Komamura remembers when he first met Tousen and when he was first introduced to then vice-captain Aizen. In the present, after Aizen stops his sword, Komamura initiates ban kai. However, it never completes as Aizen appears in front of him and uses a blast spell to incapacitate him. With that out of the way, Aizen continues on with his explanation: he killed the entire Central 46, but he did so as soon as he heard about Rukia being found. Then he used his zanpaktou’s power to create the illusion that things were normal in there – Ichimaru, Tousen, and he all took turns giving orders in place of them. Aizen had decided to use the execution and the Soukyouku to get to the Hougyoku inside Rukia. However, in case that plan failed, as it did, Aizen prepared a back-up plan. After digging through Urahara’s research, he found an extraction method. Aizen pulls out and uses a device that transforms his hand, and plunges it into Rukia chest. Fortunately for Rukia, the hole created by the procedure heals after Aizen extracts the Hougyoku.
Aizen orders Ichimaru to kill Rukia, so Ichimaru shoots her. In an instant, Rukia is out of Aizen’s grip and in the arms of her brother, who took the hit from Ichimaru. Byakuya falls over soon after, and Aizen prepares to deal with this himself. That is, until Kuukaku and Jidanbou interrupt him, and then Yoruichi and Soi Fong appear out of nowhere, putting a sword at his throat. In fact, captains and vice-captains including Yamamoto, Kyouraku, Ukitake, Matsumoto, Hisagi, and Iba soon surround him. But Aizen has one more card up his sleeve. A light suddenly envelopes him, and a claw opens the sky to reveal numerous Menos Grande. As he is also engulfed in the light, Ichimaru turns around to say farewell and sorry to Matsumoto. Captain Commander Yamamoto tells them that it’s useless to try to penetrate the field, meaning that Aizen and company have effectively made their escape. Komamura suddenly bolts forward and asks Tousen where his justice is now. Tousen replies that whatever path he chooses is the path of justice. Aizen claims that he’ll now take his place in the heavens. His last words bid them goodbye, though he singles out Ichigo in particular for being an interesting human.
With the battle over, the fourth division squads rush in to treat all the injured. Captain Unohana arrives to see Inoue using an unknown healing technique on Ichigo. She herself goes to treat Byakuya, and then calls over Rukia so that her brother can tell her something. The sixth division captain explains that after his wife Hisana passed away, Rukia was adopted not because she looked like Hisana, but because she was Hisana’s sister. It was because of her dying request that he find and protect Rukia that he broke the rules and took her in. However, he swore that that would be the last time. When Rukia was sentenced to death, Byakuya had to decide on protecting her or following the rules, and it’s clear which choice he made. Because of that, Byakuya expresses his gratitude towards Ichigo, and apologizes to Rukia.
This episode covers four chapters, from 176 to 179, and they actually kept in all the Tousen parts this time. Actually, the biggest changes in this episode turned out to be the omission of the three gate guardians, and as a result of that, Kuukaku and Jidanbou made their entrance earlier than they did in the manga. Fairly minor, though the pacing for that scene did seem a little on the fast side.
So we get to hear the rest of Aizen’s story and also why Byakuya acted as he did. Not only was Aizen the bad guy, he was in cahoots with, surprise surprise, the Hollows and what appears to be a greater power. Aizen has now figuratively (and literally) ascended to power, and he’s definitely going to be one of the major bad guys after the current arc ends. Still, the crushing his glasses and changing his hairstyle part is a bit over the top. As for Byakuya, we learn of the promise he made and the decision he had to make. In the end, he decided on the side of the rules, but Ichigo’s interference saved Rukia. And despite not really being featured in this episode, Ichigo is the guy everyone has their eye on, from Aizen to Byakuya.
No Bleach for the next two weeks. Episode 63, a one hour special, will air on January 10th.