Renji, who has Rukia on his mind, rushes toward the execution site, defeating even his own men along the way. However, a great power stops him dead in his tracks: Kuchiki Byakuya who refuses to let him continue on. Byakuya uses his signature Senka attack, but Renji is able to parry it. Byakuya, disgusted at Renji’s confidence, then uses his initial release. However, Renji is once again prepared for it and releases his Zabimaru without calling its name to hit Captain Kuchiki’s zanpaktou before it can scatter. To add to that, Renji then initiates ban kai. When the dust clears, we see that he is now surrounded by a huge snake-shaped skeleton that he identifies as Zabimaru. Byakuya is still not impressed though and claims that Renji’s ability can’t even make his knees touch the ground. Hearing this, Renji attacks and uses Zabimaru to wreck tons of structural damage, but it is unable to hit Byakuya. The captain scatters Senbonzakura and it appears to have destroyed Zabimaru. However, Renji easily reassembles all the skeletal links, saying that he was prepared for that. Renji then sneaks in an attack that rises from the ground under Kuchiki, forcing him to land on his knees. Knowing that it’s time to really get serious, the sixth division captain starts using demon arts to disrupt Renji’s ban kai. But Renji continues to attack even as he starts to lose control, so Byakuya puts a confinement spell on him. Now, it is the captain’s turn for ban kai. He scatters Senbonzakura Kageyoshi and completely shreds the vice-captain. Renji struggles to stand up, so Kuchiki stabs his arms again and asks him if he’s still going to save Rukia, Renji, who mirrors Ichigo’s situation at the same time, says that he will because he swore to his soul that he would. He makes one last lunge – a lunge that manages to pierce through his captain. However, Renji is so injured that he immediately collapses.
Meanwhile, leaving her confinements to go to the execution spot, Rukia senses Renji’s energy fading. That thought is soon interrupted by the arrival of Ichimaru Gin, who has come only to torment her. Ichimaru offers to free her and save the others, but he quickly takes that back as a joke. Rukia, who has tried to steel herself to her upcoming death, is visibly shaken by Ichimaru’s words.
Elsewhere in Soul Society, Captain Zaraki’s fight is still going on. The eleventh division captain seems to have the upper hand as he uses an opening to strike both of his opponents. Tousen, who asks Komamura to stand aside, explains that a person can become a captain in three ways: pass a test, get referrals and approval from the current captains, or defeat a captain in a one on one fight. Zaraki of course chose the latter option, killing the former eleventh division captain and inheriting his robes. Tousen feels that Zaraki’s actions and bloodlust are unforgivable, and so he initiates ban kai. His power spreads several rings around the platform, creating a giant black canopy above them. Inside the space, no one except Tousen can use any of their senses. The ninth division captain uses his advantage to slash his opponent twice, but Zaraki appears not to be scared, and even tries to strike back.
Watching from far away, Tousen’s vice-captain Hisagi sees that his captain has intiated ban kai. Hisagi is confident that his own fight against Yumichika is over, however the fifth seat tells him that he’s more powerful than Hisagi thinks. Unlike the rest of the eleventh division, Yumichika’s zanpaktou is actually a demon arts type. Also during this time, Renji wakes up to being healed by Hanatarou. One of Renji’s men, Rikichi, is responsible for the aid.
Back inside the dome, Tousen is getting more and more frustrated with Zaraki’s ability to dodge at the last moment. Zaraki, after contemplating what to do, realizes that touching the sword allows for the return of all sensory functions. So he simply allows Tousen to stab him, and then he is able to strike back. Tousen tries to hit him again, but Zaraki catches his blade, and counterattacks and gravely injures the ninth division captain. His ban kai disappears, but Tousen is still determined to stop his opponent. Captain Komamura has to step in to stop the two from killing each other. His hat shatters from the blow by Zaraki, revealing a fox face behind the mask. Komamura doesn’t waste any time and initiates ban kai, summoning an armored giant behind him.
And finally, at the execution site where attendance is low, the execution ceremony is started. Rukia, saddened by the sight of her brother, says that she has one last request.
OP3:「一輪の花」 by HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR
ED5: 「LIFE」 by YUI
I like both songs. A lot. The opening song is fast paced, and the opening sequence is quite complimentary, if not incredibly spoilerish (Ichigo’s face in particular). YUI’s 「LIFE」 sounds a lot better in its full form, and the actual sequence itself is rather laid-back. I’m quite surprised by how much more I like the real version over the live version of that song.
Bleach sure knows how to make the most of their prime time spots. This one hour special double episode does not disappoint. There’s pretty much nonstop action that’s interrupted by only a few lulls. The fight scenes are all that I have come to expect from Bleach, meaning they are amazing, especially all of Byakuya’s pretty moves (mmmm, deadly sakura petals…). These really are some coolest looking fight scenes, and fortunately, there will be more like that to come.
Despite being a fantastic episode, this week’s special is not without its flaws. They managed to get through a mind boggling nine and a half chapters. As usual, certain things are moved around: Renji being healed is moved up, while the final scene where Rukia says she has a last request is moved back. The change that irks me the most is how they compacted Tousen’s story (six pages in the manga) into a twenty second block that really doesn’t do it any justice (no pun intended). The reason I say no pun intended is because that flashback is there to tell us where Tousen’s sense of justice comes from, making it an integral part of his development. For those of you who haven’t read the manga: Tousen, who is blind, became very good friends with a woman who got married and became a shinigami. However, her husband killed her over an argument before she could even fight for her beliefs as a shinigami. Tousen thus decided to take her zanpaktou and become justice himself with the desire to wipe out all evil. This justice comes into play again later, which is part of the reason I’m miffed by their decision to exclude almost all of that.
Overall, this episode is excellent. I can’t wait for the big developments that are coming in two weeks (remember, no Bleach next week). I never thought that we’d get to chapters 150 and 151 so quickly….