「Born in the Dark」
With Yamamoto’s demise, Bleach’s seventh episode would immediately follow this up with Ichigo’s arrival to the Soul Society. While his appearance and his budding abilities make it easy for him to survive a fight against Yhwach, learning about his Quincy lineage may cause some turmoil to arise when he’s given a request to save the Soul Society.
AN ODD TANGENT ABOUT PRO WRESTLING
Recently, it was the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Screwjob, an infamous incident during Survivor Series 1997 when several higher-ups came together to rig a match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. There were many things I noticed as social media began pushing forward footage as part of the anniversary. But mainly, it was the showmanship behind professional wrestling.
Shawn Michaels immediately owned playing up the Ugly American role for the crowd as he’d follow up on their shouting, jeering, and slurs by defiling just about any Canadian flag he came across. The initial notes of his entrance theme “Sexy Boy” felt like a huge middle finger to the audience both when he strutted to the ring and when the referee called for Michaels to win the match via submission. Bret was understandably outraged, but the pageantry behind the heels of both this match and what was to come from the Attitude Era of the late 90s would be the exact kind of vibe I get from many of Bleach’s high profile fights.
Whether it be the bizarre reveals, violent brawls, bad blood, or over-the-top posturing, the fun that comes from a Bleach fight often comes from how well it can replicate the soap opera theatrics and Saturday morning cartoon villainy of the WWF’s most notorious heels. I wanted to bring up 90s WWF especially because of the two key moments from this episode; Yhwach declaring an end of an era that he claims ended long before his arrival, and Ichigo finding out about the Quincy powers he inherited from his mother.
I’m also reminded of an infamous match during Backlash 2006 where Vince McMahon and his son Shane fought him in a tag team match where HBK had to partner up with a beam of light they called “God”. It was a pretty messed up fight not only because they were doing this to mock a religious dude, but also because it was a one-sided fight where the McMahons had rigged the fight so Shawn would be fighting alone.
With only his faith by his side, he’d be mercilessly beaten by the McMahons and have his connection with God treated like a joke by Vince. The difference between the Shawn in 1997 and the Shawn in 2006 had been clarified especially during this fight because his comeback era aimed to center more emphasis on his religious side than his ladykiller persona of the yesteryears.
YOU’VE GONE SOFT
It’s a funny thought to compare Yamamoto to HBK. Still, I think the theatrics of Yhwach’s gloating really comes off like the professional wrestling drama that always permeated throughout the wrestler’s feuds. It’s hard to look at a monologue where Yhwach is rubbing it in that aging and sympathy for humans made him weak enough to efficiently kill as if it isn’t just a RAW General Manager or a World Heavyweight Champion dunking hard on a once-vicious old-timer during their comeback era.
The real kicker was the last leg of the fight where Yamamoto’s dying act of resistance was grabbing onto Yhwach’s cape. This sent Yhwach on a full tangent about how the real Yamamoto died on the same day that the Quincies were exterminated. Because he had begun taking on pupils, took it upon himself to teach the next generation of Soul Reapers, and began sympathizing more with Ichigo and his human friends, Yhwach immediately jumps to the conclusion that he’d grown soft enough to be easy to beat.
Yes, this looks bad on Yhwach’s end because he was playing the long game to wait until Yamamoto was a frail old man before a rematch. But in televised pro wrestling, cruelty is the spice that makes a one-sided fight zesty. If Yamamoto was happy to give a huge middle finger to the Quincies only to become more empathetic years after, it’d be no surprise that Yhwach’s strategy would be to rub it in the Soul Society’s face that Yamamoto’s eventual kindness would make it easier for Ywhach to body him in the most disrespectful manner.
On a related note, I was curious to see what the old captains from Yamamoto’s peak were like since there was a girl with glasses who looked quite cute. I’m also a bit of a sucker for the gothic aesthetic of one of the girls there. But if there’s anything you can rely on Kubo for, it’s making really cool designs for characters who don’t wind up appearing for long.
I DIDN’T HEAR NO BELL
I kinda ran out of steam with the whole wrestling spiel, especially since the fight between Ichigo and Yhwach was bogged down with drab shades of gray. I get it because it’s supposed to be a mournful fight where Ichigo is constantly overpowered and sent into grief, despair, and rage over what Yhwach has done. At the same time, it does remind me that superfans tend to gas up anything they love because I saw some crazy dudes out there saying it trumped the Yamamoto fight of the last episode when that was practically a pay-per-view MMA bout engulfed in flames.
But the highlight of this interaction was that Ichigo also winds up having a classic wrestling moment himself. Attempts to get him down for the count are quickly countered with crowd-pleasing ass-pulls where he lifts himself right back up for more. Think of The Undertaker sitting right back up after getting knocked out flat or Hulk Hogan getting angrier and angrier every time he’s punched in the head.
But rather than the power of the undead or the cheers of the thousand Hulkamaniacs, what we’re dealing with here is some spicy family drama. Dropping the bomb that Ichigo’s mom was a Quincy wasn’t enough to get Ichigo to comprehend that Yhwach’s main goal with Ichigo is now to recruit him into ̶D̶-̶G̶e̶n̶e̶r̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶X̶/ ̶E̶v̶o̶l̶u̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ the Sternritter crew to honor the Quincy half of his heritage.
I remember reading about Ichigo’s mom being a Quincy a while ago and laughing about how ridiculous of a soap opera plot twist it was, but it’s a pretty good one for this particular arc. Since Ichigo is actually half-Quincy and all it took to gain the spiritual energy to awaken that part of him was having some of Opie’s prison juice get on him, ideally, it could potentially cause a shakeup as far as who he should be fighting.
If he finds out why his mother and father had to live a secretive life away from the Soul Society, it might cause him to challenge some of the elders in the Soul Society to ask them why they did what they did. I don’t expect it as much since Ichigo is supposed to be the infallible Superman figure. But I’d be ecstatic if Uryuu or some of the other Quincies do challenge Ichigo off the premise that he should be resentful at the kind of fear that the Soul Reapers instilled in Ichigo’s mother by exterminating her race and leaving her with the expectation of being one of the few who could create a new generation of Quincies.