Bleach – 208
Though Hiyori resists, Urahara drags her towards the Maggot’s Nest and tells her about his background along the way. More specifically, he explains how Yoruichi controls both the 2nd division and the special forces and how he was in charge of the internment unit. This unit had a special job of taking care of the people who have joined the Gotei 13 but prove to be a problem in some way, and that’s what the Maggot’s Nest was for. Once inside the underground prison, Urahara leads Hiyori through the open area where the prisoners are kept, and he explains to her how all these people haven’t committed any actual crimes but have been deemed dangerous. He reveals that people aren’t allowed to officially withdraw from the Gotei 13 on their own will, and that withdrawing actually means this special internment. The reason for all this is that the Gotei 13 is a sophisticated organization, so they can’t let out people who have already been accepted but are incompatible. The reason Urahara is here now is because he thinks that, given the right environment, some of the these people might be able to go from being dangerous to being a great power.
Hiyori starts to protest against this last part, but she’s interrupted by the appearance of someone she once knew. This guy wants her help to get out, however while he’s talking, she gets attacked by another prisoner. Urahara saves her with his bare hands, and he’s able to easily handle all of the other prisoners who come after him. When Hiyori’s old acquaintance takes her hostage though, he lets Hiyori herself take care of the guy. With no one else willing to challenge them, the two move on and eventually arrive at a special cell belonging to one Kurotsuchi Mayuri. Urahara proposes that Kurotsuchi join him as the second in command of the new Technology Development Bureau, and he eventually convinces Kurotsuchi by noting that it would all be Kurotsuchi’s if he dies. Meanwhile, at the Kuchiki estate, a young Byakuya is practicing his swordsmanship when his grandfather brings Yoruichi over. Yoruichi is here to tease Byakuya by stealing his hair tie, and he angrily chases after her. Over at the 13th Division, Kaien is again refusing Ukitake’s offer to be a vice-captain. Ukitake then changes the subject to how there’s a young genius who’s joining the 5th division. Unbeknownst to them, Aizen is watching over this boy and his killing abilities, and it turns out to be none other than Ichimaru Gin.
The story now fast-forwards to 101 years ago when some affliction is overcoming three men while three others watch.
So they finally had an episode that covered more than one chapter (this was two) and because of that, it had minimal original material – the biggest things were that the explanation of Urahara’s background got reworked slightly and the part with this guy was added. The main reason I liked the episode though was the insights it gave to how Kurotsuchi, Byakuya, and Ichimaru’s characters came to be, plus it had a cameo by Kaien. It was a lot of fun in particular seeing Byakuya being such a hothead and Gin as creepy as ever. Incidentally, I thought that they might recast Byakuya for this arc since I’ve mainly heard Okiayu Ryoutarou in older, tough guy roles, but it was him voicing the young version as well, and I thought he did a pretty good job. They also didn’t recast Ichimaru.
In any case, I’m excited now that the stage is set for things to really heat up, though the anime might slow things down a bit to get the maximum amount of episodes out of this. I suspect there are four more episodes to go in this arc, and that’d put us right at when the spring 2009 season begins.