In my previous Bleach post, I talked about what drew me to the awesome story that is Bleach. In this post, I am going to be talking about the awesome moments that stuck with me in both the anime and the manga. I am going to say that I wasn’t going to read the manga until the show came back and for a while there… things looked bleak. As a result, when I would tell people that I was waiting, I always got a weird look. I tried to draw it out on purpose. If I didn’t finish the manga, then it wasn’t over. (I know the logic is flawed, but that was me grasping at straws.) I had my friend (who turned me onto Bleach say… the story is over… no matter how long you hold onto it…. It is still over. He is so mean.) Through reading, I was able to relive some of my favorite moments from Bleach… and even add some new ones to the list.
This is a list of the moments that I enjoyed in the show… what I was thinking and feeling at the time of taking it in and possibly how I feel looking back on it. It is Bleach, so it might get a little long-winded. If you don’t see a moment here you like… feel free to drop something in the comments. So in no particular order… Let’s jump in.
- Ichigo vs. Ulquiorra (Final Fight) – Here is a rematch that I found to be interesting because we saw both Ichigo and Ulquiorra take on beast-like forms. Throughout most of the fight, Ulquiorra has the upper hand having transformed into his release second Resurrección, an ability that he hasn’t even shown to Aizen… Ulquiorra blasts a hole in Ichigo’s chest and leaving him for dead… (Poor Orihime… having to watch her man be taken out like that.) She rushes over, looking to help him and desperately begs Ichigo for help. Somewhere in Ichigo’s soul, he, acknowledging Orihime’s cries, orders himself to get up and protect Orihime. With that command, his body is re-animated: not in his original form, but in a new Hollow form. THE VASTO LORDE! I was thinking… damn… everyone gets out of the way.
It then becomes a clash of the titans if you will. Ulquiorra is at a loss for words at how Ichigo is still alive, and really I was too. I mean, in the Hueco Mundo Arc alone, he was dead or close to death at least twice. Now, this new form of Ichigo’s gives us a brief glimpse of his latent powers. It is no wonder he fears his inner Hollow taking control. He doesn’t talk or respond to his friends. He just goes on a murderous rampage against Ulquiorra. He even stabs Uryu in the gut. In the end… Ulquiorra dies from his injuries, and that was mindblowing to me. Basically tore him apart.
The startled way Ichigo looks when he comes back to is chilling. He had no recollection of the events at all, and it was sad to watch him try and piece together what he had done. (I wasn’t sorry that Ulquiorra was dead though.)
- Ichigo’s first Bankai / Ichigo vs. Byakuya – (You’ll have to forgive me… I watch these scenes a lot…) Everyone who has watched or read Bleach at some point remembers the moment when Ichigo unleashed his Bankai against Byakuya for the first time. It was EPIC. There is actually a lot that happens in this fight. We saw that Ichigo only trained 3 days for Bankai (Like Kisuke did. As it can take soul reapers 100s of years.), and we couldn’t wait to see how his Bankai was going to match with Byakuya’s Senbonzakura. We were not disappointed… (well, at least I wasn’t). We also see the first time Ichigo’s inner Hollow comes out. (Apparently, he wasn’t feeling Byakuya.) Ichigo comes at the man with everything, including the kitchen sink. (He has to because it is Rukia’s life on the line.) Byakuya is a proud man and doesn’t believe anyone like Ichigo could have a Bankai. Boy, was he wrong. Byakuya, not believing him, looks on in disbelief as Ichigo activates his Bankai, Tensa Zangetsu.
Just know that the color spreads for this fight… WERE EPIC.
The battle rages on from that point on. There is nothing better than when the MC gets in a little close and personal with their opponent. While Byakuya is busy assessing Ichigo’s Bankai… Ichigo closes the distance between them in the blink of an eye and puts the tip of his blade to Byakuya’s throat. (I was internally cheering…) It was a sight to behold. Especially the look on Byakuya’s face… screams that no one should be able to do this. And I enjoy it way too much.
Byakuya loses some of the advantages that come from his Shikai, and Ichigo becomes so fast that Senbonzakura Kageyoshi is unable to keep up with him. It was entertaining for me to watch Ichigo run circles around him. (He is a cocky bastard, and I love it.) Behold the power of Tensa Zangetsu.
Byakuya claims that he can use his hands to makes his blades fly faster, only to be cut down by Ichigo and Tensa Zangetsu. Poor Guy. You can tell that Byakuya is not used to people being able to dodge his blade and is at a loss for what to do.
