The Arrancar Arc motors on, which is funny as in terms of as-it-aired this was the story arc finally resuming after a long and uneventful filler arc. Instead the only difference felt between this and the previous batch of episodes I covered in the switch to 16:9 full-screen rather than 4:3, which was old hat even at the time. This batch has a lot of memorable moments and fights in it, but doesn’t actually move the story along that much… Let’s take a look!
Ichigo’s celebration at having defeated Grimmjow and rescued Orihime is short lived thanks to the arrival of Espada #5. Meanwhile Uryu and Renji continue to struggle against Szayelaporro Grantz and his various experiments…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Finally a screenshot of Nnoitra so I can mention how ridiculously over-sized his “sword” is!
The story picks right back up with Ichigo, Inoue and Nel ready to leave and find their friends before heading home, but sadly for them Espada #5 Nnoitra arrives and has no qualms with literally kicking men while they’re down as he finishes off a frustrated and weakened Grimmjow before beating Ichigo up for the hell of it. This has an odd effect on Nel, who Nnoitra recognises as Neliel Tu Odelschwanck (jeez Kubo, these names!) a former member of the Espada. In a fit of fear and rage she transforms from a helpless child into a fully grown woman and battles her former ally, though flashbacks reveal they were on the same side but not by any stretch of the imagination friends (and in fact it was Nnoitra who struck her in the head and caused her to transform, with the help of Szayelaporro…) Nel begins to get the upper hand before Nnoitra reveals that the Espada had become far more powerful than when she was around and fights back, leading to Neliel using her Resurrección to fight back again until her transformation “wares off” and she reverts to a child body again. It’s a fun fight, and the reveal was a great moment when I didn’t know it was coming.
Ichigo goes back to being trounced until he’s saved by the timely arrival of Kenpachi, who informs him that Soul Society have sent four Captains and their Lieutenants to Hueco Mundo to help out. We see Byakuya (whose Lt. isn’t with him, given it’s Renji…) arrive where Rukia fell, Mayuri and Nemu arrive on the battlefield with Szayelaporro and Unohana and her lieutenant arrive to generally heal and help people out, scaring away the always cool looking but sadly pretty crap Rudbornn and his Exequias force. Byakuya ends up fighting and swiftly defeating the Seventh Espada Zommari, who had the power to assign “his love” to parts of his opponents’ body and gain complete control over them. He tried to control the body of Rukia and threaten her already weakened life but Byakuya overcame all that and had the great line that Zommari lost where he “pointed a blade at his pride”, the camera work and original manga panels making it obvious he meant Rukia rather than himself.
Byakuya can’t be bothered to to face such an unmemorable opponent any more.
Skipping over the Szayelaporro fight for the sake of putting it in the bad (though I did like the ending…) we then get Kenpachi facing off with Nnoitra, and boy it’s… something. Basically they just start slicing each other up, Kenpachi can’t cut his opponent’s hard skin, then he can, Nnoitra is backed into the corner and uses his Resurrección to both heal himself and gain an extra couple of sets of arms to do more damage and very nearly kill his opponent, before the Squad 11 Captain then says how he never knew striking with two hands gave you more power than randomly flailing about with one arm until he was shown by Captain Yamamoto and slices his opponent damn-near in two with a two-handed “kendo strike”. We see a flashback to Nnoitra’s past where he says his goal is to be in a fight to the death so great that he dies before he even hits the ground, and then we see him slowly falling to the ground with his eyes rolling into the back of the head, showing that he got his wish in the end. While the blood and gore was toned way down compared to the Manga it didn’t take too much away from the fight, at least.
