Out of all the arcs that Kubo Tite wrote for Bleach, this is definitely one of them. The fullbringer arc leaves much to be desired. We leave the Aizen arc with Ichigo losing his powers and slowly being unable to see Rukia. The arc ends with Ichigo turning into a normal high school student and life just kind of returning to normal. Things are nice, and it was a nice point in the story to end it on. And then instead of doing that, or leaning on the massive cast of characters that we’ve already come to love this far into the story, Kubo decides instead to introduce an entire new group of characters that I really couldn’t get all too invested in. Before my rewatch I still remembered a ton of the soul reapers and arrancar, because they were so memorable. The visoreds were the same. And then we have the fullbringers who… I think there’s a kid with a gameboy. That’s the extent of what I remember. But putting all that aside, let’s get to reviewing this arc proper.
Ichigo is now just a regular high school boy. He’s 17 years old, has a part time job, and is looking forward to his future. Meanwhile he’s being bothered by Ginjo, who also seems to have a substitute shinigami token. Right from the get go he’s an extremely unlikable character to me. While this is going on, both Ishida and Inoue notice something strange about Ichigo. Oh, and Ishida gets stabbed by a strange man.
Things are ramping up a little bit from here. Ginjo keeps pestering Ichigo to join his little club of Fullbringers called Xcution. It consists of Riruka, Jackie, Yukio, Giriko and Ginjo. They all have the strange power to manipulate the souls of things, allowing them to turn things they feel strongly about into weapons. They want Ichigo to become a substitute shinigami again so he can absorb their powers and turn them into regular humans. There’s also Tsukishima, who is the one that slashed Ishida and used to be a member of Xcution. Last time they found a substitute shinigami to take their members’ powers Tsukishima changed his mind and ended up killing the shinigami as well as the members who’d already given up their power. You’d think we would have heard about this already. On top of all of this, Ginjo tells Ichigo that he shouldn’t really be trusting Urahara. I remember the first time I was going through this arc and I actually thought Urahara might be a villain. I thought that would be such a horrendous plot twist that it would actually ruin the manga for me. Luckily Urahara turned out to never be a villain at all. It makes no sense for him to be a villain either. The only thing I could have seen happen is him harboring a grudge against the Soul Society for sentencing him to death, but he just doesn’t seem like the type. Moving on.
Ichigo decides to join the Xcution group to get his powers back. In the meantime Inoue also gets attacked by Tsukishima, but after she’s been cut there’s no wound. There’s only a strange feeling that Tsukishima is an old friend. Meanwhile Sado is training with Xcution as well. I never liked the changing of logic on how Sado’s and to a lesser extent Inoue’s power works. Sado had hollow powers but now he’s just a fullbringer controlling the soul of what exactly? None of it feel like it tightly lines up. Ichigo fights with some random puppets before defeating Jackie while fighting in Riruka’s dollhouses. As they’re training, Tsukishima attacks the Xcution base and they take a break from training to fight him off. Ichigo’s current form of Fullbring looks like a more boring bankai. That’s really all there is to it. Ginjo and Ichigo fight inside Yukio’s game console as the next part of their training. While they’re doing so, Inoue is being brought to the Xcution base. The scene where she’s talking to Riruka really highlights why I don’t like this arc. It feels like we’re starting from zero again, with all the progress we’ve made so far being completely gone. The guy propped up as the big villain for this arc is a bloke with a bookmark, and there are no real stakes except for Ishida getting attacked once and recovering from it. Going from the Aizen arc to this, and then after this to the upcoming Thousand Year Blood War arc just feels like it’s not well planned. Also, Ginjo is just an asshole for most of this arc.
In the background, Isshin, Urahara and Rukia are scheming something. Shouldn’t they instead be doing their jobs and deal with Xcution? You can’t tell me someone like Urahara has not been actively aware of their existence.
Tsukishima cuts into several people and makes them believe he’s their friend until he starts to show up around Ichigo. Ichigo’s training is completed because Ginjo treats him like absolute shit and in doing so awakens his powers. Ichigo runs away from the situation in a panic. This is where he meets up with Ginjo, who explains that the rest of the fullbringers are now also under Tsukushima’s control. Things are looking quite dire. I would like to remind you that up until now in the story, nothing has really happened. Ichigo got new powers to replace his old ones, and Ishida was hospitalized, but that’s really it. This is just the set-up of a story arc. Which is strange since we’re at about 8 episodes left from the almost thirty. The pacing is all over the place.
