Overview and Consensus
Last time! On! Bleach narrative amendment!
We discussed the opening arc to Bleach, in which nasty-faced protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki obtained the power to become a sword-ghost. The subsequent character development he got, along with the development of various friend characters, provided the beginnings of a finding-your-place-in-the-world story. While the opening arc felt extremely glossed over by the sources I came across, I found that it provided a extremely solid platform for the rest of the series to build upon.
This time, we enter the soul society arc. Whenever you talk to someone regarding Bleach, more often than not you’re going to hear that the soul society arc was the best arc in the series. If not all that, then they’ll admit that it’s the point in the series where they really got hooked by Bleach’s story and themes. When it comes to public consensus, it feels to me like this is the arc that made Bleach. While the previous arc was a good foundation, this is the arc in which the series really took off. For one reason or another, whether it be the fights or the storytelling, this arc did everything right to launch Bleach up into becoming one of the big 3 alongside One Piece and Naruto.
Before we get into the validity of such claims, what’s this arc actually about? At the end of the last arc, we found that Rukia giving Ichigo soul reaper powers is a super illegal thing in soul society. So, a couple of other soul reapers (including Rukia’s own brother) came to take her back so that she could be properly punished for her crime. Of course, the proper punishment is execution.
Now you might be thinking; “What! Execution?! Why would they do that to my favorite character Rukia Kuchiki???”
This is when I flex my ability to use google and find that the death penalty is still legal in japan and can be issued if you murder someone! And Rukia did turn Ichigo into a sorta-ghost, which is like a soft murder at least. There is most certainly a real problem though. Despite the soft nature of Rukia’s stabbing, she is issued the hardest execution possible. Basically, the process would be she gets not-crucified and then has a goddamn phoenix stabbed into her. This sparks MYSTERY and INTRIGUE within soul society as there are those who believe she should be killed less as much as that!
Oh, and, also Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, Ishida and best character Yoruchi are trying to save her too. That’s sorta important.
The premise of this arc is simple. Ichigo and co. have to save Rukia while going against soul society, a force we gained a relative understanding of in the last arc. We have an image of our minds of soul society from last time, though that does not make them any less of a terrifying force. The greatest of their mysteries being just how powerful they are. Ichigo did well in his fight with a lieutenant but the captains are in a world of their own and meeting with any of them is sure to mean a hard fight. That’s what this arc’s about, after all. The fight. Ichigo and his friends standing up against the unknown future, represented as the gotei 13. What’s left is for me to analyze how well this fight is written.
*Post-writing note – After my Kingdom Hearts post, I do want to try and not overfill these posts to the point of them being completely not consumable. To this end, I’ve elected to split up my thoughts on this arc into two parts. Thanks for reading!
What I Enjoyed
- The characters- While there are a lot of throwaway side-characters in this arc, it’s no doubt that all around Kubo handles characterization fantastically. Going into this arc as a writer, one of the biggest challenges is going to be “how do I introduce all of these characters without it being overwhelming to watchers/readers?” Especially in an arc like this, where Kubo is formally introducing the entirety of Gotei 13 as well as various side characters and soul society residents. What really helps with this is how the arc is structured, with focus shifting between Ichigo’s group and characters within soul society. We get to see how the soul society characters react to the infiltration, as well as how they respond to the threat of inner conflict (which I’ll talk about lower down). As we get to see these characters rapidly exposed to a changing and unexpected scenario, we learn their own personal quirks and biases. This, alongside some general personality guidelines provided on a squad-to-squad basis, helps us to quickly connect with each of the characters who take the forefront of focus. By the end of the sneak entry arc, every character you see in focus has felt unique, interesting and in some way likable. Jidanbo is a supposed legendary warrior who is humbled and honorable in defeat. Gin is an untrustworthy snake who knows far more than he should. Hanataro is a weakling from the weakest squad, yet still has the resolve to do what he perceives is the right thing. To go through every character on a case-to-case basis would take an entire blog post in itself, so we’ll leave it at that.
