Previously On – Bleach
In this post, there won’t be an overview/consensus section since it would be effectively the same as in the previous post regarding the soul society arc. In it’s place, I’ll put here a little reminder of where we’re at in my theoretical rewrite of Bleach so far.
As you might remember, there weren’t many changes done to the first arc of the series. Some minor details were changed like Shun Shun Rikka being made three sprites instead of six, Renji defeated Ichigo without Byakuya stepping in and Kon actually ran from Ichigo’s home to pursue a life of freedom. Small things, though the last of which I can keep in my pocket for if I ever find a moment to use it.
For the first section of this arc, we started out by changing up the mechanics of soul society. The way that some souls age but others don’t was just real bad and kinda confusing to properly read so we axed that in favor of some kind of normalization. Kid souls are allowed to grow and more frail, elderly souls are rejuvenated at least to the point where they can effectively function again.
Overall, the non-lieutenant or captain soul reapers are more threatening. The silly being-chased-through-the-streets scenes have been axed in favor of more tense, smaller combats. Not the type that could pose a serious threat to the main cast but engagements that both draw attention to them and make them spend energy they could be using elsewhere. Every soul reaper feels trained and so even small victories feel more important. This gives more opportunities for characters like Orihime and Chad to look cool while making the tension of the early arc greater than it currently is. It also opens the way for more intelligent solutions to be found, particularly from the duo of Ishida and Orihime.
A couple of the fights were also minorly altered. Jidanbo is no longer a ‘legendary warrior’, the joke section of Ganju vs Yumichika is cut out and there’s more to Ikkaku’s shikai than is shown (not gonna give details because thinking up abilities is beyond the creative limit I want to spend on these posts). Most importantly, Orihime wasn’t completely washed out in the fight with Jirobo. She was made completely irrelevant because of that fight and I made it clear how grossly unfair that is on her character. In this version of the story, Tsubaki is still active and Orihime isn’t just consigned to a pointless side role.
What I Enjoyed
- Rukia as the killer of Ganju and Kukaku’s brother – This probably should have been in the previous post but we won’t worry about that. This works because when Ganju recalled the story of his brother who was killed by a soul reaper, we didn’t think too much about it. Sad backstory to tell us his motivation, we knew that some soul reapers were just assholes, this wasn’t outside of our expectations. When it’s revealed that the killer in question was Rukia, who we know to not be a ruthless type of soul reaper, it comes as a real surprise. Sparks real intrigue as to what happened there and makes the flashback of the event more satisfying when it comes up.
- Yoruichi, the best character in the whole series – Ninety percent of the reason why Yoruichi is a good character comes down to the simple fact that she’s a strong female who isn’t subordinate to anyone. There are other aspects to her personality that I personally think are just great but just in filling this character archetype Yoruichi skyrockets in terms of quality design. By her own merit, without even using a zanpakuto, she’s a great fighter. The last ten percent is how she’s built up throughout the arc. It’s a small thing to note but any character who actually knew Yoruichi already never referred to her as a ‘he’ even in cat form. Past that, the most important factors of her foreshadowing as an important figure come from her displayed abilities and knowledge. As a cat, she’s demonstrated to be well-trained and powerful through scenes like when she perfectly formed Kukaku’s cannonball. This was a technique that required knowledge of kido, which is something practiced by soul reapers. Furthermore, while one could argue that she could possibly have gotten this knowledge from Urahara, what she knows about soul society and the gotei 13 is way more than what just a talking cat would know. There was plenty in place to get the viewer to question what her deal was and what we get for it is the coolest goddamn character in Bleach.
- The concept of Bankai & zanpakuto spirit stuff – Now, this could just be down to my own personal bias towards things that are powerful, but I absolutely love the concept of Bankai. In the fight with kenpachi we got to see how important the relationship between zanpakuto spirits and soul reapers is but we had yet to find out the extent of those relationships. Immediately, one would assume that proper usage of a soul reaper’s blade release and general strength of blade would be what’s attained from such a relationship. The fact that the weight of this relationship is brought to a pinnacle in the form of Bankais is a great thing. After Ichigo beat Kenpachi, revealing that all of the other 12 captains have these abilities is a fantastic way to maintain their sense of threat. We get the rush from Ichigo’s ‘victory’ over the supposed strongest captain in terms of combat and that brings us into the mindset that Ichigo really can face any other captain. When he stands off against Byakuya initially, even though he is injured we don’t think there’s a 100% chance of him losing. Simple the existence of Bankais is enough to make us falter in that predisposition. It opens the way for more unique abilities to keep the upcoming fights feeling fresh and exciting as we anticipate these Bankais being released.