Tsukishima’s true power is revealed. He places himself in the past of other people making them fully believe he was always there as someone they knew. That’s what happened to all the people around them. Ginjo and Ichigo suck at evading their followers though and are promptly led to Tsukishima’s place. All his friends and family are there as well as the other fullbringers. Ichigo and Tsukishima clash after Ginjo tells him to go wild. It’s starting to feel a lot like Ginjo is dictating what is and isn’t allowed. One thing that isn’t allowed is for Tsukishima to have fun, since Ichigo is quickly overpowering him. That’s when Sado and Inoue show up to support Tsukishima. That’s gotta sting. It’s also worth noting that these episodes take about 5 or 6 minutes before anything new happens. I think that’s part of why this arc feels so awful. Nothing happens for a third of the airtime.
Things ramp up a little bit from here. Tsukishima has some sort of revelation and Ginjo gets stabbed by his power as well. Meanwhile Ishida is on his way to some place, probably where they’re fighting right now. Speak of the devil, there he is. And there’s the big reveal. Tsukishima didn’t cut down Ishida, Ginjo did. Both of them get cut down in one fell swoop. Ginjo wanted to awaken Ichigo’s fullbring so he could steal it all along. Looks like his plan was successful.
So Ginjo was the one who stabbed Ishida, which is why he was bleeding in the hospital. Him and Tsukishima were working together from the start. Tsukishima cut Ginjo and the other fullbringers as well. Turns out they were all his enemies from the very start. So basically they found the hero who saved the entire world and had gone back to being a normal human. Got him back into the fight and hurt all of his friends only to kill him and take his newfound powers. It’s hard to believe an entire group of people is so awful. When Ichigo is at his lowest he gets stabbed from behind by a very familiar sword. Ichigo is way too far gone to realize what is going on. It makes sense, it’s been seventeen months since he’s last seen Rukia. Seeing Rukia again is such a breath of fresh air. It really reminds me how much I do not care for these Fullbringers. Give me back my fun Soul Reapers and Visoreds, thank you very much. Also, I said it’s a familiar sword that Rukia used, but it’s not, it’s a newly made sword by Urahara. It does kind of look like Sode no Shirayuki though.
This is a cool moment though. Turns out there’s some people who owe a big debt to Ichigo and are here to set things straight. Renji, Byakuya, Toshiro, Kenpachi and Ikkaku are here to provide support. As soon as he feels the heat, Ginjo goes on the retreat but Ichigo doesn’t let him. Ginjo stands no chance whatsoever. On a quick sidenote, it is very nice of Yamamoto to break his authoritarian rule for a moment to respect Ichigo’s contribution to their society. It turns out the reason there was a law surrounding Substitute Soul Reapers was for a reason. Ginjo is the first one of them to ever appear. Things heat up as Ginjo shares his powers with the other Fullbringers. Riruka is hesitant about it all though, good for her at least she still has some morals left. I do love that the fullbringers think they stand even a fraction of a chance with three captains, two former captains, three lieutenants and the guy that defeated Sosuke Aizen. It’s time for the big fights between fullbringers and Soul Reapers. I wonder who’s going to win.
Needless to say, Kenpachi defeats Giriko in one slash. Small fry is accurate for sure. Renji casually knocks out Jackie as if she wasn’t even there. Toshiro abuses Yukio’s PTSD to have him drop his guard. Ikkaku… punches a kid for a while. Rukia and Byakuya both struggle against their opponents, with Byakuya even having to use his bankai to fight against Tsukishima. Eventually Byakuya prevails and mortally wounds the bookworm.
Ichigo and Ginjo fight, with Ginjo explaining that the substitute badge is meant as a way for Soul Society to keep Ichigo in check. Ichigo brushes it off and says it’s not important. Ginjo can’t understand it. The fights continue and Ginjo and Tsukishima both die, with Riruka heroically saving Ichigo. Jackie and Yukio vanish into the world and that’s the end of that.
I think that the thing that irks me so much about this arc is that the fullbringers don’t feel like interesting people until towards the end. We learn more about them in the final two episodes than in the rest of the arc. Reflecting on it now I think this isn’t a bad story per se, it’s just really poorly written. And on that somber note ends the Bleach recap. Overall I enjoyed myself a lot albeit way less during the final stretch. Now it’s time to take a break from watching so much anime, it’s been a lot. Thanks for reading.