- "Dying to exterminate great evil. Know that this is the spirit of the Gotei 13."
- - Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto
The history of the Gotei 13 is somewhat unknown. All that is currently known is that it was founded by the current Captain-Commander Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto.
The Gotei 13 serves as a military force with its primary responsibilities consisting of:
- The defense of the Seireitei, the center of Soul Society.
- The deployment of Division members into enemy territory for combat operations.
- The deployment of Task Forces as defensive measures in the world of the living.
- The guiding of souls to the Soul Society.
The Gotei 13, in contrast to the normal operations of modern-day militaries, does not operate as a cohesive unit normally. The command of the divisions are generally left to the discretion of its particular Captain, who commonly runs it whatever way he or she sees fit, allowing for the change of a division's traditional duties to an entirely new set and even the creation of a separate institution connected to the division. The Gotei 13's main duty is to defend the Seireitei, but they are also allocated districts in Rukongai to defend. In addition to these duties, Shinigami also have to deal with the business of being assigned to the Human World.
The only general authority to call forth a combined front would be that of an edict from the Central 46 Chambers, or more often the Captain-Commander. It is not uncommon for captains to not see each other as a whole group for long periods of time, except for cases involving a threat to all of the Soul Society, a captain's punishment, or to a lesser degree, a captain's promotion. On a regular basis, the captains are spread out all across the Soul Society doing their divisions' duties, whatever they may be. They are, in fact, so far spread out that getting the Captains together as a group, or even getting their lieutenants together as a group, could normally take a day to accomplish.
Unless specifically ordered by the Captain-Commander, captains can choose whether or not to attend meetings (at their own risk) or not even involve themselves in the daily situations of the Soul Society. Captains are not allowed, without permission, to carry out activities outside of their normal jurisdiction or their division. The captain of one division cannot punish the subordinates of another captain.
Officially, the Kidō Corps and Onmitsukidō are not part of the Gotei 13. However, as Suì-Fēng is both the captain of the 2nd Division and the head of the Onmitsukidō, the Onmitsukidō is effectively under Gotei 13 control. In addition, the captain of the Kidō Corps has been known to obey summons and orders from the Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13.
The Gotei 13 is made up of thirteen components: They are split into thirteen divisions (hence the name), with several divisions having certain specializations.
The Gotei 13 is led by the "Captain-Commander", who has the statuary authority to conduct all the affairs of the Gotei 13; while deferring to the authority of the Central 46 Chambers in matters involving Soul Society.
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 higher the rank. The ranks and their descriptions are below, from highest to lowest in terms of strength. The Court Guards are an organization with a merit-based hierarchy. They have disposed of the system of rank based on seniority. Abilities are the only thing used to determine one's rank.
The Captains congregate together in the main hall of the First Division Headquarters to discuss important issues involving their specific divisions and matters that affect Soul Society. This council is highly formal with the captain-commander leading its proceedings. All captains are considered equal (with the exception of the captain-commander) and determine the course of their individual division unless dictated otherwise by the captain-commander. Votes are carried out via a unanimous consensus.
- The Captain-Commander (総隊長, Sōtaichō; Viz "Captain-General"; ; Captain-Commander, Head-Captain in the English dub) is the supreme leader of the Gotei 13. The position requires the Captain-Commander to oversee the overall operations of the Gotei 13, Onmitsukidō and Kidō Corps when the well being of Seireitei and Soul Society is at stake. The only power the Captain-Commander is answerable to is the Central 46 Chambers. The current holder of this title is Captain Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto of the 1st Division, who has held that post for the last 1000 years.
- A Captain (隊長, Taichō; ; ; lit. Unit Commander) is the leader of one of the thirteen divisions (with the special case of the Captain-Commander).
Captains are generally the most respected Shinigami within the Soul Society, with the Kidō Corps, and Onmitsukidō leaders possibly being on equal status. With one exception, all captains are able to utilize the final stage of their Zanpakutō, and are far more powerful than even their lieutenants. Knowing Bankai gives 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 Flash Steps, Kidō, and generally have extensive knowledge of Shinigami history and battle tactics. All of these factors create a vast power-gap between captains and lower-ranked officers.