In the end, it is when Byakuya unleashes his Bankai that Ichigo is really in trouble. At this point, Byakuya has figured out Tensa Zangetsu’s power and notes that Ichigo is moving slower. Byakuya stabs Ichigo in the foot and is preparing to deliver the finishing blow. Still, it’s Ichigo’s inner Hollow that stops the attack and mainly scares the shit out of Byakuya. Especially when Ichigo and his inner Hollow fight for control. I remember thinking (DAMN… That could be awesome or this could detrimental for my boy.)
- Gin’s Death – To this day, I have no clue how to feel about his death. (It was a murder. Damn that Aizen.) Gin was a character that took me on an emotional rollercoaster because you never knew where his loyalties lie. (Ambiguous characters are interesting because I can’t predict anything about them.) Gin is no different. Gin is a very mysterious man. He has this weird smile and weird eyes that almost make him look snake-like and also makes it very difficult to discern his thoughts. Many find his demeanor and appearance rather unsettling, and there are very few who were willing to trust him even before he was revealed as a traitor. The issue is that we don’t really get his story until the end of the Arrancar arc. (Like finding out what happened to Kisuke. More on that later.) When Aizen shows his real character, Gin is among those side with him and leave the Soul Society. No one takes it harder than Rangiku, who had known him as a child. In the end, we learned that he intentionally got close to Aizen to kill him many years ago. When he and Rangiku get a chance to talk about his betrayal, he fights her and leaves her for “dead.” (You find out later that his motivation for getting close to Aizen was the way Aizen had attacked her when she was a child.) His plan backfires with Aizen seeing the attack coming and killing Gin in return. Poor Rangiku. I was sad for her, mostly. The man she knew (and loved) was looked at as a traitor to the Soul Society, and there is not a person that she can talk to about how she feels.
- Kisuke’s Backstory – This was a classic piece of Kubo storytelling. It is excellent how each character is woven together. I enjoy having a passing thought about a character or event and then not getting the answer until later… (well after I have forgotten about it.) Kisuke is introduced as the owner of a convenience store that specializes in Soul Reaper items. (Should have been my first clue.) Kisuke is somewhat mysterious and deceptively intelligent. You never really know what he is thinking or planning. That’s why he will always be the most dangerous character to me. He can make people do his bidding. (Luckily, he is on our side.) When training Ichigo to head into the Soul Society, Ichigo incorrectly assumes that he can beat Kisuke because Kisuke is not a Soul Reaper. Kisuke reveals that he is, in fact, a Soul Reaper and that he will kill Ichigo if the boy doesn’t get serious about the training. Now… learning that Kisuke was a Soul Reaper wasn’t shocking… He had a lot of knowledge that an average person shouldn’t have… I do remember thinking, ‘I wonder why he spends his time in the real world.’ But the story carried on, and I pushed that thought to the back of my mind.
The kicker comes when they FINALLY reveal what happened to Kisuke. I was blown away to learn his role at the Soul Society and how his clash with Aizen landed him where we meet him at the beginning of the show/story. (I REPEAT BLOWN AWAY.) His backstory starts off with Kisuke becoming the new Captain of the Soul Society’s 12th Division. (So not only was he a soul reaper but he was a captain of soul reapers!) He is not well received because he is perceived to be a flake. We also learn that Urahara was head of the Onmitsukidō’s Detention Unit.
It is essentially him that transforms the 12th Division in the Research and Development department, which is met with hostility and derision mostly by his lieutenant Hiyori. Hiyori is loyal to the 12th Division’s former Captain, so she annoyed the shit out of me by not accepting or acknowledging Kisuke. (It is interesting to note that after everything unfolds… the Soul Society is entirely dependent on the 12th Division’s research in the present.) He is also responsible for removing Mayuri from the Maggot’s Nest. (Interesting when you know that it is Mayuri that takes over as Captain of the 12th once Kisuke leaves. What sets the ball in motion is 9 years later when Urahara was told by Shinji and Lieutenant Sōsuke Aizen (the bad guy) about a series of strange disappearances that had taken place within the Soul Society. Kisuke is talked into letting Hiyori help investigate, and it all culminates with Aizen being revealed to be testing out how to merge Soul Reapers with Hollow… a process called hollowification… With several captains and lieutenant, including Shinji, Kensei, and Hiyori, falling victim. There is no way to reverse the process…(More on that later.) Aizen is able to make it look as though the whole thing was Kisuke’s doing, and it is Kisuke who ends up taking the fall. He is swiftly tried, with no opportunity to defend himself. Kisuke was sentenced to be stripped of his Shinigami powers and exiled to the Human World. He is saved from that punishment by Yoruichi, who helps him escape. Kisuke, Tessai, and the eight Hollowfied victims escape to the Human World, where he is able to stabilize the victims but not undo the process. In the end, he opens the shop and eventually meets up with Kurosaki. I think though… If I was Kisuke… I would have watched the Soul Society crumble after they turned their back on me.
