After Aizen cuts down Gin, Gin flashes back to his past and he wonders about his feelings for Matsumoto. He had become and shinigami in an attempt to change things so that Matsumoto wouldn’t cry, and in the end regrets his failure. Nearby, Matsumoto wakes up and rushes to his side and begins to cry. Aizen also reveals that he knew about the Hougyoku long before Urahara, and that he took the souls of hundreds of shinigami and Rukongai residents for the Hougyoku. He also gave his own soul to the Hougyoku, and thanks Gin for allowing him to transcend both shinigami and hollow. Aizen’s new form overcomes Ichigo’s friends, and they collapse. When he is about to kill Matsumoto however, Ichigo arrives, carrying Isshin on his back. He senses that his sisters are fine, and tells his friends to stay where they are. Tatsuki realizes that she can sense no spiritual power at all from Ichigo, as does Aizen, who tells Ichigo he has failed to evolve. Gin however notices the power in his eyes and can die in peace now that he is here.
Ichigo tells Aizen that they should fight elsewhere, and when Aizen balks he forcibly takes him outside town. Aizen is shocked and guesses that Ichigo sacrificed all his reaitsu for physical strength. As they fight, Ichigo is able to block his attacks and even manages to catch Aizen’s blade with his hands. Aizen then attacks with high level kido, but again Ichigo breaks it with just his hands. He then slashes Aizen across the chest.
I think the anime adaption of this part actually gave explanations not in the manga, which was nice since it clarified some questions. Even without the additional information though, it was definitely nice to see everything animated, and the battles are even more awesome than I remembered from the manga.
Most of my impressions remain the same: Ichigo is looking very badass, and it’s great to see since I love cool and collected heroes. It was even better seeing Aizen blabbing arrogantly, talking like he knows exactly what is going on, and Ichigo remains unruffled and simply doesn’t respond. Aizen makes wrong claims one after the other, including thinking that his own power increased so that he could destroy the landscape with every swing. Ichigo humiliates him several times as well, from smashing his face for several miles and into the ground, to turning the tables from their first battle back in the Soul Society arc: this time Ichigo is the one to stop Aizen’s blade with his bare hands. Gotta love seeing his face turn from smug into traumatized.
As for Matsumoto, it’s unfortunate that neither Unohana or Inoue seems to be around to perform some miracle healings for Gin as all the other good guys seem to get (Gin was only slashed and had his arm ripped off, as opposed to getting sliced in half), but at least he gets to die knowing he wasn’t useless. Gin seems to understand the situation more than Aizen does, knowing the Ichigo now has the will and power to match Aizen’s power. However while their high power and completely over-the-top battle was exciting to see, the Hougyoku will just continue to heal all of Aizen’s injuries and so there is no way Ichigo will be able to end the battle “in just an instant”.