniform appears to be the standard shinigami uniform, the Executive Militia uniform is different from the Gotei 13. Overall, it resembles a classic "ninja" uniform. It has no visible white undergarments and the sash is dark as opposed to white. A headpiece covers the bottom part of the face and sometimes the top, but not the eyes; they wear no sandals, but long tabi boots, and tight bands are on the legs and arms to keep the clothes from moving too much, which both are presumably for silence of movement. In the anime, members of the Executive Militia also wear their head covering on the top, not just the bottom and wear a black sash instead of a white one. The leader of the militia wears the same uniform, except that the shoulders and back are exposed.

The Correctional Force uniform is radically different. The soldiers wear a white uniform, a long piece of headgear, and a backpack.

Gotei 13

The Gotei 13 (13 Division Imperial Guards) is the organization which most shinigami join. It is split into thirteen divisions (hence the name), with several divisions having certain specializations (all divisions, since the recent upset).


As with any army, the Gotei 13 has ranks. There are 20 ranks for officers but no ranks for non-officers. The lower the number is, the more important. The ranks and their descriptions are below, from highest to lowest in terms of strength.


The Soutaichou is the leader of the Gotei 13 and the captain of the 1st Division; the implication is that this is an ex officio (held by virtue of holding the 1st Division Captain position) and/or a "first amongst equals" position. The current holder of this title is Yamamoto-Genryuusai Shigekuni.

Unit Commander

A Taichou, commonly referred to as Captain, are the leaders of the thirteen divisions (with the special case of the Commander-General). While "captain" is not an accurate translation of the rank, it's appropriate considering the size of the unit they lead. A single Gotei 13 'unit' is estimated at about 200-500 troops. Viz renders the units as "companies" rather than "divisions" because captains lead companies in real life. However, given that each Captain in Bleach leads a major part of a military wing or corps, they could be division commanders or Generals. Most literally, the name simply means 'unit commander', which could be practically any officer rank.

Captains are generally the most respected shinigami in Soul Society, with the Central 46 Chambers, Kidou Corps, and special forces leaders possibly being on equal status. With one exception (Zaraki Kenpachi), all captains are able to perform the bankai of their zanpakutou, and are generally much more powerful than even their vice-captains. Knowing the bankai is said to give captains an average of five to ten times the strength of shinigami who are unable to perform it. They have also extensively trained, if not mastered, their bankai, allowing them to actually use the enormous power effectively in battle. Most captains are also skilled in the use of shunpo and kidou, and generally have excellent knowledge of shinigami history and battle tactics. All of these factors create a huge power-gap between captains and lower-ranked officers.

There are three different ways to become a Gotei 13 captain:

  • To take the captain proficiency test, which requires the ability to perform the bankai. Presumably, most shinigami become captains using this method. At least three existing captains, including the Commander-General, have to witness the test.
  • To have personal recommendations from at least six captains and approval from at least three of the remaining seven.
  • To defeat a captain one-on-one with at least 200 witnesses from the captain's division. Zaraki Kenpachi is the only known captain to have achieved his rank using this method.
Vice-Unit Commander

Fukutaichou, more commonly referred to as Vice-Captains, are the 2nd seated officers in each division. Because captain describes the unit commander, vice-captain is the most literally accurate translation some have used. The Viz manga translation renders the rank as the similar but somewhat longer "assistant captain", while the English dub of the anime uses the term "lieutenant". Although this does not apply to modern armies, in historical real-life armies the lieutenant has been the adjutant of the captain, as is the case for fukutaichou and taichou in Bleach. Therefore, lieutenant is a correct real-life equivalent of this rank. Holders of this rank in Gotei 13 have also been called adjutants.

Lieutenants function as executive officers for their division, taking care of or supervising day-to-day operations. They (along with their captains) are not assigned to one specific squad ("squad" is not to be confused with "division" - see below). They generally only know the shikai of their zanpakutou, but are still the second strongest in their division. In the case of a division captain's death, departure, or other circumstances making him unable to perform their duties, the lieutenant acts as the substitute captain until another can be assigned.

Seated Officers

Sekikan, or Seated Officers, are the remainder of the officers in the Gotei 13 who hold ranks at or below 3rd Seat. Captains have the rank of 1st Seat and lieutenants are 2nd Seat. Next to that, there are 18 more seats (3rd to 20th). These ranks are somewhat analogous to junior officers or non-commissioned officers in modern militaries. There seems to be a distinction between senior and junior seated officers, just like in real-life armies. In the Gotei 13, only one person can hold a senior officer rank (such as 3rd or 5th seat), but there are several holders of junior officer ranks (e.g. 20th seat). This may vary from division to division however, as there are two 3rd Seats in the 13th Division. Seated officers often lead subunits within each division.

