Bleach: Arrancar Arc (Episodes 206 – 212) Review

Very tempted to drop the Arrancar Arc title altogether for this mini-arc, given its entirely set 100 or so years before the current story, but it is both in the Manga and Anime an important part of the overall Arrancar Arc story, showing us how the Visoreds became Visoreds and their connection to Aizen and current events, plus how Urahara, Yoruichi and Tessai became banished to Earth for good measure. Let’s take a look then!

Synopsis:

Kisuke Urahara is the new captain of Twelfth Division—now if only he could get along with his assistant captain. And Shinigami captain, Shinji Hirako, suspects something sinister is going on with his second in command, Sosuke Aizen.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

A young Shuhei is saved by the 9th Division just hours before things, erm, “go a bit wrong”.

The thing I loved about this mini-arc when I first read it in the manga is how it fleshed out not just the backstory of the Visoreds and Urahara, but generally the Soul Society as a whole. It opens with Urahara being appointed the Squad 12 Captain but before that we see that Yoruichi, Shinji, Love, Rose and Kensei were all Captains, with Lisa, Hiyori and Mashiro serving as Lieutenants. Then we see that Aizen was the Lieutenant of Shinji’s Squad, which was great. In an exclusive-to-the-anime scene we also see more of Urahara as a member of Yoruichi’s Stealth Squad / Squad 2, including a mission with a young Soifon. It’s the kind of filler you welcome as it just adds a bit more story and flavour to the arc without stretching things too far. We then get a few episodes of Urahara getting used to being a Captain, befriending Hiyori (his Lieutenant) and turning Squad 12 into the Research and Development specialists we all know. The last bit included a trip to “the Maggot’s Nest”, a deep underground prison where people who were deemed potentially dangerous to Soul Society in the future are locked up before they commit any crimes, which is a nice reminder of just how corrupt the “Central 46” that run Soul Society are. He visits The Nest, where he used to work as part of Squad 2, because he wanted to recruit Mayuri, who was a prisoner there… Unsurprisingly given his future actions, honestly…

We then skip a few more years ahead for things to settle before it all goes to hell. A bunch of people on the outskirts of Soul Society are vanishing, but not just going missing, literally turning to dust leaving nothing behind but their clothes. Squad 9, led by Kensei, is sent out to investigate and Urahara sends Hiyori with some special equipment to help out while soon Captain General Yamamoto sends three Captains in Shinji, Love and Rose, as well as Lieutenants Lisa and Hachigen Ushoda, the latter being the Lt. of the Kido Corps, and Tessai being the Captain. Kensei and his squad are betrayed by one of their own in Kaname Tosen, leading Kensei and Mashiro to become partially hollowfied. Shinji and co. arrive to save Hiyori and begin to fight their partially hollowfied friends, eventually using high level Kido to keep them pinned to the ground. Aizen arrives with child prodigy Gin and meets up with Tosen just to chat to his old Captain and thank him for never truly trusting him and therefore making it easier to sneak about the place. Shinji and everyone else begin to Hollowfy and Urahara and Tessai arrive, despite being specifically told not to head out.

Awww, look at young Gin, he’s so cute! …. Also Shinji turning into a horrible monster, but still: Awwww…

Aizen thanks Urahara for being “exactly the kind of man I thought you were” and heads home, blocking Tessai’s high-level Kido with ease for good measure. Urahara says he has a way to potentially save them but its back at the lab, so Tessai uses some forbidden Kido to both freeze time around the injured party and teleport them to Urahara’s lab. The Squad 12 Captain uses the Hogyoku to try and stabilize them but it doesn’t immediately work and the duo are taken before the Central 46 for trial, Aizen had used his Zanpakuto powers to make everyone think they saw him wondering around in his barracks during the whole incident and frame Urahara thanks to him being at the scene. Urahara is sentenced to banishment in the World of the Living, Tessai is removed from his position due to using forbidden Kido and the Hollowfied Shinigami were to be executed… at least until Yoruichi arrives and breaks Urahara and Tessai out, and the three of them escape with the injured parties, eventually saving them and turning them into the Visoreds, though that part happens off screen…

It’s a good story, and fills in some gaps (plus adds a few minor things, like a young Shuhei being saved by Kensei and seeing his “69” tattoo, and same one he has tattooed on his face later in life, and some scenes with a young Byakuya meeting his grandfather and being teased by Yoruichi, making their interactions in the Soul Society arc make a bit more sense) and ends with the Visoreds in present day claiming they owe Urahara a lot, and Aizen too before heading out…

The Bad:

I have a soft spot for Rose, so it was nice to see him both be a Captain and end up getting to see some action here.

Not a lot. While some of the added filler is good, extra scenes with Urahara and Hiyori at the Maggot’s Nest was a bit… well, a bit of a time waster. Hiyori meets an old squad mate who’d been arrested and wants out, but Urahara beats him and a few other unruly inmates up. Harmless, but not necessary. Thankfully once it gets to the main chunk of the story they just do a straight adaptation.

Overall Thoughts:

Urahara appears and looks mildly upset at the evening’s events.

The anime version of the “Turn Back the Pendulum” flashback is good: well adapted, most of the added filler only adds value rather than slows the pace too much, and the actual story itself is good too. It’s a nice break from the Shinigami vs. Arrancar fights we’ve been having, and are about to have again…

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