Bleach – 209
There have been some strange deaths recently in Rukongai involving people who are disappearing out of their clothes. Kensei and his men have been sent to investigate, and they come across a large Hollow about to eat a group of boys. They manage to save the boys and defeat the Hollow, and afterward, Kensei tries to get one of the boys to stop crying. This boy’s name is Hisagi Shuuhei, and the 69 imprinted on Kensei’s stomach makes a big impression on him. Kensei’s vice-captain Mashiro then comes running because she found several sets of Shinigami garb, and this leads Kensei to realize that these belong to the first Shinigami victims. He suspects that there might be a pathogen at play, so he sets up camp outside for the night and sends one of his men to get help from the 12th division. Urahara decides to entrust this task to Hiyori, however she doesn’t set out immediately. Later that night, Kensei hears a commotion outside the tent, and he finds three of his men slain. The fourth is taken down soon after, and Kensei himself is then enveloped in a certain darkness. Inside this darkness, Kensei gets stabbed from behind, but he manages to turn around and recognizes his assailant.
This was another episode that followed the manga pretty closely, covering just about two chapters, and I think the only significant new stuff was the extra Hisagi Shuuhei screentime. It’s interesting to see them expand on how Shuuhei, despite being a crybaby, had some redeeming traits even back then with how he tried to hold off the Hollow by himself. What bothers me a little is that it took Kensei and his men so long to defeat this almost garden-variety Hollow – a single slash down the middle is all it really should have taken.
The other thing I wanted to note was that seeing this stuff in anime form led me to realize that there were a lot of clues I missed about the perpetrators back when I read the manga. I think just having it animated makes certain things a bit more obvious, things which should come to light in the next few of episodes. Speaking of which, apparently there are going to be only three more episodes in this flashback arc before returning to non-manga material (the Karakuraizer for episode 213) and probably a full-fledged anime original arc soon thereafter.