Note: A squad in Gotei 13 should not be confused with a division. A Captain leads a division, while squads (units of 10 or so troops) are led by a seated officer, possibly as low as a 20th seat.


Most Gotei 13 personnel wear the standard shinigami uniform, called shihakushou (lit. "garment of dead souls") - a white kosode (short-sleeved under-kimono), a black kimono and hakama and a white obi sash. Vice-Captains sometimes also wear an armband which carries their division symbol and its number, usually on their left arm. They are required to do this when they are summoned to a meeting but apart from this it seems that it is rarely compulsory; at the time the series takes place, the use of the armbands was noted to have fallen out of fashion.

Captains wear a white haori over the usual black shinigami clothes, with the number of their division on the back, inside the Gotei 13 symbol (a rhombus). The Captain's Haori comes in two styles: sleeve and no sleeve. Gotei 13 officers, particularly captains and lieutenants, often customize their personal appearance or that of their uniform. Some of these modifications include:

  • Captain Soifon of the 2nd Division wears a sleeveless and backless shinigami outfit (when she's fighting) under her haori, which is standard issue for the head of the special forces. She also wears a yellow sash a layer above, but slightly lower than her white one.
  • Captain Unohana Retsu of the 4th Division wears an obi sash (a thicker sash, worn higher up and tied at the back in the style usually worn with a long kimono) rather than a standard one.
  • Captain Kuchiki Byakuya of the 6th Division wears an extremely expensive scarf named "ginpaku kazahana no uzuginu" and a white ceremonial hairpiece symbolizing his noble lineage.
  • Captain Komamura Sajin of the 7th Division wears shoulder guards over his haori and large gloves which goes up to his arms. He also wore a helmet to hide his appearance, though he has since stopped wearing it.
  • Captain Kyouraku Shunsui of the 8th Division is probably the most flamboyantly dressed of the captains, always seen wearing a straw hat and a gaudily-coloured haori over his uniform.
  • Former Captain Tousen Kaname of the 9th Division wore an orange scarf with his outfit, a sleeveless keikogi as well as white boots.
  • Captain Hitsugaya Toushirou of the 10th Division wears a green sash pinned with a star around his shoulder to hold his sword.
  • Captain Zaraki Kenpachi of the 11th Division wears a shredded edged (from combat) haori, which was taken from the previous captain.
  • Former Captain Kurotsuchi Mayuri of the 12th Division wore a bloated purple cravat and a hat decorated with two horizontal spikes.
  • Captain Kurotsuchi Nemu of the 12th Division has a very abbreviated outfit: the hakama is absent, leaving her with a mini-skirt version of a kimono that is belted at the waist. She also wears a black choker.
  • Lieutenant Sasakibe Choujirou of the 1st Division wears a jinbaori over his outfit.
  • Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei of the 9th Division wears a sleeveless keikogi and black choker.
  • Lieutenant Matsumoto Rangiku of the 10th Division wears a keikogi and kosode that are deliberately loose and hangs open to reveal her ample bosom. She also wears a pink scarf (or stole) around her neck and tucked under her arms, and wears her lieutenant's badge around her waist with her sash, tied in a bow.
  • Most members of the 9th Division wear keikogi without sleeves, including the captain.
  • Lieutenant Abarai Renji of the 6th Division has black tribal tattoos under his uniform and wears a white headband or expensive-looking glasses.


Each of the 13 divisions in Gotei 13 have their own symbol that represents the division's primary role, which is embodied by a specific type of flower. Each symbol also has a specific meaning.

  • 1st Division: Chrysanthemum – Truth and Innocence
  • 2nd Division: Tulip – Seek nothing
  • 3rd Division: Marigold – Despair
  • 4th Division: Bellflower – Those who grieve are loved
  • 5th Division: Lily-of-the-Valley – Sacrifice, Danger, Pure love
  • 6th Division: Camellia – Noble reason
  • 7th Division: Iris – Courage
  • 8th Division: Bird of Paradise flower – Everything is obtained
  • 9th Division: Buttercup – Oblivion
  • 10th Division: Daffodil – Mystery, Egoism
  • 11th Division: Yarrow – Fight
  • 12th Division: Thistle – Vengeance, Strictness, Independence
  • 13th Division: Summer Snowflake – Hope
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