The following contains spoilers for Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 1, “The Blood Warfare,” now streaming on Hulu in the US and Disney+ internationally.
After ten long years, the Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War The anime adaptation has arrived to deliver the original. manga’s final story arc on screen. The final battle has begun and a brand new enemy, the mysterious Quincy empire known as the Wandenreich, is ready to take over the world and has already claimed a major casualty: Lieutenant Chojiro Sasakibe of Squad 1.
There are a lot of Bleach characters to follow in this new arc, and since the anime must move at a fast pace, you can’t spend too much time with supporting characters like Chojiro Sasakibe. With that said, anime fans may want a reminder of why Sasakibe’s death is such a serious blow to the Soul Reapers. Knowing that will add serious emotional impact to Bleach“Thousand Year Blood War” arc.
Who was Lt. Chojiro Sasakibe in Bleach?
Each of the 13 Soul Reaper squads in the Soul Society has two leaders: the captain general and a lieutenant, the second-in-command, and often the captain’s personal bodyguard. Squad 1 is the overall command squad, led by elite Captain General Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto, and no ordinary Soul Reaper would suffice to serve alongside him. Yamamoto only trusted Chojiro Sasakibe to fill that role, and the two have been allies and friends for centuries. This means that Chojiro has been by Yamamoto’s side since before Captain Byakuya Kuchiki was born, making him among the most senior officers in all the squads, but now he’s gone.
Chojiro was almost like a son to Yamamoto, the two of them being family to the point that he would gently tease Yamamoto about the scar on his forehead, before giving him a second scar in a fierce sparring match. Above all, Yamamoto had a deep respect for Chojiro’s lightning-based bankai, and in Bleach: TYBWIn the first episode, it was his bankai in the distance that warned Yamamoto of Quincy’s raid. Chojiro had been a fairly powerful Soul Reaper in his day, though for plot reasons, he was unable to face Ichigo Kurosaki during the “Soul Society” arc.
Interestingly, Chojiro loved Western-style food, while Yamamoto was very fond of traditional Japanese food, making them total counterparts when it comes to cooking. Fun little details like that in Bleach it can really draw certain characters to fans and make them feel more real, but that’s all gone now. Chojiro has eaten the last of his burgers, having lost his life in a sudden ambush by Quincy.
What Chojiro Sasakibe’s Death Means For Bleach’s Final Arc
Lt. Chojiro Sasakibe’s sudden defeat may seem anticlimactic or like a wasted opportunity, as viewers didn’t see him fight his Quincy foes or his obviously powerful bankai. However, that’s really the point; The sudden and brutal murder of Sasakibe sets the tone for the new Bleach bow, making it clear that a lot of blood will be spilled in the upcoming battles. The previous story arcs had a lot of action, but the heroes he had some pretty thick plot armor, even supporting characters like Momo Hinamori and Ikkaku Madarame. Anime fans might have rightly criticized Bleach for sabotaging its tension with so much generous plot armor, but that’s over. Sasakibe’s death heralds a new era without armor where anything can happen.
Sasakibe’s tragic death deprived him of the opportunity to display his powers, and the Quincy soldiers knew what they were doing by attacking him first. This makes Yamamoto and Bleach spectators alike more alert to sudden danger. As Captain of Squad 1, Yamamoto not only lost a powerful subordinate; he lost an old friend that he had been like a son. As Captain Kyoraku pointed out in the manga, Yamamoto’s pain is deeper, darker, and more overwhelming than any other Soul Reaper could comprehend.
Bleach Fans can only imagine what was going through Yamamoto’s mind as he watched Sasakibe’s funeral pyre burn, and wonder who will be next. Maybe it’s Renji, with the Quincy aiming to make Ichigo and Captain Byakuya Kuchiki feel the same pain that Yamamoto now feels. These enemies know how to hit both the flesh and the heart, and the second round is likely to increase the kill count quite shockingly.