They function as Chief executive officers and they determine the course, organization, tactics and policy of their division. The power a captain has over his/her division is absolute and cannot be questioned by subordinates or the captains of the other divisions. A captain can choose to change the division specialty (As Kisuke Urahara did upon gaining command). Due to captains having supreme authority in their respective division the divisions have become separate entities and not a cohesive military. In this way they only have the right to punish the actions of their subordinates and not those of other divisions unless in the instance that the division in question has no current captain or the subordinates actions are against the laws or rules of Soul Society.
Although not commonly stated, the true power of the Soul Society lies in the captains of the Gotei 13, as they are the leaders of its military arm. With them at full strength, the Soul Society is safe and almost unbeatable. If they are broken, their strength dwindles, making them highly vulnerable.
There are three different ways to become a Gotei 13 captain:
- Captain proficiency test (隊首, taishu; ; ; ): A test which requires the ability to perform Bankai. Nearly all Shinigami become captains using this method. At least three existing captains, including the Captain-Commander, have to witness the test.
- Personal Recommendation: To have personal recommendations from at least six captains and approval from at least three of the remaining seven.
- Trial by Combat: To defeat a captain one-on-one with at least 200 witnesses from the captain's division. Kenpachi Zaraki is the only known current captain to have achieved his rank using this method. This method is seen as being the exceedingly rarest of the three as well as the least refined. The method is commonly looked down upon by some captains as barbaric compared to the other refined methods. This method also allows one to bypass having the mastery of Bankai or other possible abilities that a captain would otherwise be required to have knowledge of, as it allows no judgment from captains who would require those skills as a prerequisite to join their ranks.
- A Lieutenant (副隊長, fukutaichō; Viz "Assistant Captain"; ; vice-unit commander, often translated as vice-captain) is the 2nd seated officer in a 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 fukutaichō and taichō 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. They generally only know the Shikai of their Zanpakutō, 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 are the remainder of the officers in the Gotei 13 that hold ranks at or below 3rd Seat. Captains and lieutenants have the ranks of 1st and 2nd Seats, respectively. 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 military. 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 (for example, Hanatarō Yamada is leader of 4th Division's 14th Advanced Relief Team).
(† = confirmed death)
This is a list of unseated Shinigami and (if known) their respective divisions.
Size and RecruitmentEdit
Each Division is made up of just over 200 Shinigami, with the Gotei 13's standing force being just around 3000 total enlisted troops. The Shinigami are typically recruited through the Shinigami Academy. However, it must be noted that not all graduates make it into the Gotei 13. Graduates from the Academy are required to sit an entrance exam for the Gotei 13 and only those who pass are allowed to join. The entrance exam can be taken multiple times.
Each of the 13 divisions in Gotei 13 have their own symbol that represents the division's primary role, which all seem to be based on flowers. When a power limit is placed on a captain or lieutenant, their symbol appears on a certain part of their body until the limit is lifted. Each symbol also has a specific meaning.
Most Gotei 13 personnel wear the standard Shinigami uniform, called Shihakushō (死覇装, Garment of Dead Souls; ; ; ) - a white shitagi, a black kosode, a black hakama, a white hakama-himo, white tabi, and waraji. The black kosode also has its owner's division insignia emblazoned on the inside, though it does not appear to have any significant reasoning other than minor security authorization. Lieutenants 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). Some captains have long sleeves, while the others do not. It also seems that the color of the underside is division--or at least captain-specific--as every captain has a different color of it.
The uniform customization of the members of the Gotei 13 has changed a lot over time. Shinigami who are of either Lieutenant or Captain rank are not required to wear the traditional uniform, such as in the cases of Sabella Matsumoto and Kurō Akutagawa, but they are required to wear their lieutenant's insignias to meetings and in times of war. This goes the same for Captain's.