A Captain is the leader of one of the thirteen divisions of the Gotei 13. The only special case is the Captain-Commander, which serves as the Captain of the 1st Division.
Captains are generally the most respected of the Shinigami in Soul Society, with the leaders of the Kidō Corps and Onmitsukidō possibly being of equal status. With the exception of one Captain, 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 that are unable to use it. Captains have trained extensively, if not mastered, the use of their Bankai, allowing them to use this enormous power effectively in battle. Most Captains are also skilled in the use of Shunpo and Kidō, and also have extensive knowledge of Shinigami history and battle tactics. These factors create a vast gap in power between Captains and other seated members of the Gotei 13.
There are three ways to become a Captain in the Gotei 13:
- Captain Proficiency Test: A test which requires the ability to utilize Bankai. Nearly all Shinigami become Captains using this method. At least three existing Captains, including the Captain-Commander, must 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 in one on one combat with at least 200 witnesses from the Captain's division. This method is seen as the most rare and least refined of the three methods. The method is commonly looked down upon by some Captains as barbaric compared to the other refined methods. This method allows one to bypass having mastery of Bankai or other possible abilities which a Captain would otherwise be required to have knowledge of, for it allows no judgement from Captains who would require those skills as a prerequisite to join their ranks. Though rare in other divisions, the 11th Division has been set up to exclusively utilize this method, with each captain attaining their rank by killing the predecessor.
Captains function as the chief executive officers of the various divisions, determining the course, organization, tactics, and policy of their division. The power a Captain has over their division is absolute and cannot be questioned by subordinates or the Captains of other divisions. A Captain can choose to change the division specialty, such as Kisuke Urahara did when he became Captain of the 12th Division. Due to Captains having supreme authority in thier respective division, the divisions of the Gotei 13 are separate entities and are 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 the division in question has no current captain or the subordinate's actions are against the laws of Soul Society.
The true power of Soul Society lies in the Captains of the Gotei 13, as they are the leaders of its military. With the Captains at full strength, Soul Society is safe and almost unbeatable. If they are broken, their strength dwindles, making them highly vulnerable.
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