- Rukia’s imprisonment & the stakes – As well as Rukia’s imprisonment feeling genuinely super isolating and depressing for her, it allows us to see how she is perceived as a soul reaper within soul society. This character didn’t just start existing when she came to the living world and gave Ichigo powers, she had a whole life full of connections beforehand. Getting to see this is great and after we’ve gotten this context we really understand why she enjoyed being in the living world so much. A lot of her life was just gosh dang depressing and before the incident with Ichigo she was living with a ‘brother’ who seems to be actively pushing forward her execution date. Having to watch her go back to soul society and be imprisoned in high security isolation, contrasted with the aggressive and energetic Rukia we saw in the first arc, is super sad. Furthermore, the pushing up of her execution date and her being sent into imprisonment for an execution supposedly reserved for captain-level characters helps to bring the stakes into perspective for us. Not only does Ichigo’s group have to battle against soul society, they have to do so on an arbitrary time limit that their enemy could change at any time. This helps to make it feel like soul society is in control throughout the arc, at least with regards to the rescue attempt.
- Soul Society’s imperfections – This is something that came to my attention through the result of some discussion with a friend. Soul society and the Gotei 13 are definitely patriarchal in nature, which can be easily enough proven by the fact that eleven out of the thirteen captains are male. The head captain is an old man and the two female captains don’t exactly take up-front roles. One is head of the squad that specializes in healing and relief which places her in an extremely stereotypical role off the bat. Said squad is also ridiculed as a joke multiple times throughout the arc, which implies as a whole that it should be taken less seriously. The other female captain leads the squad of assassins, whose role is to stay hidden in shadows. There are a lot of powerful female characters in the Gotei 13 for sure, though they are much more prevalent in the more subservient lieutenant role. The issue isn’t explaining why this is problematic but how this can be made to work. We know from hints we got in the first arc that the Gotei 13 aren’t a perfect or wholly justifiable force. We saw this with their brutal handing of the mod souls and Quincies. Additionally, the entire aesthetic of soul society being based around a not-so-modern era implicates that it is, at least somewhat, a more archaic form of society. These imperfections are only dragged even further into the limelight as the inner conflicts grow throughout the arc, it’s clear that soul society isn’t meant to be some kind of utopia. This imperfection is a good thing, it leaves a lot of room for this entire setting to grow and evolve even past the end of this arc. After the modern world and aesthetic that we got to see in the first arc, I would think that the direction of soul society should be to catch up to that world. Rukia didn’t know a lot about the living world, despite how frequently soul reapers are meant to go there. She couldn’t even figure out a juice box on her own. Everything points towards an arc of modernization within soul society, directly spurred by the acts of Ichigo and his friends. Whether or not this actually happens is yet to be seen, what I wanted to make clear here is that soul society having a lot of room to grow is a good thing and opens the door wide for a good direction in the future.
- The inner conflict of the Gotei 13 – Mentioned a couple of times already but the inner conflict of the Gotei 13 is legitimately amazing. As well as allowing us to learn more about its characters and the additional element of imperfection, it adds another layer of unpredictability and intrigue to the arc. The inner conflict makes this arc no longer a predictable shounen affair of the main characters fighting against enemy after enemy until their goal is reached. It makes us uncertain as to who’s the real threat, both to Ichigo and to the Gotei 13. There’s a third party, heavily implied to be Gin, who is powerful enough to kill a captain with such confidence to then pin him up in display. This party, while unknown and while they don’t even directly interact with Ichigo’s group in this part of the arc, feels like they’re in control of everything. The fact that we don’t know this mysterious party’s endgame only adds to the tension, it’s even somewhat implied that they want Ichigo to succeed in his rescue. Gin, the one who we’re meant to believe is this third party, let Ichigo live near the beginning of the arc. The next big move he presumably made was the murder of another captain, after the captains were given permission to carry their weapons for the sake of defeating Ichigo’s group. As well as being one less potential captain for Ichigo’s group to fight, it also pulls the focus away from them as they continually come closer to Rukia. The payoff for this conflict doesn’t come in this arc, though the build-up alone is more than worth talking about on its own.
- The threat level of Captains – While I do have some problems as to the overall threat level of soul society, the captains feel suitably terrifying throughout the entire arc. The build-up of Kenpachi in particular feels super great throughout the arc. From the moment Ichigo’s group lands within Gotei 13 territory, Kenpachi goes on the hunt to absolutely annihilate the ‘strongest of them. Throughout the arc, Kenpachi is implied to be one of the stronger captains, if not the strongest. He’s the head of the squad that specializes in combat and, since the only other captains we have any perspective on are Gin and Byakuya, it becomes easy to imply that Kenpachi is stronger than both of them. More details on this subject further below.
