Bleach Recap #9: The fall of Ulquiorra Cifer

I remember when I first started watching Bleach. I believe that Ulquiorra as a character had already been revealed at that point and everyone that I knew watched it was always raving about or emo arrancar. This was the era where emo and goth were big in high school, after all. Most of the people who I knew that were into Bleach were also part of this subculture at school. Not the most popular bunch, but neither was I so who am I to judge. Either way, let’s take a bit of a shorter recap this week and look at an iconic moment in the story of Bleach: The fall of Ulquiorra Cifer.

When I first watched Bleach, I’d completely forgotten that he was still around by the time he re-appeared.

To be a little bit more specific, we’ll take a look at some of the remaining events in Hueco Mundo before shifting our attention back to Karakura town. That does mean events here will be a bit out of order from how they are shown in the anime, but I think it makes the story a little bit clearer. If you don’t want to be spoiled by anything I talk about here I suggest you watch until the end of the arc first but I like to assume most of you who read this are here just for a refresher on what exactly happened in Bleach before starting on the Thousand Year Blood War arc.

Ichigo is off to a rough start.

After his loss to Nnoitra, Ichigo is healed by Orihime before she is whisked away by Starrk and hand delivered to Ulquiorra. This sets up their clash perfectly as Ichigo charges to the throne room. While Sado, Rukia and Renji have to deal with the leader of the execution squad who has the power to create an almost infinite amount of soldiers from branches that grow from his back. They’re in a bit of a pickle for sure. Moving into the actual tower that Ulquiorra and Ichigo are in, the two face off but almost immediately they’re interrupted by Yammy. Yammy destroys Aizen’s attendants who’ve been Orihime’s bane for most of this arc and then as he’s about to kill Orihime too, he’s interrupted by Ishida. Ishida found his way up here and he and Yammy take their fight elsewhere. The brawn vs the brain at its finest and Ishida doesn’t take long to dispose of the tenth Espada. Tricking him into a field of explosives that Kurotsuchi prepared, Yammy is sent falling down the tower.

Ulquiorra and Ichigo fight and it’s not a close fight. Ulquiorra releases his resurreccion after they leave Las Noches and tosses Ichigo around. When Ichigo gets some hope that he has a chance, Ulquiorra reveals he has a second release state with inky black wings and long hair. Look at our brooding emo boy now, all grown up. He tosses Ichigo around some more before finishing the job right as Ishida and Orihime appear to see Ichigo fall. Ishida clashes with Ulquiorra while Orihime tries to somehow bring Ichigo back to life, without much success.

Holey crap!

After a few moments of Ishida being tossed around something changes in Ichigo. Hollowfication sets in and instead of just a mask, Ichigo’s entire body hollowfies and he turns into a terrifying humanoid hollow. In this form, there is no sense of Ichigo’s self left but he’s extremely strong in this form to the point that Ulquiorra is no longer a match for him at all. He tears the Espada apart and when he eventually collapses and regains his senses, Ulquiorra is about to die.

It’s almost like a scene straight out of Looney Tunes, the way Ulquiorra gets flattened here by Ichigo.

This part of  Bleach’s story is clearly about Ichigo losing his humanity and Ulquiorra trying to get closer to being human. His last thoughts are about the heart that he sees in Orihime’s outstretched hand. This entire fight was much more symbolic than important in other ways. The more human person was bound to lose. I think it’s a very interesting way to write an antagonist and I think that’s why Ulquiorra ended up being such a massively popular character.
Having said all of that, Ichigo’s powerup here feels undeserved. He defeated Grimmjow but spent the rest of this arc losing to Nnoitra, Ulquiorra and Ulquiorra and then Ulquiorra again. The only reason he ends up winning the fight is because of something inside of him that takes over. At least Ichigo himself realizes this when he offers to let Ulquiorra cut off an arm and a leg before they finish the fight. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Ulquiorra is already at death’s door and there is no more fighting happening. We already knew this at this point, but it really drives home the point that Kenpachi says him and Ichigo are the same. As much as Ichigo is here to save his friends, he’s even more here to fight. He’s made to fight, just like Kenpachi and Grimmjow. It’s in his blood and it’s in every fiber of his being. He cares more about being stronger than his opponents and having a fair fight than about winning by any means necessary. He would never pull out a bag of tricks like Ishida does. In that sense, Ichigo is most certainly a psychopath in my opinion but in the context of the universe this story takes place in it’s somewhat commendable. Either way, the only remaining Espada after this are the numbers 1, 2 and 3.

Was there redemption possible for Ulquiorra?

Or that’s what you thought I was going to see. It turns out that the Espada aren’t numbered from 1 to 10, but instead from 0 to 9, with Yammy being number zero when he releases his resurreccion. He turns into a massive beast and faces Sado, Renji and Rukia who just had to pull out all the stops to defeat the leader of the execution squad. They don’t stand a chance against this massive arrancar that’s stronger than Ulquiorra, Halibel, Barragan and Starrk. I don’t know about you guys, but I think this is pretty bad for our protagonists. The three launch a few attacks at Yammy but they can’t even scratch him when they give everything they have left. If only there were some other folks left in Hueco Mundo that could help them out in this dire situation. And let’s end this shorter recap here. We jump to the real world at this point for a couple episodes so it makes sense to continue here next week. Also I’m really tired right now. As always, thank you so much for reading these every week, I’m still having fun watching Bleach again, it’s nostalgic as hell.

The Strongest Espada.
Bonus Halibel

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