Hitsugaya finds Matsumoto at the Women Soul Reaper Association New Year’s Party. They discuss and argue about the various New Years cards that the squads are passing out. However it ends up into a debate between the men and women and they decide to have a showdown with a karuta tournament. At first all the cards are about Ikkaku, and he gets kicked from the game for arguing. Then, Hisagi is removed from the tournament after suffering a nosebleed from looking at Matsumoto’s chest. The remaining members resort to violence to obtain the cards, destroying much of the building as they fight. For the final card, Soifon releases her bankai and the blast results in a large crater in the middle of Soul Society.
In Karakura Town, Inoue is spending her New Years alone. She spots Ichigo chasing his sisters Karin and Yuzu, and also sees Keigo shopping with his sister and Ishida with his father. She meets Renji and Rukia, and they take her to the Urahara shop where they are having New Year’s festivities. They end up picking on Renji, though Inoue has a good time. After they leave, Rukia takes her to a shrine and Renji brings Ishida, Ichigo, and Chad so Inoue wouldn’t be alone.
This week Bleach has some sort of New Years special episode, and yes it is filler as the anime is getting very close to the manga story. The whole thing was divided into two parts, with the first taking place in Soul Society. It was just a comedic one-shot story, but I actually found it pretty funny in several parts which is a step up from the humor usually found in the anime. It felt a bit like several omakes strung together, and the result wasn’t terrible to sit through.
Saying the segment was over-the-top is putting it mildly, as exaggeration was the whole point here. The guys vs. girls tournament quickly degenerates into an all-out battle with both kido and zanpakuto being pulled out, probably breaking every Soul Society rule there is. Mass fatalities and injuries would have occurred, but luckily this isn’t canon as Soifon’s nuke would have dealt out a lot more pain than just a few scratches.
The second half was more serious and it focused on Inoue and her lack of family. It was a bit sentimental as her parents and brother are all gone, and she can only watch everyone spend their New Years with their families happily. The story flows along fairly predictably, and in the end Rukia and Renji get all their friends together to keep her company. Renji is around mostly as a comedic punching bag, but the poor guy does manage to help conclude the episode happily. Quality was so-so, but Inoue and Rukia both looked nice in their kimono.
Fillers continue next time, and from the preview it looks like it will be based on the Halloween spread in the manga from a while back. All the characters will be in various costumes, so that could be something to look forward to (e.g. neko-maid costume).