The Gotei 13|護廷十三隊|Goteijūsantai|13 Division Imperial Guards, 13 Court Guard Squads in the English dub, 13 Court Guard Companies in the English manga}} is the organization which most Shinigami join, and one of the three main branches of military in Soul Society.
The Gotei 13 was founded-by Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, who is also the current captain-commander. It is split into thirteen divisions (hence the name), with several divisions having certain specializations. The Gotei 13 is subservient to the edicts of the Central 46 Chambers. The symbol of the Gotei 13 is a rhombus, all the 13 Divisions symbols are placed within the rhombus on the back of the Captains haori.
Officially, the Kidō Corps and Onmitsukidō are not part of the Gotei 13. However, as Soifon is both the captain of the 2nd Division and the head of the Onmitsukidō, the Onmitsukidō is effectively under Gotei 13 control. In addition, the captain of the Kidō Corps has been known to obey summons and orders from the the Captain-commander of the Gotei 13.
 General Operation
The Gotei 13, in contrast to the normal operations of modern-day militaries, does not operate as a cohesive unit normally. The command of the divisions are generally left to the discretion of its particular Captain, who commonly runs it whatever way he/she sees fit, allowing for the change of a division's traditional duties to an entirely new set and even the creation of a separate institution connected to the division. The Gotei 13's main duty is to defend the Seireitei but they are also allocated districts Rukongai to defend. In addition to these duties, Shinigami also have to deal with the business of being assigned to the Human World.
The only general authority to call forth a combined front would be that of an edict from the Central 46 Chambers, or more often the Captain-Commander. It is not uncommon for captains to not see each other as a entire group for long periods of time, except for cases involving a threat to all of the Soul Society, a captain's punishment, or to a lesser degree, a captain's promotion. On a regular basis, the captains are spread out all across the Soul Society doing their divisions' duties, whatever they may be. They are, in fact, so far spread out that getting the Captains together as a group, or even getting their lieutenants together as a group, could normally take a day to accomplish.
Unless specifically ordered by the Captain-Commander, captains can choose whether or not to attend meetings (at their own risk) or not even involve themselves in the daily situations of the Soul Society. Captains are not allowed, without permission, to carry out activities outside of their normal jurisdiction or their division. The captain of one division cannot punish the subordinates of another captain.
 Size and Recruitment
Each Division is made up of just over 200 Shinigami, with the Gotei 13's standing force being just around 3000 total enlisted troops. The Shinigami are typically recruited through the Shinigami Academy. However, it must be noted that not all graduates make it into the Gotei 13. Graduates from the Academy are required to sit an entrance exam for the Gotei 13 and only those who pass are allowed to join. The entrance exam can be taken multiple times.
As with any army, the Gotei 13 has ranks. There are 20 ranks for officers but no ranks for non-officers. The lower the number is, the higher the rank. The ranks and their descriptions are below, from highest to lowest in terms of strength.
The Captain-Commander|総隊長|Sōtaichō|Captain-Commander, Head-Captain in the English dub|viz=Captain-General}} is the leader of the Gotei 13 and currently the captain of the 1st Division. The current holder of this title is Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, who has held that post for the last 1000 years.
A Captain|隊長|Taichō|lit. Unit Commander is the leader of one of the thirteen divisions (with the special case of the Captain-Commander).
Captains are generally the most respected Shinigami within the Soul Society, with the Kidō Corps, and Onmitsukidō leaders possibly being on equal status. With one exception, all captains are able to utilize the final stage of their Zanpakutō, and are more powerful than even their lieutenants. Knowing Bankai gives captains an average of five-to-ten times the strength of Shinigami who are unable to perform it. They have also extensively-trained, if not mastered, their Bankai, allowing them to actually use the enormous power effectively in battle. Most captains are also skilled in the use of Flash Steps, Kidō, and generally have extensive knowledge of Shinigami history and battle tactics. All of these factors create a huge power-gap between captains and lower-ranked officers.
It is not commonly stated but in truth the power of the Soul Society lies in the captains of the Gotei 13, as they are the leaders of its military arm. With them at full strength Soul Society is safe and near unbeatable, if they are broken their strength dwindles making them highly vulnerable.
