Ichigo calls for Byakuya’s ban kai once again, and this time Byakuya complies. The petals rush forward to Ichigo, but he’s able to dodge it for long enough to direct another Getsu Gatenshou at the captain. Byakuya easily blocks it, and Ichigo looks as if he’s drowned in petals. After the dust clears, a bleeding Ichigo gets up and realizes that using only an initial release to try to win against ban kai is impossible. The sixth division captain hears Ichigo implying that he’s achieved ban kai, which Ichigo immediately confirms as true. As Ichigo powers up to his ban kai, Byakuya thinks about how hard it is to get to ban kai, and how impossible it should be for someone like Ichigo. After an explosion and a whirlwind, we finally get to see Ichigo’s ban kai form: Tensa Zangetsu. Dressed like Zangetsu’s human form, Ichigo now wields a thin, black sword. Byakuya continues to underestimate Ichigo, so Ichigo appears right in front of him, holding a sword to the captain’s neck. Meanwhile, Sado, Ishida, Inoue, and Ganjuu have gotten close enough so that they can see and feel the power of the fight. Elsewhere in Soul Society, Hitsugaya and Matsumoto, trying to get to the bottom of all this, have reached the Central 46 Chambers, only to be barred from entering. Also, Hinamori is now healed and on the move. Back at the main fight, Byakuya notices that Ichigo is fast, but still thinks that it can’t be ban kai, so he calls forth his petals to envelope Ichigo again. Ichigo dodges several times, and then appears right in front of Byakuya for a slash, but it’s blocked by more petals. Both of them notice that the petals are having trouble keeping up, so Byakuya increases their speed and Ichigo increases his. However, Ichigo is unable to dodge one of the waves, so instead he cuts down all of the petals and moves to Byakuya’s backside in a flash. The captain turns around in time to miss being hit in the back, and catches Ichigo’s blade in his hand. By this point, Byakuya has realized that Ichigo’s ban kai takes its power and compacts it so that Ichigo can move and attack quickly.
This episode has a lot of extra bridging-the-gap material that wasn’t in the manga. We only cover two and a half chapters, from mid-161 to the end of 163 because they threw in some humorous moments with Sado, Ishida, Inoue, and Ganjuu and showed what HItsugaya, Matsumoto, and Hinamori are up to. I can appreciate most of the new scenes, especially the Hitsugaya and Matsumoto ones because they show that something else is going on beyond the battles. However, they also used several flashbacks of Hinamori and later Ichigo (during his powerup scene) that just seem like wasted time.
Of course all of those are minor complaints because, in this episode, Ichigo finally uses his ban kai. Showing how powerful he’s become and how badass he looks, Ichigo more or less defeats Byakuya’s Senbonzakura. Byakuya doesn’t really help his own cause, constantly underestimating Ichigo until the end of the episode when he realizes what Ichigo’s ban kai does. But the fight’s far from over, and there’s plenty of surprises left in store for us.