As Rukia’s execution gets underway, Captains Hitsugaya and Ukitake and their subordinates work separately to stop it. At the execution site, Commander Yamamoto agrees to honor Rukia’s plea to let Ichigo’s group go home, allowing her peace of mind even though he has no plans of fulfilling the request. As the Soukyoku is released, Rukia is lifted to the top of the stand and held in place. The Soukyoku transforms from a spear into a giant flaming bird, the Kikou. Rukia feels content and wishes everyone goodbye as the stand goes up in flames. When it all clears, she is amazed to find it herself still alive, with a familiar figure before her: Kurosaki Ichigo. Everyone below is stunned that one person is able to stop the power of Soukyoku. The Kikou comes in to strike again, but two large ropes latch onto it. Captains Ukitake and Kyouraku are the ones who are responsible; they use a seal with the symbol of the Shihouin family to dispel the bird. Ichigo then takes the opportunity to destroy the structure holding Rukia. He takes her and tells her that he plans on getting everyone out of there, defeating anyone who gets in their way. Renji arrives onto the scene at this point, so Ichigo throws Rukia to him, ordering him to take Rukia away. Renji bolts out of there, with three vice-captains in pursuit, but Ichigo defeats them all without even using his zanpaktou. However, he quickly grabs it so that he can swing around to block the attack of Captain Kuchiki. It seems that Ichigo can now read Byakuya’s moves.
As the execution scene climaxes, Rukia is saved by none other than Kurosaki Ichigo. His appearance must mean that his training is done, and he’s a lot more powerful now, able to defeat three vice-captains without using Zangetsu, and able to block Captain Kuchiki’s opening swing. And of course you could tell that it is ass-kicking time because they started playing Number One. The most unexpected part of this story for me is the fact that Ukitake and Kyouraku are the ones who stop the Soukyouku, instead of Ichigo fighting it head on (not that I don’t think he could).
Everything is shown just like it is in the manga, from the Zaraki vs. Komamura fight being interrupted all the way to Ichigo and Byakuya clashing swords. We cover about 3.5 chapters this week, including the rest of 149 through the end of 152. The only noticeable change is the return of Captain Unohana during the execution (she left to heal Renji in the last episode). The animation is somewhat lacking at the beginning but gets better by the middle. I suspect that their budget for this episode went to making the giant bird and Ichigo look cool. The one other complaint that I have is that there is too much repeated, including the minute spent at the beginning re-showing the end of last episode and the part before and after the interstitial that basically shows the same sequence twice.
The end of this episode receives special mention because instead of an introduction to a character, we got a condensed version of the Karakura Super Heroes omake from volume 10 where Rukia’s replacement is stepped all over by Don Kanonji and friends.
Next week starts several fights, including the one between Ichigo & Captain Kuchiki and one involving Commander Yamamoto himself.
Closing Thought: For all the damage he took, Renji shows up remarkably fast to the execution, though not in perfect condition. You would think that even with good healing, he would be incapacitated for several days. Still, it was fun to see that bit of humor between him, Rukia, and Ichigo in the middle of all the action.