- Ichigo meets White Ichigo – Ichigo meeting his inner Hollow gives new meaning to wrestling with your inner demons. (yes, I know who he really is. But gotta leave something for those who haven’t finished the manga.) Hollow Ichigo’s relationship with Ichigo represents the phrase “two sides of the same coin,” or (more appropriately) the philosophical concept of yin and yang. He is not like other hollows in the series, he is not the villain of the piece. He actually spends his time making Ichigo a better fighter. Although it is Hollow Ichigo’s presence that causes turmoil within Ichigo’s emotional state. (He wants to be ‘normal,’ and he doesn’t want to be shunned by his friends when they find out.)
Hollow Ichigo comes across as a very sadistic person with an insatiable appetite for battle. (Zaraki anyone?) He is the opposite of Ichigo in that during a fight, he often grins and laughs maniacally. Though he and Ichigo reside in the same soul, he refers to Ichigo as “king,” since Ichigo is the dominant person. He saves Ichigo’s life on a few occasions… (See Ichigo vs. Byakuya.) He makes it known on several occasions that he is just waiting for Ichigo to slip up so that he can take over control and do what he wants.
Hollow Ichigo makes his debut in Ichigo’s conscience after Ichigo receives a fatal blow in his fight with Kenpachi Zaraki. (More on that fight later.) Zangetsu, testing Ichigo’s faith in him, has him fight Hollow Ichigo using a regular katana while Hollow Ichigo gets to use Zangetsu. That cut deep. I actually thought Ichigo was forging an exceptional alliance with Zangetsu, which clearly wasn’t happening. Hollow Ichigo quickly overpowers Ichigo with Zangetsu. He criticized Ichigo for failing to strengthen his relationship with Zangetsu and relying too much on his own strength. (Soul Reapers are supposed to work together with their Zanpakutō, which can only happen if both parties trust and respect one another.) He berates Ichigo for not taking the time to get to know his Zanpakutō. This causes Ichigo to realize that he had indeed neglected his sword, much like Zaraki had. In the end, Ichigo is given another chance and returns to the fight with Zaraki with renewed understanding. The fun part was watching Ichigo try to fend of Hollow Ichigo from taking over during a battle. It was an exciting concept that is later turned on its head. (Also more on that later.)
- The Visoreds help train Ichigo – This is a fun one mostly because the Visored thought that Ichigo’s inner Hollow was a joke. They were shown pretty quickly what the deal was. (I watch this scene a lot to laugh if I am having a bad day.) The Visoreds are Soul Reapers that have obtained hollow powers. (Remember the group of Soul Reapers that Aizen hollowified and blamed Kisuke for…? Yep. Here they are.) Visoreds are the result of when a Hollow enters the soul of a Soul Reaper and merges with their Zanpakutō. They, like Kisuke, were deemed traitors and meant to be destroyed but instead prove to be immensely helpful with helping Ichigo control his inner Hollow. The Visored being the only people who have had experience in this area. Since they started out as Soul Reapers, they actually look like ordinary Soul Reapers except when tapping into their hollow powers. To gain access to their Hollow powers, a Visored 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 more generic Hollow abilities.
Ichigo discovers that there are others like him when he notices Shinji take down a hollow in Karakura town. Shinji tries to convince Ichigo to join their group, saying that only he can teach Ichigo how to control his Hollow form 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. (He starts hearing his inner Hollow in his mind. That would freak anyone out.) When the training starts, Hiyori pushes Ichigo to use his Bankai, which he doesn’t want to do as he is afraid of losing control. (His inner Hollow is a constant state of emotional turmoil for our young hero. But I will touch more on that when I get to the Ichigo vs. Grimmjow part of our countdown.) Hiyori (even though she was getting on my nerves) was trying to goad him into changing so they all could see what they were dealing with. She begins attacking him with her mask, and Ichigo wonders how she can remain in control since he hasn’t been able to. As darkness covers his eyes, his Hollow, emerging, grabs Hiyori’s throat, breaking part of her mask, and starts choking her. (The Darkness was a wonderful touch by Kubo… I always love to watch him try to remain in control, and also I loved to see when his Hollow would feel the need to make an appearance.)
I was somewhat satisfied because Hiyori was talking a lot of shit… But she almost pissed herself when Hollow Ichigo does finally show himself. Luckily, the rest of her crew is there to help her. Springing into action, the other Visoreds pin Ichigo to the ground and break off Ichigo’s mask releasing the Hollows hold on him. Shinji tells Ichigo, who has regained control, he cannot control his inner Hollow with just his body and willpower alone. In the end, they force Ichigo back into his consciousness to have it out with his hollow. Ichigo is able to subdue the inner Hollow and they are able to coexist.
