While Sado and Ishida have their hands full with their respective Privaron Espada opponents, Rukia finds herself face to face with her old vice-captain Shiba Kaien. She initially thinks that this can’t be him because she remembers how she killed him, but when he starts talking and acting like he always did, Rukia realizes that it really is him. Despite this, she jumps into a defensive stance when he pulls out a sword. It turns out to be just a bokuto though, and he throws one to her too so that they can spar like they used to. Their surroundings then turn into the training room of the 13th Division, and as Rukia defends herself from Kaien’s swings, she recognizes everything he does. She nevertheless still isn’t able to beat him, and after he knocks away her bokuto, the room changes back to how it used to be. The way Kaien then pats her on the head and comments on how she’s gotten stronger only further reinforces the idea to Rukia that this really is him.
In order to explain things to her, Kaien finds some pillows for them to sit on and starts talking. On that fated night, his spirit form had started to crumble after the battle. That Hollow had been an experiment of Aizen’s, and when it was destroyed, it came to Hueco Mundo to be reformed. Since it had fused with him, the Hollow took on Kaien’s appearance when it reformed, but Kaien found that it was his soul that was in control too, and he jokes that it’s due to his steel willpower being more than the other side calculated. In any case, he managed to become an Espada and is after the chance to kill Aizen. Kaien then reveals that the blue sky outside was created by Aizen on the inside of the dome of Las Noches, and everywhere the light of that blue sky shines is watched by Aizen – that’s why they’re inside right now. Becoming more serious, Kaien expresses how glad he is that it was Rukia who came because only she can do what he’s about to tell her. He then gets up so that they can go somewhere else, but when Rukia tries to follow him, he surprises her by drawing his sword and stabbing at her head. Rukia is able to dodge it, but not without getting a deep cut on her cheek.
Elsewhere in Las Noches, Ulquiorra goes to Ichimaru’s room to ask about someone having arrived at an Espada’s palace. Instead of answering, Ichimaru is more surprised over how Ulquiorra is talking to him since he thought Ulquiorra hated him. He hopes that they can become better friends and mentions how lonely he’s been since Luppi died. Ulquiorra then notices that Ichimaru has been manipulating the hallways, but Ichimaru denies it and claims that he hates sad stories. Back at Aaroniero Arruruerie’s palace, Rukia is now questioning how much of what Kaien told her was true. Kaien affirms that it all was true and questions if there’s something strange about him trying to kill her. He reminds her that she’s the one who killed him and asks if she’s ready to make up for it with her own life. In response, Rukia reveals that she is indeed prepared because she knows that her crime will never disappear, but she feels that she can’t do it until she saves Inoue. To her surprise, Kaien then claims that it was all a joke and that he wouldn’t think about killing her for something so stupid. He reminds her that there’s something only she can do and finally reveals what it is: if she really wants to make amends, then she should bring him the heads of her friends.
Rukia, however, knows that real Kaien would never talk about exploiting her friends’ weaknesses against them so that her own sins can be washed away. She feels that what he’s saying is an insult to the real Kaien, and the real Kaien wouldn’t test his subordinates with a joke. Back then, Kaien had even thanked her with his last breaths after she had stabbed him. All of that makes up why Rukia never wants to hear Aaroniero Arruruerie utter Kaien’s name again, and she promptly releases her zanpaktou and attacks him. Unfortunately, Aaroniero dodges her technique, and he even comments on how she wants to kill him a second time. She refuses to believe that he’s Kaien, and he only makes her angrier by saying that she’ll understand if she stabs him again. After he avoids her next attack, Aaroniero starts laughing over how her way of fighting can’t defeat him.
I never understood why Aaroniero would ask something so stupid of Rukia. He practically had her eating out of his hand because of her guilt, but he then screws it all up by asking her to kill her friends. If he really wanted her to do it, there must be a more subtle way to brainwash Rukia instead just openly saying what he wants. I guess my point is that Aaroniero doesn’t make a really good villain despite the shock of the Kaien identity.
Of course I still enjoyed the episode despite all that. They covered about a chapter and a half’s worth of material and added the training room scene and extra battle scenes as anime original. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep up this slower pace so that we don’t have to go to entirely anime original stuff soon. I’m pretty sure this is the closest we’ve ever been between the manga and the anime. Anyway, there is no episode next week – it’s a little disappointing because the animation quality looks really good in the preview. Episode 155 airs on January 9th.