- The dynamic of Zanpaktou and Soul Reaper – This comes into play late into the arc but I think, just conceptually, that this idea is really cool. We know already about zanpaktou having sealed and released states, which makes them weapons that are capable of some kind of growth through a connection with their wielder. While this transformation is set, we see in multiple fights throughout the arc that the way the wielders use their zanpaktou’s released states can increase their fighting abilities greatly. Creating a visceral form of this connection through zanpaktou spirits and the realm within the wielder’s soul just feels right. It makes the blade’s abilities and the wielder’s abilities feel as one and that, through working together, they are both more effective and powerful. This is also a great way to avoid unexplained “I just got this ability for no reason” moments, because the wielders can literally ask their weapons what they’re capable of in this case.
- Ichigo vs Ganju – Soon after the fight with Jidanbo (detailed in the section below), Ichigo proceeds to have more trouble with some random guy. This guy is Ganju, who provides a relatively much better conflict. This is a short engagement so there’s not a whole lot to dive into, though this fight does introduce something very important. Despite the fact that Ganju isn’t a soul reaper, he manages to utilize technique to separate Ichigo from Zangetsu. If nothing else, this proves that Ichigo won’t just be able to win every fight with guts and stamina. Strategy is extremely important and, if he’s not careful, Ichigo will lose if he continues to lack any. He has a ton of raw potential power, that’s made clear many times, but just overpowering opponents won’t be enough for Ichigo to survive in soul society.
- Ichigo vs Ikkaku – I was on the fence as to which section to place this fight in but in the end I determined that the good in this fight out-weighed the bad. This fight is an important step in Ichigo’s growth and actually reveals something that justifies how strength going into this arc. This reveal is that Urahara, the man who trained Ichigo going into this arc, was a captain of the Gotei 13. Even though his training lasted all of 10 days, the fact that they were spent battling against a captain-level fighter makes Ichigo’s pre-arc growth more palatable. This battle displays once more the intelligence that is needed in fights within the soul society. Ikkaku uses his zanpaktou’s release to its full potential to gets hits in on Ichigo and stops his own bleeding with a material kept in his blade. This fight provides a real challenge for Ichigo, which is important because after he reiatsu-crushed Renji and stomped Jidanbo it was starting to feel like Ichigo would just beat his way through most non-captain opponents. The fight comes to an end with Ichigo cutting through Ikkaku’s released weapon with his rapidly growing strength. Ichigo’s power control still isn’t perfect by this point, though his development to become able to break Ikkaku’s weapon shows that he’s still becoming sharper. Post-fight, Ichigo saves Ikkaku using the wound-sealing material. This displays Ichigo’s character quirk of wanting to save people as well as displaying a level of intellectual growth. By keeping Ikkaku alive, Ichigo’s able to question him about multiple things regarding the Gotei 13. Even the humor in the post-fight works, which isn’t particularly common throughout this arc.
The main reason why I considered putting this fight in the needs changed section is Ikkaku’s blade release. All in all, considering the extent of what first releases do later on in the series, Ikkaku’s doesn’t represent at all the potential of them. It is literally just ‘my zanpaktou can be this weapon instead’, and it’s cool in how he utilizes that weapon but past that there’s just nothing special about it. Heck, even comparing it to Renji’s zanpaktou release which is a similar weapon transformation, Renji’s is just innately a lot more interesting. Renji’s blade release looks unique and has the interesting mechanic of being able to extend, by comparison Ikkaku’s doesn’t really have anything. This fight was a great time to show the potential of zanpaktou by giving Ikkaku’s blade an ability past just the transformation.
- Ishida vs Jirobo – A necessary fight, though there is one major aspect of it that I have isolated in the next section. This fight has to happen, we have to see Ishida just completely obliterate a soul reaper for the sake of proving that characters other than Ichigo can make an impact. In the Jidanbo fight, everyone just gets walled off and Ichigo is left to prove by himself that he’s the big competent hero who will battle the Gotei 13. By this point in the arc, the rest of the group have proved absolutely nothing. For all we know, they could be destroyed by the first no-name soul reaper they come across. Having a fight like this, where Ishida smokes a soul reaper who claims to be the best projectile user in all the Gotei 13, helps to cast away that perception.