- Aizen vs Ichigo – Many people have told me it was anti-climatic. But for me, it showed Ichigo being a badass. There was no fear. He is cool, calm, and collected as he battles Aizen. My only wish is that it could have lasted longer. He shows up just in time as Aizen was getting ready to hunt down all his friends. Aizen had already killed Gin. Ichigo shows up with his dad, he is taller, has longer hair (from his time in the Dangai. In case you all were wondering, I approve of the long hair.) and tells his friends to stay where they are. Poor Aizen had been terrorizing out heroes since the very beginning. So it was interesting to watch him at a loss finally. He struggles to figure out where Ichigo’s strength is coming from. It starts with the facepalm heard around the world.
Aizen spends much of the fight trying to figure out what Ichigo has done to make himself formidable. (The last time Aizen met Ichigo on the battlefield, our hero was shook. Scared into doing nothing.) That is not what you see here. Ichigo gives Aizen a run for his money. Aizen claims that Ichigo’s newfound power is nothing more than just physical enhancement. He points out that Ichigo is still far from being able to reach him. It would have been believable if Ichigo didn’t continue to show him up. What I remember is back when Ichigo first tried to attack Aizen…. And everyone laughed because his music was stopped… Here… Ichigo returns the favor.
Ichigo asks Aizen what he is so surprised about and if he is scared of seeing something he cannot understand or comprehend before his eyes. (Detached Ichigo is my fave.) Ichigo is finally tired of the games and decides to activate the Final Getsuga Tenshō. As Ichigo initiates the technique, Aizen expresses surprise at the new form he has taken. Ichigo reveals he will lose all of his Soul Reaper powers if he uses this technique. Enraged, Aizen states such a thing is impossible because a mere Human cannot surpass him. When the activation of Mugetsu is complete, it gets dark immediately. Surrounded by the darkness, Aizen plummets to the ground below. As the darkness dissipates, Ichigo realizes that his powers are already disappearing, but Aizen’s Zanpakutō begins to disintegrate. Aizen is sealed away by the spell that Kisuke hid within his body. (I have a super soft spot for Kisuke and I was totally in with the fact that he had something to do with the “end” of Aizen. What stands out to me is that he doesn’t shy away from the final technique even though he knew what the consequences were.
- Ikkaku’s Bankai – Ikkaku really admires his Captain (Zaraki) and that is why is he in the 11th Division. He is rude and cocky at times but there is nothing better than when he poses as a high school student at Karakura High School. Ikkaku considers fighting fun and tries to get as much fun as he can out of it as he can, even taking deadly risks to drag out fights for as long as possible. He limits his skills in order to make fights last longer. It is understood that anyone who knows Bankai should be either a Lieutenant or Captain. After Aizen’s betrayal, he is asked by Renji to take the empty 5th Division Captain position. (Being as though he is the only other person who can use Bankai.) Ikkaku lets it be known he has no intention of telling anyone besides him (Renji) and Yumichika he is capable of Bankai. He plans to fight and die under Zaraki just as Renji plans to surpass Byakuya. When Grimmjow leads his first attack on the World of the Living, Ikkaku is left to fight one of Grimmjow’s Fracción. As the two fight, the Arrancar tells him if this is all he can do with his Zanpakutō, it would serve better as a waist ornament. (Rude.) Trying to goad him, the Arrancar states a Soul Reaper who refuses to release his Zanpakutō is a shame. I remember thinking if Ikkaku was ever going to reveal what his Bankai is. When the fight is taken to the sky, Ikkaku releases his Shikai, but the Arrancar smashes him into the ground, leaving a crater around him.
Withstanding the blow, Ikkaku lets him know that there was never a difference in their power. The funny thing was Ikkaku swearing the Arrancar to secrecy, before activating the Bankai. And I mean it is as great as I thought it would be.
As Ikkaku puts all of his strength into one final attack, the Arrancar does the same, and both fighters collide in a large explosion. Thank goodness he survived. I wondered after the Bankai was revealed, how he managed to keep that a secret. Ikkaku’s Bankai breaks into pieces, and he falls to the ground below, followed by his opponent, who has lost his left arm and the left side of his abdomen. Arrancars know how to gloat too soon. Oh well.
- Yamamoto’s Last Stand – Another manga development that blew my mind. Yamaji is the quintessential anime old man. He is not to be played with. He could have destroyed Shunsui and Ukitake. He was the Captain of the First Division and also the Captain-Commander of the whole Gotei 13. Yamamoto is highly respected by most of the Soul Reaper. Yamamoto follows the laws and regulations of Soul Society to the letter and expects the same of others. He is not a man to tolerate insubordination and is vocal with those who attempt to act in such a manner. There were a few times that I disagreed with Yamaji but he is fair and can be counted on. He had a badass Bankai.
