Returning to the room where the Hougyoku was stolen, Aizen dissipates Ulquiorra’s body and sheaths his own zanpaktou. After Aizen sits down, Ichimaru shows up and comments on how Aizen is letting Patras think that he killed Ulquiorra and took the Hougyoku. Aizen admits that he sent the real Ulquiorra to do something else, and when Ichimaru claims that he could have taken care of this, Aizen says that that would have been boring. Meanwhile, in the real world, Ururu and Jinta both try to attack Patras, but neither can hurt him, and when Renji emerges from the nearby rubble, he instructs them to go get Urahara. With them gone, Renji initiates limit lifting and ban kai, and the force of Zabimaru’s subsequent attack surprises Patras. It smashes Patras through the ground and into training area below the store, but Renji is aware that the battle isn’t anywhere near over yet. Elsewhere in the city, Hitsugaya and Rangiku are having a bit of trouble with the Arrancar that they’re facing whereas Ikkaku is having a bit more luck getting through the armor of his opponent.
Back at the underground area, Patras uses the level ten version of his attack, but it isn’t able to stop Zabimaru, so Patras has to get out of the way. Although he generally looks down upon Shinigami, Patras decides not to take Renji lightly and decides to change into his real form. Now at max level, Patras’ attacks are finally able to stop Zabimaru, and one of them actually breaks the skeletal links. Renji manages to protect himself from the attack, and afterwards, he questions what Patras intends to do with the Hougyoku. Patras’ admission that he wants to take over the world makes Renji realize that he’s rebelling against Aizen, but right as Patras is saying that Hueco Mundo shouldn’t have a Shinigami become its ruler, his two allies come crashing in from above. Heavily injured and on the run, both of them want to know if Patras has found out how to use the Hougyoku, and after finding out that he hasn’t yet, both die. Renji then re-links Zabimaru and attacks one more time, but he’s unable to overcome Patras’ attacks and gets thrown against some rocks. With Patras getting ready to finish Renji off, it’s the mod-souls who come to the rescue once again to distract the Arrancar while they help Renji to a safer location.
Having apparently figured out Patras’ weakness, Ririn sets up a plan with Renji and then confronts Patras head on. She taunts him into attacking her, but right after Patras finishes firing and tries to close his claw, Claude appears and prevents him from fully doing so. Ririn then reveals that she knows Patras accumulates his energy in his sheath and releases it with his sword, meaning that if he can’t sheath his sword, he can’t attack again. Patras then tries to shoot them with his other arm, but Nova appears with his shield to take the hit, and Ririn gets Renji to finish Patras off. One large blast later, Patras is dead and the Hougyoku drops to the ground. Both Urahara’s group and Hitsugaya’s group show up soon after, and Urahara reveals that these Arrancar were being manipulated by Aizen. The Hougyoku that Patras had was only a fake, and Urahara thinks that they had probably been set up by Aizen’s zanpaktou – Kyouka Suigetsu. He isn’t positive why Aizen intentionally let them have the Hougyoku, but he does think that it has something to do with how, on the way back to the store, he and the others had accidentally run into Ulquiorra at the spot where Ulquiorra and Yammy had originally appeared. Urahara thus suspects that Aizen had a different objective and was using Patras to create an uproar as a diversion.
Around this time, in Hueco Mundo, Ulquiorra is reporting on his investigation into Inoue’s powers and how they could help Aizen. As for where Inoue is right now, Ulquiorra only knows that she isn’t in the real world, and Aizen commends him on job well done.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that this mini-arc actually does connect to the main manga story, and while overall I’d still say that this wasn’t a great set of episodes, it turned out to be better than I initially thought and a lot better than the stuff that came before it. I never really believed that Aizen would let the Hougyoku get stolen from him, but using it as cover for the real Ulquiorra investigating Inoue sets us up nicely for the next arc. I do wish that they had shown more of other two Shinigami vs. Arrancar fights in this episode, but admittedly that’s mainly because I think Ikkaku is a lot more fun to watch than Renji is.
Anyway, as expected, the preview shows that we’ll be back to the manga story starting next week, but I can’t help but wonder for how long. If they cross what I consider to be the upcoming point-of-no-return in the manga story and proceed into the next major arc, then it might be very hard for them to write in anime original episodes to buy more time for the manga. We’ll have to wait and see what happens…