Score: A

Bleach may be ending it’s return for now, but this double episode made for a great stopping point. Not only did we get a good idea of what happened to Ichigo’s parents, but we finally got Ichigo’s sword returned to him! It’s kind of amazing to think Zangetsu was broken several episodes ago. Now he’s good to go. I mean there are obviously questions left to be answered. How strong are these swords going to be, how is Ichigo’s fighting style going to develop, and can he instantly just start using Bankai again? More questions could be asked than simply that. But I’m good with just starting there.

This moment just hits harder now

The story of Ichigo’s parents was as compelling as I figured it would be. The conclusion was strong and it really did nicely clear up a lot of questions that had piled up. Of course it’s a backstory that had the chance to be explored well into the show so in a sense it makes sense that it was so nicely told. I did really enjoy it though. It was a good chance to understand Isshin, Masaki, and even Ryuken.

Really sums up these flashbacks for Ryuken

Honestly, this was the best chance to understand Ryuken that we’ve ever had. The guy always came across as incredibly cold, mean, and just plain rude. But it is possible to understand how he ended up the way he did. The guy obviously cared about Masaki. He didn’t like what his family was doing. While he didn’t necessarily share the same beliefs as Masaki he did respect her enough to back off when she wanted to go out and fight. And he was the first person that tried to help her when things took a turn for the worse. The cruelty is that he didn’t have a choice to make. He was helpless, and everything was left in the hands of Isshin.

It had to be even more painful that there wasn’t any choice but to give up on Masaki. Not only did Isshin’s personality fit with her, but he had to be with her. I can understand him being sick and tired of the Quincy after that. His mother may have cared about him, but she cared too much about Quincy bloodlines. Honestly, I can imagine that Ryuken felt if it wasn’t for the Quincy that Masaki wouldn’t have had to go through all that. It makes sense to me that he went all out on being a doctor and discarded being a Quincy. It might have been a dig at his family for what happened.

I hope she was happier than I think she was

It makes me wonder about his relationship with Ishida’s mother. Ryuken obviously had feelings for Masaki and both sides knew that. Safe to say that Katagiri loved him, but who knows if the same was ever true for Ryuken. He may have never been able to let go of Katagiri telling his mother what happened with Masaki. It didn’t matter since she collapsed anyways. But safe to say Katagiri was one part acting according to her duties…and one part acting out of jealousy. Honestly it makes me wonder what happened with them long term. It might explain Ryuken’s distance with Uryuu. Same hair colour as his mother and he’s pretty attached to being a Quincy. I do think Ryuken cares, but there has been a lot done to whittle at his compassion. Ended up losing Masaki at the same time as Uryu’s mother too.

This guy got so lucky

The interesting thing is how this does nicely set up Yhwach as a true enemy for Ichigo. Grand Fisher gave Ichigo a good early fight, but nothing was really done with that angle until Isshin killed him later. Now we have a guy that serves as an antagonist responsible in part for the deaths of both Ichigo and Uryu’s mothers. This guy gets to be a target for revenge for both at the same time!

And now it makes sense. Masaki could have handled the situation with Grand Fisher. She was more than capable of protecting her son. But it’s hard for anyone to handle having the rug pulled out from under them like that. Not only would Masaki not be able to fight, but her guard would have been set with the expectation that she could.

Isshin is a good guy

Full respect for Isshin here. Not only did he dive into a tough backstory for himself, but he really stepped up when needed. In some ways it makes sense. The choice had a mountain of demerits for him. But Masaki saved his life. If not for her he wouldn’t have any choices to make at all. But I’m sure that’s not what this was about. He wasn’t happy to give up his powers or leave his squad hanging. But he simply made the choice to save someone. In that moment he had the ability to act and he did. Of course, when you think about it the benefits were plenty good. Isshin got to live a happy life with a beautiful wife and gained children out of it. He got to be a father and see his family grow. Nothing wrong with that.

I have questions! (That I don’t want to be spoiled about)

The big thing was the reforging of the sword and Ichigo being prepared to move forward. I honestly wish the show was coming back much sooner than it is. Because there are so many questions left to be answered. What was up with the swords vanishing like that? I don’t think everything he said is to be taken to mean that he’s going to fight hand to hand. Maybe since he’s part Quincy he can just pull his swords out of thin air now? He doesn’t need to walk around with one strapped to his back or anything. Maybe that’s it. But regardless I’d have loved even one action scene with Ichigo and his new Zangetsus. But sadly we’ll just have to wait for Summer for that one.

Been quite the journey with this guy

I’m glad things played out the way they did though with Zangetsu. It would have felt wrong to force a fight or have Ichigo completely turn his back on the old guy. They’ve been through too much. And in the end Ichigo agreed with that mindset. The Quincy form and the Hollow were both Zangetsu in the end. It was important to have that talk and clear things up. The reason he looked like Yhwach made sense when taking everything into account. In that sense the inside of Ichigo’s mind and soul was pretty messed up. The Quincy power had to step in quickly to get things stabilized since the Hollow part was a bit too wild at that point.

