When we left off last time, Hitsugaya and Matsumoto had just entered the Central 46 Chambers. Much to their surprise, everyone is dead. Hitsugaya realizes from the dried blood that they were killed days ago, meaning that all of the recent orders have been fake. Kira suddenly calls out to them from the doorway and then disappears. The two give chase until Kira tells Hitsugaya that Hinamori already broke free and has been following them. The captain quickly turns around, leaving Mastumoto to continue the chase. As soon as he sees Hitsugaya gone, Kira stops and draws his sword. Matsumoto parries all of his attacks, but Kira explains that his zanpaktou’s special ability is to double the weight to whatever it hits, each time it hits. Her sword having suddenly gotten a lot heavier, Mastumoto releases her own zanpaktou, and the blade turns to ashes.
Meanwhile, Hinamori also sees all of the bodies in the Central 46 chambers. Ichimaru appears behind her, and she follows him to the residential area, where he reintroduces her to an old friend: Captain Aizen. Hinamori sheds tears of joy as Aizen embraces her. But soon after he thanks her for being his subordinate, Aizen, with Hinamori still in his arms, impales her with his sword. Aizen and Ichimaru leave the dying girl on the floor, and walk out to find Hitsugaya, who has just arrived. The tenth division captain is shocked to see Aizen, but then realizes that Hinamori is inside. After seeing her body, Hitsugaya learns from Aizen that he and Ichimaru have been working together since the very beginning. When asked about betraying Hinamori, Aizen replies that someone who admires you is easy to control. Furious by now, Hitsugaya initiates ban kai, but his one attack fails, and Aizen deals him a fatal blow.
Captain Unohana has also entered the scene by this point. She figures out that Aizen has been staging the entire thing, including his death. Aizen shows her that he didn’t use a doll for his corpse – it’s the power of his zanpaktou. Aizen explains that it allows him to completely hypnotize anyone after they’ve seen its release. He also notes that since the blind are immune to this effect, it means that Captain Tousen has been working under him this entire time. Speaking of which, Tousen has stopped Renji from running and has transported the two back to the Soukyouku, where Aizen and Ichimaru meet them after escaping from Unohana. Like everyone else, Renji is shocked to see the dead captain, and even more so when Aizen asks him to hand over Rukia.
After all this fighting between ideologies, the true culprits finally show themselves. Ichimaru is understandably still a bad guy, but, the first time I read through the story, Aizen’s return just blew me away. Obviously the surprise is gone for me in this animated version, but Aizen’s return is pretty much everything I expected.
This week’s episode covers four chapters: 168 to 171. I didn’t notice any distinct changes from the manga, though Hinamori getting stabbed was played down a bit by their use of dark lighting. The one thing the animation does better than the manga for me is to show what Hitsugaya’s ban kai is. From the manga, it looked like an ice crab or something, but today’s episode made me realize that those were wings of ice sprouting from him. In any case, Aizen’s hypnosis effects and general power easily defeats it. This of course raises the question of how powerful Aizen is compared to everyone else, but that’s a question best left for another day.
We’re getting closer and closer to the end of this arc, with probably only three more episodes left in Soul Society. It’s about time to start wondering what’s going to happen once this arc is over…