But when Ywach comes along, Yamaji finally looks as though he has been given a run for his money. The Sternritters invade the Soul Society Mayuri points out that the current state of affairs was because Yamaji failed to kill “that man” when he had the chance. Ywach finally brings out his sword against Yamaji… and Yamaji responds by activating his Bankai. It is a sword with a tremendous flame. So bad that across the Seireitei our resident ice king, Tōshirō Hitsugaya, notices his ice melting and the water disappearing from the atmosphere. Tōshirō goes onto state that Yamaji must be using his Bankai since Tōshirō can no longer use his own. (No wonder Yamaji hadn’t used his Bankai until now. People had a hard time seeing let alone breathing. Dangerous.) No one was more surprised than me when Yamaji calls forth a seemingly endless undead army.
Yamamoto destroyed Ywach and is preparing to leave when he realizes the opponent he fought was an imitating Sternritter. The true Ywach shows up saying he had been down at Central 46 talking to Aizen to see if he could persuade him to join the Sternritters. As Yhwach waves his sword, a large sword made of spiritual energy falls from the sky. Bidding Yamamoto farewell, Yhwach attacks him. Yamamoto dies and I must say out of all the characters that could have died, I was not ready for this. (No matter how old he was.) Like he was supposedly the most powerful in the Soul Society… Yamaji was put down early in the arc. What the heck were the Soul Reapers supposed to do now? It cut me deeper because we were made to believe that he was winning.
- Not Zangetsu? – Here is a plot twist that shows up late in the manga. And I am mostly annoyed that I did not see this coming because the information is all there from the very beginning. (It is the most unsettling that when reading a story and you think you know something as a fact only to find out you are so totally wrong in the end.) In the beginning, Ichigo meets the Old man… who calls himself Zangetsu and, we, like Ichigo believe that he is the Soul Reaper’s Zanpakutō spirit while White Ichigo is his inner hollow. No one was more shocked than me when Ichigo learns the truth. (Insert GASP here.) During the Thousand Year Blood War, when his Zanpakutō is destroyed. The blade of Tensa Zangetsu is broken by Jugram Haschwalth. (I felt the despair in Ichigo’s eyes right here.)
To have a new sword forged, Ichigo and Renji travel to the Soul King Palace. There they are healed by the hot springs and then taken to Ōetsu Nimaiya’s palace, where he and Renji are forced to fight the Asauchi ( Zanpakutō of low-ranking Shinigami are called Asauchi and do not have names.) in order to have their Zanpakutō reforged. Three days later, Ichigo has failed to defeat the Asauchi and is sent back to the Human World by Nimaiya. After learning about his mother being a Quincy, and how she really died, Ichigo returns to Ōetsu Nimaiya’s palace where he finally chooses a new Zanpakutō. Ichigo watches as Nimaiya’s bodyguards help him forge Ichigo’s new Zanpakutō. When he questions Nimaiya about the nature of his forging, Ichigo learns the being who claimed to be Zangetsu is actually his Quincy powers and heavily resembles Yhwach from 1000 years ago. (When Ywach showed up on the scene, I thought… he looks familiar but I just thought it was a coincidence.) In Ichigo’s inner world, he demands answers from the old man… who we all believed was Zangetsu. In the end, he is told… the old man never told Ichigo his name was Zangetsu… and never was involved in any of this sword training… (White Ichigo ALWAYS DID THAT.) The old man reveals that Hollow Ichigo is his true Zanpakutō who Ichigo had been suppressing. Imagine my dismay to go back in my mind to when Ichigo was asking White Ichigo…. “Where is Zangetsu?” and getting the reply of… “What do you mean? I am Zangetsu?” We were told over and over again… but we didn’t listen. In the end, Ichigo gets two new blades. He now acknowledges both his Quincy powers and the real Zangetsu as being his Zanpakutō.
- Kisuke’s Bankai – The ever-mysterious Kisuke has a Bankai… and that was known from the beginning. Ichigo is told that Kisuke developed a technique to learn Bankai in 3 days. He tested it out on himself first. So it wasn’t a secret. However, people (me) wanted to know what his Bankai was; what did it do? Interestingly enough I am not sure I even understood how his Shikai worked. Benihime is Kisuke’s crimson princess.
