When Nnoitra easily defeats Sado, everyone in Las Noches senses it. Ichigo in particular refuses to admit that Sado got beaten and feels that he has to believe in his friend. Inoue, on the other hand, gets paid a visit from Ulquiorra, and when he starts talking about what Nnoitra did, she asserts that Sado isn’t dead. Ignoring her, Ulquiorra has some food brought in for her and tells her that it’s her duty to maintain her health until Aizen needs her. Inoue, however, repeats her belief that Sado isn’t dead, so Ulquiorra notes that he’s not here to comfort her. He questions why she’s so obsessed about life and death, and he asserts that her friends will all soon be destroyed. Ulquiorra’s further insulting them by calling them foolish for coming here eventually leads to Inoue slapping him. Unfazed, he promises to return in one hour and force her to eat if she hasn’t by then. After the door closes, Inoue can only cry to herself.
Back under the blue skies dome of Las Noches, an Arrancar named Tesla approaches Nnoitra and comments on how Nnoitra isn’t going to finish off Sado. Nnoitra treats it as a natural thing for him because he feels that if he killed all the small fry, then there’d be no one to acknowledge his strength. He then senses another huge spiritual force and decides to go crush that person, but before he can leave, Sado gets back up. When Sado charges forward for one last-ditch attack, it is actually Tesla who protects Nnoitra, and Sado loses consciousness soon after due to all the blood that he’s lost. Nnoitra, however, ends up being angry with Tesla for interfering, and when Tesla explains that he was concerned about the slight chance that Nnoitra could have been injured, Nnoitra declares that there’s no one who can break his body – he feels that he’s the strongest Espada.
Renji and Dondochakka meanwhile fall into some traps and get dumped into a room where the Eighth-ranked Espada Szayel Aporro Granz is waiting. Recognizing him, Dondochakka identifies Szayel as the best researcher in Hueco Mundo and as a spirit weapon development specialist. Szayel doesn’t deny that he’s a researcher and even claims that his combat abilities aren’t that high, but Renji doesn’t care for what he has to say and immediately initiates ban kai. Unfortunately for Renji, Szayel somehow dispels Hihiou Zabimaru in a bright flash of light right as it looks like it’s about to hit him. While all this has been going on, Rukia is still facing Aaroniero Arruruerie in his giant blob form. Aaroniero explains that his Glotonería allows him to manifest the powers of all the Hollows that he’s eaten at once, and so far he’s consumed 33,650 of them. Because of this, he tells Rukia to think of this as her fighting against a force of over thirty thousand Hollows.
I can’t help but note the irony in Nnoitra’s confidence in his invulnerability with what’s going on in the manga right now. If nothing else, it served as a reminder of how close the anime is to the current point of the manga. I had expected that they’d have interjected an anime original arc or two by now, but that hasn’t really happened. Instead, the story continues to move forward (this episode covered two total chapters worth spread over chapters 262-267), and given how long the battle with Szayel is, they’d have to interrupt or change it in some way if they don’t want to catch up. With the current developments in the manga, I’m wondering if Kubo Tite is going to take the story back to the real world soon and give the anime a good spot to either take a hiatus on or to start another anime original arc on. The anime for now moves on with the conclusion of the Kaien/Aaroniero stuff next week.