「”The Shooting Star Project (Zero Mix)”」
So it’s come to this. This week’s Bleach tackles the aftermath of Yhwach’s invasion as Ichigo and the 13 Squads are left to pick up the pieces of the harrowing encounter. But because of Yamamoto’s death and the high level of damage to their infrastructure, we finally meet their very own higher-ups, Squad 0.
AN ODD TANGENT ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL WAIFU / HUSBANDO DEBATES
What a blessed day! Both of my old waifus, Isane and Kuukaku have arrived in The Thousand Year Blood War. Considering how old Bleach is as a franchise, most of us used to have our own bro-ey schoolyard debates over who’s the hottest. I say “bro-ey” because debates over the guy characters in Bleach were more narrow as you were either on Team Hitsugaya or Team Ulquiorra. Some folks liked Grimmjow, but I could never forgive him for putting a brutal end to Luppi’s feral twink appeal.
Guy classmates saw that one image of all the girls in school uniforms or soccer uniforms and that’s all they needed to know which girl they preferred. There was no same resource for girls or gay/bi guy classmates aside from the tacky business suit pictures. Like if I mentioned in a forum topic that Kensei was the hottest dude during the Hueco Mundo arc, they’d either agree half-heartedly or have no idea who I was talking about and condescendingly say I misspelled the name Szayel.
Honestly, you could make a good argument for any of the Bleach girls. Rukia, Orihime, Yoruichi, Matsumoto, and Tiel are arguably some of the most attractive characters in anime altogether. But from the Soul Society arc onwards, there have been two girls that I’d say always resonated with me: Isane and Kuukaku. Isane had the same tomboy appeal as Tatsuki, but with Kubo’s signature massive bust size and an adorably flighty personality. Kuukaku was a force to be reckoned with who has the same kind of tough, no-nonsense appeal and chest as one of my favorite Guilty Gear characters, Baiken.
Did any of these characters have any presence in the story? Absolutely not. But Bleach’s characters felt more like they were created for people to gush over instead of analyze on a critical level. This episode has Isane grappling with whether she can hold the line in this very stressful time, and it’s the most I’ve heard her talk aside from some of the cuter filler episodes and omake shorts she appeared in. Kuukaku also only gets exposure when she has to fire folks like Ichigo and Squad 0 out of her massive cannon and needs dopes like me to spread the gospel on her.
I’m hoping this isn’t the most infantile tangent I’ve written. I’m worried that this looks too much like the infamous “Nerd Porn Auteur” poem from the Ready Player One author. But I’d be sanitizing the history of Bleach’s stranglehold on the West if I didn’t discuss what the characters meant to younger fans who were coming of age. For many, Bleach was the launching pad that allowed younger fans to see their preferences come to play when they saw characters from Bleach that were their exact type to a T.
Because the cast kept growing and growing, they kept adding more and more conventionally attractive characters for younger and older fans alike to latch onto. The Hueco Mundo arc was where these debates were at their loudest since there was bound to be a girl or guy for everyone to Stan over. They had to make the most of it too because by the time the TYBW arc happened in the manga, fans had already settled down with the few characters they caped for all those years ago.
The anxiety of Ichigo needing to settle down too also drowned out those older debates in favor of arguing whether Rukia or Orihime should get the Naruto/Hinata ending. Newer anime fans have different priorities in mind, and you’d look like an aging creep if you were still trying to fight with people over the hottest anime girls in 2022, let alone the mid-2010s. It didn’t help that every new Bleach character was either conventionally attractive but overshadowed by the older crew or weirdos who were drawn because Kubo wanted to make characters you were allowed to laugh at.
THE HUECO MUNDO ARC WAS JUST ICHIGO BUSTING AIZEN’S FAKE ID RING
Speaking of the weirdos, Squad 0 was created with this philosophy in mind as our initial introduction of the Captains powerful enough to guard the Soul King are treated like a side-show. As much as Soifon and the other captains like to complain and as unreasonable as they’re made out to be, Squad 0 is extremely within their jurisdiction to criticize the Seireitei’s 13 Captains.
They want to act like they don’t need help and want Squad 0 to stay in their lane, but the Seireitei captains are driving on the opposite side of the road. Shutara Senjumaru and Space Dandy himself, Tenjirou Kirinji, make very strong points when they criticize how they shouldn’t have to be down there, to begin with, but unless they made strong changes to how the 13 Captains operate, they shouldn’t be mouthing off or acting insulted when they’re called out for being run inefficiently. Complacency and disregard for improvements is how Yhwach cleared through them so badly that Yamamoto was killed and high-level Captains were gravely injured and missing their Bankais.
Kirinji was the most amusing dude of the bunch because his bosozoku aesthetic is a hilarious contrast to his role as the Soul Society’s most powerful healer. Even with all the comedic moments the episode was trying to squeeze out of Kon being used as a projector and Urahara’s crew trying their best to hold back a mystery guest, I cracked up the most with Kirinji’s Squad 0 Kirinden, or his palace. His ability to use his hot springs to draw and rebuild the blood in a Soul Reaper’s body was hilarious to see, especially when he threw Byakuya into the Blood Pond Hell to have his blood supply replenished.
Aside from this, it was a fun episode for catching up with how some of the other characters were doing, especially those who don’t get as much play like Hanatarou and the Shiba family. I’m curious when we’ll be seeing Grimmjow since he’s definitely hanging out with Urahara, Orihime, and Chad. As I was taking caps, I cackled because Orihime and Chad were trying to ward him off with holy water and maracas. I’m also wondering what the Soul King’s method would be as to rebuilding Zangetsu for Ichigo since he received the rare opportunity to be invited to one of the most iron-clad spaces in the afterlife.