The Thousand-Year Blood War arc sees Kisuke back in the Soul Society working with Mayuri… having figured out how to recover stolen Bankai. Kisuke and a group of Soul Reapers reach the upper city and are confronted by Gerard Valkyrie. Kisuke departs from the group as they battle Gerard and heals the fallen Grimmjow. He ends up helping Yoruichi (that’s his wife.) He appears behind Yoruichi as she is being cornered by Askin Nakk Le Vaar, injecting an immunity strengthening drug into her rear end. (Askin can perfectly calculate the “absolute lethal dose” of any substance he consumes – the amount that will cause death without fail – and raise or lower that value as he sees fit, causing a lethal dosage of that substance.) At one point Askin attacks Kisuke and Kisuke loses both of his eyes. ( Like what the heck.) This prompts Kisuke to release his Bankai. Most of the Sternritter have intel already on certain Captain’s Bankai. Who don’t they have intel on? Kisuke. Kisuke will claim that it is his first time using it in front of the Quincy… but here we are at the end of the saga that is Bleach and I am just now learning what it does. (In the end, Kisuke is more of a thinker so it made sense to keep this a secret as much as possible.) Askin’s arm is suddenly split open. Kisuke praises him for realizing that his Bankai has a range before revealing that its power is to restructure anything it touches as the hands repair his eyes.
My immediate thought after reading this was when Sado wanted Kisuke to train him… Kisuke pushes it off on Renji because “his Bankai is not fit to train other people.” Of course, he was right.
- The First Kenpachi – This has to be one of the biggest plot twists for me. It occurs in the manga and I can’t wait to see it animated. Mostly because when we first meet Unohana is she the Captain of the 4th Division. The 4th Division is the medical/supply division. They are responsible for both treating the injured and doing most of the manual labor, such as cleaning the Seireitei. Unohana was the Soul Society’s best healer. She has a gentle and warm personality and is a soft-spoken, polite, and caring woman. Her character seems to be the exact opposite of Kenpachi Zaraki. But it is revealed during the Thousand Year Blood War Arc that she was the First ever Kenpachi. (MIND BLOWN. It also explains why people are so shook about her aura.) At some point, Shunsui meets with Central 46 and explains that she will be in charge of teaching Zaraki Zanjutsu, calling her the first Kenpachi.
All of the facts surrounding this character threw me for a loop. Unohana was known as the most diabolical criminal to ever exist in Soul Society. Yamamoto sought her out and she joined him, becoming one of the founding members of the Gotei 13. Unohana laid the foundations of what would be known as the 11th Division (Of which Zaraki later becomes the Captain) and became its first captain, as well as the first Kenpachi. The manga shows that sometime after becoming a captain, she took a mission to eliminate the warriors on the edges of Rukongai. Having lost interest in fighting, Unohana wandered from place to place in search of something that would please her sword and came across a young boy who would one day be known as Kenpachi Zaraki. Attacking her on sight, the boy was able to injure her, causing the woman to once again enjoy fighting. However, despite being the one left standing at the conclusion of their battle, she realized he was stronger and was better suited to become Kenpachi. In the end, Zaraki and Unohana do battle with deadly intent. Zaraki is meant to become more powerful and he does after he kills Unohana. (I will say if I had a million guesses, I would have never come up with that story for her.) I have reread the manga twice now and while there were small clues, there was no way anyone would have guessed this.
- Regaining his Soul Reaper powers – This is where a lot of people complain about the manga/show. The fullbring arc is where Ichigo deals with a lot of emotional issues and for some people that is not fast-paced enough for readers or viewers. After the battle with Aizen, he is left with no spiritual power or awareness. He has a lot of emotional baggage stemming from his mother’s death. (Or at this point what he thinks he knows about his mother’s death.) The big thing becoming being able to protect his family and friends, and never having to experience another loss like his mother’s. Unfortunately for our hero, that causes him to trust some not very trustworthy characters. Ginjō tries to recruit Ichigo who initially turns him down. Ginjō alludes to the fact that there is a lot about his family and Kisuke that he doesn’t know. (Kisuke is very mysterious.) Ginjō states that Ichigo should take precautions while he still can. After Uryū is attacked, (by Ginjō, which Ichigo doesn’t know.) Ichigo allows himself to be trained by Ginjō’s gang. (Xcution.) It helped that Sado was there as well. Ginjō explains who and what full bringers are. (spiritually-aware humans born with the ability Fullbring, which allows them to manipulate the souls that reside in all physical matter. They differ from the Visoreds in that they each have a parent who survived a Hollow attack before they were born. As a result, traces of the Hollows’ power remained in their mothers’ bodies, which were then passed onto them at the moment of their birth. As a result, their powers more closely resemble a Hollow’s than those of a Soul Reaper.)