There’s also some cool minor things introduced in the arc, like the doll that Yoruichi produces to aid Ichigo in his Bankai training. It’s the kind of thing that’s surprising to think exists but at the same time makes sense. Zanpakuto spirits feel like very personal things, not the type of beings that one could just manifest for all to see. At the same time, they’re so important to the society and development of soul reapers that it’s hard to argue why there wouldn’t be methods of drawing them out or materializing them. It’s the kind of thing I would like to see used more, though I believe this is only done in a filler arc. We aren’t covering those, by the way.
- Ishida vs Mayuri – It pains me to admit how much I like Mayuri as a character. He’s a complete psycho, he opens up this fight by literally blowing up members of his own squad. Detonating them, reducing them to nothing. In an instant, we get that he’s a terrifying individual who will use any method to achieve a goal. Whether that be killing invaders or achieving results in research. On top of that, he’s a captain, and beyond even that, he claims to already know everything about the Quincies (and by extension Ishida’s abilities). From the outset, Mayuri is perfectly equipped to win.
I believe what Mayuri represents is the culmination of the gotei 13’s brutality. The ruthlessness that we heard about when we heard that the Quincies were destroyed by the soul reapers. Directly making Mayuri the one behind the murder of Ishida’s mentor/grandpa feels maybe a little phoned in but it does function to make the fight have more personal weight. Regardless, this battle against brutality makes sense for Ishida’s final battle of the arc. The type of battle that Ishida is willing to use every last piece of his energy to win. The last cry of the Quincies, made against a history of injustice.
This is also a great battle for the series’ first bankai to be used in the sense that this is the ultimate battle between the last Quincy and the type of antagonism that eradicated the others. It makes sense that the representative of soul society in this case would use the pinnacle of a soul reaper’s power. A Bankai, the highest level of power that a soul reaper can achieve. Against such a power, Ishida has to be ready to give up everything to stand a chance. For him, the stakes could not possibly be higher. Mayuri is a suitably scary figure to reveal his Bankai first as well. He’s intimidating, which reflects in the creepy baby train form of his blade’s second release. This also shows how over the top and unique Bankais can be, especially when compared to the relatively simple Shikai abilities that we’ve seen so far.
The battle ends in one decisive blow. In the end, the power of a soul reaper’s bankai gives way to Ishida’s resolve. One might think that this resolution is underwhelming for the first appearance of a bankai but there really wasn’t any other way this fight could have ended. It’s made abundantly clear that Ishida’s last hurrah only gives him a limited amount of time to keep fighting. After he removes his glove, the stakes really can’t get higher for him. Extending the fight further wouldn’t have served any purpose, especially given what Mayuri’s Bankai ability is. Anyways, it just leaves the door open for us to see later on the true extent of what a bankai can achieve.
The brief post-fight section of Ishida walking the same path as Ichigo had earlier in the arc is also pretty neat. We know that it’s only a matter of time before his power depletes and he’s left with nothing, completely exposed to even the weakest soul reaper that comes across him. Even though he won against Mayuri, the tension does not settle. We may hope in the lingering sense of victory that Ishida can keep moving on- until he finds himself face-to-face with another captain. One with no such personal qualms as the previous presented. Ishida was never fated to win this next fight. As a Quincy, his battle ended the moment he got the better of Mayuri. That was the end for him, having overcome his own personal goal.
- The Renji, Hinamori and Kira flashback – This particular flashback is good because of the perspective it gives on soul reaper training. While there are aspects to it like leading up to Aizen’s big reveal at the end and giving us the opportunity to know Hinamori and Kira a bit better, I’m personally more interested in the dummy hollow training mission itself. This is because it tells us just how much training the average soul reaper has to go through to become capable of effectively combating Hollows. We got told a lot that Ichigo was a peculiar talent and that he has a nuts amount of spiritual pressure but he is by no means baseline when it comes to soul reaper ability. Other soul reapers have to slowly build up their skills before they can fight real Hollows, which is something that Ichigo could manage right away. Thus, seeing this flashback re-iterates that Ichigo is a special case as well as both relaying how hard it is normally to become a full-fledged soul reaper and how scary Hollows actually are when it comes down to it.
