Although we have a whole ten episodes here, there isn’t going to be a lot to talk about! These episodes feature our main cast split off and facing down some lesser enemies in order to show off some skill before the bigger battles begin, with the exception of Rukia’s battle anyway, as that actually has significance. It this bad though? Does anyone really watch Bleach for the plot? Let’s find out! (well, let’s find out if I like these ten episodes, not if someone out there watches Bleach for the plot. I … I can’t find that out for you.)
After reaching Aizen’s base, Las Nochas, Ichigo, Ruki, Uryu, Renji and Chad have split up to cover more ground, closely followed by Nel and her friends…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Aaroniero fondles his face with his tentacles, the lewd devil.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the main talking point with these episodes is Rukia’s fight, as she encounters Espada #9 Aaroniero Arruruerie (Yes I had to copy and paste that…) Aaroniero lures her into a nearby building and reveals that he is actually Kaien, Rukia’s old superior / idol who she had to kill after he became possessed by a Hollow. Explaining that when the Hollow came to Hueco Mundo he was able to gain control of the body and has been “working undercover from within” the two begin to bond again… then he soon asks Rukia to bring him the heads of all her friends as a make good for killing him. This tips Rukia off that maybe this isn’t the kind-hearted Kaien and sure enough a bit of sunlight exposure shows us that Aaroniero is actually two floating skulls in a large test tube, only able to access Kaien’s form, memories and even zanpakuto because it has the ability to absorb other Hollows and one such Hollow was the one that fused with Kaien. Aaroniero activates his Resurrección and impales Rukia, but after some touching flashbacks she finds the resolve to pierce Aaroniero’s tube (oo-er!) and slash it open, killing the Espada. She tries to remain conscious, but collapses. It has some good drama, emotional depth and puts to bed Rukia’s feeling of guilt for good. In case you’re thinking “that was a bit of a coincidence!” there’s a scene where Gin is shown to be intentionally moving corridors around with some computer, and when asked about it he says something along the lines of “liking touching reunions”, so… it was no coincidence!
Meanwhile Ichigo faces off with the odd dancing arrancar and former Espada, otherwise known as “Privaron Espada”, Dordonii Alessandro Del Socacchio (Yes I also had to copy and paste that…) He does the classic Shonen hero trope of not fighting at his full strength because he wants to save it for the bigger players, but after Dordonii targets Nel he realises the error of his ways and swiftly defeats Dordonii before heading off. It’s a fun little fight in places, Nel shows her ability to “eat” Cero and blast it back, and Dordonii has an amusing personality. Uryu likewise comes across as Privaron Espada by the name of Cirucci Thunderwitch (or “Sanderwicci” as apparently the official Romanization is… far too late for me to get used to that, I’m afraid) and after some comedic hijinks with Nel’s pal Pesche he manages to defeat her using a new Quincey tool that frankly looks like a lightsabre but ends up being a special kind of arrow that can absorb surrounding energy to make itself more powerful. Again, it was a fun battle in places, but nothing major.
Chad shows his true powers in his one and only big moment… poor guy.
Lastly Chad faces off with Privaron Espada Gantenbainne Mosqueda, getting a pounding before his right arm transforms into a more powerful, shield-like form, followed shortly by his left arm transforming into a white-and-red demonic form with tremendous power. He dispatches Gantenbainne with ease but is then almost immediately defeated by Espada #5, Nnoitora Gilga. Sadly this was Chad’s only real moment in the extremely long story arc, and really his last one in the series full stop… “What about Renji?” I hear you ask? Well, he and Nel’s pal Dondochakka eventually encounter Espada #8 Szayelaporro Grantz, who manages to seal away Renji’s ability to use his Bankai, but that’s all we get in this batch of episodes. Trust me, there’s a lot more to come there…
The only other thing of note is a few scenes of Orihime being held captive, sometimes visited by Ulquiorra. At the point where it looks like Chad is dead the Espada taunts her, earning him a slap. He does nothing other than threaten her if she doesn’t eat her food and leaves, leaving Orihime to burst into tears…
This screenshot makes the fight look a lot more smoother than it was…
It has to be said that along with the still-annoying blood censorship we get quite a bit of wonky animation here, especially during the Ichigo v Dordonii fight. Weird disproportioned bodies, janky movement… it’s not Bleach at its best. Thankfully it improves as these episodes go on, and even gets good in the next batch (well, the animation, not so much the censorship…)
The only other “bad” is a few annoying over-done comedy routines with Ichigo and Nel, and Uryu and Pesche, though more of them are funny than not. I will say that the Rukia v Aaroniero fight gets near to its conclusion in Episode 155 and then resumes and concludes in Episode 160. It’s really quite jarring, even if you think that all these fights are happening at the same time you can’t help but picture Rukia impaled and waiting around for ages before finally doing something…
Uryu takes out his lightsaber, then turns it into an arrow for copyright reasons.
This chunk of the Arrancar arc is full of action and all based on the original Manga, only extended a bit by some extra action or comedic dialogue. It has to be said that the combination of blood censorship and sometimes wonky animation does hinder the experience, which when combined with the lack of any impact for all but one of the fights and you have an average experience over all.