Although his mask is broken, Ashido survives the attack, and since Rukia feels responsible for his injury, she fights the Adjuchas instead. She finishes him off with her first shikai attack, and all the Gillians just turn around and walk away afterwards. Rukia then tries to apologize for the broken mask because she knows what it means to Ashido, and she suggests that he return to Soul Society. He, however, thinks that he should decide his own path. Ichigo and company meanwhile have found the area where Nel was being held, but neither she nor any other Hollows are there anymore. Bawabawa seems to know where they are, so the group rides him until they see Nel on top of a cliff with Pesche and Dondochakka. Before they can reach her however, they get ambushed by another one of the Adjuchas and his legion of Gillians. Since their objective is Nel, Ishida uses his bow to take out the Hollows guarding her, and Renji and Ichigo quickly grab her, Pesche, and Dondochakka. The group then turns their sights on their opponents. While everyone else fights the Gillians, Ichigo faces off against the Adjuchas and defeats him with a Getsuga Tenshou attack.
Ashido and Rukia are trying to make their way towards Ichigo’s group, but they are confronted by the fourth and final Adjuchas. Having faced this one before, Ashido fights with the intent of this being his final job in this forest. The ensuing battle has Ashido cutting the spikes that come out of the Adjuchas’ tail, surviving a Ceros attack, and chopping off the Adjuchas’ right arm. When the Adjuchas tries to go after Rukia instead, she freezes him and lets Ashido shatter him. The two then continue on their way and find Ichigo shortly after he and the others finish off all the Gillians. Rukia introduces Ashido to everyone and, because they hear more Gillians coming, she reminds them that their goal is to rescue Inoue, so they should get out of here. Ashido shows them the way, but before they can reach the exit, they come under attack one more time by Gillians along with the Adjuchas that Ichigo had thought he had killed. Ashido decides to face these enemies by himself while everyone else gets away, but one of the cero blasts gets deflected into the ceiling of the passageway and creates a cave-in that cuts off Ashido’s own escape route. Urging Rukia to go save her friend, Ashido leaps back into the forest after the Adjuchas that he just stabbed.
Rukia and the others are able to make it back to the surface, but she laments over how she wasn’t able to tell Ashido that it was another Shinigami who is using the Hougyoku and working with Hollows to try to change the world. Hearing this, Ichigo suggests that they take the Hougyoku from Aizen when they rescue Inoue. Before joining everyone else in continuing towards Las Noches, Rukia looks back one more time and vows to return for Ashido. Around this time, Ulquiorra visits Inoue’s room in Las Noches and informs her that her friends have invaded Hueco Mundo. When she wonders why, Ulquiorra suggests that it’s for no reason other than to save her.
This arc was okay as far as anime originals go – nothing great, but not horrible either. The enemies weren’t exactly a challenge for Ichigo and friends, but seeing the Menos forest setting and hearing Ashido’s story were at least somewhat interesting to me. If it had dragged on longer though, I probably wouldn’t have liked it at all. Of course, this might not be the last time we hear of this or see Ashido. He didn’t escape with the others, so he likely won’t be making any appearance again anytime soon like I had feared, but he’s also not dead, and it’s possible they’ll revisit him before this is all over, especially given that Rukia wants to return for him. Either way, next week looks like a return to the manga storyline, and based on Newtype’s spoilers, it looks like we’ll be sticking with it for several episodes.