- The build-up to the finale – Just something I wanted to note, seeing the captains choosing their sides leading up to the execution is cool. It’s a culmination of the stories we’ve seen so far; between the inner conflict of soul society and the rippling effects of Ichigo’s invasion. Soul society is split and the hype for when the two sides will clash is real.
- Renji vs Byakuya – This is a fight that was brewing ever since Renji’s defeat at Ichigo’s hands. While he did pass on his will to Ichigo, Renji isn’t the character to stay lying down if he’s able to stand. He’s too much like Ichigo to do that. From the moment he decided to go against soul society, Byakuya was the enemy he would always be fated to face. We know that Byakuya has been Renji’s goal from the start, so it makes no sense for him to fight anyone else. In the same way that Mayuri represented Ishida’s ultimate enemy, Byakuya represents Renji’s. Yet, no matter how he may struggle, Renji is never meant to win this fight. In terms of narrative, there’s simply too much going against him. Winning this fight and then going on to fight someone else would invalidate his own arc as well as the battle between Byakuya and Ichigo that has been foreshadowed a lot. The purpose of this fight is not for Renji to win. It’s to make Byakuya try.
Up until this point, we haven’t really seen Byakuya struggle at all. We’ve seen him be surprised but he’s never had to drop his loathful air of confidence. As a viewer, this means we don’t actually know the extent of Byakuya’s ability. We’re yet to see him truly in action, displaying his abilities that would make him even more threatening than Zaraki Kenpachi.
During this bout with Renji, Byakuya tells his lieutenant that simply achieving Bankai isn’t enough. That to properly use a Bankai, one needs to train for several years before it’s combat-ready. This makes the battle feel like a possibility for how Byakuya and Ichigo’s inevitable fight could go. Renji and Ichigo are similar, as has already been established, and both fight with the same goal with the same mentality and preparation. Renji achieved his Bankai and went on ahead, not intending to just let Ichigo take the spotlight. However, we now know that in itself isn’t enough.
It’s also interesting that Byakuya uses kido after Renji’s multiple statements that Byakuya’s sword cannot kill him. It’s a good way of showing that Byakuya’s an intelligent fighter, which is a factor that separates him from Kenpachi (who was happy to just tank any attack thrown at him). Knowing that Renji is so informed regarding his zanpakuto’s abilities and his tendencies in terms of swordplay, he resorts to powerful kido instead. Thus proving that he isn’t the type of foe who can be defeated by formulating a single plan.
This battle ends entirely as we would expect. Renji loses in a brutal display after Byakuya releases his own Bankai. Nevertheless, in pushing Byakuya to that point he has achieved the purpose of this fight and his arc. He had made Byakuya display his power and we now understand just how terrifying of an opponent he is. We may have been confident in Ichigo’s abilities beforehand but now the odds are way against him. Just the power of a Bankai alone isn’t enough to overcome Byakuya and Ichigo at this point in the story has yet to even achieve it at all. This fight also suggests the first stage of development in Byakuya’s character that we see when he shows respect for Renji’s fighting spirit, even when he can no longer effectively fight.
After the fight, Byakuya talks about the difference between he and Renji being class. This pretty explicitly tells us what, metaphorically speaking, Byakuya represents in the story. Mayuri was the dark underbelly and unjust practices of society that would pull away and kill off anyone who was different. Byakuya, on the other hand, is the unfair advantages that one might obtain simply through birth. Of all the characters we’ve seen struggle and suffer so far, Byakuya is most certainly not among them. He’s the highest on the high-horse that he can be, there are multiple instances throughout the arc where he is just infuriatingly elitist. Example: when he tells Ukitake that Rukia’s execution isn’t his concern, despite the fact that Rukia was in Ukitake’s squad and the fact that Ukitake was there when Rukia experienced probably the greatest trauma of her life. From our perspective, we would be pressed to believe that Byakuya has undergone any hardships at all. Compared to Renji or Ichigo, he hasn’t had to claw his way up to be where he is. Yet, he is so much more powerful than them. Ichigo and Renji both have scary faces and odd hair colors and they were born into modest and poor backgrounds respectively. Byakuya, in contrast, is a conventionally beautiful man with long, flowing, black hair. Harkening back to the fact that this arc is all-in-all a metaphor for Ichigo and the invasion group growing up into a confusing patriarchal society in which they are uncertain or unaccepting of their place, Byakuya is another unfair aspect of that society.
