Bleach – 123
Although he survives the hit from Hiyori, Ichigo still gets hurt and his Hollow side slowly starts to take over. Hiyori urges him to go ahead and initiate ban kai, and she knows that he’s afraid he’ll lose control. Claiming not to care if he uses his ban kai or not, she attacks him with her mask on again. As Ichigo is getting beat up, he wonders how Hiyori is able to put on the mask and retain control. He tells himself that that he won’t surrender his soul to his Hollow side, but the darkness soon covers his eyes and that side emerges. It immediately grabs Hiyori’s throat, breaking part of her mask, and starts choking her. Things aren’t looking so good for Hiyori until all of the other Vizards spring into action and pin Ichigo to the ground in order to save her. Shinji breaks off Ichigo’s mask and tells Ichigo, who has turned back to normal, that he can’t control his Hollow side with just his body and willpower alone. In any case, he decides that Ichigo passes and promises to teach Ichigo how to control the Hollow. Back at the Kurosaki house, Yuzu is crying because of her brother’s disappearance, so her father tries to cheer her up. When Rukia gets home, she reports that she wasn’t able to find Ichigo either, and later that night, she wonders where he went since she can’t sense his spiritual pressure.
Ichigo spends most of the next day on a special exercise walker while the Vizards lounge around going about their normal lives. He finally gets so pissed that they’re making him do this that he kicks the machine at Hiyori, though she grabs Shinji in time to take the hit. Ichigo and Hiyori start fighting about what she’s making him do until she throws the machine at him and tells him to paddling until he passes out. Shinji steps in to diffuse the situation by explaining that the Hiyori Walker is the foundation for the training. How many days Ichigo can continue paddling decides the level of training – for Shinji to teach him how to control the Hollow, Ichigo has to do it for at least 3 days. In anger, Ichigo reveals that he’s figured out that the machine drains his spiritual power so that the Vizards can see what his maximum is. He thinks that he can go five days on it, but there’s no point to it, and he’s running out of time. Shinji, however, feels that Ichigo shouldn’t be talking about time when he doesn’t even know the Hougyoku’s awakening period. Ichigo is shocked that Shinji has known for many years about the Hougyoku, the Arrancar, and Aizen, and the next surprise comes when Shinji decides to go ahead and let Ichigo proceed to the next step. As he knocks Ichigo out with a power from his hand, Shinji tells him not to regret this.
Shinji then instructs the Vizard Hacchi to put up a barrier around the building and opens up a passageway to an underground training area. Telepathically, Shinji tells the unconscious Ichigo that he’s going to become completely Hollow, so he should eat instead of be eaten. Once underground, Shinji has Hacchi put up another barrier and also seal off Ichigo’s body. Ichigo meanwhile finds himself once again in the sideways world facing his white Hollow self. When Ichigo asks where the old man Zangetsu is, the Hollow replies that he is Zangetsu as he pulls out a blade that mirrors Ichigo’s zanpaktou and attacks with it. With the inner fight started, Ichigo’s body – still in the training area with the Vizards – takes on its Hollow form and breaks through the seal that Hacchi placed. Because of this, the Vizard who introduces herself as Yadoumaru Risa squares off against the fully Hollow Ichigo. Back inside the sideways world, the Hollow Ichigo has to reiterate that he really is Zangetsu. He and Zangetsu have always been one and the same, and both are Ichigo’s strength. The Hollow Ichigo used to be a part of Zangetsu, but it’s a matter of dominance. As the Hollow side got stronger, it got control and Zangetsu thus became part of it. Thus, the more Ichigo tries to draw out the Zangetsu’s power, the easier it is for his Hollow side to control his soul.
Having heard this, Ichigo concludes that if he defeats his Hollow side here, then the old Zangetsu would return as the core of his power. His Hollow side thinks that it’s impossible for Ichigo to do this, so Ichigo goes into his ban kai stance. In response, the Hollow Ichigo takes on the same stance, and the two initiate ban kai at the same time.
This is such a great shot. I liked it when I saw it in the manga and I like it here too. Part of it is because the shot emphasizes how closely knit a group the Vizards are and part of it is because we get to see all the Vizard zanpaktous and their hilts. It also shows that it takes more than just one of them to restrain Hollow Ichigo, and that makes me wonder how strong the Vizards are in comparison to the other characters (such as any of the Arrancar). With the way Hollow Ichigo caught her off guard, it doesn’t seem that Hiyori would be the strongest of the group. I’d guess probably Shinji is the strongest, particularly since he seems to have been around for a long time and knows about Aizen and the Hougyoku.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing next week what I hope is a really cool fight between Ichigo and his Hollow self that, from the preview, looks like it’ll be very black vs. white.