What They Say:
Bleach is back half a year after the previous episode aired. Ichigo and his friends continue to train in preparation for the next Quincy invasion while Ywach announces Uryuu Ishida as his successor. Training is cut short when the Quincies finally arrive for round 2.
Content (Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Like its predecessor cour, there is no recap at the beginning of this episode. It begins right away with a brief origin on Ywach as the “child of origin.” It’s a neat visualization to start this part of the story but I’m a bit lost on if this means anything other than Ywach being connected to all the Quincies. Hopefully, Ywach’s origin is explained a bit more in the coming episodes but for now, this was a cool introduction. Picking up right where the previous episode left off, Ichigo is left to train with Ichibe of Squad Zero in a special place others cannot enter without the express permission of the Soul King (another being I hope we get more info about this season). Rukia and Renji also continue their training while Byakuya finally awakens from the bath to begin his own preparation. Orihime and Chad are still in Hueco Mundo with Grimmjow still being teased but not fully shown. I’m not sure why they seem to be saving a big reveal but in any case, I’m eager to see him back in action. I also hope Chad and Orihime are allowed some action in this season as well. They never got to do much in the latter part of Bleach’s story.
Speaking of Ichigo’s friends, Head Captain Shunsui pays a visit to Ichigo’s normal human friends to let them know Ichigo may come back with some crazy power that may even affect the world of the living and that they should learn to say their goodbyes just in case. That said, though, he did give them some “soul tickets” that will allow them to see Ichigo in the Soul Society should that ever happen. I couldn’t help but chuckle at these being shown because they’re also a currency used in the Bleach Brave Souls mobile game (which I have played a bit of, but not much). I’m not sure if this exists in the manga but I cannot help but think this is fanservice for those who do play the game.
Another bit of fanservice was seeing Hiyori and the other Vizards who didn’t return to the Soul Society after the battle with Aizen for a moment. Shinji is apparently asking them for some kind of favor and seeing them interact like that almost felt like the old Bleach again. Despite the new cel-shaded animation, they even almost looked the same due to the lighting. Even though this arc is decidedly more serious in tone and ups the maturity allegedly to Kubo’s wishes, I’m glad that there’s still some semblance of the OG Bleach in this new adaptation. We don’t need it all back to the levels it existed before, but it’s nice to have some breathing room in this action-packed Blood War arc.
On the Quincy side of things, Ywach has announced Ishida as his successor to a lukewarm reception. Needless to say, this has some of the other Quincies riled up. This includes Bambietta Basterbine (fought Komamura in the previous invasion). There’s a scene here that no doubt has been picked apart (pun slightly intended?) for true analytical purposes as much as it has fanservice purposes. She picks out a no-name Quincy foot soldier and orders him to her room and all we see is him dying and Bambietta pulling up her zipper, leaving how much sexual contact the two had a bit ambiguous. The red lighting on the room also illustrates both her lust and her anger which is a nice touch. I’ve said it in the last cour but the staff really knows how to use color well. I’m sure there’s a legitimate reason this scene exists to show off how sadistic Bambietta can be toward men or others or something like that which will become relevant to her character later but my brain turns off a bit when I see hot women in those uniforms and hats so I’ll let those fans take the rest of it.
On a more serious note, something I can analyze is this cool shot here of Ishida looking at the blood in the cup he’s about to drink. Mirrors and reflections have always been about our true selves and the selves we desire to see too. With the blood as a part of Ywach, Ishida sees himself in the Quincy King. Of course, his reflection is really there so the connection exists. But it’s blood, which is thick and murky. The Ishida he sees in there may be the real one connected to Ywach, but he still has reservations. He’s unclear about what he’s doing and given the flashbacks Ishida has about quarreling with Ichigo, I think Ishida is still more loyal to Ichigo and his friends. The fact his reflection is within the cup is also significant. The Quincies are coded blue in this series but Ishida’s reflection is distinctly separated from that within the red, which suggests his true self may be within his Quincy pride. That his Quincy allegiance to the Wandenreich is just an outer shell appearance and his real self is deeper within.
At some point, I think he will turn on Ywach and work with Ichigo to defeat him, which would be the ultimate ironic reversal of his words that “Soul Reapers and Quincies can never get along.” Nonetheless, he drinks the blood as part of a ritual and just as he himself was a part of Ywach, Ywach is now a part of him. It will be interesting to see where this goes from here and how Ishida continues to fall along the battlelines and how far he is willing to go in order to feign loyalty to the Wandenreich or to convince himself and others that he really has turned to the Quincy side. It looks like we won’t need to wait long either because by the end of the episode, the Quincies have already invaded a second time, replacing the Seireitei with their HQ. I’m not sure if the Seireitei has been completely replaced, removed or what if it still exists but that will probably come later. For now, it’s rematch time, and the Soul Reapers and Quincies are both eager to turn the tables in their favor.
The new opening song and visuals are a welcome change. I liked the previous song but it sounded fairly generic and shonen-esque. The pink visuals were quite cool, though. This opening packs a bit more of a punk punch but it still has that shonen sound to it. I know Bleach is still a shonen anyway so it still fits but I’m hoping to see something a bit more brooding to match the arc. The visuals are amazing as always. Bleach illustrations and opening/closing visuals have always been stylish with their character designs. Everything really pops and screams Kubo. I miss the previous ending song, though. This new one is serviceable and the Quincy-focused visuals are a nice contrast to the Soul Reaper focus from the last cour, but I just have a big bias for Hiroyuki Sawano and Senna Rin.
This episode was mostly setup as the characters continue to train and prepare for another battle between the two sides but the pacing is brisk enough to get things going. The battle is already here by the end of the episode and I’m excited to see how the two sides collide. There also isn’t a recap taking up time which is nice. This episode is proof the staff hasn’t lost their touch but the real action is still to come. It showed there are hints of the old Bleach still there and a few fanservice scenes (in more ways than one!). The real action will start next week and I’m just as eager as all the fighters to see who comes out on top in round 2.
Streamed by: Hulu (US), Disney+ (International)