- Kenpachi vs Tosen & Komamora – The goal of this battle is for Kenpachi to prove why he was portrayed as one of the more powerful captains in the first part of this arc. Winning this fight means proving just how strong Ichigo was in overcoming him, as well as living up to the name Kenpachi. Even if he has no personal stake in the rescue, there’s plenty of viewer expectation on the line. After having essentially tied with Ichigo and then being revealed to be the only captain without a Bankai, the hype behind Kenpachi has died down significantly by this point. He has to win the hype back and gee heck does he do it.
He’s pit against Tosen’s bankai, which strips him of sight, smell and hearing. This is an ability he can’t beat just by aimlessly slashing, which is great because it means Kenpachi has to show some actual intelligence and combat skill. This isn’t just a power struggle of Kenpachi and his opponent wailing on each other until one falls. In his fight with Ichigo we got that he was strong but he didn’t display any real combat aptitude. The way he resolves this fight is both smart and perfect for his character. He purposely lets himself be hit so he can grab on to his unseen foe, which allows him to regain his lost senses. He even lets Tosen go just to make a point before decisively ending the fight, all without removing his eye-patch. The doubt dismissed, Kenpachi regains the hype he had earlier on. A rad fight for a rad character.
- Rukia’s perspective – The way our perspective is made to match Rukia’s throughout the execution is effective. It starts with a scene with Gin, where he teases Rukia by offering to help her and her friends only to say he was just kidding. Her reaction is certainly more intense than that of the average viewer but I reckon most would reflect the animosity for Gin here. As she’s brought to the execution stand, we have all reason to believe that Ichigo won’t actually be able to carry out the rescue. Especially so after the result of Renji vs Byakuya. We haven’t seen Ichigo achieve Bankai and, while Kenpachi’s fight indirectly gives us some hope, it feels like everything is against him. Rukia resolves herself to die and a part of us resolves to watch it happen. The possibility that she couldn’t be saved was there and yet Ichigo still appears in the most heroic way possible. The Sokyoku, the weapon meant to carry out Rukia’s execution, was talked up several times throughout the arc. It’s usually reserved for the execution of Captains or Captain-level individual and it has the power of a million zanpakuto, it’s meant to erase whatever it pierces to nothing. When Ichigo appears, he casually stops it with his sword at his back without even looking at it. In an instant, as the finale begins, our hope in him is completely reignited. When hope returns to Rukia, hope returns to us as well.
- Shunsui & Ukitake vs Yamamoto / Yoruichi vs Soifon – While these two fights aren’t exactly center-stage when Ichigo vs Byakuya is about to kick off, they do provide some good extra lore bits for soul society. The primary purpose of Shunsui and Ukitake vs Yamamoto is simply to show us just how ridiculously strong the head captain is. This 2v1 scenario is relatively more impressive than Kenpachi’s since we’ve prior seen more of Shinsui and Ukitake when compared to Tosen and Komamura. These two are established fighters and Shunsui in particular we have a lot of respect for after he dominated Chad. Regardless of that, Yamamoto towers over both of them in terms of ability. His zanpakuto is said to have the highest offensive power which, assuming that Yamamoto has a strong connection with his zanpakuto spirit, would imply that he is the strongest soul reaper.
I would like to just say that Yoruichi vs Soifon is amazing because the fight is cool as heck and features the two arguably best female characters in all of Bleach but I do have to analyze the narrative purpose here. This fight delves a bit into the lore of the noble families of soul society, of which we know of the Kuchiki clan and the Shihouin clan. Simply knowing this fact adds a lot of immediate intrigue to Yoruichi’s character since we can assume that this made her royalty, a fact that is later confirmed. We knew that she was an important and strong figure but now the extent of that is beyond initial expectation. The most important tidbit we get about the noble families is that there are sub-families that exist to dedicate themselves to the nobles. Members of such families can have their entire lives, the purpose of their being destroyed simply if they aren’t good enough. Indirectly, this tell us a bit about Byakuya and why he may be on his high-horse.
The reason why the actual fight is good comes down to the fact that Soifon’s shikai ability is just really well designed. Every time she lands a hit, the tension of the fight raises infinitely higher since a second hit on the same spot means death for her opponent. Each strike truly brings Yoruichi a step closer to death and that just makes the progression of this engagement really visceral. Maybe this fight could have ended in a more satisfying way but there’s only so much screen time to be given here.
