Bleach: Arrancar Arc (Episodes 122 – 127, 138 – 142) Review

Feels really weird to put two batches of episodes in the title, but such is the way when you want to specifically cut out filler stories and don’t want to just review five or six episodes at a time… These episodes wrap up the opening salvo of the Arrancar Arc and point us towards our next destination of Hueco Mundo, plus has some rare emotional character development! Let’s take a look…

Synopsis:

As the conflict with Aizen’s Arrancar looms on the horizon, Ichigo finally decides to see Hirako Shinji and his Visored allies to enquire how to control his inner Hollow…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The Visored give Ichigo a helping hand! … Or “helping sword”, I guess?

The core of the first batch of six episodes is Ichigo doing the whole “protagonist trains and gains new power” storyline, but it at least has some fun spins on it. Ichigo realises the only way to get stronger is to accept Shinji’s offer to join his Visored group, but he instead shows up and declares he’s going beat the answer of how to control your inner Hollow out of them because he refuses to join them. This goes about as well as you’d imagine as hot-headed Hiyori beats him up for a while and then ends up being choked as Ichigo Hollowfies. The rest of the Visored put a stop to him and Hirako agrees to train him. The Visoreds are a fun group of characters, along with laidback and cool Shinji and the aforementioned hothead Hiyori (who refers to everyone as “Badly” for some reason) are all-business Kensei, immature and bubbly girl Mashiro, massive but gentle Hachigen, posh and artsy Rose, immature and crazy-haired Love, and Lisa, who enjoys reading porn mags (with women in them, so she’s presumably a Lesbian though it’s funnily enough never directly addressed…) They all have interesting backstories, but that’s another story for later in the arc…

Ichigo enters his inner realm and begins fighting his inner Hollow, who talks about only one person being able to be the King and the other the horse he sits on and generally taunts his living counterpart (plus drops some hints that don’t pay-off until the up-coming-to-anime final arc) all the while the Visored are taking turns fighting Ichigo’s Hollowfied living body. Our lead protagonist fights representations of old foes Byakuya and Kenpachi (plus… *sigh* Jin from the Bount filler arc…) to better find his resolve to fight and eventually vanquishes his other self, gaining the ability to summon his Hollow mask and the associated powers at will, though he will need training to be able to hold onto it for longer than 11 seconds…

Ryuken gives Uryu a helping hand! …. Or “helping arrow-to-the-heart”, I guess?

At the same time Uryu is fighting his Dad in special room, eventually reaching a state of total exhaustion and then being shot by his father’s arrow. According to Ryuken that was the only way for his son to regain his powers, being drained of all stamina and the being shot by an arrow just next to his heart, which… damn, that’s a harsh method that must be prone to accidents, that’s for sure! Chad has also begun training by fighting with Renji’s Bankai, and Orihime… was told to sit the war out by Urahara because she lacks the fighting capability and just doesn’t have the personality for it. This upsets her, naturally, but she soon regains her offensive powers by way of Hachigen of the Visored, who happens to have similar powers to hers. Throw in a scene where we see Soul Society have figured out Aizen’s plan and that it will involve erasing a great deal of Karakura Town in order to make a key that can grant him access to the Royal Realm and potentially assassinate the Soul King. High stakes indeed! … Well, for our heroes, who of course happen to live in Karakura Town or are sworn to protect the Soul King (which, boy, does that ever get weird in the final arc…)

The second lot of five episodes focuses on yet another invasion of Arrancar to the Karakura Town, in this case Yammy, new Espada #6 Luppi, new slow-witted Arrancar Wonderweiss and old Espada #6 Grimmjow, now minus one arm as punishment for his transgressions in the previous batch of episodes. While Hitsugaya, Matsumoto, Ikkaku and Yumichka battle Luppi, Yammy and Wonderweiss end up having to deal with Urahara, who is lending a hand due to Renji and Chad being too knackered. Grimmjow heads straight for Ichigo for a rematch and gets one of the all-time bad-ass lines when Ichigo questions him about his arm, saying that he “ripped it off himself because he only needs one to beat him”. Ichigo uses his Visored powers for the first time and nearly wins, but the mask breaks and he starts to lose badly again. Hirako appears and takes on Grimmjow instead, and just as the former Number 6 is about to release his Zanpakuto he’s stopped again as their mission is complete…

A clash of Visored and Arrancar, a sentence that would make NO SENSE to anyone not familiar with the show…

What was their plan? It was all the distraction tactic as Ulquiorra appears in the Dangai (the world between Soul Society and the Real World) while Orihime is heading home and tells her if she doesn’t want her friends to die she has to surrender herself over to them. She agrees and has to wear a bracelet that means nobody can see her, and is told she can only say goodbye to one person (clearly so Soul Society thinks she’s willingly swapped sides). After some melancholy scenes of her wandering around and watching friends from afar, she bids goodbye to a sleeping Ichigo, nearly kissing him while he slept but chickening out. It’s a really lovely, but also very sad scene as she thinks about all the stuff she wanted to do that she’ll now ever get to do… Head Captain Yamamoto refuses to fall for Aizen’s plot and recalls all the soldiers on Earth and forbids anyone to go to Hueco Mundo to save her. Ichigo has a falling out with Tatsuki, who can no longer sense her best friend and knows Ichigo knows something about it, and then he meets up with a now powered up Chad and Uryu at Urahara’s place to travel to Hueco Mundo and rescue their friend…

The Bad:

Poor Luppi, he had such high hopes and now he’ll never appear again… Well, sort of.

Once again the only bad is the forcing of the Bount Arc characters into the narrative. Jin appearing in Ichigo’s big training montage was bad enough but the Mod Soul trio once again hang around all the scenes in Urahara’s shop, and there are quite a few! *sigh* ah well, at least this is the last time any of them directly interfere in an action scene, anyway…

Well, that and the black blood / scratch marks instead of blood thing, sadly that IS going to be around for the majority of this arc…

Overall Thoughts:

One of the more dramatic and well written scenes in the whole manga / show…

A good combination of training and set-up for the next part of the Arc, with Ichigo’s battle with his inner-Hollow and Orihime’s tearful goodbye both being classic moments. Some filler interruption and the removal of blood still knocks it down from perfect, but it’s still a fun watch that sets up the next phase of the Arrancar Arc well…

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