「Kill the Shadow」
Bleach’s fourth episode in this new installment takes inspiration from the 1996 sports comedy Space Jam by having the Wandenreich steal the Bankai from some of the more talented Captains in the Seireitei. But as the Soul Society tries to call on Ichigo as their ace-in-the-hole, they’ll soon find that there are some problems that they’ll have to handle on their own.
SHOW ME YOURS AND I’LL SHOW YOU MINE
It was a pretty intense episode because of how quickly so many of the high-profile Captains wound up falling for the Wandenreich’s Bankai-stealing technique. With how disposable a lot of the supporting characters in Bleach can be, I didn’t expect them to choose some of the more beloved Captains to steal from.
Usually, they wind up putting the lieutenants or underutilized Captains on the chopping block for fights. Still, it was a bold decision to have Byakuya and Hitsugaya’s Bankai stolen when they have so much tied to their involvement in the story. At the same time, it makes sense to build intensity in fights given how they now have to rely on Renji and Rangiku respectively to fend off the Sternritter units and survive long enough to recover their abilities.
It also helps to build up the Wandenreich to be more admirable, fearsome foes who have the capacity to undermine the powers of any Soul Reaper entirely. While a good chunk of Bleach fights rely on sheer willpower for a victor to emerge, it’s looking like the TYBW arc might potentially have JoJo-esque fights that force our protags to put more thought into their strategic approach towards certain foes.
The ultraviolence of TYBW cannot be overlooked too since the Wandenreich’s penchant for ripping Soul Reapers apart with their weapons adds to the suspense as well. If they’re vengeful enough to have the censors look the other way on some of the bloodier scenes, there’s got to be some gravitas to their abilities beyond erasing hollows from all existence.
YOU COULD PUT THE BLAME ON ME
Needless to say that the Seireitei is in meltdown mode as Mayuri is furious that Soifon, Komamura, and the other captains started firing off their Bankai before following up with him on his ongoing research. Another instance where the Soul Society’s hierarchy comes off like a disorganized workplace where all the experts are so stuck in their ways that they’re all approaching each other on completely different pages.
And since Akon can feel the Wandenreich creeping and can see it from his shadow, he has to painstakingly come up with the idea of treating Ichigo like he’s the head of HR and has to intervene with a snafu amongst upper management. But while they see Ichigo as their ace-in-the-hole, as it turns out, Ichigo cannot be everywhere.
The big problem with throwing all their hopes on Ichigo is that it causes the others to become complacent with letting their guards down. This makes it simpler for antagonists like Opie to start blasting once he recovers because Urahara was an inch off from his vitals when he shot him. Even if Ichigo was able to solo all of the Wandenreich, they’re still forcing the poor dude to stretch himself thin just to clean up the Soul Society’s mess. And even that’s not reliable because now Ichigo is left mulling about the shut-in soul tunnel until Deus Ex Machina rolls around to give him a way out.