- Ichigo vs Byakuya – Byakuya states early into this fight that he will personally execute Rukia once he’s done with Ichigo. As if it was needed, this naturally furthers Ichigo’s drive considering he has two sisters of his own. More contrasts between the two, I suppose. Byakuya’s a noble who has lived a life where others live for his sake while Ichigo has come to value the lives of others, no matter where they’re from. He got that trait from Rukia, before he met her he was a lot more uncaring. Ichigo’s goal here isn’t even to kill Byakuya, it’s to prove him wrong. That’s why he goads the noble into using his bankai, because he’ll never get his point across unless he beats Byakuya at his full power. Byakuya is a character who needs to be brought down to earth for not just Rukia’s sake but his own.
I didn’t mention this earlier but Byakuya’s zanpakuto ability is just perfect for him. He doesn’t even have to lift a finger as the blades of Senbonzakura chase down his enemy. It’s as if his foes aren’t even worth the effort as his powerful ability controls their movements completely.
Ichigo’s Bankai is the last we see revealed in the arc, which is a neat pacing detail. Our hype has been building from every Bankai we’ve seen up until this moment; every grandiose and unique ability building our expectations for what Ichigo’s might be. When it turns out to be something small and not particularly flashy, many might find their first reaction to be as Byakuya’s. Disappointment, the kind that leads him to claim that what Ichigo holds isn’t even worth being called a Bankai. In terms of narrative, though, it does make sense. Ichigo’s Bankai being small represents how he’s the underdog. It isn’t a massive or imposing ability like those wielded by the soul reapers of the gotei 13. Ichigo’s just a substitute soul reaper, an orange-haired teen from a humble origin who has battled against those massive forces. His bankai represents the fact that, while he may seem small and insignificant when compared to a noble like Byakuya, he’s just as effective and not to be dismissed so easily.
When Byakuya alters his Bankai to a form that he has to actively wield, it tells us that Ichigo has broken through to him on some level. No longer is Ichigo not worth the effort, Byakuya is willing to take the fight into his own hands and duel Ichigo as an equal. A sign of respect, yet still this battle is not won.
After a final clash, Ichigo ends this fight standing. After fainting in the aftermath of his previous big battles with Renji and Kenpachi, just this small fact really makes it feel like he won. Even if Byakuya also didn’t go down, Ichigo attained what he had to. He got through to him, thus victory is his.
- The foreshadowing of Ichigo’s Hollow – During the Byakuya and Ichigo fight, Ichigo is briefly taken over by his inner-Hollow. Manifestations of his Hollow mask have saved him from otherwise fatal wounds multiple times in this arc and we even see a Hollow-like version of Ichigo inside of Zangetsu. It’s been following him every step, waiting for a moment to fully overtake and when it does it manifests as one of the best-handled ‘berserk’ scenes in this genre of story. It’s sudden, shocking, yet brief. It shows us a hint of the potentially terrifying, overwhelming power that the Hollow side of him holds. In casting it aside, the Hollow also represents the idea of borrowed power. The type of power that would completely invalidate the fight with Byakuya if Ichigo were to rely on it to win. It isn’t power that he gained through his own struggles, therefore in winning he wouldn’t be proving his point to his opponent. Yet, even in being cast away, the Hollow is something that promises to return in the future. A force that could make child’s play of Byakuya and perhaps any other captain. A transcendence of the limits of a soul reaper, as Aizen hints during his betrayal.
- Aizen & the side-plot payoff – I could not possibly go over all of the intricacies of Aizen’s plot throughout the arc and do it justice, so I’ll keep this section as brief as I can. The primary positive factor of Aizen’s deception before it’s actually revealed is how the plot plays to our expectations. For the entire arc, we’re conditioned to assume that Gin is a nasty guy who’s up to something. However, what that something actually is never becomes clear. In multiple scenes, while he comes off as an untrustworthy asshole he never explicitly does anything wrong. The worst he does is direct an attack at a knocked-out Hinamori, otherwise anything bad he might have done is just left to our own assumption. In fact, at the beginning of the arc he even lets the invasion group live on purpose, which almost makes him seem more like a good guy in terms of his actual acts. He’s a great character to give off the vibe that something is off but it’s impossible to know what until it’s too late.