- Ichigo vs Renji – I consider this fight to be the best in the whole arc, hands down. This fight is super cool because it shows who Renji actually is, no longer suppressing his feelings of rage as to the whole Rukia situation. Unlike in the Ikkaku fight, Ichigo interacts with and tries to find the limitations of Renji’s zanpaktou release to try and find an opening to strike. This battle is a culmination, where Ichigo has to prove that he is skilled enough to save Rukia. If he can’t beat an non-suppressed lieutenant then he stands no chance against a captain. His growth is challenged and it’s great to see. The only thing I don’t like about this fight is the flashback to Ichigo’s training. There is one element to it that is necessary, which is Ichigo’s unwillingness to kill. Ichigo’s development in the first arc geared him towards the ‘rescue everyone’ mentality, the idea of killing other people is totally against the mindset he adopted. It makes sense that he would hold back because he doesn’t want to kill, so coming to terms with that is a good way to push Ichigo forward.
The take-away from this fight is huge. We get to see the relationship with Renji and Rukia in a flashback and we see what saving Rukia really means to Renji. Of his group of childhood friends, Rukia is the last one alive. After she got taken in by Byakuya’s family, he trained to surpass the level of captains with raw strength. He’s been trying to save Rukia since before the whole execution scenario even started, but he just couldn’t become strong enough. Then, he sees Ichigo trying to do the same. Just attempting to power through every foe before him. This fight is a cry for help from Renji, because if he wins then he proves that there’s no one who can save Rukia. This is especially painful for him since Renji and Ichigo reflect each other as characters really well, he sees himself in this kid who’s just charging head-first into danger. His loss is a sign of hope. While Renji is stuck at a level below the captains, Ichigo proves that he can go beyond. Because of this, when Renji passes his will on to Ichigo, it works super well.
- Chad vs Shunsui – Like Ishida, Chad gets a short fight before this one where he completely demolishes a third seat level fighter to prove that he isn’t just a weakling. He then meets with Shunsui, who is an extremely good character. Shunsui’s humor is another of the few times where it really works, simply due to his lighthearted personality. The actual fight here doesn’t last very long, Chad gets completely demolished, which just proves how unthinkably large the gap between third seat and captain really is. A lot of this battle is built up via a flashback of Chad’s relationship with Ichigo. I wasn’t certain on it at first but this backstory is necessary, given that Chad does feel like the most disconnected character of the infiltration group beforehand. This reflects the formula used in the Ichigo/Renji fight, where Chad resolves himself through remembering his past experiences. Something awakens within him and he fearlessly charges at the superior foe before him, ready to give his life for his friend. We’re hyped up, we expect Chad to pull out something massive and make an impact against this captain- but instead he gets immediately cut down. This wasn’t a battle to win, those weren’t the stakes, this was Chad using his life for someone else. It’s a mix-up of the formula we were just exposed to and it further adds to the insurmountable power of the captains. After the fight with Renji, this makes us realize that Ichigo won’t be able to rely on some flashback in his concurrent battle with Kenpachi.
- Ichigo vs Kenpachi – The hype leading up to this fight is fantastic. Kenpachi has been looking for this fight for the entire arc and he, as well as the other captains, have had their power alluded to countless times. When he finally appears, his presence alone is enough to nearly crush Ichigo, Ganju and Hanataro. He’s a monster, we know that, we believe that and we’re hype to see Ichigo face off against that. Under normal circumstances, Ichigo would have been demolished immediately. Kenpachi’s self-imposed limitations are the only way for this fight to ever make sense. Just shortly before this fight, Ichigo practically tied with Renji, a lieutenant-level fighter. In terms of his raw ability, we know that Ichigo has no chance in this fight. He has to abuse Kenpachi’s restraints and he still can’t do anything. His own power isn’t enough, for him to reach the level of the enemy before him he has to work with his zanpaktou, Zangetsu. This fight highlights the importance of a soul reaper connecting with their zanpaktou and just how much stronger they can become by doing so.
However, even despite the power amp he gets with Zangetsu, Ichigo is the first to fall when he and Kenpachi clash at full power. Kenpachi allows himself to take extreme amounts of damage before using his full power, doesn’t work together with his zanpaktou’s spirit, clashes against both the insanely huge spiritual pressure of Ichigo with Zangetsu’s power stacked on top of that using one arm to swing his blade and he’s still the one standing afterwards. That’s insane. Because of that, this fight manages to retain the huge power and threat level of the captains while having Ichigo take one down in the process. It’s the best way this fight could have possibly ended, I think. Many attribute this fight to being the point where they really got hyped up for Bleach and I can understand why. The build-up, the encounter and the pay-off are all solid and the fight is just damn cool to see.
