Faced against the massive blob that Aaroniero has become, Rukia thinks about how she had told herself that she had saved Kaien by killing him. She realizes that it was a mistake, and she feels that she doesn’t have enough power to swing her sword anymore. All this means that Aaroniero has an easy time breaking through Rukia’s blade and impaling her with his trident. As she loses consciousness, Rukia says goodbye to Kaien, but the next thing she knows, he is hitting her on the head for not responding to him. She soon realizes that she’s back in the mountains of Soul Society where Kaien had trained her for the first time. Rukia remembers everything from this time, including how a bird distracted her during training and how Kaien subsequently disarmed her. She originally hadn’t been talented in using a sword, and though she managed to do well on her demon arts, it was average compared to the rest of the Gotei 13.
It was back during this time that Rukia had wondered where her heart was and had questioned out loud what she was there for, so Kaien had told her that it was to fight and protect. Since Rukia wanted a clear answer, Kaien explained to her that Captain Ukitake’s philosophy centered around there being two types of fights: fights to protect life and fights to protect pride. Kaien personally felt that those end up being the same thing – heart. For him, heart isn’t something inside of you, but rather something that is born between two people. If there was only one person in the world, heart wouldn’t exist. Thus, he asserted that if she truly wished to be there, then her heart was there. And if her heart was there, then that was the reason for her to be there. Kaien, however, had also warned her not to die alone because he believed that when they die, their heart is entrusted to their friends, meaning that it lives on within those friends.
With these words in mind, Rukia regains consciousness in her fight with Aaroniero. Her broken zanpaktou can’t reach his face, so Aaroniero doesn’t feel threatened until it’s too late and she reforms it, impaling his head in the process. Rukia then tells him that she remembered where Kaien’s heart is. Though Aaroniero has his body, Aaroniero is not Kaien because Kaien entrusted his heart to Rukia. Driving her zanpaktou through the jar that holds Aaroniero’s two masked heads, Rukia causes his body to explode in a sea of green liquid. After both masked heads die, Rukia struggles to get back up and remembers what Kaien said about not dying alone. As images of her family and friends flash through her head, Rukia thinks about how she knows both the solitude of imprisonment and the joy of being saved by friends. She also knows the fear of her friends getting injured and defeated, and she wants Inoue not to worry about it. Despite all her efforts to get up though, Rukia collapses and lets go of her zanpaktou.
Once again, the animation on a Rukia episode looked great (not that I’m complaining). The entire Aaroniero mini-arc has been done well – better than all the Privaron Espada fights – and I loved the perfect cliffhanger this episode ends on. The end of this episode also made me realize how similar Rukia’s situation in Soul Society was to Inoue’s situations in Las Noches – something I hadn’t noticed back when I was reading the manga. Now that I think about it, they’ve been remarkably similar in terms of Ichigo spearheading the effort to save the girl, and everyone getting more powerful as they fight a wide range of enemies (many of whom are certifiably insane). Then again, that’s a pretty common theme for these kinds of shounen-oriented series.
Anyway, this episode covered two chapters worth between chapters 267, 268, and 269. And from the preview and future episode titles, it looks like they’ll be continuing with the manga story at least into March. I know I mention this almost every week, however given Bleach’s past record, it still amazes me that they’re this close (within 40 chapters) to catching up. I keep expecting them to throw in an anime original arc, but so far so good.