The reveal of Aizen’s deception is such a perfect “wait a second” moment. In the scene, Hinamori, his lieutenant who has been emotionally crushed throughout the arc because of his death, is happy just to see him alive. However, we can put the pieces together. As Aizen embraces Hinamori, we can figure that all of the things happening in Central 46 are almost certainly because of him. The one who killed all of its members and who sneaked in before the lock-down happened. No one else could have gotten in since Gin was seen outside after said lock-down. What would otherwise be a heartwarming reunion becomes something intensely menacing as we put the pieces together. Then, he reveals his true self as he runs Hinamori through. All of our presumptions about Gin being the villain are both tossed and not as this nonsense is presented to us. Gin has still never done anything directly wrong, yet he is on the side of the villain. In a way our expectations are met but they’re also very twisted up.
Everything from that point onward is just to show us how much of a threat Aizen is. How powerful he is, how in control he is and has been from the very beginning. As far back as Renji, Hinamori and Kira learning to become soul reapers and an unknowable amount of time before event that, Aizen’s plan has been in motion. This character has been playing all of soul society since before Ichigo was even born. His intelligence almost seems absolute and he feels like the most threatening character the series has presented by far.
The premise for Aizen, Gin and Tosen being later villains is cool because it isn’t made clear whether or not fighting them would actually be necessary. Aizen claims to Unohana that he likely won’t see her, and by extension the other soul reapers, ever again. Logically, Bleach is a battle manga, so battles with them inevitably do happen down the road, but as of current the conditions under which those battles take place aren’t predictable. Aizen got what he wanted from all his meticulous planning and escaped to Hueco Mundo, beyond where soul reapers can go. As far as we know, his plan has already succeeded. Knowing how cunning he is, paired with how unpredictable his next move could be, makes for an exciting set-up going into further arcs.
What Needs Changed
- Mayuri’s relationship with Nemu – Much as I like his character, this aspect of it I can’t truthfully say I’m a fan of. It may seem odd to single out his abusive relationship with his lieutenant given he blew up his own squad members without a second thought, but there is a major difference between these two things. Initially, everything adds up with his character when he slashes through Nemu to deal a blow to Ishida. This displays the fact that Mayuri sees Nemu as another expendable tool for the sake of achieving a goal, makes sense from what we’ve seen. Especially given the fact that he created her body, thus meaning he knows the exact risk and reward in damaging her. She’s the perfect lieutenant to compliment(?) his own character. What upsets me is how animate Mayuri gets only when he’s abusing Nemu. After dealing said slash, Mayuri goes on to just abuse Nemu for no real reason. He makes actions that aren’t really logical, they’re just rage-driven. This abuse just happens for the sake of it. After she was paralyzed by his shikai’s ability he should know that she’s paralyzed, especially if he knows everything that her body is capable of taking or resisting. He makes an error and then blames Nemu for no reason. There’s no goal, there’s no achieving a goal, he’s just upset. Perhaps it’s meant to add another level of off-putting unpredictability to him, however that isn’t really needed for this character. Making him so openly abusive to no end just weakens the integrity of a character who is otherwise genuinely creepy and calculated. This becomes especially problematic when you realize that he states early into the fight with Ishida that he hates wasting time. To then waste time abusing his lieutenant. Hmm.
- Oops Orihime still did nothing – Still mad that Orihime got dunked on by fodder and was the only one of the invasion group to not get a big battle in which to show her resolve. Ishida fought against Shunsui, Ichigo fought against Renji, Kenpachi and Byakuya; heck, even Chad and Ganju displayed their wills against Shunsui and Byakuya despite the fact that they both lost badly. Kubo tries to pull a little bit of backpedaling by having Orihime dumpster two nameless soul reapers bare-handed but that isn’t nearly enough to make an arc. I did enjoy the scene where Orihime comes up with an intelligent solution to their situation as invaders in dressing up as soul reapers. It makes sense for a group of Orihime and Ishida to come up with an idea alternative to just battle after battle. This still doesn’t justify Orihime getting as shafted as she does. As things stand, she may as well have not even participated in the invasion. This needs some serious changing.
