While the term vizard is spelled in the manga using kanji meaning masked army (仮面の軍勢 kamen no gunzei?), it is pronounced as the English vizard (ヴァイザード vaizādo?), an archaic word meaning mask.
The vizard are the antithesis to the arrancar: they are Soul Reapers who have obtained hollow powers. Having begun as Soul Reapers, the vizard appear entirely human. Barring those times when they are using their powers, they are indistinguishable from ordinary Soul Reapers. To gain access to their hollow powers, a vizard dons a hollow mask. This allows them to augment their Soul Reaper abilities with hollow powers, as well as giving them access to some of the generic hollow abilities. Their spiritual pressure likewise changes into a mix of hollow and Soul Reaper. This process of donning one's hollow mask is referred to as "Hollowification" (虚化 horō-ka?).
It is unclear what the motives of the vizard are. The members of the vizard group have been shown to be former high-level Soul Reapers, exclusively drawn from the captain and lieutenant ranks. They are considered criminals by Soul Society for committing the ultimate taboo of acquiring hollow powers; their status as former leaders of Soul Society also marks them as traitors. The vizard are also rejected by hollows, due to their former status as Soul Reapers. It is because of this that it can be presumed that the only side the vizard are on is their own. Regardless, they seem to be valuable allies-to-be in the battle against Sōsuke Aizen's army of arrancar, as Kisuke Urahara mentioned. The vizard have not shown any sort of hierarchy, seeming to prefer a loose-knit organization.
The existence of Soul Reaper/hollow hybrids is first hinted at early in the series. In order to regain his Soul Reaper powers after being stripped of them, Ichigo Kurosaki has his Chain of Fate severed by Kisuke Urahara in order to force him to regain his lost power before becoming a hollow. Ichigo is only able to succeed once he begins transforming into a hollow. Ichigo's transformation happens out of sequence, his mask forming first instead of his body breaking apart and reforming, a sign of his resistance, and he emerges as a Soul Reaper wearing a hollow's mask, which he tears off. After he arrives in Soul Society, the hollow mask reappears on his person on several occasions, even though he repeatedly discards it, to block fatal blows. In his fight against Byakuya Kuchiki, Ichigo's inner hollow takes control of his body, causing his mask to reform around his face. Ichigo is able to regain control and tear off the mask before the transformation completes.
Ichigo later discovers that there are other Soul Reapers who have acquired hollow powers besides himself. Shinji Hirako, a boy carrying a zanpakutō and a hollow mask, reveals that these renegade Soul Reapers call themselves the vizard. Shinji tries to convince Ichigo to join their group, saying that only he can teach Ichigo how to control his "hollow within" and keep it from taking over and destroying everything Ichigo cares about. Ichigo initially refuses Shinji's offer, but relents after realizing he can't control his inner hollow on his own. Ichigo insists that he's merely using them to learn how to control his inner hollow.
To accomplish this task, Shinji knocks Ichigo unconscious so he can face his inner hollow on common ground. As this happens, Ichigo's body transforms into a rabid hollow, which the vizard take turns battling in order to keep it in check. Ichigo manages to overcome and subdue his inner hollow, and begins training with the vizard to better control his new powers. Ichigo abandons his training when the town is threatened, despite having very little control over his powers compared to the more experienced vizard.
In a new prelude arc of the manga, it has been revealed that the first Vizard were created due to the early experiments of Sosuke Aizen. It was recently revealed that Aizen revealed himself, Gin, and Tosen to the Soul Reapers who would become the Vizard, showing that the Vizard have known of Aizen's plans for hundreds of years before any other Soul Reaper in Soul Society.
In battle, the vizard use their hollow powers to augment their Soul Reaper abilities, granting them massive increases in speed, stamina, and strength. They also gain access to some of the common hollow abilities, such as cero blasts. Bodily harm can seemingly be ignored while wearing their masks, as demonstrated by Ichigo's hollow during his unwilling transformations. The hollow mask can only be maintained for a certain period before its effects wear off: Ichigo can only hold his transformation for a short period (eleven seconds at first), while the other vizard can go several hours without tiring.
Vizard zanpakutō function in the same manner as those of standard Soul Reapers; however, none of them have explicitly used their releases in combat yet, excluding Ichigo and Kensei. The vizard seem to prefer their mask-given powers to their Soul Reaper abilities. The vizard remain in complete control while wearing their masks, unlike Ichigo's early unstable transformations. As suggested by Aizen, the fusion of the two spiritual entities allows these Soul Reapers to reach levels of power far surpassing that of either side.
