Bleach has an intriguing take on life and death. Humans, Soul Reapers, hollows, and Quincy are among the races featured in the series. Humans who die either join the Soul Society or turn into hollows. There are those whose sins condemn them to hell. Then there are Soul Reapers, who are mostly deceased beings whose deaths have such an impact on the human world that they become defenders against hollows and demons who attack the living. Because their parents have tremendous spiritual energy, a few powerful Soul Reapers are born into the Soul Society.

The Soul Society's noble families pass on their bloodline by bearing more powerful souls who later become Soul Reapers. For example, Byakuya Kuchiki was never a human because he was born and raised in the Soul Society, and his abilities were so powerful that he became a fearsome squad captain. There are several other Soul Reapers like him. Except for their ability to live for centuries, if not millennia, Soul Reapers are mortals in the sense that they can bleed and die. They, on the other hand, are unable to return to the Soul Society and restart the cycle because they are already souls.


Where Do Souls Go After Death?

Bleach: Where Do the Souls and Soul Reapers Go When They Die?_0

Every human who successfully passes on to the Soul Society is sent to the Rukon District -- a massive residential area where all souls live in the afterlife. The Soul Society needs to maintain the balance between both worlds, so the human world also has just as many souls as there are in the Soul Society. Once the souls die in either the human world or the Soul Society, they enter the cycle of rebirth or, if they are unlucky, become hollows.

If a hollow dies at the hands of a Soul Reaper, it will enter the Soul Society, completing the cycle. "Konso" is a sacred ritual performed by the Soul Reapers to help souls "cross over" between different worlds. The hilt of the Zanpakuto is the key to performing this ritual. As soon as the hilt touches the forehead of the lost soul, the soul will sink into the ground in a pool of blue light, and their "passing on" is symbolized by Jigokucho (Hell Butterfly). However, whenever a Quincy destroys a soul or defeats a hollow, that soul is completely erased from existence; therefore, it can never enter that cycle. Furthermore, because of the sins they have committed as humans, souls who do enter hell are doomed for eternity.


Where Do Soul Reapers Go After Death?

Bleach: Where Do the Souls and Soul Reapers Go When They Die?_1

Soul Reapers are different from ordinary souls. Unlike souls, Soul Reapers feel hunger and have a high amount of spirit energy. They either develop the spirit energy over time or are simply born with it. Soul Reapers such as Rukia and Renji spend their initial years as souls in the Rukon District and later became Soul Reapers as their powers continue to grow.

In the manga ending, both Szayelaporo and the Head Captain Shunsui Kyoraku explain that when a member of Soul Society dies, their spirit energy is reabsorbed into Soul Society itself. As fans know by now, the Soul Society is completely created by "Reishi (spirit particles)." Uryu is able to defeat Mayuri in the "Soul Society" arc by absorbing the Reishi from their surroundings. The buildings start disintegrating as soon as Uryu extracted the Reishi from them. The entire Soul Society is developed thanks to the absorbed spirit energy of the fallen Soul Reapers.


Do the Squad Captains Meet the Same End?

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Unfortunately, Squad Captains have so much spirit energy that it cannot all be absorbed by the Soul Society. The captains are placed in the upper three tiers of the Spirit Class because the Reishi that comprise their bodies are too dense with Reiatsu (spirit energy). Their spirit energy cannot naturally degrade and be reabsorbed into the Soul Society unless external forces are involved, or so the Soul Society believes. However, such potent Reishi can never be absorbed into the Soul Society, and because such potent Reishi will linger in the Soul Society indefinitely, it will only pose a significant risk in the long run. As a result, a ceremony known as "Konso Reisai," which translates to "Soul Burial Ceremony Ritual," is held.

The ceremony is performed under the deception of helping the potent Reishi break down and be naturally absorbed into the Soul Society. Because it is a cruel fate that can happen to a soul, the truth behind the ritual is only known among a handful of people. Konso Reisai is a unique version of Konso. Before this ritual is performed, the squad captains and lieutenants perform the "Jogimen Reibaku," or "Prefacing Ceremonial Surface of Spiritual Arrest." During this ritual, they assemble in the human world to capture the hollow. Konso Reisai is performed 12 years after the funeral of a squad captain who has fallen in battle. The current captains and lieutenants capture a powerful Hollow and purify it in front of the grave of the deceased captain.

In the manga ending, once a hollow is purified in front of Jushiro Ukitake's grave, he is successfully cast into hell 12 after his death. Jushiro is able to witness the ceremony even after his death. During the ritual, Ichigo is forced to kill Jihoku no Gaki in the human world. Jigoku no Gaki are giant hollows that originate from hell and unknowingly complete the ceremony. From inside hell, Ukitake gains the epithet of "Kamikae," which means "Divine Possession." Because the balance between all worlds has been disrupted during the fight with Yhwach, Szayelaporro Granz -- a former Espada who was cast into hell -- is able to intervene with the ritual. However, Ukitake's newfound powers allow him to impale Granz with his now-enlarged Sogyo no Kotowari and pull him back through the Gates of Hell.