What they say:
Ichigo, Orihime and Chad prepare to follow Ishida to the Royal Palace with Urahara’s help. Meanwhile, the remaining Soul Reapers continue to battle the remaining Stern Ritters, and a few old faces come back from the dead!
Content (Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Bleach is back after a recap episode two weeks ago (an unfortunate fact I did not anticipate, as the reason for the lack of poem at the end of episode 21, it appeared in the recap). Nonetheless, it was still a significant set of episodes. Ywach, Jugram, and Ishida may have left the battlefield but Ichigo isn’t ready to give up yet. This is when not only Urahara reappears but he’s joined by our queen Yoruichi herself, making her first appearance since the original anime. Yoruichi has apparently been busy collecting certain “distortions,” or the energy around them that have appeared as a result of the Wandenreich invading the Soul Society. This is what the remaining Vizards were helping with as well. But our catty queen isn’t the only character to return after a long absence.
As it turns out, Mayuri has resurrected previously dead Arrancar in order to combat Stern Ritter “Z” Giselle’s zombies. In the fray now are Charlotte Chuhlhourne (who fought Yumichika in the battle of fake Karakura town), Luppi Antenor (who briefly took the 6th espada spot from Grimmjow), Cirucci Sanderwicci (who fought Ishida at Los Noches during the Orihime rescue operation in Hueco Mundo), and Dordoni Alessandro Del Socaccio (who fought Ichigo during that same Hueco Mundo mission). It was nice to see them again because I actually liked these characters when they appeared in the Arrancar arc (although Charlotte was a bit grating) and they brought their humor with them as well. There’s also some cheeky conversation between Renji and Bazz-B that happens elsewhere with regard to eyebrows. I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of the old style of humor that existed in the original Bleach anime. I thought many times they knocked the balance between serious action drama and zany comedy off the tightrope many shonen anime often walk. Although I will say I’m glad to see some more lightheartedness in this adaptation. The soul of the original Bleach still exists. Even if the humor has been toned down a bit compared to the original manga (which is what I’ve heard and is allegedly Kubo’s request), it’s nice to see the spirit kept alive. I just hope this doesn’t become a pervasive problem like I thought it was at several points in the Arrancar arc. One other bit of humor is that Yumichika of all Soul Reapers is able to tell that Giselle is actually male which apparently sends him (her?) into great shock. The expression is perfect. A highlight of these episodes.
But Yumichika appears to be on the losing side. Among Giselle’s zombies are some powerful foes, including Stern Ritter “E” Bambietta Basterbine. This confirms her posse did in fact kill her and Giselle turned her into a mindless zombie who craves Giselle’s blood. It’s sad to see a proud character like Bambietta reduced to this but that’s the cost of losing a battle in an important war. As if dealing with Bambi again wasn’t bad enough, Giselle reveals a trump card, a zombie Hitsugaya, decked in a Quincy uniform. Presumably he was killed by Giselle (most likely the one who found him after his collapse fighting Cang Du and Bazz-B) but Giselle zombified him before he died, so there may be a way to reverse it. Yumichika and Ikkaku are no match, and Yumichika goes right to calling his Zanpakuto’s true name in the heat of the moment which I felt was a nice touch since it illustrated the stakes as he vowed to keep its name and power secret from his squad members, even if this didn’t work.
Who better to take on a captain than another captain? As you may expect from Mayuri, while it appears that Hitsugaya kills him, he injects him with drugs to tip the scales in his favor. This time it’s a crafty one that makes Hitsugaya essentially relive the past every time he kills Mayuri. This precedes Mayuri injecting another drug into Hitsugaya that manipulates his blood flow so he’s no longer under Giselle’s command, but his own instead. He joins a few more zombies now under his control, Kensei, Rose, and Matsumoto. If they were all zombified right before death, there might be away to undo the zombification (perhaps by killing Giselle?) which is something I hope happens but that’s not happening for a while, especially given Mayuri’s sadistic nature.
Elsewhere, Byakuya takes down a few other Stern Ritters before facing off Stern Ritter “L” the Love Pepe Waccabrada, described by Meninas as “gross.” He’s an older man who sits on a floating basket chair, and his ability allows him to control others by making them “love him,” something he does to Meninas as well. I was honestly not into this fight with Byakuya and I’m glad Byakuya smoked him in one episode’s timeframe (before he is killed by his own comrade Lilotto). This zombies mini arc has not been compelling. I was turned off more by Pepe instead of finding him funny and Mayuri’s drug tricks are cool but all the talking keeps dragging down the pacing. At least there’s some good action animation throughout this episode to keep up the visual flair, and I quite liked the vocal soundtrack that played over the fight between PePe and Byakuya. But without reactions to the zombies from other living squad members and without the zombies doing much of anything, it’s mostly fallen flat. PePe is a one-and-done character but I couldn’t care less about him by this point. Hopefully, the last few episodes of this cour are able to ramp up the energy again. It’s been slow since Ishida left the Seireitei with Jugram and Ywach (who finally reach the Soul King palace in the post-credit scene). I haven’t been invested in this invasion for a while now but the cour’s climax looks promising with a face-off between the Quincy leaders and Squad Zero. They’ve been built up to be on an entirely different level than the regular Court Guard Squads. Three episodes remain, so there is time yet for this cour to finish strong.
Lifeless zombies have taken the life out of the cour with them. The most entertaining thing about this zombie mini-arc was seeing some notable characters make their returns to the battlefield and Giselle’s perfect expressions. Production values unfortunately have to carry the rest but they do some heavy lifting if ever they did. These episodes simply do not resonate with me emotionally nor kinetically. But there is promise for this cour to finish strong and the flashy fight scenes and standout OST during the PePe fight help carry it to the climax.
Streamed by: Hulu (US), Disney+ (International)