It is made clear how Ichigo gained his hollow powers, and it was recently revealed that other vizard gained theirs through the early experiments of Sosuke Aizen. Shinji hints that Ichigo's conflict with his inner hollow is a common symptom, however. Aside from the dangerous method used by Urahara, the Orb of Distortion could allow a Soul Reaper to use hollow powers, but it has only been shown doing the opposite.
There are eight known vizard aside from Ichigo Kurosaki. Five of these are men and the other three are women. Three vizard speak kansai-ben, a dialect spoken in Osaka and Kyoto. All vizard are former Soul Reaper captains or lieutenants from approximately 100 years before the main storyline.
- Voiced by: Tetsu Inada
Love Aikawa (愛川 羅武（ラブ） Aikawa Rabu?), former captain of the 7th Division, is a tall man sporting sunglasses, a spiked afro (shaped like a normal round afro during his days as a Soul Reaper), and a jogging suit. He seems to be very laid back, usually reading Shōnen Jump or some of Lisa's erotic manga in his spare time. He and Rose seem to be close friends. His zanpakutō's hilt is in the shape of a heart, and he carries its sheath on a tōju hanging from his shoulder like a messenger bag.
- Voiced by: Masaya Onosaka
Shinji Hirako (平子 真子 Hirako Shinji?) is the former captain of the 5th Division, preceding his lieutenant Sōsuke Aizen, and the unofficial leader of the vizard. While he initially appears to recruit Ichigo into their ranks, he is shown giving orders once Ichigo decides to accept the offer. An early design of Shinji can be seen in the first chapter's cover art, making it clear he was planned well before his introduction. Shinji's character is somewhat comical, adding a bit of levity to situations that are otherwise serious. He seems to like annoying his associate, Hiyori Sarugaki, which usually earns him a slap from one of her sandals. He also appears to have a history of referring to cute girls he meets as his 'first love', complete with a deadpan look on his face despite the obvious lie (he apparently never did this with Hiyori, further annoying her). One of his previous acclaimed crushes was Lisa Yadōmaru, a fellow vizard, and his current is Orihime Inoue. During several points in the anime, Shinji's outfit is depicted to look like Lupin the III, likely as a homage on the part of the animators.
Shinji's hollow mask resembles a pharaoh's mask. Shinji is quite skilled with his hollow powers, using a single cero blast to easily overwhelm Grimmjow Jeagerjaques. The video games also depict him being able to split the cero blasts into a pyramid shaped attack. Not much has been revealed about Shinji's zanpakutō, as he rarely uses or even visibly wears it. The hilt and sheath are red. None of his release states have been shown, and the times that he does seriously fight he seems to rely more on his hollow mask.
- Voiced by: Akemi Kanda
Mashiro Kuna (久南 白 Kuna Mashiro?) is the former lieutenant of the 9th Division under Kensei. She is a somewhat ditzy girl who is prone to throwing fits for the smallest of things, such as Orihime befriending Hachi or when Kensei insisted on following his subordinates into battle when they were still in the Gotei 13. She wears a white bodysuit and goggles in her green hair. Her overall style of dress is reminiscent of the costumes worn by the tokusatsu superheroes of late 1970s Japanese television, perhaps meant as a contrast between her age and childish appearance. Her Soul Reaper uniform had sleeves that stretched past her arms, an orange scarf, and glasses in place of goggles. She often calls Ichigo Berry-tan, a play on Ichigo's name.
Mashiro's hollow form has elongated, armored legs. Her hollow mask resembles a heart-shaped bee's head with two antennae sticking out from the indent at the top of the heart. She was able to maintain her hollow mask for fifteen hours on her first attempt to control her hollow, which means she did not need to train like the other vizard.
- Voiced by: Tomokazu Sugita
Kensei Muguruma (六車 拳西 Muguruma Kensei?) is the former captain of the 9th Division. Kensei appears to be a young man with short, light-gray hair and several piercings. He also has a tattoo of the number 69 on his stomach, which seems to be the inspiration for the one Shūhei Hisagi has on his cheek. He wears a basketball jersey and cargo pants with combat boots. In comparison with his fellow vizard, Kensei is a much more serious character. He has a short temper and is easily irritated, particularly by Mashiro.
Kensei's zanpakutō is named Tachikaze (断地風?, lit. earth-severing wind) and is released with the command "blow it away" (吹っ飛ばせ futtobase?). When sealed, its hilt is in a sort of 'H' shape. His shikai shrinks it down into the form of a survival/combat knife. While in this form, Kensei demonstrates the ability to charge and fire spiritual energy from the blade. His hollow form looks humanoid with cylindrical structures sprouting from his back and shoulders, one on each shoulder and the other six on his back. Bone-like armor grows over his forearms, and two extra plates cover his fists. His mask looks similar to a hockey mask, but is squared off with six eyes and extends around the back of his head.
