Ichigo is out patrolling when an injured Rukia suddenly emerges from a gate from Soul Society. Moments later, another gate appears and out of it comes the human form of Rukia’s zanpakutou, Sode no Shirayuki. She attacks Ichigo and tries to get him to hand over Rukia, and he’s is surprised to see her use Rukia’s signature techniques. He’s able to counter it though, and his opponent decides to back off for now. Ichigo then takes Rukia to Urahara’s place for treatment from Inoue, and once Rukia is well enough to talk again, she tells everyone about what happened in Soul Society. After Muramasa had revealed that he had sealed away Yamamoto, fighting had broken out between the Shinigami and the Zanpakutou. Rukia was saved by her brother, but he was then locked in battle with his own Zanpakutou, and she ended up back in the real world after fighting hers. Yoruichi, who had earlier gone to Soul Society to check things out, now returns to report that the Shinigami have regrouped and the Zanpakutou have disappeared for the time being. However, Byakuya is still missing, and Rukia worries about him despite Ichigo’s reassurances that her brother wouldn’t die. When Ichigo finds out later that Rukia has gone back to Soul Society on her own, he decides to go after her.
You might remember that last week I said “maybe they can get through it without Ichigo needing to come save the day.” So much for that idea. In fact, I was amused that, as if to drive home the point of who this series will always revolve around, they even played the song Number One in the background as Ichigo was preparing to leave. I still think keeping Ichigo out of this and giving more focus to the captains/vice-captains and their respective Zanpakutou would have been better, but at the very least having Ichigo around means that we’ll likely get to see a lot more of Zangetsu. Plus there’s Yoruichi whose Zanpakutou we know very little about, and this would be a good chance for them perhaps to reveal something about it.
Having said all that, I have to note that I actually liked the episode overall because it had some pretty nice action scenes with all that fighting going on. There’s a certain freshness factor still to seeing each Zanpakutou use techniques that we would otherwise very familiar with, and watching the captains and vice-captains having to adapt is interesting as well. I suspect they’ll be making heavy use of kidou spells for a while to compensate.