Inside of the mirrored world that Ichigo is stuck in, he comes face to face with his younger self. It causes him to remember all the time he spent with is mother when he was young and how depressed he had been when she had been killed. What’s different this time however is that she reappears one afternoon when he’s by the riverbank, acting as if nothing had ever happened. She offers her hand to take him home, but when he takes it, she squeezes his hand so tightly that it hurt. Ichigo had gotten free from her, and after remembering that his mother is dead, Ichigo concludes that this person can’t be real. This is further supported by the fact that she starts choking him, yet as Nukui points out, Ichigo can’t hurt his mother back. What Ichigo does instead is to power up, and that causes the entire mirror world to start to crack. It also causes his mother to stop choking him, and Ichigo subsequently hugs her and fills her in on how everyone in their family is doing. Ichigo then apologizes for not being able to protect her and thanks her for protecting him, and as his mother disappears, she smiles.
Having now broken out of the mirror world, Ichigo is furious at what Nukui did, but Nukui only cares about defeating Ichigo and powers up further with his bakkoutou. After they fight some more, Nukui is forced to shed his armor because the parasitic part of the bakkoutou has grown so big that it now covers his entire upper body. Ichigo quickly realizes that Nukui is being eaten by his sword, and when Nukui refuses to put a stop to it, Ichigo questions why he’s willing to go so far. In response, Nukui explains that it’s for both himself and the Kasumiooji family. He’s been part of a group that protects the family from the shadows, and when Ichigo questions why he attacked Rurichiyo, Nukui reveals that he thinks she’s too powerless to be qualified to be the next head of the family. This pisses Ichigo off because he knows that Rurichiyo personally only wants to be free, and it’s not up to Nukui to decide her fate for her. Ichigo then brings out his Hollow mask, and though he doesn’t finish Nukui off immediately with a Getsuga Tenshou attack, doing so forces Nukui to power up even more. That’s enough for Nukui’s bakkoutou to completely consume him, thus ending the fight.
Sometime later in Soul Society, Kira sees Kibune heading into the Kasumiooji estate. At the same time, Kumoi meets with Kuzuryuu – the only survivor of the previous battle. When Kumoi says that he has no longer has any use for a small fry, Kuzuryuu gets angry and tries to attack Kumoi, but Kuzuryuu quickly gets slain by a new arrival: Kibune.
I think this may be the best Bleach episode that we’ve had in a while. That’s not to say that this was exceptional, but I rather liked all the parts with Ichigo’s mother (despite it feeling a little corny at times), and it was overall much better than some of the other recent episodes. On the topic of Ichigo’s mother, it felt like Nukui actually did Ichigo a favor by letting him see her again – even if she was an illusion – and letting him get some more closure by saying the things he’s always wanted to say to her. It was a pretty touching moment for a series that’s so heavy action most of the time.
As for the cliffhanger at the end here, it looks like the writers are building on what happened in episode 172 and continuing to make Kibune a bad guy. That got me thinking – having him as a villain means that he likely won’t survive past the anime original arc. The only other newly introduced protagonist that leaves is Amagai, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Amagai eventually sacrifices himself for a good cause or turns out to be evil as well. Then again, there’s always the chance that if he is a good guy, then he could become a permanent character, like a certain trio that’s still around. The person’s death who did surprise me a little this week was Nukui. That’s mainly because the OP animation sequence still features him, and the OP usually only changes every two seasons, so either he’s not really dead, or the OP is going to continue showing him even though he’s dead (which would feel awkward), or the OP is going to change next week. In short, I’m going to be paying attention to the OP as well as the new ED next week.