Bleach – 173
Back at home in Soul Society, Rurichiyo almost immediately runs into Kumoi, and after a brief staring contest with him, she’s discovered by her family’s men as well. When she refuses to tell Kumoi where she’s been, he expresses his worry for her and invokes the memory of her parents. She, however, is more concerned about going to a certain tea party, and after she leaves, Kumoi tells his subordinate Hanza not to miss this opportunity to kill her. A short while later, Ichigo, Rukia, Kenryuu, and Enryuu arrive through the gate to the real world looking for her, and they learn from the guards that the gate had opened earlier but that no one appeared to come through. Annoyed, Ichigo feels that Rurichiyo coming back makes for naught all that Kenryuu and Enryuu did to take refuge in the real world, and he asserts that Rurichiyo has never known any hardship. This of course doesn’t sit well with her two guardians. In any case, the group splits up to search for Rurichiyo, and Rukia ends up running into Zaraki and Yachiru. Her presence in Soul Society make them realize that Ichigo is here too, and they decide to go see him. Kenryuu and Enryuu meanwhile find Rurichiyo’s hat outside a warehouse, but when they head inside to check, they get locked in by Kumoi
By now, Rurichiyo has arrived at the home of her friend for the tea party, and Ichigo happens to see her walk in. The guards at the front gate prevent him from following her inside because they see him as suspicious, so Ichigo is forced to sneak past them. His arrival surprises Rurichiyo so much that she spits her tea out into his face, but she refuses to leave the tea party with him. The guards then surround Ichigo, and when Rurichiyo pretends not to know him, he has no choice but to escape on his own. While Ichigo is on the run, Rurichiyo wanders around her friend’s house and comes across a crying girl. When she tries to cheer the girl up, the girl instead leads her behind the house and tries to kill her with a throwing knife. It narrowly misses, so the girl proceeds to pull out a hidden blade and chases after the now panicked Rurichiyo with it. Fortunately, Ichigo comes to her her rescue. Unfortunately, the other guards also come and mistakenly think that Ichigo is the threat, so they tackle him. This leaves the young girl free to take out some guards and charge at Rurichiyo, and Rurichiyo is saved a second time when the wall beside them suddenly breaks. The culprit is none other than Zaraki, and he grabs the girl by the arm. This leads to the girl shedding her skin and revealing herself to be one of the ninja assassins, but even in his true form, the assassin stands no chance against Zaraki and quickly gets struck down.
In the aftermath, Rurichiyo’s friend explains that she’s getting married soon. Rurichiyo is against this because it’s an arranged marriage where her friend doesn’t even know her husband-to-be, but regardless of that, this was going to be the final tea party, and that’s why she came all the way here. Once Rurichiyo is taken back to her own home, Rukia asks Zaraki to keep this all a secret, and he leaves satisfied, though he wants to beat Ichigo up sometime in the future. Ichigo then senses something behind them, but he doesn’t see anything and decides to ignore it. What he doesn’t realize is that what he had sensed Hanza’s spiritual force because Hanza had been secretly watching them.
A killer ninja loli? Really?! *sigh* I guess I shouldn’t be too shocked since Yachiru and Ururu are also young girls with high combat abilities, but those two are fleshed out characters whereas the thought of a random killer ninja girl only made me wonder if Bleach was jumping the shark. Part of the problem is that everything was so predictable. As soon as the crying girl appeared, I knew she was going to be evil but that there’d be no chance in hell that Rurichiyo died. And when Ichigo got pinned down, it was just a matter of time before Zaraki showed up. That’s not to say that I didn’t like his appearance – Zaraki getting airtime was one of the brighter spots of the episode – but there’s a definite lack of suspense here that we normally have with Bleach’s manga story. In this case, it was one of those times I kept hoping they’d surprise me by pulling something unexpected, but they didn’t.
Another one of the bright spots this week was that the animation quality because it turned out to be much better than I thought it’d be based on that one horrific shot from last week’s preview. In fact, that was the worst shot all episode, and I still don’t understand why they chose it for the preview. At least the preview this week makes next week look somewhat decent, though I’m not exactly looking forward to what appears to be the return of those light reflecting swords. Perhaps Hanza will demonstrate some interesting abilities…