|Founder(s)||King of Souls|
Yonkō (四校, Yonkou; literally meaning "Four Schools") is an honorary title bestowed upon those four individuals that are at the top of the four respective fields of Shinigami combat: specifically being Hakuda, Zanjutsu, Hohō, and Kidō. It is traditionally held in modern times by the Captains of the Gotei 13. Similar to the passing of the Kenpachi title, a Yonkō would obtain the title by killing (or simply defeating) the previous titleholder.
Ever since the beginning of Soul Society, the realm of combat has always been viewed by four specific methods: the way of unarmed combat (Hakuda), the way of weaponry (Zanjutsu), the way of movement (Hohō), and the way of magic (Kidō). The ancients that were heralded as the greatest in these respective fields of combat were awarded the honored title of "Yonkō". It was a title first awarded to the four warriors selected to protect the King of Souls, making up the first generation of the Royal Guard. However, because the respected honor only held meaning when the wielder of said title was unrivaled, it could actually be taken by another in a fight by killing the previous titleholder. Over the course of Soul Society's long and war-filled history, the title of Yonkō had changed hands countless times; far too many times, both officially and unofficially, for there to be any record of the exchanges.
Eventually, however, the Yonkō title found a consistent home with four specific organizations for a majority of its history. The Yonkō of Hakuda, for over two thousand years, was always held by a member of the Shihōin Clan. It was the title of Yonkō that allowed their family to secure their hold as one of Soul Society's four noble houses. Similarly, the Yonkō of Hohō was subsequently held by a member of the Onmitsukidō as well, which was closely associated with the Shihōin. Yonkō of Zanjutsu was an honor held by the Kuchiki Clan and quite possibly, just as it did for the Shihōin, assured their position as one of the land's four noble houses. Finally, the Yonkō of Kidō was held by a particular mage that had a hand in first laying the groundwork for the organization of the Kidō Corps. This is how it had been for nearly two thousand years.
Generation of Miracles
- "Shiroyasha, Kawahiru Seireitou... Man-Slayer, Getsueikirite Raian... Governor of the Dark Ones, Echo Osore... Loud Person, Hikaru Kurosaki... In the era that followed, we four were known as the 'Generation of Miracles'."
- —Raian Getsueikirite
One of the most infamous generations of the Yonkō was known as the "Generation of Miracles" (驚異の先祖代, Kyōi no Senzodai; Viz: "Miraculous Ones") for they were the first four, in succession, to achieve the title without belonging to the organizations of which the Yonkō titles had belonged to for several thousand years. It was also the first time that all four members of the Yonkō were all Captains of the Gotei 13 at the same time. They were known as a generation of miracles to the commoners because none of the four had belonged to noble families, save for Raian who was briefly adopted by the Kuchiki, and this was an event that gave hope to those commoners that also had ambitions to make a name for themselves.
Seireitou Kawahiru, the Yonkō of Hakuda, acquired his title after killing the former titleholder, Yukara Shihōin, who was the head of the Shihōin Clan at that particular time. This is an event that caused the Shihōin to develop a grudge for Seireitou but also declared Yukara to be a foolish man that was cheated out of the Shihōin's birthright.
Raian Getsueikirite, the Yonkō of Zanjutsu, was granted the title by its former wielder, Jinsuke Kuchiki, who also served as his adoptive mother and mentor in the swordsmanship arts after the death of Shōyō. Jinsuke saw the future of swordsmanship in the young Raian and, following a duel in which Raian properly demonstrated his superior skills, hoped that he would continue the growth of Zanjutsu as he continued in his training.
It is unknown how Hikaru Kurosaki and Echo, the Yonkō of Kidō and Hohō respectively, gained their titles. However, what can be deduced is that Hikaru managed to acquire it from a member of the Kidō Corps while Echo acquired his from the Onmitsukidō.
Also unlike many past generations of Yonkō, these four had maintained a sort of camaraderie with each other. They were almost equal to each other in terms of power, and among some, rivalries ran rampant between them while also familiarity and friendship was present. In one particular example, Seireitou and Hikaru were both nicknamed the Stooge Duo (ぼけ役種, Bokeyaku Nitane; Viz: "Two Stooges"), who were considered the more eccentric members of the four Yonkō.
The four Yonkō are meant to correspond to the four basic Shinigami combat skills: Zanjutsu, Hohō, Kidō, and Hakuda. This is because each Yonkō is said to be an almost unrivaled master of a respective field of combat. The title of that Yonkō would be upheld until someone came along who could match or surpass their predecessor, which is the most basic system of succession. In some circumstances, a candidate who could be well advanced in years would assume a title if there is no one else who possesses the skill that they do.
There are currently three known ways to become a Yonkō.
- Kill off the current titleholder in a duel.
- If the former titleholder is killed or dies naturally, the next person whose skills surpass all others in the title available becomes the next Yonkō.
- A current Yonkō may select a successor.
Yonkō of Hakuda
|Kurama Kawahiru||Kurofune (黒船, "Black Ship")||Succeeded|
|Shōyō||Shakyamuni (釈尊 (シャキャムニ), Shakyamuni; Japanese for "Humane Sage")||Succeeded|
|Unnamed Series of Shihōin Clan Members||Unknown||Succeeded|
|Seireitou Kawahiru||Shiroyasha (白い悪魔, "White Demon")||Active|
Yonkō of Zanjutsu
|Unnamed Series of Kuchiki Clan Members||Unknown||Succeeded|
|Jinsuke Kuchiki||"Queen of Silk" (絹王妃, Kinuōhi)||Succeeded|
|Raian Getsueikirite||Hitokiri Battōsai (人斬り抜刀斎, "Battōsai the Man-Slayer")||Active|
Yonkō of Hohō
|Unknown Onmitsukidō Founder||Unknown||Succeeded|
|Unnamed Series of Onmitsukidō Members||Unknown||Succeeded|
|Kurama Shihōin||Kaigan no Kurama (開眼の暗間, "Divine Eye Kurama")||Active|
Yonkō of Kidō
|Unnamed Series of Kidō Corps Members||Unknown||Succeeded|
|Hikaru Kurosaki||Hitokiri Urufukuro (殺人者黒狼, "Black Wolf the Man-Slayer")||Succeeded|
Behind the Scenes
- The term "Yonkō" can be considered a homage to the group of the same name from the series One Piece, although the translation used for this group is slightly different. In One Piece, Yonkō is a title meaning "Four Emperors", referring to the four pirate emperors that rule the New World, whereas in this rendition, Yonkō means "Four Schools" and refers to the four highest masters in each of the four designated crafts.
- Ironically, while the "Generation of Miracles" was held in such high regard because they did not belong to noble families, unlike many of their predecessors, almost all four of them belonged to some type of nobility background. Seireitou, a member of the Kawahiru Clan which is prestigious in Yuánrǎng, is also one of the children born of the King of Souls. Raian bears lineage from the Getsueikirite Clan, who, while they were considered a middle-class family, were once a prominent house of Shinigami during the old days of the Balancers. Hikaru and Echo were descended from the Kurokami Clan and the Asakura Clan of Sōzōshin respectively, which together with the Kawahiru, made up the three divine houses of Yuánrǎng.