Kūgo explains that they wish to rid themselves of their unpleasant powers. He states that over the years of gathering Fullbringers, they realized that they can transfer their powers to a person who has the powers of both a human and a Soul Reaper. By giving their powers, some of their old allies were able to become normal humans. They want Ichigo to regain his Soul Reaper powers so they can become human again. Something about their want to help him regain his soul reaper powers did not sit right with me. Tsukishima shows up to Orihime’s claiming to have attacked Uryu. When Orihime goes to use her powers, he attacks her from behind and slices through her body with Book of the End, leaving no visible wound. Later, he barges into the Xcution hideout to stir up trouble. Ginjō seems surprised and the two come to blows and Ichigo jumps in to help defend Ginjō. As everyone leaves, Tsukishima attacks Sado, piercing him, but leaving no mark. When Ichigo returns home from his training, Yuzu (his sister) confronts him at the door and says they have a surprise guest. She takes him to the room that the guest is waiting in and tells Ichigo it is cousin Shū and Ichigo is horrified because he is staring at Tsukishima. (When I tell you guys, I screamed. This man has manipulated Ichigo’s friends and family.)
Tsukishima greets the shocked Ichigo and says it has been a while. His sister says she bets Ichigo is totally surprised as they have not seen him since Grandpa Rin’s funeral and it brings back memories. When Ichigo attacks, his friends and family chide him and side with the villain. Orihime and Sado even jump in and oppose him. In the end, both Tsukishima and Ginjō reveal that they teamed up. Ginjō reveals that it was really he who attacked Uryu and he stabs Ichigo in the chest stealing his fullbring. When Ginjō withdraws his blade from Ichigo’s chest, Ichigo’s fullbring disappears. Ichigo is left thinking about how hard it was for him to go seventeen months without any power, and when he thought he found a way, he was so happy he could protect his friends again. When a distraught (and I do mean distraught.) Ichigo asks Ginjō to give his power back, Ginjō states it was the power he gave to Ichigo, and it belongs to him. (You can feel the heartbreak here, and you know that Ichigo has been grasping at straws, pretending to be okay with having no powers.)
Ginjō gloats a bit too early though, he is ridiculed by a group of Soul Reapers who suddenly arrive and explain that they all gave their Reiatsu to restore Ichigo’s power. Rukia stabs Ichigo in the back to restore his power. Rukia explains that it was impossible for him to steal Ichigo’s Soul Reaper powers. Ichigo then begins to fight Kūgo.
- Ichigo vs. Grimmjow (Final Fight) – This is easily my favorite fight of the series. Mostly because it is laden with emotional turmoil, and it gave me Ichigo/Orihime moment that I wanted. The rivalry between Ichigo and Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez is one of the most intense. In preparation for their third and final battle, Grimmjow pulls all the stops to make sure he and Ichigo can fight at their full strength. There is a lot that goes into this battle. Orihime is kidnapped by Ulquiorra. She is given 24 hours to say goodbye to one person. She chooses Ichigo… (Surprise, Surprise.) She admits that if she had been given 5 lives, she would have fallen in love with the same person 5 times. (Kurosaki). When she disappears, it is Ichigo who realizes that she was in his room. She is labeled a traitor by the Soul Society, and they are forbidden to go and save her… But Kurosaki says he knows her and knows that she isn’t a traitor, so he is going to get her. Aside from that… Grimmjow and Ichigo already clashed twice which resulted in Ichigo getting his ass handed to him except briefly when Hollow Ichigo took over giving Grimmjow and run for his money. Grimmjow craves an ultimate clash at full strength to prove that he is the superior being. After Ichigo’s battle with Ulquiorra leaves him with a hole in his chest, Grimmjow forces Orihime to heal him so they can fight. When she refuses he threatens to kill her. It is then that Ichigo lets him know to keep his hands off of her. (Inner me is squealing.)
Resolved to fight Grimmjow, Ichigo asks Orihime Inoue to heal his injuries. He also tells Grimmjow that they should fight elsewhere. (So that Orihime isn’t caught up in the shock.) When the battle begins, the force of their attacks tears up the ground around them. As the force of their two attacks creates a large explosion, Grimmjow is laughing maniacally and professes his excitement over the chance to finally crush Ichigo. (Grimmjow is my favorite espada. There is something about a in your face badass.) Grimmjow charges a Gran Rey Cero, hoping it will provoke Ichigo into using his full power. Ichigo notices that Orihime and Nel could be hit by the attack and yells for Grimmjow to stop but Grimmjow launches the attack anyway. Though the massive Cero inflicts an immense amount of damage to the surrounding structures, Ichigo protects Orihime and Nel by donning his Hollow mask and getting in the way of the attack. (Now here’s where things get interesting. By interesting I mean… where the emotional turmoil starts.) Ichigo is standing with his back to her when he tells her that she needs to put on her protective shield. She knows there is something different about him. When she calls out to him, he turns slightly because he doesn’t want her to see his hollow mask. (At the beginning of the show, Orihime is attacked by her brother who is a hollow and wearing the same type of mask. It is Ichigo who saves her from her brother.) Since he never explained to her (or any of his friends) about his inner hollow… this is her first time seeing him this way.) She is not quite sure what she is seeing. He tells her there is no need to be afraid and that he is going to take care of Grimmjow. (Here he is in the middle of the battle with an opponent that wants to take his head off and he is worried about whether or not Orihime sees him as some sort of monster.) When Orihime doesn’t respond, Ichigo returns to his fight as Grimmjow’s Resurrección, Pantera, is revealed.
