Bleach – 161
Having just dispelled Renji’s bankai, Szayel explains that Renji can’t use it in the room that they’re in. Szayel knows everything about Renji’s bankai and was able to create a way to seal it off, but Renji is confused because only someone who’s been directly hit by it would have that information. As it turns out, Szayel is the younger brother of the Arrancar named Yylfordt Granz that Renji had defeated previously, and he had put a special parasite inside of Yylfordt that gave him what he needed to know. Regardless, Szayel now pulls out his zanpaktou and asks Renji not to struggle because he wants Renji to die in as undamaged a form as possible. Renji doesn’t give up so easily though and goes back on the attack. For a moment, Renji thinks that he has the upper hand on his opponent, but Szayel then gets serious and makes it clear that he was just checking to see the extent of Renji’s abilities. He finds them disappointing, and he’s able to easily parry all of Renji’s subsequent strikes while he successfully lands several counterattacks.
Their fight is soon interrupted by two of Szayel’s underlings who have come to report that Aaroniero is dead. Szayel also finds out that Aaroniero and his opponent killed each other, and he reveals with much relish that that it was Rukia who died. Renji responds immediately by attacking, and though Szayel blocks it, he is unprepared for Renji unleashing a small explosion of power. Unfortunately for Renji, this isn’t enough to injure Szayel in any significant way. At around this same time, Ichigo senses what happened with Rukia. Shortly thereafter, Ulquiorra appears behind Ichigo and claims that Rukia is dead. Ulquiorra explains how her body was pierced by Aaroniero’s trident, and because Ichigo still doubts him, Ulquiorra reveals that Aaroniero possessed the ability to pass along all the information from his fights to his allies.
Ichigo nevertheless decides to go save Rukia because he believes that she’s still alive, and he explains that he has no reason to fight Ulquiorra since he believes that Ulquiorra hasn’t personally hurt any of his friends yet. Because of this, Ulquiorra reveals that he was the one who brought Inoue to Hueco Mundo, and this elicits an instant response from Ichigo in the form of an attack. Seeing Ichigo angry because he now realizes that Inoue really didn’t come here on her own free will, Ulquiorra comments on how Inoue’s friends had some doubts about it. With a reason to fight Ulquiorra now, Ichigo decides to go all out and initiates bankai.
So what I don’t quite understand here is Ichigo’s priorities. He knows that Rukia is seriously injured and could be on the verge of dying, yet he turns around to fight Ulquiorra for Inoue’s sake. Ichigo has no idea how long this battle could take, and Rukia could die in the meantime, yet he decides to fight anyway. To me, that indicates that Inoue’s honor (her being considered a traitor) means more to him than Rukia’s life. I don’t know if that means anything in the long run since Bleach isn’t the kind of series where relationship pairings are that important, but this one decision is telling of how Ichigo might feel.
As for the episode, it’s still following the manga and covered another two chapters worth spread over chapters 265, 269, and 270. One of the things I noticed is that, while it didn’t bother me in the manga, Szayel’s smirk in the anime makes me really want to punch him or something. I think that’s a testament to how well animated this episode was – it was for the second week in a row too. The preview for next week doesn’t look quite so good, but they appear to still be sticking with the manga storyline, so I really can’t complain.