There are three different ways to become a Gotei 13 captain:
- Captain proficiency test|隊首|taishu: A test which requires the ability to perform Bankai. Presumably, most Shinigami become captains using this method. At least three existing captains, including the Captain-Commander, have to 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 one-on-one with at least 200 witnesses from the captain's division. Kenpachi Zaraki is the only known current captain to have achieved his rank using this method. This method is seen as being the exceedingly rarer of the three as well as the least refined. The method is commonly looked down upon by some captains as barbaric compared to the other refined methods. This method also allows one to bypass having the mastery of Bankai or other possible abilities that a captain would otherwise be required to have knowledge of, as it allows no judgement from captains who would require those skills as a prerequisite to join their ranks.
 List of Captains
|1st Division||Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto, also the Captain-Commander|
|2nd Division||Soifon, also the Commander-in-Chief of the Onmitsukidō||Yoruichi Shihōin|
|3rd Division||Shūsuke Amagai (anime-only, deceased), Gin Ichimaru, Rōjūrō Ōtoribashi|
|4th Division||Retsu Unohana|
|5th Division||Sōsuke Aizen, Seigen Suzunami (game-only, deceased), Shinji Hirako|
|6th Division||Byakuya Kuchiki||Ginrei Kuchiki|
|7th Division||Sajin Komamura||Love Aikawa|
|8th Division||Shunsui Kyōraku|
|9th Division||Kaname Tōsen (deceased), Kensei Muguruma|
|10th Division||Tōshirō Hitsugaya|
|11th Division||Kenpachi Zaraki||At least nine prior Kenpachi|
|12th Division||Mayuri Kurotsuchi, also the President of the Shinigami Research and Development Institute||Kisuke Urahara, Kirio Hikifune|
|13th Division||Jūshirō Ukitake|
A lieutenant|副隊長|fukutaichō|vice-unit commander, often translated as vice-captain|viz=Assistant Captain}} is the 2nd seated officer in a division.
Lieutenants function as executive officers for their division, taking care of or supervising day-to-day operations. They (along with their captains) are not assigned to one specific squad. They generally only know the Shikai of their Zanpakutō, but are still the second strongest in their division. In the case of a division captain's death, departure, or other circumstances making him unable to perform their duties, the lieutenant acts as the "substitute captain" until another can be assigned.
 List of Lieutenants
|2nd||Marechiyo Ōmaeda, also the Corps Commander of the Patrol Corps in the Onmitsukidō|
|4th||Isane Kotetsu||Seinosuke Yamada|
|5th||Momo Hinamori||Sōsuke Aizen, Gin Ichimaru|
|6th||Renji Abarai||Ginjirō Shirogane|
|7th||Tetsuzaemon Iba, also the President of the Shinigami Men's Association|
|8th||Nanao Ise, also the Vice-President of the Shinigami Women's Association||Lisa Yadōmaru|
|9th||Shūhei Hisagi||Mashiro Kuna|
|11th||Yachiru Kusajishi, also the President of the Shinigami Women's Association|
|12th||Nemu Kurotsuchi, also the Vice-President of the Shinigami Research and Development Institute||Hiyori Sarugaki|
|13th||There is currently no lieutenant for the 13th Division.||Kaien Shiba (deceased)|
 Seated Officers
Seated officers are the remainder of the officers in the Gotei 13 that hold ranks at or below 3rd Seat. Captains and lieutenants have the ranks of 1st and 2nd Seats, respectively. Next to that, there are 18 more seats (3rd-to-20th). These ranks are somewhat analogous to junior officers or non-commissioned officers in modern military. There seems to be a distinction between senior and junior seated officers, just like in real-life armies. In the Gotei 13, only one person can hold a senior officer rank (such as 3rd or 5th seat), but there are several holders of junior officer ranks (e.g. 20th seat). This may vary from division to division however, as there are two 3rd Seats in the 13th Division. Seated officers often lead subunits within each division (for example, Hanatarō Yamada is leader of 4th Division's 14th Advanced Relief Team).
