So, I've been thinking about who the oldest shinigami is. After much thinking and research, I've narrowed it down to 3 people. Ichibei, Nimaiya, and Yamamoto. Yes, I'm including Yama even though he died, since he died just a few days ago in the series and I figured this would not make much difference in the long run, so think of this as "Who Is The Oldest Shinigami Up To The Point Of Old Man Yama's Death." But how did I narrow it down to these three, and which of these three do I think is the oldest, and am I prepared for all the flack and hate-filled fanboys when I reveal my thoughts? Note: I am NOT including the Soul King or Yhwach because there is too little evidence to support their ages. And besides, neither are shinigami.
To start things off, we know that Yama is the oldest captain in the Gotei 13. But the Royal Guard is not part of the Gotei 13, so the Royal Guardsmen are exempt from this statistic. He's over 2,000 years old, founded the school, and the Gotei, of which, he has led since it's inception. However, everything he founded, needed a name. That's where Ichibei comes in. He named everything. He had to have named the things that Yama founded. And while info on soul society pre-gotei 13 is scarce at best, it is assumed there were specific things at those points in time that needed named as well, such as the "balancers". Could he have named them after the fact? Possibly. There are things, places, and events in our own history that haven't been "officialy" named until after the fact. And while Royal Guardsmen are all former shinigami, it could be possible Ichibei is from before the gotei 13, back when they were called "balancers".
Now, how does Nimaiya fit into all of this? Well, he created the Zanpakuto. We can determine that he is at least over 1,000 years old. And while this does not mean he is over 2,00 years old like Yama, it certainly puts him up there. But how do I know he is at least this old? Well, back when Yhwach first fought Yamamoto 1,000 years ago, Yamamoto used his bankai. This could only be done with a zanpakuto! And with the image of the first gotei 13 captains, clearly, some are at least carrying zanpakuto. Now, here's where his age is highly debatable. In chapter 529, he claims all shinigami have had zapakuto, since the birth of Soul Society itself!!
This claim, however, raises some very interesting questions. How old is Soul Society? Was there anything before Soul Society? Could this shed some light onto what the Soul King does? Since shinigami since the beginning of Soul Society have had zanpakuto, what came first: the shinigami or the zanpakuto? To add onto that, was Nimaiya around before shinigmai were a thing?
So, who, in my opinion, is the oldest shinigami? Given the evidence, specifically in chapter 529, I believe that Nimaiya Oetsu is the oldest shinigami. The shinigami, and zanpakuto, to an extent, have been around since the beginning of Soul Society. He is the only one to have explicity created something that has been around since the dawn of Soul Society. Ichibei, while he named everything, as I have said earlier, he could've done it after the fact. While Yama is over 2,000 years old and has founded so much, it is impossible to determine how old Soul Society is, and there is nothing that hints at him being around since it's beginnings. Nimaiya is the only one to hold this honor.
But what about you? Yes, you. What are your thoughts? Who do you think is the oldest shinigami? Do you agree with me? Disagree? I am quite interested to hear (read) your thoughts! Or, perhaps, this has sparked new theories on the Soul King, Soul Society itself, or something I haven't mentioned?
If we're talking strictly about the concept of Shinigami, I'm going to go on a whim and say that perhaps it's someone we don't know. Perhaps the entire concept of Shinigami has, in fact, existed since the dawn of Soul Society because that is basically Bleach's version of heaven and for as long as there has been life and death, there must have been someone to play Charon/Grim Reaper/Angel of Death to ferry or accompany souls of the deceased to their (not so) final resting place.
It's possible that Yamamoto is still older. He wasn't always a Shinigami. At some point, we can imagine that he got together with Oetsu and Ichibei form Soul Society. Nimaiya making their basic weapon, with Ichibei naming it (and other things). But I do believe that strictly agewise, Yama is likely the older of the three, with them being all in similar age grouping~
First off, just because someone joined the Royal Guard does not mean they are no longer Shinigami, they are just not normal Shinigami which means they can easily be in the running. Secondly, there is contradictory information and a great lack of information for anyone to be fully accepted as the oldest Shinigami alive but from what we have, we can get close. For my third point, it is possible that the former first Kenpachi is as old as he is even though she didn't look it since shes been around since the birth of the Gotei 13 and didn't die until very recently. As we know little about the other thirteen original captains, it's hard to say if they would be in the running or not with her. Now including the Royal Guard, again, we know very little about them since they only appeared in this new arc but we do know that at least Ichibei and Nimaiya were around since before the Gotei 13 which definitely means they are in the running. But we don't for sure know how old the Gotei 13 is or how old the former captain commander was when he formed the Gotei 13.
But like I said, there is a lot of contradictory information about the Shinigami. In all likelyhood, the Soul Society wasn't called that until roughly around when the Gotei 13 was formed so it's much older than the Shinigami. As for your question about whether the Soul Society or Zanpact-to is older, Zanpact-to are born from the souls of a Shinigami companion so even if the despite the shells created by Nimaiya existing before the Zanpact-to as both it and the Shinigami are needed for a Zanpact-to to be born. I can't really say whether or not Nimaiya or Ichibe is older though it may be tied but it's possible that Ichibe is older as the one who names all things. He could have been the one who gave the Soul King that title despite being younger than the Soul King and could have been the one who named the Soul Society whatever it was called before it and named the Gotei 13, named the Shinigami the Shinigami and so forth.
I am pretty sure Ichibe is older than Yamamoto- Ichibe is the first shinigami to ever acheive bankai, even before he made the word. He uses shin'uchi, Yamamoto uses bankai. I am not sure about Oetsu. I think he's somewhat older or around the same age as Ichibe- Ichibe name everything in Soul Society, Oetsu invented the weapon of the shinigami, that is said to exist since the dawn of Soul Society. I think that they were a part of the original Gotei captains, or older, we don't really know. About Yhwach, it's really hard to know. We don't know when (or how) he was born, so we don't know. In that matter, what about Gerard Valkyrie and Pernida Parnkgjas? They are parts of the Soul King, does it mean they are as old as he is? please share your thoughts.
P.S what about Mimihagi in terms of age?