Grimmjow, in this battle, is magnificent. He is chasing the ultimate battle which he feels he can get if Ichigo fights with everything he has. It is alluded to that amongst the other Espada he can’t get that. As the two continue to clash, Grimmjow, overpowering Ichigo, slams him into a pillar. He noticed that Ichigo has somehow extended the amount of time he can use his mask, (in the previous battle… Ichigo’s mask broke leaving him to lose that fight.) Grimmjow points out that Ichigo either trained or he somehow got stronger during their fight. Not caring either way, Grimmjow determines if Ichigo’s mask breaks, the fight would become very boring. As he thrusts his claw towards the mask, Ichigo catches his hand before the blow can connect. (What is great about this fight is also the exchange that of shit-talking going on. Ichigo is back with his witty remarks.)
At one point Grimmjow, who has dodges Ichigo’s next attack points his elbow at Ichigo and launches five missiles at him. Ichigo dodges these easily before realizing that they are headed directly for Orihime. He puts himself on the line to save her… taking the 5 missiles to the back. When he looks up at Orihime, she recoils in fear of his masked appearance. You can see the hurt in his eyes at her reaction. He darts away and back to the fight.
It gets worse for Ichigo as he starts getting beat up… He is attempting to keep his distance from her. It is very apparent that his mind is more with Orihime than the fight. (One of the things that are touched on throughout the show is how Ichigo is not really accepting of his inner Hollow. He seems somewhat ashamed of it.) He worries about losing control and hurting those he holds dear but he also worries that he will lose people close to him because they are scared of him. He thinks they will feel he is a monster. In Orihime’s case, she is slightly taken aback… but she is not afraid of him. She is reminded of her brother’s attack but she’s didn’t run away. (She probably would have had a better reaction if he had told those closest to him in the beginning but I digress.) With the battle raging on… Nel talks some sense into Orihime, telling her that she needs to cheer Ichigo on. He is here doing battle to protect her. Grimmjow thinks the battle is over because Ichigo’s mask is quickly fading. From the pillar, Orihime yells down to Ichigo. She tells him to not die and not get hurt any more than he already has.
Talk about giving your man the strength to continue. Hearing this. Ichigo stops Ichigo’s next attack (WHO IS SCREAMING…? NOT ME. Also who attacks a person when they aren’t looking. I love Grimmjow but come on sir. ) Ichigo tells him he is not allowed to sustain any more damage. (Why? Because Orihime can’t take it. Again, who wants to watch that? I make you better only for you to return to me bloodied and broken.) With Grimmjow wide open, Ichigo slashes him down the chest.
This is not the end though as Ichigo lowers his blade, Grimmjow grabs onto it. Angry at how Ichigo thought such an attack could defeat him, Grimmjow stabs his abdomen with his claws before pulling away. My favorite Grimmjow line is when he talks about how much he hates Ichigo’s eyes. Grimmjow states that regardless of many times Ichigo is beat down, they give the impression Ichigo still thinks he can win. Enraged by this, Grimmjow attacks Ichigo once more. Blocking the first two attacks, Ichigo mockingly asks if Grimmjow is angry because a mere Human is looking at him as if he were an equal. Grimmjow kicks Ichigo’s stomach, knocking him up into the air, and declares regardless of whether somebody is a Human, Shinigami, or Arrancar, he will crush everybody who looks down on him. Ichigo, piercing one of Grimmjow’s massive energy claws with his blade, completely shatters it with a single swing. Ichigo tells Grimmjow he is not the only one who wants to win, and he is his first target. Ichigo finally admits he came to Hueco Mundo to fight and defeat Grimmjow, but he also intends to defeat Ulquiorra and Aizen, as well as bring back Rukia, Sado, Uryū, Lieutenant Renji, and Orihime. Stating Grimmjow is just one person who cannot defeat him, Ichigo, breaking through the rest of the energy claws, impales him with Tensa Zangetsu.
I am going to stop writing now. You can tell I have a love for all things Bleach. Please watch it if you haven’t seen it. Read it. Get prepared for more anime in 2021. I am laughing because this post took me a long time to write… I could have really just put ALL THE THINGS… and left it at that. Anyways… enough for now.