- Voiced by: Shouto Kashii
Rōjūrō Otoribashi (鳳橋 楼十郎 Ōtoribashi Rōjūrō?), commonly referred to as Rose (ローズ Rōzu?), is the former captain of the 3rd Division. He became captain approximately one year before Kisuke Urahara. He is an effeminate man with long, wavy, blond hair and a frilly shirt. He seems to be interested in music, as he speaks to Love about an artist's new single and has been seen playing or tuning a guitar on several occasions. Rose appears to be one of the calmer and perhaps wiser ones amongst the group, though he becomes irritated whenever Love spoils a manga's story for him. His zanpakutō's hilt is in the shape of a diamond with curved edges, and its sheath is encrusted with diamonds.
- Voiced by: Reiko Takagi
Hiyori Sarugaki (猿柿 ひよ里 Sarugaki Hiyori?) is a former lieutenant of the 12th Division under captains Kirio Hikifune and Kisuke Urahara. She is a tiny, blonde-haired girl with a fierce temper and violent tendencies. Her hair is worn in pigtails and she wears a red jogging outfit (which is decorated with the first kanji of her name). She also has a tiny fang on the left side of her mouth. Hiyori often abuses Shinji Hirako, usually by slapping him with one of her sandals or even biting him. She has even made it a reflex to use him as a human shield when necessary. This behavior dates back to her time as a lieutenant, despite the fact that Shinji outranked her then. She viewed Hikifune as a mother figure, and thus initially refused to accept Urahara as her replacement.
Hiyori took the longest to defeat her inner hollow out of all the current vizard (excluding Ichigo, who took about the same amount of time), at 69 minutes and 2 seconds. Hiyori's zanpakutō is standard in appearance with her tsuba decorated in small hearts, a contrast to her not-so-girlish personality. She normally wears her sword from her right shoulder, like Ichigo. Her hollow mask is rhinoceros-like in appearance, sporting a prominent horn centered near the forehead. It has been shown that her mask was the first thing to form when she began fighting her inner hollow.
- Voiced by: Takashi Nagasako
Hachigen Ushōda (有昭田 鉢玄 Ushōda Hachigen?), commonly referred to as Hachi (ハッチ), is the physically largest vizard. He was formerly the lieutenant of the Kidō Corps under Tessai Tsukabishi. He wears a tuxedo and has a black crossbone design in his pink hair. When he was a Soul Reaper, his hair was styled into a pair of horns and emblazoned with the symbol of the Kidō Corps. As the former lieutenant of the Kidō Corps, he is skilled with binding spells, and as such is always tasked with making barriers for the vizards' use. He is skilled enough to use bakudō up to #99 without the incantation. By his own admission, his powers are very similar to those of Orihime Inoue's. Despite his unusual size, Hachi is actually very kind and gentle, and seems to enjoy Orihime's company. His zanpakutō is fairly ordinary and has an 'H'-shaped hilt with rounded edges.
- Voiced by: Kanako Hatori
Lisa Yadōmaru (矢胴丸 リサ Yadōmaru Risa?) was the former lieutenant of the 8th Division under Captain Shunsui Kyōraku. She is a girl with glasses and long, braided, dark hair, who dresses in a sailor fuku, as opposed to the more Western-style uniforms worn by the students of Karakura High School. In consistency with her current appearance, her Soul Reaper uniform during her time in the Gotei 13 had a shortened hakama resembling a skirt. She seems easily irritated and apparently likes to read erotic manga (specifically, Josei manga). She is also very curious, and would spy on the captain's meetings during her time in Soul Society. When she was a lieutenant for Gotei 13, she read to Nanao Ise, later her successor as lieutenant, every month. Her zanpakutō is considerably longer than most, making it appear like a nōdachi. She appears to be ambidextrous, initially wielding her zanpakutō with her left hand and then switching to her right during her fight with Ichigo.
- Bleach manga; chapter 188, page 9.
- Bleach manga; chapter 175, page 10.
- Bleach manga; chapter 253, page 4.
- Bleach manga; chapter 188, pages 13-15.
- Bleach manga; chapter 217, page 7.
- Bleach manga; chapter -102, page 6.
- Bleach manga; chapter 220, page 1.
- Bleach manga; chapter 1, pages 2-3.
- Bleach manga; chapter 226, page 1.
- Bleach manga; chapter -104, page 9.
- Bleach manga; chapter -103, page 3.
- Bleach manga; chapter -102, page 21.
- Bleach manga; chapter -108 page 13