Bleach and Naruto are classic shonen titles that embody much of what makes the genre so compelling, including the protagonists learning new skills and powers from their mentors. Both Naruto Uzumaki and Ichigo Kurosaki learned vital lessons from their best teachers, Kakashi Hatake and Kisuke Urahara.
Chronologically, Naruto and Ichigo had other mentors before that, with Iruka Umino being Naruto’s academy teacher and Rukia Kuchiki showing Ichigo the ropes in Bleach before Kisuke took over. Still, Kakashi and Kisuke are both incredibly powerful fighters in their own universes and knew exactly how to bring out Naruto’s and Ichigo’s potential — but which one is the superior mentor?
How Kakashi Taught Team 7 True Shonen Lessons in Naruto
Kakashi Hatake is a popular kuudere anime character with an air of mystery about him, including his masked face and obscure background when he was first introduced in Naruto. Kakashi was vastly experienced and wielded many jutsu, including his Sharingan eye and lightning blade, but he held back for Team 7’s benefit and taught them an important lesson about friendship. He performed the bell test, daring Team 7’s genin to sacrifice one of their own so the mission could be accomplished, but the real test was more personal than that.
As a talented youth, Kakashi had coldly put duty above all friendship and personal matters so he could avoid his sentimental father Sakumo’s fate. His teammate Obito Uchiha felt differently, stating that those who abandoned their friends were even lower than the trash ninjas who defied orders. Kakashi internalized this when Obito seemingly died and Rin Nohara actually died, and he wanted to teach Team 7 the same lesson. When Sakura and Sasuke defied orders not to give Naruto their lunch during a brief break, Kakashi was impressed and gave them a passing grade.
That made Kakashi a wonderful shinobi mentor to Team 7’s genin. He was impressed, not angry, when Naruto and Sasuke defied his orders and saved him from Zabuza’s water prison. Much later, Kakashi tried using empathy and similar personal experiences to convince Sasuke to not abandon the village to get revenge on Itachi for massacring the Uchiha clan. Aside from all that, Kakashi also taught Sasuke how to perform the Chidori technique and was an exemplary jonin leader during Team 7’s missions in both Naruto and Naruto Shippuden.
How Kisuke Urahara Reforged Ichigo Kurosaki in Bleach
Ichigo learned the basics of Hollow hunting from Rukia, but the latter lacked the skills and knowledge to truly awaken Ichigo’s power, hence his weak, nameless zanpakuto in Bleach‘s first arc. After losing badly to Captain Byakuya Kuchiki, Ichigo agreed to train with Kisuke Urahara to get stronger, obtain a new zanpakuto, and storm the Soul Society to save Rukia. Kisuke obliged, pushing Ichigo to the limit with do-or-die training. He first challenged Ichigo with Ururu’s power, and even allowed the protagonist to nearly turn into a Hollow during that training.
Kisuke clashed with Ichigo nonstop, all so Ichigo could awaken Zangetsu and get used to that zanpakuto’s use. As a former Captain, kido expert and scientist, Kisuke knew exactly what he was doing — and what kind of danger Ichigo would subject himself to in the Soul Society as an intruder. Still, he respected his trainee’s wishes and even opened a portal to the Soul Society so Ichigo’s team could enter. Kisuke knew better than to coddle Ichigo or worry for him — he merely showed Ichigo the way of the warrior and gave him a fair shot at achieving his goals.
Naruto’s Kakashi vs. Bleach’s Kisuke – Who’s the Better Shonen Mentor?
Naruto‘s Kakashi and Bleach‘s Kisuke are both excellent and highly compelling shonen mentors in the “big three” era of anime, but ultimately, Kakashi is the better mentor. Like Kisuke, Kakashi is much stronger and smarter than his goofy outward persona would suggest, but the latter also has more emotional depth. Kisuke has had his share of drama and hardship, often involving Yoruichi and Aizen, but Kakashi’s emotional state and personal arc hit harder. It was fascinating to see a young, gifted Kakashi try to be a cold and efficient shinobi to distance himself from his disgraced father, only to learn vital lessons too late and become a “power of friendship” believer to honor his teammates’ memory. Kisuke had no such arc.
Kakashi also forged more meaningful connections with Team 7’s members than Kisuke did with Ichigo. While Kisuke was merely Ichigo’s coach and ally, Kakashi was highly protective of his vulnerable genin teammates and inspired them with his strength, confidence and wisdom. He transformed Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke from bratty, insecure kids into proper shinobi who could fight together as team and believe in themselves.
Like Sasuke, Kakashi had lost nearly everyone he was close to, such as his teammates, father and his own mentor Minato Namikaze, but never lost himself to hate or grief. A truly great mentor connects to their students not just in terms of skills and powers, but also emotions and what it means to be an upstanding shonen hero with a good heart.