The beloved Bleach franchise returns to the small screen this year with the release of an all-new season of the anime, which was dropped midway through the 2010s. Now, along with updated animation and a new soundtrack, the latest season is also the long-awaited debut of a new enemy faction: the Quincy empire.
The Quincy have factored into the story of Bleach since the beginning, but they were largely in the margins, and only a few of them appeared in the story up until now, mainly within the Ishida family. But with the Thousand-Year Blood War arc just over the horizon, here are some essential facts every Bleach fan needs to know to get up to speed on what makes the Quincy what they are.
The Quincy Are the Soul Reapers' Opposites
In a few ways, the Quincy are equivalent to the Soul Reapers, in that they are spiritually aware beings who hunt the monstrous Hollows roaming the Earth. But in many other regards, the Quincy go to great lengths to distinguish themselves from the Soul Reapers. Quincy can be either half-blood or pureblood, with half-bloods being humans with spiritual powers, like Ichigo's friendly rival Uryu Ishida, and they have a distinct view on Hollows. Soul Reapers see Hollows as corrupt spirits to be purified, while Quincy see monsters who must be annihilated.
The Quincy use their powers to totally obliterate Hollows, which disrupts the balance of spirits moving between Soul Society and the living world. The Quincy way isn't sustainable, but they persist anyway.
Unlike Soul Reapers, who wield Zanpakuto blades, the Quincy can form and use bows and arrows to dispatch Hollows from a distance. Such bows can fire single, powerful arrows like the common technique "Heilig Pfiel," or they can fire a volley of weaker arrows, such as the "Licht Regen" technique, which Uryu used on Ulquiorra Schiffer. Quincy also don't generate their own spiritual power; instead, they collect it from their surroundings and focus it into their weapons and techniques.
"Seeleschneider" is a sort of Quincy lightsaber that, rather than being a weapon, will shear nearby spiritual energy masses and allow its wielder to absorb it with ease. That's how Uryu was able to shave off and absorb most of Cirucci Sanderwicci's spiritual energy and use it to form a powerful arrow to defeat her.
However, these unusual fighting techniques and their total destruction of Hollows would lead to the Quincy's demise at the hands of the Soul Reapers.
The Quincy Defeat & Plans For Vengeance
The Quincy and Soul Reapers came to blows several hundred years ago over whether the Quincy should be allowed to keep destroying Hollows like this, and the Quincy refused to change their ways. Hollows are lethally poisonous to them, so the ruthless extermination of them was the only method the Quincy could use in the fight against such beings. Yhwach was the king and founder of all Quincy, but after his Quincy fellows lost the war against the Soul Reapers, he went into a deep slumber. But, in 999 years' time, he would be ready to exact revenge, and after Sosuke Aizen's defeat in the fake Karakura Town, Yhwach's countdown timer was nearly at 0.
All pureblood Quincy resided with Yhwach in a hidden parallel dimension known as the Wandenreich, or "invisible empire," where they stayed out of Soul Society and Earth's affairs. However, some half-blood and pureblood human Quincy remained in the world of the living, among them Masaki Kurosaki and Ryuken Ishida. Masaki's life was saved when Captain Isshin Shiba arrived and defeated the Hollow known as White, and they later married and had three children together. Ryuken Ishida, meanwhile, married his maid Kanae Katagiri and fathered Uryu Ishida with her.
As Uryu grew up, he and Ryuken butted heads over the Quincy people's future, straining their relationship. Uryu was proud of his Quincy status, and wanted to live up to that legacy, while Ryuken was more jaded, wanting to live as an ordinary human and support his family financially, not by fighting Hollows.
So, Uryu turned to his beloved grandfather Soken for training, setting the stage for Uryu's imminent rivalry with Ichigo Kurosaki, a substitute Soul Reaper and (on paper) Uryu's enemy. But neither of them knew that Yhwach and the Wandenreich, who longed for revenge on the Soul Society, were preparing for all-out war, and Uryu's loyalty would be tested when his best friends and his prized Quincy heritage ended up on opposite sides. The new Bleach season will bring Uryu's conflict to the screen at last.