What Needs Changed
- How Soul Society actually works – I’m so extremely not a fan of ‘when you die and come to soul society you remain the same age you were at when you died’. I absolutely despise any kind of afterlife that works like that, because it super skeeves me out to think of people being trapped as kids/babies forever. The elderly, too, having to be eternally trapped in the most weak and brittle versions of themselves. This becomes especially problematic when we find out that souls who were born in soul society DO age and grow. First of all, the whole idea that new souls can be born in soul society is weird in the first place. Second of all, why have the two types of residents abide by different rules? If you’re going to lock the ages of the residents, at least do it at ages that won’t result in massive problems for them.
- Unsuitable humor – While I praised Bleach’s sparing but effective usage of comedy in the previous arc, this one kinda drops the ball in that regard. A lot of the tension in this arc is ruined by soul reapers being made out to be jokes, which is just really bad for the flow of the arc. There’s only one fight in particular where I feel like this completely ruins the engagement, though the issue is prevalent throughout several engagements with unnamed soul reapers. This is the arc where they’re meant to be the primary enemy, so naturally it feels like they should maintain a certain level of threat throughout. That’s extremely hard to sustain when most below-lieutenant characters just get punted off like they’re part of a gag manga.
- Ichigo vs Jidanbo – The first fight we get to see in this arc and it’s… underwhelming! The main issue with this fight is that Jidanbo is hyped us as being a ‘legendary’ figure, though we don’t really have any metric for what that means. We’ve seen other pretty strong soul reapers, does being legendary make Jidanbo as strong as Renji? Byakuya? From the viewer perspective, we haven’t even been introduced to the Gotei 13’s hierarchy at this point, so it’s impossible for us to know where he stands. Then, despite being ‘legendary’, Jidanbo turns out to be complete fodder. He utilizes no technique and doesn’t even use a zanpaktou. For the first opponent of the arc where the soul society is the primary enemy, he doesn’t represent at all the threat or potential of soul reapers. The only good thing about Jidanbo is the fact that he becomes a likable character after the fight, otherwise this is a waste of time.
- Ganju vs Yumichika – I’m really not a fan of this engagement at all. Early on into the fight, Yumichika spins some nonsense about an execution pit where condemned soul reapers were once made to fight against captive hollows. While this turns out to not be true, the whole idea just doesn’t work for two reasons. The first is that it would go against the entire purpose of soul reapers to capture hollows instead of slaying them. The second is that, to get the hollows into the pit, the soul reapers would have to restrain them, concoct a method of preventing them from just returning to Hueco Mundo and presumably bring them in from the world of the living. The pit turns out to end up just being full of garbage, like the whole idea Yumichika even brought up in the first place. Past that, the fight doesn’t really do anything interesting with Ganju’s character or add a whole lot to the story overall. We already know that Ganju uses his tricks to throw unexpected turns in a fight but the only time where it really feels cool and interesting here is when he uses the cannonball. Otherwise, it’s mostly ‘Ganju runs away a lot and somehow runs into no other soul reapers for the entirety of the fight’, which just feels dumb. Yumichika’s blade release is awful, even though it’s revealed way later on that it’s not his real release that doesn’t change the fact. It’s basic weapon transformation with no further gimmick and no practicality. It is not threatening even in the slightest.
What this adds up to is Yumichika just straight up feeling incompetent for a majority of this fight. This feeds into what I mentioned in the unsuitable humor section, the tension of this fight is totally thrown off by Yumichika consistently becoming a punchline as a result of Ganju’s attacks. In the part of this fight that happens after Ikkaku is beat, none of this is present. Yumichika begins to feel like a threat to Ganju and the playful running around comes to an end. He’s cornered at the edge of… another… inescapable hole… but a real one this time! This just makes me wonder why this wasn’t how the fight was from the start. Why go through the entire joke version of he fight first, this is so clearly not the time for it. All of the members of Ichigo’s group are on the run and Ganju is fighting against the 5th strongest fighter of the squad that specializes in combat. His fight shouldn’t have been played like a joke, that alone was enough to make this fight just terrible.
- Orihime – While I did put the Ishida vs Jirobo fight in the ‘enjoyed’ section, Orihime got extremely shafted in that fight. That fight should never have come at the cost of Orihime’s effectiveness as a fighter but this completely fodder soul reaper just ruins her. She throws out her one offensive ability, it gets smacked out of the air and it’s done. This is her first fight, after she trained for the same amount of time as Chad and Ishida. She’s just made out to be completely useless and needs Ishida to bail her out. This especially irks me because this arc is meant to be a fight. This is where ALL of the invading group are meant to face adversity and grow and come out on top. Orihime being so easily put down just makes it feel like she’s not good enough compared to the others. She lost her attack potency, now she’s relegated to being a plot-convenient healer. It sucks.
