I really apologize for the extended leave of absence; for the past few weeks I’ve been traveling to other countries, then moving across the US and starting a new job. I’m finally settled in and have computer access now, so it is time to catch up to everything missed. Reading one and a half months’ worth of Bleach all at once certainly provides a different perspective than the usual one chapter per week. It means that you don’t quite perceive the usual problem of short chapters with very little real content, and it reminds me of the good times I had marathon-reading the early story arcs for hours and hours on end. When I left off, Ichigo was just confronting a large group of Sternritter as Yhwach, Ishida and Haschwald began traveling towards the Soul King Palace and implementing the final stage of their plan. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that Haschwald was able to precisely predict that Ichigo would inadvertently break open the barriers with the King’s Key for precisely one hour and forty minutes, but he does seem to possess a deep knowledge of whatever he’s getting into. The scale of the battles is ramping up quickly, though we are still a while away from the final showdown.
With the main character at the scene and ready to save everyone yet again, his allies all show up at precisely the right time to hold off the small fry and allow him to go become the shining hero. Inoue and Chad talk some sense into him, bringing up a good point that Ishida must have felt that his course of action was for the best. That bastard Urahara also suddenly shows up out of nowhere with yet another convenient solution to get Ichigo back to the Palace. I’ve always suspected that Urahara is the true brains pulling all the strings from behind the scenes, and it’s pretty obvious that he has a pretty clear picture of what’s actually going on. He even provides some special clothes for Inoue to better display her “assets” to Ichigo, though Yourichi and Chad end up embarrassing her by accident. While they are dawdling however, Yhwach has begun his attack on the Soul King’s Palace. It’s not clear how prepared the Zero Squad actually is for something like this, but Kirinji goes out alone to confront the quincies, and he slaughters a bunch of stormtroopers with his boiling water. Although the five of them have been hyped to be incredibly strong, I really doubt that they will be able to stand against Yhwach for long; he didn’t prepare this invasion for several hundred years just to be defeated here.
Despite all the business going on at the Soul King Palace, there are a lot of comedic moments injected throughout the all-out brawl between the Gotei 13 officers and Sternritter. After all, a series like this can’t take itself too seriously. Insults are traded back and forth, and we finally find out what happened to Bambietta – she’s been turned into an explosive zombie sex toy by Giselle (who may or may not be transgender). She’s quite the disturbing, homicidal maniac. Captain Kurotsuchi takes an interest in Gigi’s abilities and arrives in a bombastic suit of blinding light. To fight her hoard, he brings out his own zombie squad of four dead arrancars from a long time ago when he raided Syazel’s lab. Though it looks like they have been reaniminated Frankenstein-style, they retain all their own personalities and memories, allowing a reunion with some of their previous opponents. As zombies themselves, they are seemingly unaffected by Giselle’s blood and are able to quickly cut through the undead Bambi and the other shinigami. Of course, Giselle has her own ace in the hole; she somehow got to Hitsugaya after his previous defeat, infected him with her blood, and changed him into the Sternritter uniform. While it’s not clear whether he’s actually dead or simply mind-controlled, his current prospects are pretty grim. Either way, Hitsugaya’s battle performance has always been disappointing, even in life; if Kurotsuchi really decides to take him out he probably could, and he’s not exactly the type who can be trusted to save the lives of his allies. Perhaps Hitsugaya could defeat the four arrancar, but I do have a feeling he will somehow be saved in the end, thanks to plot armor.