Shortly after he senses Ichigo’s power in the distance, Renji finds himself being chased by Dondochakka who is crying for Nel. Dondochakka is desperate to find and stop Nel, yet he keeps running with Renji. Ichigo meanwhile continues to get knocked around by Dordonii as the Privaron Espada tries to get him to initiate ban kai. Caught in the mouth of Dordonii’s cyclone extensions, Ichigo instead uses his Getsuga Tenshou attack to cut off its head, but Dordonii just reforms it and strikes again. At one point, Ichigo actually looks like he’s decided to initiate ban kai, but he instead tries to use that to surprise his opponent with an attack from close range. It doesn’t work though, and Dordonii responds with a cero blast. Ichigo doesn’t have enough time to react before the cero hits, but to his surprise, Nel steps into the path of the blast and completely sucks it up into her mouth. She’s only able to hold it in there for a few seconds though before spitting it right back out at Dordonii. This leaves the Privaron Espada injured, but before the smoke even clears, he fires a small blast at Nel to knock her out.
Seeing a defenseless Nel about to struck by Dordonii’s cyclone extension, Ichigo instantly initiates ban kai and saves her. After apologizing to her for his stubbornness, Ichigo explains that, for the sake of fighting on equal terms with the Espada, he hadn’t wanted to use ban kai against anyone else. However, he now realizes that this was nonsense. Dordonii admires Ichigo’s self-discipline because he thinks it’s necessary for someone who wants strength, but Ichigo says that he wouldn’t do it to the point of his comrades getting hurt. This leads Dordonii to figure out that Ichigo’s goal isn’t strength and is instead to protect his comrades. Dordonii, however, also knows that Ichigo can get even stronger by turning into a Hollow, and he tries to force Ichigo to do it by attacking with one of his cyclone extensions. It’s not until Dordonii goes after and succeeds in drawing blood on Nel’s face that Ichigo decides to bring out his mask. He first warns his opponent that he’ll only be able to show it for an instant, and since Dordonii thinks that that’s enough, Ichigo does it. Feeling the power emanate from Ichigo, Dordonii is ecstatic, but it’s short-lived because Ichigo finishes him off with one strike down the length of his body.
As he lays unconscious, Dordonii recalls that he understood from the very beginning that if the Hougyoku was obtained, then the earlier Espada would no longer be useful. When he wakes up to find Nel drooling all over him, Dordonii starts yelling at her, and it doesn’t help any that Ichigo calls him Don Panini. Ichigo then explains that Nel’s drool has some weak healing abilities, but after watching Nel pull on her own uvula and vomit, Dordonii doesn’t want any part of it. Afterwards, he comments on how, during the fight, he hadn’t been caught off guard – he just didn’t see it at all. Dordonii admits that he had wanted to return to being an Espada because he couldn’t forget the view from standing up so high. He had thought that if he could defeat Ichigo at full power, then Aizen would accept him again. In truth, those feelings haven’t changed, and Dordonii grabs his sword to fight Ichigo once again now that he’s been healed a little.
Well that was refreshing to watch – this episode had easily some of the best animation quality in recent memory. For such a battle heavy episode, that counts for quite a bit. Now if only that can carry over to the next couple of battles too. Anyway, this week covered from chapter 252 to halfway through chapter 254 with relatively little anime original stuff (some more extra fighting added). I thought the ending was rather misleading, but I guess if you haven’t read the manga then it isn’t so bad. The highlight of this part of the story for me was finding out that Nel is quite special in terms of what she’s able to do (eat and spit out cero blasts), and Dondochakka’s worries mean a bit more now that I know what happens later.
Looking ahead, next episode appears to cover Sado and Ishida’s respective battles, but according to the episode title spoilers, Rukia’s battle is going to be starting by episode 154. Sado and Ishida’s parts could easily get an episode each, so it strikes me as rather weird that they’re rushing since it just means that we’ll be returning to anime originals sooner rather than later. On a related note, there’ll be no episode on January 2nd.