「断界に潜伏？もう一人の一護！？」 (Dangai ni Senpuku? Mou ichi nin no Ichigo!? )
“Hiding in the Dangai? Ichigo is Alone?!”
Ichigo wakes up in Urahara’s place after being defeated by Kageroza, and he realizes that he has lost his reiatsu. Unohana tells Renji and Rukia that Yamamoto won’t be able to fight any time soon, and that many of the other shinigami are still severely wounded. Ichigo takes a walk with Urahara, and they run into Renji, Rukia, Inoue, Chad, and Ishida. Ichigo states that even though he cannot fight anymore, he will do whatever he can to help rescue Nozomi. As they discuss what to do, Ishida wonders why Kageroza was so wary of Ichigo, to which Urahara explains was because of Ichigo’s hollow powers. He says that Kageroza may have been unable to create a reigai of Ichigo because of this, and therefore he tried to get rid of Ichigo multiple times. Urahara theorizes that they may be able to restore Ichigo’s powers artificially with Kageroza’s technology by using Ichigo’s Reishi collected by the Cleaner.
Kon wanders around aimlessly, still despondent over Nozomi and his own weakness, and finds the lion phone strap on the ground. He despairs that everything is his fault due to his powerlessness, but Ichigo comforts him tells him to wait as he goes into the Dangai. Ichigo is able enter the Cleaner because he lost his spiritual power, but it tries to expel him and he loses the sensor. He is able to get it back though, and successfully collects the Reishi. At the same time, Ichigo sees his comatose shinigami form floating inside and he pulls it through the exit. Urahara explains that that was his previous self which was swallowed in a different timeline.
Back in Soul Society, Kageroza rushes to begin the fusion with Nozomi.
「影狼佐を追え！技術開発局、潜入！ 」 ( Kageroza o oe! Gijutsukaihatsu Kyoku, sennyū! )
“Pursue Kageroza! Technological Development Department, Infiltration!”
As Ichigo and the others prepare head to Soul Society and restore his reiatsu, Kon is also determined to go and save Nozomi, to which Ichigo agrees. Kageroza and the reigai are alerted to their presence in the Dangai however, and several reigai head to the Senkaimon to intercept them. Ichigo’s friends keep the reigai occupied while Urahara, Ichigo and Kon sneak into Soul Society through an alternate route. The reigai Hitsugaya figures out the ruse and they quickly retreat.
Although Kageroza is still injured, he begins the process of fusing with Nozomi. Urahara, Ichigo and Kon break into the Department of Research and Development, and uses Kageroza’s Reigai-creating equipment to restore Ichigo’s reiatsu. He aims to create a Mod Soul using Ichigo’s Reishi and fuse that with Ichigo himself, but the process is interrupted, causing the lab to explode. Luckily, Ichigo is able to retrieve the Soul Candy and restore his shinigami powers. However because the Soul Candy was incomplete, his reiatsu becomes unstable and his inner hollow threatens to take over. As they attempt to find another lab, the reigai surround them, but at the same time Yourichi and the recovered captains arrive to help them.
In a flashback, a shinigami named Yushima is inducted as a shinigami. Because he is weak however, he is not allowed to participate in any battles and is transferred to the 12th squad, which distresses him greatly. Later, his project Spearhead was scrapped by the Central 41, and in desperation he hides his research in the Dangai.
This was probably among the worst defeats Ichigo and the Gotei 13 have ever suffered, and it’s the first time I’ve seen Kon in such despair too, making for one of the more depressing episodes of Bleach. With a few of Urahara’s tricks though, their luck turns for the better and he forms a plan to recover Ichigo’s powers. They are still up against some pretty heavy odds, but with some ultra fast healing (which I felt was a bit of a cop-out), all the captains are back in commission too.
As Kageroza begins the last step in his plan of SS domination, his past and motives are delved into with a flashback. Some of the things he had to go through would have made him a much more sympathetic character if only he didn’t exhibit all the annoying bad guy characteristics. My guess is that this Yushima split his soul into Kageroza and Nozomi, two Mod Souls, so that they could complete his research. I assume that it’s his body lying comatose in the prison, and Kageroza is trying to bring him back by rejoining Nozomi and himself. The biggest wrench in his plans now though is that Nozomi has her own will and has also made friends in real world who clearly are not keen to the idea of her fusing with Kageroza.
And finally, it’s great to Urahara back and taking a more active role again. He’s probably the most awesome character in all of Bleach and it would be quite a treat to see him fight again, as there is no doubt that he is extremely skilled. I’ve been very curious about Urahara’s bankai too, though unfortunately that probably won’t be seen for a while. Regardless, judging from the preview the next episode is going to be focused on him too, and I am looking forward to it. Now that is something I haven’t said about Bleach in a while.