Well, if the length of the sections isn’t a giveaway it’s pretty clear that the positives of this arc outweigh the negatives by a significant margin. Though, unlike the last arcs, there are some pretty major things that I would want to overhaul here. First and foremost, we’re taking away that dumb rule of souls not aging after they’ve been brought to soul society. The implications for younger/elder souls in this scenario are just too nasty. Kids should grow to a certain age and then stop and there should be some method of rejuvenation for elders. Living in soul society shouldn’t just be a tormenting hell if you were unlucky enough to not die in the correct age range.
The unsuitable humor is easily enough fixed. Have more scenes where the invading party has to actually clash with soul reapers instead of silly-running-through-the-streets sections. They’re in enemy territory, they should be prepared for constant battle where they may not get the time to rest. None of the groups are shown to be worn down or fatigued at all due to being chased by the fodder soul reapers, which just makes them seem worthless. As it is in the current version, Gotei 13’s territory may as well have just been home to the captains, lieutenants and the, like 5 other named fighters that show up. Even fodders can whittle away at energy and mentality, it would have added another layer of tension going into actual serious fights in the arc. Especially if any of the groups found themselves unable to find safe places to sleep, thus further exhausting them. Everything that makes the Gotei 13 seem more dangerous is good, everything that reminds you that this is enemy territory is good. Yet, it’s so easy to underestimate because the fodders are jokes and worthless.
Jidanbo had absolutely no business being hyped up as much as he was. I don’t think he has to pose a serious threat, the fact that he gets demolished by Ichigo isn’t the problem. It’s the fact that he’s referred to as this legendary warrior for no particular reason. Him just being the gatekeeper is enough, heck he doesn’t even have to be a soul reaper. It’s enough for him to just be a big buff dude that Ichigo smokes to prove how strong he’s gotten.
Ganju vs Yumichika is the worst fight by far, though it can be easily fixed with just a bit of pruning. Like I mentioned, the section of the fight after Ikkaku’s defeat was alright. Ganju was cornered by a powerful foe and it was a risk for him to use the tricks he needed to use to win. If the entire initial joke section of the fight was cut out and this was a way shorter fight based around Ganju slowly setting up his sand traps to create the big opening he needs then that’s fine. That’s an immediately much better fight.
Orihime shouldn’t have been thrown under the bus in the fight against Jirobo. The stakes weren’t nearly high enough in this fight, Jirobo was fodder and yet he completely ruined Orihime. Any chance of her engaging in this fight and making a useful contribution was tossed away in favor of making her a maiden in peril. I’m not asking that she be as strong as Ishida, I think Ishida should be the strongest member of the infiltration team after Ichigo, I just don’t want her to be made into a so obviously lesser character. This fight would have been fine if Ishida just blitzed Jirobo right off the bat, it didn’t have to come at the cost of Orihime’s integrity as a character. Ishida and Orihime haven’t gotten much screen time yet by this point in the arc, so I would consider it forgivable if she just didn’t get the opportunity to be in the limelight yet. Maybe she gets a cool moment and contains all of Jirobo’s flying blades within a shield, something small and inconsequential but still a show of competence. Anything instead of the current tossing her to the wayside.
Overall, I think the sneak entry arc is actually a bit weaker than the agent of the shinigami arc. While the overall plot arc and themes are extremely solid, there are glaring issues here that didn’t pop up previously. The quality and effective use of the humor went down dramatically and the fact that there were any bad encounters at all is a drop from the first arc. The absolute biggest issue for me up to this point is Orihime. This is the first of a multitude of issues regarding female characters that we’re going to see moving forward and it’s a recurring theme that I’m not a fan of. She was shifted from having an equal standing to the rest of the infiltration group to becoming a maiden in peril, which is something I absolutely despise. If we’re to believe the idea that this arc represents growing youths struggling with the world, why should Orihime be the only one ill-equipped to handle that on her own? It just gives the vibe that Kubo thinks women aren’t as capable as their peers, which is a sickening thought. Other than that, though, this arc is good. A majority of the fights do add to the story and the growing tension is an exciting story element for us to follow. The payoff for that is sure to be good, so be sure to check back next time when I polish off the soul society arc!