- Central 46 – Central 46 is core to Aizen’s entire plan and is extremely important to the tension within soul society side-plot and yet it’s very rushed in how it’s actually handled. The existence of Central 46 in itself is fine, if the gotei 13 is equivalent to soul society’s government then Central 46 is the judicial system. Makes sense! The issue is that we get all the exposition about this immediately before we find out that all of its members have been killed. Hitsugaya mentions that this is where all of soul society’s crimes are judged, whether they were committed in our out of soul society itself. Certainly, I believe they were mentioned with regards to Rukia’s execution, but only ever really in passing. Even at the points of the arc when there’s possible manipulation going on behind the scenes to push up Rukia’s execution date, no one really talks about Central 46 at all. Despite the fact that all of those decisions were going through that place. I don’t want much here, just a few more scenes where some gotei 13 characters actually talk about Central 46 for more than A Sentence before the one part of the story where suddenly we learn everything about it.
Well, this is a little awkward. This post turned out to be more of a review than a rewrite, given I really mostly only have positive things to say about what happened. Two of my three issues with this part of the arc can be fixed super easily as well. In the fight between Ishida and Mayuri, the latter could just not pointlessly abuse his lieutenant and we’re good. He could be cold to her or ignore her plights but we’ve labeled the uncalled for abuse as a no-no. The Central 46 issue can be fixed with, as mentioned, just a couple of discussions about them laced into the various segments that focus around the inner conflict of the gotei 13.
The one problem that really needs work is the issue surrounding Orihime. I made the statement in the last post that she didn’t even really have to do anything in the fight against Jirobo, all I wanted was for her to not be made redundant in an instant. In this re-written timeline, Tsubaki is still active and Orihime is still battle-ready. I’d say the best opportunity for her to have a big fight would be when she’s told to run from the Ishida vs Mayuri fight. As things are now, she’s dragged away by unimportant man character because she’s “not suited for battle” (we hear that quote a lot, even though they all came to soul society expecting to battle). Not a fan of this, so we’ll make Orihime agree to run from the fight with Mayuri because that’s not her fight to get involved in. Narratively, that’s a fight that her presence would kinda ruin.
So Orihime is now running from that fight of her own volition, presumably with unimportant squad 11 member at her back. Where she meets with Yachiru in the current version, she should instead meet some sort of opponent to battle with before the story goes on to take place as per normal. Likely not Yachiru herself, though I can imagine her wanting to test the strength of the Ryoka who are Ichigo’s friends. The opponent doesn’t matter a huge amount, just that they aren’t a complete fodder character. A third-seat or maybe a lieutenant, though in the latter scenario I wouldn’t expect Orihime to be the winner.
The reason why this needs to happen is because Orihime needs a proper chance to display some kind of resolve. Chad resolves himself to a promise with Ichigo, Ishida resolves himself for the sake of the Quincies, Ichigo resolves himself for the sake the soul reaper that changed his life. Orihime is… there! The most obvious route to take would be to act on the whole “she isn’t suited for battle” statement. Have Orihime herself realize that herself during this theoretical fight but still resolve to fight anyway. If she isn’t suited in that moment, she’ll improve herself to become as capable as the others. To prove that she isn’t just dead weight, to prove that she can protect the friends she cares for. Not just the ones in the invasion team but back home as well.
Orihime knows at this point that Hollows could appear in the real world at any time and when they do she could be in danger. While she’s a bit ditzy, Orihime is clearly not meant to be a completely unintelligent character. Have her think ahead, to when the invasion team returns home. She will likely have to defend herself, or maybe Tatsuki who doesn’t have abilities of her own. Her resolve can revolve around this idea of protection, thus keeping in line with her overall character. Win or lose, even if she does turn out to be less effective in combat than the boys, one display of this kind of resolve would fit her into this arc far better than she’s implemented now.
I would state that this arc ends far better than it begins. While the first section of this arc was a case of the good just outweighing the bad, this section of it is just invariably pretty great. Each of the fights serves a strong narrative purpose, the balance of hype and uncertainty is done well and there’s no out of place humor or general intrusive nonsense like in the first section. The character arcs that actually get to play out are strong, what each battle represents makes sense and honestly I get it. I see now why people consider the soul society arc to be so good. I stated in the last post that I thought the first arc was actually better than the first section of this arc but this second section is more than enough to make up for that. This arc contains some of the strongest storytelling we’ve seen yet and sets a high bar for itself going forward. With threats like Aizen’s faction and Ichigo’s inner Hollow abound, there’s a lot to expect from the upcoming arcs. I would be excited for it, were I ignorant to what comes next. If community consensus is to be believed it’s all downhill from here, so check back in when I post the next section of this amendment where I break down how true that is. If it is, it’ll be my duty to fix it.