Bleach Recap #4: The Arrancar Arrive

Having skipped over the Bount arc, we go right into a whirlwind of a continuation of the Soul Society arc where we’re just barely recovering from Aizen’s schemes. Luckily we get to do so in great company as Rukia, Renji, Ikkaku, Yumechika, Rangiku and Hitsugaya all join us in the world of the living. I am going to also skip the filler episodes at the end of this arc, so do keep that in mind. This recap will cover episodes 110 till 127. It’s a short bit, but a lot happens here so let’s strap in.

It’s everyone’s favorite irritatingly charming boy: Shinji Hirako! I’ve always loved the Visoreds, ever since they first appeared and it’s good to confirm that after all these years they’re still great.

Besides a bunch of the soul reapers appearing in Karakura as a forward scouting force, we also have Shinji Hirako, the creepy masked guy who is part of a group called the Visoreds. They’re soul reapers that have hollow powers as well and he offers Ichigo to help him control his inner Hollow if he joins them. Ichigo refuses and they’re kind of at a stand-off for a while due to it. We also finally get confirmation that Kurosaki Isshin is in fact a soul reaper. Not only that, but he also works with Urahara Kisuke. 

Not only is he friends with Urahara, he’s a Captain-level Shinigami. That implies he has a Bankai too!

But we’re probably all wondering about the Arrancar at this point, aren’t we? That’s right, they’re the new big bad guys. Aizen created humanoid hollows that can wield a Zanpakuto. Their version of Bankai enhances their hollow powers. We also learn that there are three kinds of arrancar. The important ones are the espade, the ten strongest numbered Arrancar and Aizen’s main followers. The first Arrancars we encounter are Yammy and Ulquiorra, who come to kill Ichigo on Aizen’s orders, but only if they deem him to be dangerous. At this point in the story, Ichigo is still seriously struggling with his inner Hollow and doesn’t seem to be a threat. They do get their butts kicked by Urahara and Yoruichi, but the rest of the gang has now realized that they’re pretty weak. Yammy and Ulquiorra retreat and we get some scenes with Aizen which include another Arrancar by the name of Grimmjow, who seems to be less eager to follow orders. He takes his personal goons with him to Karakura town to kill everyone who has even a tiny bit of soul power.

There he is, crowd favorite edgy boy Ulquiorra. He looks like a more mature Sasuke in a way.

Several unimportant Arrancar get their butts kicked by the forward scouting squad which includes Rukia showing off her snow Zanpakuto as well as both Hitsugaya and Ikkaku going bankai during these fights. It does show us viewers that the Arrancar mean business and even these less important ones give captain class soul eaters a run for their money. They can’t sit on their laurels just yet. Ichigo ends up being rather useless and when Grimmjow retreats due to Tousen showing up, Ichigo feels like he didn’t win at all. Defeated and down on his luck he decides to go find Shinji and force the Visored to help him control his inner Hollow. Here he gets his butt kicked until his Hollow takes over and the entire squad jumps on him to subdue him. His training then starts. In his training he fights his inner hollow as well as some other previous antagonists in an effort to figure out what knowledge he can use to control this power. The Visored lock him in a barrier and take turns keeping his Hollow form subdued while he battles it out. Fortunately, Ichigo eventually manages to beat his inner Hollow and now has control of his Visored form. 

Couldn’t make a post about this without showing off Ikakku’s Bankai. What an absolute legend this guy is. And he’s rocking that bald head. With the way my hairline is receding I’ll join him soon enough.

In the meantime, both Sado and Renji have been training with Urahara in his underground cave. Ishida is still training with his dad and has promised to never work with Soul Reapers again. I’m sure that’s a promise he’ll keep. Ishida’s dad is kind of a dick, but I suppose Soul Reapers did kind of genocide the quincies. What are they, Europeans with access to undiscovered land? Moving on, Hitsugaya and Rangiku get a call from Yamamoto Genryuusai. While they take the call Orihime shows up as well. It is her apartment after all. After she asks to leave, Yamamoto tells her to stay because they’ve figured out Aizen’s goal and it’s important for humans too. He wants to make the Ouken, which is a key that unlocks the dimension in which the Soul King lives. Only the Captain Commander knows where the key is held so instead Aizen decides to figure out how to make his own key instead. To do so, you must sacrifice 100.000 souls and find an area with highly concentrated spirit power. That area, you’ve guessed it, is Karakura town. So they now have limited time to prepare a welcome for Aizen as he waits for the Hogyoku to mature enough to set his plan into motion.
Hitsugaya gets to talk to Hinamori Momo through the same demonic TV as well. Zoom really looks different in Soul Society. They make up which I’m sure really helps Hitsugaya’s mood.
She does go back to thinking Aizen might still be a good guy and Yamamoto has to put her to sleep. It is slowly dawning on me that Kubo made the Soul Society more villainous early on and is now dialing things back a bit because they are supposed to be the good guys from now on. 

Grimmjow is great. That’s all.

One thing I will spoil for later is that I’ve always found both Sado’s and Orihime’s characters to be wasted in this series. I know shonen manga has the habit of making one character super powerful and neglecting the rest, but shows like Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer are showing us that it doesn’t have to be that way. Sado and Orihime end up as fodder which is unfortunate since Sado’s a super cool character and Orihime could have been so much more, as we’re shown here. She’s able to pass by the super powerful barrier that is protecting Ichigo’s training with the Visored. After talking to the Visored and Ichigo for a second she leaves again where she is found by Yoruichi, who asks her to come to Urahara’s shop. Upon arrival, Urahara tells her to sit out the fight because she’s too weak. She appreciates his honesty but is still understandably heartbroken by the request. It’s not unreasonable from Urahara to say this, and she knows this as well, but even though she’s weak, she wants to help out. Her and Rukia talk for a moment before Hiyori shows up and kidnaps Orihime. She brings her back to the Visored hideout where Hachi asks her if he should repair Tsubaki for her, which she gladly accepts. He tells her something similar to what Urahara has told her, that fighting on the front line is not ideal for people like him and her, who have similar powers. Orihime says she still wants to fight and Hachi tells her to follow her heart. We end this arc with Ulquiorra visiting Yammy, who’s arm has just been repaired. To test out his newly attached arm he smashes the nurse that helped him recover to pieces. Real evil guy stuff. It’s also revealed that Yammy is part of the espada, number 10 to be precise. 

This is one of my favorite shots/panels in the entire show. We learn pretty early on that the Visored are tight with each other and they seem like goofballs for most of the time, but when one of their own is in danger they don’t fuck around.

Now, the next 10 episodes are filler content, so I will once again be skipping those. As of posting this, I literally just finished the last two episodes of this arc. There’s a heatwave approaching The Netherlands at high speeds and the next five or six days are going to be borderline unlivable by our standards. Our houses, like those in similar EU countries, are built to retain heat as opposed to letting it escape, so they literally turn into an oven at high temperatures. We also do not have air conditioning, that’s for fancy rich people and we’re not that. I will probably buy a cheaper aircon for upcoming years though, but that’s not here yet. So I will probably not do a lot of writing and I don’t know how much I’ll be in the mood for watching Bleach. I’ll probably chill in the back garden instead, enjoying the last two weeks of my vacation before teaching again. What I’m saying is, the next recap might be in two or three weeks instead, so bear with me in the meantime. It’ll cover episodes 138 through 167. Following this arc is another filler arc which I will skip. Thanks for reading.

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