That’s not a face you want to see on your opponent in any situation…
Before anyone can celebrate Espada member Stark arrives, kidnaps Inoue again and drops her off at Aizen’s throne room. Aizen then delivers a message to all the Captains, lieutenants and Ichigo’s crew that basically says “Idiots, I never had any interest in Inoue, but because of her powers you’ve sent four of your Captains, including the two highest ranked healers, to Hueco Mundo to stop me and now I’ve cut off the ways out and leaving to Karakura town after effectively halving your main force. Bye!” The Soul Society sort-of counters by saying they’ve replaced Karakura town with a fake and hid the real one in Soul Society as the rest of the Captains and Lieutenants arrive to greet Aizen, Gin and Tosen. Their boast is short lived though as Aizen says that he knows this isn’t the real Karakura town and that he’ll just kill all the Shinigami here with the rest of his Espada (who then arrive) and create the King’s Key in Soul Society. He then leaves Las Nochas and Inoue in the hands of Ulquiorra, who arrives in the throne room in front of her…
Szayelaporro plays with his toys because nobody is paying attention to him.
Sadly the fight against Szayelaporro Grantz really drags here. I mean, it dragged a bit beforehand, but yikes. Uryu, Renji and Nel’s two friends Peche and Dodonchakka find out that in trying to escape they only arrived back in the same room where Grantz is waiting. Szayelaporro uses his Resurrección, which is called “Fornicarás” in Japan, right down to hearing his VA say those words, and yet the subtitles read “La Lujuriosa”, which is the dub name due to Fornicarás literally translating to “You will fornicate” being a tad too lewd. Hate it when they do that, I have ears, I know what he said… Anyway, he grows weird tentacles out of his back that initially allows him to spit weird fluid at his enemies that then cause duplicates of them to appear and fight them, which is rather dull. Renji eventually makes his duplicates all activate their Bankai at the same time in order to destroy the whole lab. This angers Grantz, then he’s upset even more when Peche and Dodonchakka react to their old master reawakening her powers by attacking Espada #8 head on. It doesn’t work, unsurprisingly, but it’s another thing that angers him.
Grantz reveals the next phase of his powers and absorbs both Uryu and Renji with his weird tree-like tentacles and creates voodoo-like dolls of them, with each having a bunch of breakable bits inside them relating to each organ, tendon and muscle in their body, allowing him to crush Uryu’s stomach or snap Renji’s Achilles heel from a distance. This is when Mayuri arrives and the two out-insane-scientist themselves, with Mayuri revealing that he had tracker bugs put on Uryu so he knew of his opponent’s ability to he had all his organs and tendons replaced with artificial ones before arriving (despite it only being less than 30 minutes since he revealed his power), then after he’s eaten whole by Mayuri’s Bankai Grantz resurrects himself by climbing out of Nemu’s mouth (as pink smoke in the censored anime, but hey-ho I can understand that at least…) and reveals that not only can he cheat death but he now controls Mayuri’s Bankai and has it attack its master. Mayuri detonates it nonchalantly and asks if this is all his opponent had to offer before revealing that by absorbing some of Nemu’s lifeforce he also inherited a drug he’d planted in her that he calls a “superhuman drug”. Basically it makes a second seem like decades to Grantz, so Mayuri very slowly explains everything and then slowly pushes his sword in his opponent’s heart; we later hear Grantz begging for death in his final moments after waiting an eternity for the sword to pierce his heart and finally relieve him of his fate. It’s actually a very interesting, and cruel, punishment and I really enjoy it. Sadly the endless build was not so enjoyable…
Also Uryu argues and generally comically prats around with Mayuri a lot, which given the last time they met Uryu tried to kill him to avenge his beloved grandfather that the scientist had tortured to death it doesn’t really make sense, even if Mayuri is the only one who could save him. Also we see a tantalising cliffhanger of Mayuri finding Grantz’ storage lab and finding something “very interesting” hanging in the room, but we don’t find out what that is until the final arc, and when we finally do it’s really not that exciting.
Despite the fight feeling like something being put out of its misery, Mayuri is still always entertaining to watch!
This chunk of the Arrancar Arc was mostly about Nnoitra and Szayelaporro getting defeated and showing off three Captains that already got to show a lot in the previous arc. It sets up the Ichigo / Ulquiorra rematch and sets things in motion for the next chunk of episodes focusing mostly on characters who didn’t get to show a lot of their moves, but otherwise it’s just a fight-fest. A mostly entertaining one, but still not a lot to write home about. Now before we get to the next chunk of episodes in the fight against the Arrancar there is a rather important flashback arc to get to…