「 改造魂魄の開発者」 (Kaizou konpaku no kaihatsusha)
“The Developer of the Modified Souls”
After Urahara and Ichigo are surrounded by reigai, Yourichi and the other captains show up. She reveals that they were saved by Kukaku and her friends then healed at her place. While they fight the reigai, Urahara, Ichigo and Kon head off to find Kageroza’s lab. However, Ichigo’s hollow interferes again, causing him to collapse. Urahara and Kon tell him to stay put while they search for the lab to restore his reiatsu. They break into the research department, then the library to do some research on Kageroza. Urahara begins to put together the pieces of the story, deducing that the developer of the mod souls split himself into the first two mod souls — Nozomi and Kuujo. After going to the 10th squad barracks, he learns about Yushima and heads to Maggot’s Nest to find him. There, they are intercepted by the reigai Soifon and Omaeda, who they manage to defeat quickly. After searching the prison, Urahara and Kon find Yushima lying comatose, and Urahara remarks that he may never wake up again. Back in the room, Ichigo loses control and transforms into his hollow form.
「 コンの想い、望実の想い 」 (Kon no omoi, Nozomi no omoi)
“Kon’s Thoughts, Nozomi’s Thoughts”
In Yushima’s cell, Urahara deduces that Kageroza had been there. He uses Kageroza’s blood, which was mixed with Mayuri’s drug, to track him down. On the way, they run into Urahara’s reigai, and he battles him while Kon sneaks into the building. Kon finds Nozomi, who tells him to leave. He refuses however and attempts to start the process of restoring Ichigo’s reiatsu. Nozomi explains that she and Kageroza represent the two sides of Yushima, self-control and ambition, and again tells him to leave, saying that she doesn’t know what will happen once they fuse. After a moving conversation with Kon though, she decides to help him create the soul candy, using information from Kageroza’s memory. However, the reigai Nemu interrupts before the process is completed, and proceeds to successfully fuse Nozomi and Kageroza.
After Ichigo transforms into his hollow form, the reigai Ise orders several shinigami to go after him. He defeats them easily, but before he can go after Ise, Yushima shows up. Around Soul Society, the captains clash with their clones, and charge each other in a massive attack.
「 一護を護れ！仲間たちの絆！」 (Ichigo o mamore! Nakama tachi no kizuna! )
“Protect Ichigo! The Bonds of Friends!”
Ichigo’s friends and several of the lieutenants decide to head into Soul Society.
Yushima confronts the hollow Ichigo, who vaporizes the reigai Ise. He attempts to go after Yushima as well, but is hit by a binding spell. As he is about to finish Ichigo off though, something causes him to hesitate, just as Ichigo’s friends arrive. In a flashback, he reminisces about being alone,about being jealous towards those who were stronger, and about his bitterness towards Soul Society. They fight, but with the combined powers of Nozomi and Kageroza, Yushima easily holds them off. Renji, Rukia, Chad, and Ishida attempt a combined attack, but they are still taken out. He explains that he had become a reigai in order to become stronger so he could wield the full power of his zanpakutou. As he tries to kill Rukia, Ichigo (still in his hollow form) intercepts the hit with his own body.
Urahara continues to battle his reigai, who reveals that has trained in brute combat. The captains and reigai also battle in all out combat. Mayuri tries to attack the reigai Unohana, but gets sliced in half by Kenpachi. The other captains also struggle against the powered up reigai, and finally the other lieutenants show up to help as well. However, several of them are still defeated.
Urahara’s character is one of my favorites in Bleach, and I’m quite happy to see him more (even if it’s in fillers). To my satisfaction, he gets a short battle again Soifon and Omaeda and defeats them in a matter of moments. Aside from his fighting skill, we also get to see his intelligence as he trolls Kon while doing research work on his enemies. It’s not too often Urahara’s shown in a central role, even though he’s always been a major behind-the-scenes player, so I guess that is one benefit of fillers. There’s even a reigai of Urahara, which was something I completely did not think of; and as with all the others, they get to fight each other. The idea itself is already far more fascinating than even Kenpachi vs. Kenpachi, and the actual battle doesn’t let down as the two pros one-up each other again and again. It’s unfortunate that a lot of abilities haven’t been revealed in the manga yet, so these non-canon episodes do seem to rely on spamming kidou for those kinds of characters. It doesn’t make sense plot-wise since every single captain with a revealed bankai uses it, while all the others don’t, no matter how dire the situation becomes, but I suppose that really can’t be helped.
I wasn’t not expecting Kuukaku and her friends to show up, as we haven’t seen them in a while. They don’t stay on screen for long and don’t even get to say a word, so we’ll probably be forgetting about them again soon. Kon on the other hand continues to get his filler-only character development. He desperately wants to be of some use “to the cause”, and I can definitely understand that restless feeling when everyone else seems to be doing something important. With Kon usually portrayed as comic relief, I really didn’t think about those aspects too much until this episode. His conversation with Nozomi was emotional as usual, though the back and forth dialogue was a bit cheesy and over-dramatic. Really, these scenes would be much better if he got a proper gigai, as then it would be easier to take him seriously.
Finally, seeing Ichigo’s full hollow form again is pretty sweet too, though he doesn’t do much more than head-on brute force. His friends try to help, but as always they don’t manage to do much; even with coordinated efforts they and are soon defeated. I have to say though, I think this is the longest war shown in Bleach yet. It has been dragged on for too long, with the characters healing over and over and fighting each other again and again. Yes those fights were exciting, but when done so many times, they become stale quickly. The plot is finally coming together though, and I’ll admit I’m finding it fairly interesting. Both Kuujo and Kageroza can be seen in Yushima, and two sides of their personalities are both clearly at work. What I don’t understand is why Yushima is so strong when supposedly he was so weak that he was moved into a research squad. I don’t know how much the reigai boosted his abilities, but with power like that to both manipulate space and absorb attacks, and a lot of skill with kidou, this guy seems like he could be captain-class. In addition, he seems to be speaking as Kageroza instead of a separate person since Kageroza and Nozomi were supposedly two halves, but I suppose this implies that Kageroza’s “dark side” had become stronger. Regardless, it would be strange if Nozomi, the “good side”, didn’t win over in the very end and at least give Kon some closure.