Sado, Ishida, Inoue, and Ganjuu have finally gotten to the battlegrounds. They learn from Yachiru that Rukia was saved, but that Ichigo is still fighting for her, because, as Inoue says, she’s very important to him. At that fight, Byakuya calls on the true form of Senbonzakura, which turns the petals into thousands of swords. Byakuya takes one of them, and the two clash once again. Ichigo begins to notice that Byakuya has sped up, and Byakuya even starts to hit him, noting that he’s become slow. The captain then uses a combination of a sword stabbing Ichigo’s foot and a blast spell to paralyze Ichigo. He tells Ichigo that it’s not him getting faster; it’s Ichigo’s fatigue finally taking its toll. Byakuya raises his sword for the killing blow, and however much Ichigo tries to move he can’t. Ichigo’s desire to win overtakes him, and his hand catches the sword in mid-swing – Hollow Ichigo has taken over. The masked figure quickly changes the momentum of the battle, crushing Byakuya’s swords. He uses several black Getsugas to corner the captain, and then appears right behind Byakuya right before the two blasts hit so that Byakuya can’t dodge. Reeling from the hit, Byakuya has figured out that Ichigo has turned into a Hollow, but is then surprised when his opponent starts to rip off the mask. Ichigo has a brief inner fight while he struggles with the Hollow inside him, but he succeeds in taking control. Before they cross swords again, Ichigo asks Byakuya why he didn’t save Rukia. Byakuya promises to answer if Ichigo wins. The two then do their power-ups to put all of their energy into one final attack. When the smoke clears, Ichigo struggles to stay standing, and both have suffered severe wounds from the attack, but Ichigo’s sword managed to cut through Byakuya’s. To fulfill his promise, Byakuya explains that he allowed the execution to take place because the rules needed to be followed. Ichigo says that he would have fought those rules, a statement that make Byakuya realize how much Ichigo was fighting the rules of Soul Society. After Byakuya concedes the battle and leaves, Ichigo finally collapses, right onto Inoue. She, and all of his friends, have been quite worried and are glad that he’s alive. Meanwhile, at the Central 46 Chambers, Hitsugaya and Matsumoto are horrified to find everyone dead.
Today’s episode covers four chapters, from 164 through the end of 167. Since the majority of those chapters are made up of battle scenes, it’s not too surprising that they got in an extra chapter more than normal. Last episode featured Ichigo’s ban kai, and this week matches, if not beats, that by featuring Hollow Ichigo. Him going all apeshit on Byakuya (and winning too) is just a pleasure to watch. It’s a damn shame that Ichigo had to reel him in. That scene makes up only a brief part of the episode, but it’s definitely my favorite.
I’m slightly miffed that they didn’t include Byakuya thinking that Ichigo looks and speaks like Shiba Kaien like it’s shown in the manga, which is a very important comparison in my opinion (especially considering the whole Hollow thing). Anyway, next week is the big shocker episode. It’ll be a lotta Hitsugaya, Hinamori, Ichimaru, and you-know-who. 🙂
Closing Thought: No Bleach next week, it resumes on December the 6th