I didn’t think a Bleach fight could have the same sakuga you could find in a contemporary shounen, but the fight between Yamamoto and Yhwach was very impressive. Aside from some of the CG, it was jaw-dropping to see the extent that they’d captured the frightening, disturbing nature of Yamamoto’s Bankai.
Any reservations I had about whether the animation will be as sophisticated as a newer, beefier shounen anime were thrown right out the window with this battle. It was impressive to see how the animators went all-out to capture Yamamoto’s Bankai, Zanka no Tachi.
It was freaky enough when Yamamoto made it clear that the first stage of his Bankai would involve torching his surroundings with scorching flames that could turn everything around it to ash. Right out the gate, we understand that he serves as the de facto leader of the Soul Society because it takes suppressants to even be able to get close to him in a sword fight.
And then it keeps escalating to such an insane degree that it feels all the more impressive and disturbing what Yamamoto’s powers were like. I’m reminded of the time when Kira fought Stray Cat in Diamond is Unbreakable, where you are briefly cheering on the antagonist during their fight.
Even though the Yhwach that fights Yamamoto is not the real deal, he’s the unlucky soul who had to face the brunt of Yamamoto’s reanimation abilities. The skeletons did look a bit rough in comparison to the sword strikes from Yamamoto, but it’s easy to overlook when it’s made clear that the skeletons attacking him were all Quincy whom he could easily recognize.
THE TWISTED FIRESTARTER
I think that’s what I appreciated the most from this fight; rather than still leaning on Yamamoto being an intimidating yet composed leader, it shreds that notion of him by revealing that holds authority in the Soul Society because he’s an absolute monster once he bears his fangs.
Yamamoto having a Bankai that subverts the natural order of life by reanimating the corpses of people he’s killed should be a complete perversion of his role as a spiritual mediator between the life and death of a human. But with the kinds of values embraced by the Soul Society, I imagine a bulk of the authority that Yamamoto holds is because he’s more than willing to push the button and exterminate countless lives on behalf of his subordinates. He was also gung-ho about executing Rukia earlier in the story only to try washing his hands of the situation once Aizen revealed himself as the culprit.
He was especially proud of murdering Quincies, especially when he got to flaunt the reanimated corpses of Quincies to twist the knife for Yhwach. Along with the last episode’s horror influence, the Sternritter disguised as Yhwach went through an absolute nightmare situation when he was swarmed by the corpses of his old comrades. It was terrifying enough to see Royd have to work up his composure to trudge through the bones of his fallen friends. The added cruelty made it pretty difficult to even see Yamamoto as someone who should be cheered for.
I know one of Bleach’s greater vices are introducing antagonists like Yhwach who are able to 4D chess their way out of defeat, but with what we knew about Yamamoto, it feels almost like it was necessary for him to pull one through. With their fight being juxtaposed with Uryuu finding out that there were two separate massacres involving the Quincies, one being Yhwach’s invasion and the second being an outright genocide, redemption was never on the table.
But I did get a kick out of Aizen really not wanting to be part of this arc. Where Yhwach came to him for assistance and he nope’d out of that one as quickly as he had the chance, knowing how much of a headache it’d be to have the two fight over who gets to wipe out the Soul Society first. With or without Aizen, however, Yhwach is proving himself to be as intimidating and broken as you’d hope for a Bleach antagonist, especially since he’s considered to be the strongest of the remaining Quincies out there.