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Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War Episode #21 Anime Review

6 min read
This week's episode's focus on action was a return to Bleach's strengths and all the different powers on display made it a fun watch.
© Kubo Tite / Shueisha, TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Pierrot

What they say:
Ichigo has finally arrived at the Seireitei, and with him he brings immense new power from his training with Squad Zero. A few others also make their grand entrance into the fray, but the reunions are cut short when Ywach begins to set a plan in motion.

Content (Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The time has finally arrived for Ichigo to go main character mode against the enemies but before that, Kenpachi’s fight against Gremmy needs to be wrapped up. Despite being a brain that should in theory have the ability to continue living (since his body was also fake), it appears as though he is finished, which is unfortunate. I feel like a bit more could have been put into a fight involving imagination but I suppose what matters is that now the Quincies are down another Stern Ritter. But Yachiru and Isane are still missing. It would be sad to think either or both of them have become collateral damage like that but nonetheless, it was a sweet moment when Kenpachi yells out to his squad to look for Yachiru. It shows that he really does care for her underneath that gruff exterior, and we’ve seen them together a lot in the original Bleach series. It’s nice to know his relationship with her is genuine.

But that moment doesn’t last long since Kenpachi is ambushed by three Stern Ritters, Bambietta’s (who is still not 100% confirmed alive or dead) companions. Stern Ritters “P” (The Power) Meninas McAllon, “T” Candice Catnipp, “G” Lilotta Lamperd, and “Z” Giselle Gewelle, all attack immediately to try and finish off the wounded captain and almost succeed until Ichigo breaches in through the Seireitei membrane. Finally, Number 1 plays with Ichigo on screen. The remix makes it feel like Ichigo has changed much like the song has. With Ichigo in the picture, the series at this point seems to be done with one-on-one fights, at least for now. Ichigo is able to make pretty quick work of all the Stern Ritters. Even though all of them are attacking at once, he manages to dispense of them with ease. He even whips out a new fancy move; the Getsuga Jushijo, and the Stern Ritters are forced to bring out their Voll Stern Dich forms.

© Kubo Tite / Shueisha, TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Pierrot

I love all the distinctive colors of the various Quincy Voll Stern Dich but it becomes more apparent when more than one in the same fight are using it. It makes the animation pop. There’s fairly minimal dialogue as well throughout this fight which lasts most of the episode’s runtime. The only bit of explanation comes from Giselle saying his blood lets him control enemies like corpse puppets (I almost typed “her,” but Bleach fans aren’t exactly subtle about this kind of thing on social media, so I was already aware of Giselle’s apparent gender just in case this turns out to be a shocking reveal later on). Other than that, they all just punch away at him. The series does a good job of making their power easy enough to follow. Meninas “The Power” seems to just be powerfully pink, using dumbbells made of reishi to bash and smash and crash. Candice (previously nicknamed “Candy”) has some sort of green thunder or lightning and Lilotto chomps things. It’s a fun fight and a good showcase for Ichigo to reveal his new strength. The Thousand Year Blood War continues to prove how stellar Bleach is as a production.

After this, though, things just devolve into chaos. All the other remaining Stern Ritters begin to swarm Ichigo (including Bazz-B “The Heat” in his Voll Stern Dich form) while he makes his way to Ywach. Luckily the other Soul Reapers are able to look cool by stopping Ichigo from being chased. Unfortunately, Ichigo comes face to face with the reality of this war. Ishida is standing tall next to Ywach, who turns out was simply waiting on Ichigo to break through the barrier so he could use the opportunity to invade his real target, the Soul Palace. Ichigo cries for an answer, but is hit by Ishida’s Licht Reigen in response, and is joined by fashionably late Orihime and Chad (sporting new outfits).

© Kubo Tite / Shueisha, TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Pierrot

I was hoping for more of a fight or other confrontation here but I guess this is fine. As long as they all see each other before Ywach ascends, and he reminds Ishida that this will be an “eternal separation (now the subtitle of this cour is becoming clearer).” One point that Kyoraku brings up to himself is why Squad Zero allowed Ichigo to break the membrane separating the Soul Palace from the lower realms of the Soul Society. Kyoraku previously mentioned that Squad Zero may not have the Soul Society’s best interests in mind, which was cryptic before but is more apparent now and may indicate an actual reason for allowing Ywach to take advantage of the momentary opening. We’ll have to see what that is soon.

The next episode should wrap up this second invasion, with Ywach leaving and Ichigo, Chad, and Orihime entering the mix. I’m excited to see how this plays out. Overall I’ve been much happier with how this one has played out. It was far more balanced with the Soul Reapers able to strike back more effectively even before Ichigo arrived. But both sides have suffered heavy casualties. There are still some MIA Soul Reapers and Stern Ritters so we’ll have to see what becomes of them next time. Surprisingly, there was also no poem nor next episode title at the end of this episode which may indicate something big is coming next week. As we enter the final phase of the second invasion, I look forward to seeing who the major players end up being among the survivors here (on both sides).

The action this week was great and allowed the characters’ powers to speak for themselves which was a welcome change after the last episode. The situation with Gremmy is unfortunate. I hope Kenpachi is able to fight again with his eyepatch removed so his true strength can be tested. We’re also close to some payoffs that are a long time coming with Orihime and Chad back (but not Grimmjow just yet). The music was also on point. Number 1 is always a welcome tune even if it wasn’t the same song as it used to be. Also welcome is the new direction the story will go now that the second invasion is drawing to a close.

In summary:
This week’s episode’s focus on action was a return to Bleach’s strengths and all the different powers on display made it a fun watch. Along with that, the new directions hinted at during the episode’s end promise exciting encounters in the near future. If there is one disappointing thing about this episode it was the lukewarm resolution to the Gremmy fight and some of the ending going by too quickly without much of the other Soul Reapers protecting Ichigo from the other Stern Ritters, making it feel a bit rushed. That said it was a blast start to finish and flew by. The next episode seems to have even better material in store.

Grade: A

Streamed by: Hulu (US), Disney+ (International)