 List of Seated Officers
|Division||3rd Seat||5th Seat||7th Seat||8th Seat||9th Seat||10th Seat||20th Seat||Former Seated Officers|
|1st||Shin'etsu Kisaragi - Former unknown-number Seat Officer (Anime-Only, Deceased)|
|2nd||Kisuke Urahara - Former 3rd Seat|
|3rd||Makoto Kibune - Former 3rd Seat (Anime-Only, Deceased)|
|4th||Yasochika Iemura||Hanatarō Yamada||Harunobu Ogidō|
|5th||Gin Ichimaru - Former 3rd Seat|
|6th||Mihane Shirogane||Kōga Kuchiki - Former 3rd Seat (Anime-Only, Deceased)|
|7th||Jirōbō Ikkanzaka - Former 4th Seat|
|9th||Toshimori Umesada, and 15 others||Heizō Kasaki - Former 3rd Seat (Deceased) |
Shinobu Eishima - Former 4th Seat (Deceased)
Kaname Tōsen - Former 5th Seat (Deceased)
Todō Gizaeimon - Former 6th Seat (Deceased)
|11th||Ikkaku Madarame||Yumichika Ayasegawa||Makizō Aramaki||Renji Abarai - Former 6th Seat |
Tetsuzaemon Iba - Former unknown-number Seat Officer
Maki Ichinose - Former unknown-number Seat Officer (Anime-Only, Deceased)
|12th||Mayuri Kurotsuchi - Former 3rd Seat|
|Miyako Shiba - Former 3rd Seat (Deceased)|
 Gate Guardians
- Jidanbō Ikkanzaka - The keeper of the West Gate.
- Hikonyūtō - The keeper of the South Gate.
- Danzōmaru - The keeper of the North Gate.
- Kaiwan - The keeper of the East Gate.
This is a list of unseated Shinigami and (if known) their respective divisions.
- Rikichi - Shinigami of the 6th Division
- Rin Tsubokura - Shinigami of the 12th Division.
- Hiyosu - Shinigami of the 12th Division.
- Akon - Shinigami of the 12th Division.
- Rukia Kuchiki - Unseated Shinigami of the 13th Division due to her brother's influence, but powerful enough to qualify as a seated officer
- Zennosuke Kurumadani - Rukia's replacement as watcher of Karakura Town, his Division number and rank is unknown.
- Ashido Kanō - A Shinigami that was stranded in Menos Forest of Hueco Mundo (Anime-Only)
- Senna - A character in Bleach: Memories of Nobody
- Eikichirō Saidō - A Shinigami sent to find Rukia (Anime-Only)
- Ran'Tao - Leader of the research team that created the Bounts (Anime-Only)
- Baishin - A former Shinigami and the antagonist in the OVA The Sealed Sword Frenzy (Anime-Only, Deceased)
- Ganryū - Leader of The Dark Ones in Bleach: Memories of Nobody (Movie - only, Deceased)
- Sōjirō Kusaka - The main antagonist in Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion (Movie - only,Deceased)
- Matsuri Kudō - A Shinigami of the 5th Division (Video game-Only)
- Fujimaru Kudō - A Shinigami of the 5th Division (Video game-Only)
 Division Speciality
It has been shown that the 13 divisions may each specialize in a certain area, but only a few division and their respective specialities have been made known.
|1st||No special duties have been noted for the 1st Division, other than their captain being the Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13.|
|2nd||The 2nd Division is closely tied to the Onmitsukidō, with many members holding positions in both units. As a result, many members of the 2nd Division are skilled in the use of Hakuda, stealth and assassination.|
|3rd||No special duties have been noted for the 3rd Division.|
|4th||The 4th Division is the medical/supply division. They are responsible for both treating the injured and doing most manual labor such as cleaning Seireitei. Because of this, they have keys to most of the buildings and know the underground sewer system well. According to various members of the 11th Division, 4th Division members are rather weak at combat instead using their power to heal. The 4th Division is further divided into teams that have specific assigned jobs.|
|5th||No special duties have been noted for the 5th Division.|
|6th||No special duties have been noted for the 6th division.|
|7th||No special duties have been noted for the 7th Division.|
|8th||No special duties have been noted for the 8th Division.|
|9th||The 9th Division is known to be in charge of the Seireitei Communication monthly magazine. All the lieutenants of the Divisions of Gotei 13 hand in their report to them.|
|10th||No special duties have been noted for the 10th Division.|
|11th||The Eleventh Division is the melee combat Division with a specialization in swords-only combat, forgoing the other Shinigami arts. It is mentioned that it is tradition for the current Kenpachi, the title held by the best swordsman in Soul Society, to hold the position of Eleventh Division Captain. The current captain Kenpachi Zaraki is known for his thirst for fighting.|
|12th||Other than the 12th Division's connection to the Shinigami Research and Development Institute, no special duties have been noted for the 12th Division. Members are tasked with research and collection of data and samples, and the captain is the President of the R&D Institute.|
|13th||No special duties have been noted for the 13th Division.|
Each of the 13 divisions in Gotei 13 have their own symbol that represents the division's primary role, which all seem to be based on flowers. When a power limit is placed on a captain or lieutenant, their symbol appears on a certain part of their body until the limit is lifted. Each symbol also has a specific meaning.
