By now it’s fairly clear that the group of masked intruders declaring hostilities against Soul Society is affiliated with the Quincies, especially with the German terms involved. They seem to be somewhat different from the Ishida-brand of Quincy, but their attack styles and strategizing are consistent with what we’ve seen. I can only assume Ivan is also working for them, and his arrancar-like mask and giant four-barreled cannon make me think that the Quincies may have developed new abilities, secret weapons or alliances that emboldened them to take on Soul Society. There is a reference to the “Vandenreich” that will destroy Soul Society, which I presume is either the name of their group or some other unknown force. They seem confident enough to take on Captain Yamamoto himself, and manage to defeat his lieutenant in one attack. It would probably be wise to treat them as a formidable force, at least more so than the disappointing performance of Ishida throughout the series.
Ichigo is still not sure what to make of Ivan, but his actions imply that his mission is to neutralize the threat that Ichigo poses to whatever master plan they are putting into action. He taunts Ichigo into releasing his bankai and immediately attempts to seal/destroy it. Luckily Ichigo is at the top of his game, and he breaks the seal with ease. No surprise for us there, as enemies tend to underestimate Ichigo’s power by a lot. No new attacks or abilities yet either, but hopefully there will be epic battles to come in this “thousand-year war” and the excitement will continue to build. Of course, if the new enemy is Quincy, one big plot point will also be about what Ishida and his father will decide to do.
On a side note, the cover this week confused me as to the role Ryuunosuke will have in this arc. Last week I downplayed his character as “filler” and not likely to contribute anything to battles, but I’m not sure if I should interpret the image with Ichigo standing behind him and encouraging him to mean anything significant about what’s to come.