Way back when they were just starting high school, the only person Mizuiro was really friends with was Keigo. Keigo had been freaked out about Ichigo and Sado being in their class because of the rumors he had heard, but it didn’t bother Mizuiro, and he had introduced himself and Keigo to Ichigo and Sado right before the two got into a fight with some thugs. Ichigo was impressed by how Mizuiro said only good things about Keigo, and he had Mizuiro think up an excuse for him so that he wouldn’t get suspended for fighting. This meeting with Ichigo made Mizuiro happy and changed his outlook on life. Meanwhile in Soul Society, Rukia was assigned to the real world, and Renji got promoted to vice-captain. Upon arriving in Karakura town, Rukia senses strong spirit energy.
So this ended up being a bit of an amalgamation of two fairly good extra chapters from the manga. Both the real world and the Soul Society parts have some good character development, though I did notice that they cut out/changed a particular line about Mizuiro’s mother meeting another man which would have helped explain his situation and attitude better. The episode also felt a little disjointed at times, but I can understand that part of what they are (and what Kubo Tite was originally) trying to do is to portray how two worlds came to collide, and it helped that the episode had two good endings, the first being Mizuiro’s reflections and the second being Rukia in Karakura. I loved that they connected it with the beginning of the first episode, and they even reanimated that scene in widescreen and with updated character designs.
In the absence of the continuation of the main manga story, this wasn’t a bad replacement, though of course it’s only one episode. Next week I’m less sure about because it appears to be a beach/swimsuit episode. The preview makes me question (again) why Rangiku’s skimpy bikini is okay but Harribel’s outfit wasn’t.