|1st||Chrysanthemums||Truth and Innocence|
|4th||Bellflower||Those Who Grieve Are Loved|
|5th||Lily of the Valley||Sacrifice, Danger, Pure Love, Humility, Sweetness|
|8th||Bird of Paradise||Everything is Obtained|
|12th||Thistle||Vengeance, Strictness, Independence|
Most Gotei 13 personnel wear the standard Shinigami uniform, called Shihakushō|死覇装||Garment of Dead Souls - a white shitagi, a black kosode, a black hakama, a white hakama-himo, white tabi, and waraji. The black hakama also has its owner's division insignia emblazoned on the inside, though it does not appear to have any significant reasoning other than minor security authorization. Lieutenants sometimes also wear an armband which carries their division symbol and its number, usually on their left arm. They are required to do this when they are summoned to a meeting but apart from this it seems that it is rarely compulsory; at the time the series takes place, the use of the armbands was noted to have fallen out of fashion.
Captains wear a white haori over the usual black Shinigami clothes, with the number of their division on the back, inside the Gotei 13 symbol (a rhombus). Some captains have long sleeves, while the others do not. It also seems that the color of the underside is division-, or at least captain-specific, as every captain has a different color of it.
 Captain's Haori Underside Colors
Below is the list of colors by captain:
- Yamamoto - Royal purple
- Soifon - Orange
- Yoruichi - Orange
- Ichimaru - Light green
- Amagai - Light green
- Ōtoribashi - Light green
- Unohana - Grayish pink
- Aizen - Light green
- Hirako - Light green
- Suzunami - Emerald green
- Byakuya - Blue
- Ginrei - Blue
- Komamura - Brown
- Love - Brown
- Kyōraku - Dark pink
- Tōsen - Tan
- Kensei - Tan
- Hitsugaya - Dark green
- Zaraki - Deep purple
- Kurotsuchi - Dark green
- Urahara - Olive green 
- Ukitake - Red
 Uniform Customization
Gotei 13 officers, particularly captains and lieutenants, often customize their personal appearance or that of their uniform. Some of these modifications include:
- Captain Soifon of the 2nd Division wears a sleeveless and backless Shinigami outfit (when she is fighting) under her haori, which is standard issue for the head of the Onmitsukidō. She also wears a yellow sash a layer above, but slightly lower than her white one.
- Captain Retsu Unohana of the 4th Division wears an obi sash rather than a standard one.
- Captain Byakuya Kuchiki of the 6th Division wears an extremely expensive scarf named ginpaku kazahana no uzuginu and a white ceremonial hairpiece called kenseikan, symbolizing his noble lineage.
- Captain Sajin Komamura of the 7th Division wears shoulder guards over his haori and large gloves which go up to his arms. He also wore a helmet to hide his appearance, but he later removed it.
- Captain Shunsui Kyōraku of the 8th Division is probably the most flamboyantly dressed of the captains, always seen wearing a straw hat and a gaudily-colored kimono over his uniform.
- Captain Kaname Tōsen formerly of the 9th Division wears an orange scarf with his outfit, a sleeveless kosode as well as white boots.
- Captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya of the 10th Division wears a green sash pinned with a star around his shoulder to hold his sword.
- Captain Kenpachi Zaraki of the 11th Division wears a jagged edged haori, which was taken from the previous captain.
- Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi of the 12th Division wears a bloated purple cravat and a hat decorated with two horizontal spikes, he later changes the hat.
- Lieutenant Chōjirō Sasakibe of the 1st Division wears a jinbaori over his Shihakushō.
- Lieutenant Shūhei Hisagi of the 9th Division wears a sleeveless kosode and black choker.
- Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto of the 10th Division wears a top that is deliberately loose and hangs open to reveal her ample bosom. She also wears a pink scarf (or stole), and wears her lieutenant's badge around her waist with her sash, tied in a bow.
- Lieutenant Nemu Kurotsuchi of the 12th Division has a very abbreviated outfit: the hakama is absent, leaving her with a mini-skirt version of the kosode that is belted at the waist.
- All known members of the 9th Division, excluding Mashiro Kuna and Toshimori Umesada, wear kosode without sleeves, including the former captains.