I suppose it was also that he was acting to restrain Ichigo as much as possible depending on the situation. Trying to keep him away from being a Soul Reaper, but in the end Ichigo kept walking that path. Things still line up with how he behaved during the “Final Getsuga Tenshou” situation. He didn’t want Ichigo to fight. What mattered to him wasn’t what Ichigo cared about, but Ichigo himself. In the end though, he still found himself wanting to support Ichigo. That version of Zangetsu truly did care about him. And he was able to stand back and be proud of how Ichigo has grown. Ready to see him fight not only with the power that Zangetsu couldn’t restrain, but with his full force. It’ll have to be something to get them through this nightmare to come, but I have a feeling he’ll be alright.

Ok Ishida…what is your plan here?

Of course, I’m happy to see Hitsugaya working to get stronger and Komamura seeking out strength in his own ways. I’m sure most of the captains and vice-captains are pushing themselves however they can. Especially rough for those that lost their Bankai since no manner of training can just compensate for losing their trump cards. But that’s just how it goes.

The bigger thing is of course about Uryu. But it is hard to gauge what he’s doing without getting into his head. He’s learned a lot about his people and what has happened. It’s up in the air whether he learned that Yhwach effectively killed his mother. If not, then he’s got less immediate reasons to want to kill that guy. But if so that still might make sense. There are only a couple ways to look at it. Either Uryu decided to abandon walking the middle path and fully devote himself to being a Quincy. Or he’s basically planning on turning traitor on Yhwach and is using him to get stronger for that purpose. I feel like Uryu wouldn’t really turn on his friends just because history has shown a long grudge between Quincy and Soul Reapers. But only time will tell.

This arc is going to be crazy

What made this episode work for me though is seeing Ichigo put all the pieces together. His life has been a crazed journey and he’s only now got a full picture of himself. Now he has the potential to reach heights beyond anything he’s ever accomplished. I can’t wait until we get to Summer and see how this journey continues to unfold. We’re just getting started here. This is only the quarter mark of the finale. Still almost 40 episodes to go!

Ichigo really went through a lot

Final Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect when this sequel was announced. It just felt like something that wouldn’t get adapted. But sequels and franchises returning have had mixed results over the years. At some point I did feel like it would be better for some franchises to stay gone than to come back and be dragged through the mud. Could a new season of Bleach really stand strong and be worth all that risk? The answer in this case was mercifully “yes”. I was blown away from just episode 1 and they maintained a high standard throughout the show.

That high standard is why I’m ok with the slower pace they are taking with adapting this story. Part of me hoped they’d take a slightly quicker pattern of airing the show every other season. Taking two seasons off is going to space this out quite a bit. And yet the quality of just this first part makes me feel that this is the right choice. If they can maintain this level of quality through the whole adaptation, then we’ll be able to look back on this as a massive success story.

This season nailed the bigger and smaller moments

Honestly, I feel like this season had the best kind of fanservice. In this case it isn’t about sex appeal. Instead, it really is just about giving people the quality the show deserves. This first part started and ended with using the classic “Number One” song at key moments. They know what people loved about this franchise and what elements became iconic over time. The voice cast was as iconic as ever and everything about the very first episode of this arc screamed love and care.

And this season didn’t just give a strong effort in episode 1 and gave up after that. There were a lot of incredible moments throughout the season. Yamamoto’s Bankai was something I won’t soon forget. The same goes for Ichigo’s various fights throughout the episodes. And it isn’t just about the action here. Byakuya’s defeated plea towards Ichigo will remain intense. That he didn’t die doesn’t take away from how his defeat was eating at him and howo much faith he had in Ichigo.

Somehow this led to making great swords

This season gave us so much in terms of the history of the franchise. The actual breakdown of the past between the Soul Reapers and Quincy really worked for me. I like that both sides have been aggressors at different points. In that sense no one is truly the bad guy in this story. Obviously, the Quincy are the antagonists, but they’ve suffered from attacks as well. Even if things did lead to a slaughter, I appreciate the idea that both sides do feel like they’ve got reasons to be fighting here.

It was just nice to dive into Ichigo’s history and explore his parents more deeply. We could piece a lot of things together, but seeing their pasts landed differently. I think it just took Ichigo’s mother from a tragic figure to a much more complete character. It was clear that Isshin and Ryuken had a past and this starts to more clearly define how that started. If nothing else this was the kind of flashback that felt needed. Ichigo couldn’t fully grasp his own power without understanding where he came from.

Until next time!

Summer feels a long way off considering we’re in the dead of winter right now. But if they can keep this level of quality up then I’m not going to mind the wait. Bleach showed that classics can return and get all the love that they deserve while doing so. This arc could end up being the best of Bleach and I look forward to finding out if that will be the case. It is tough to say goodbye for now, but I fully enjoyed the journey.

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An older member at 25, yet a new addition to Anime Evo. Recently graduating University and in the difficult point between school and a true career. Anime being a salvation and blogging a good way to put all those hours of writing essays to some use. Enjoys talking about series, yet not taking on so many that the quality dips. A Canadian who enjoys his anime and hearing what others think about the series he enjoys watching.

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