After roughly three months we finally reach the end of the Bleach: Arrancar Arc coverage. It’s been a long and twisty road, watching the anime adaptation of the arc with no filler breaks has certainly reinforced the idea that while it has its moments it’s no Soul Society Arc and at times feels made up as it went along rather than everything being planned. Still, does Tite Kubo stick the landing and deliver a satisfying end? Let’s find out!
Aizen has merged with the Hogyoku and become immortal and all-powerful, but is he truly undefeatable? Ichigo, Isshin, Urahara and Yoruichi are the last line of defense for both the Soul Society and the real world…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Three people attack the world’s most dangerous mannequin.
As we start off Aizen does battle with Urahara and eventually transforms into a plain white form with very few features (not unlike Tosen’s form earlier) but gains enough power that he fights off the former Squad 12 leader’s high level Kido and soon the physical blows from an armoured Yoruichi and the sword slashes of Isshin. As Ichigo begins to lose hope during his battle with Gin, who frankly tells him to just run because he’s in no shape to fight Aizen right now, the powerful trio of ex-Captains are laid out by the God-like being, who then emerges from his chrysalis with long hair and purple eyes. Aizen and Gin head off to Soul Society to create the King’s Key and leave Ichigo behind, Aizen claiming he’ll “come back to devour him later”. On their way to Soul Society Aizen shows just how stupidly powerful he is by destroying the Cleaner, a being that exists outside of reality that cleans up the inter-dimensional space between realms and was thought to be unapproachable. Back in the real world Isshin wakes up and finds out Ichigo could sense Aizen’s power when no-one else could which meant his son was the closest to matching him, so he decides to show Ichigo how to achieve the “Final Getsuga Tensho” that could win them the battle, and does so in the Dangai, the previously mentioned void in between worlds that was now free to hang about in.
As Aizen pisses about with a bunch of low-tier human characters (more on that later) Ichigo heads back into his inner realm and meets Tensa Zangetsu, a younger looking version of his sword’s spirit. It’s rather pissed off that Ichigo’s lack of hope and despair has flooded his inner world, turning it into a small town rather than the place full of skyscrapers of hope (love that idea of his inner world ties into his mood) Zangetsu reveals Ichigo’s Hollow self and then merges with it, telling him he’ll never give up the secret to the Final Getsuga, leading to the two of them fighting. Back in Soul Society Aizen is about to kill some of Ichigo’s friends and string them up around town, claiming to know the substitute Shinigami will arrive soon with a new power. This plan is put on hold as Gin stabs Aizen in the chest and reveals that he’s been lying about his Bankai’s power all along and it can actually leave a deadly corrosive poison inside whatever it stabs, and that’s exactly what he’s done. As Aizen starts to dissolve Gin takes the Hogyoku and runs, thinking about a time when Matsumoto, his only friend growing up in Soul Society, was hurt by some men under Aizen’s command and that it was then when he decided to follow Aizen for countless years just waiting for the right time to kill him and keep his dear friend safe. This doesn’t make up for all the innocent people he’s killed over the years, but still… he’s not all bad, I guess!
Aizen defeated by Gin! Bet you didn’t see that coming! Just wait for Ichigo to come out with his new powers and not have to use them…
Sadly for Gin the fear of death makes Aizen evolve into a weird butterfly-like form, allowing him to teleport to where Gin was hiding, take back the Hogyoku, slash him and rip one of his arms off for good measure. As Matsumoto arrives to cry over Gin’s fading life Ichigo appears with longer hair and a new looking form of Zanpakuto and soon grabs Aizen by the face and throws him down to the ground away from his friends and allies. Gin remarks that Ichigo now has the face of someone who can fight Aizen before breathing his last. Aizen is obviously surprised at what just happened and for the first time possibly ever doesn’t know what’s going on, even more so when he and Ichigo clash swords and wipe out mountains in the background. He theorises that Ichigo has given up his spiritual power in exchange for increased strength so uses his favourite Kido spell, Black Coffin, with full incantation but Ichigo brushes it aside like it was nothing and then slashes his foe. The Hogyoku once again reacts to the fear of death by evolving Aizen into another new form where he has no skin on his face (handy?) and he manages to damage his foe, but then Ichigo just says he’s had enough. We see back to Ichigo’s training and that the reason Zangetsu didn’t want to teach him the Final Getsuga Tensho is because once it’s used Ichigo will lose all his Shinigami powers.
Ichigo activates the attack and “becomes Getsuga itself” (which apparently means getting long black hair and a cool looking ninja mask) and cuts Aizen and the surrounding landscape in half with the attack. Aizen survives but in a more human form and watches as his Zanpakuto vanishes, a sign that the Hogyoku has given up on him. Suddenly a Kido spell activates and he begins to be sealed up, Urahara arriving to tell him it was him who has put that Kido in place during his earlier magic barrage but Aizen needed to be severely weakened for it to activate. Aizen curses Urahara, asking how someone so smart could be subservient to “that thing”, which Urahara figures out means the Soul King, which is a nice foreshadowing of the 1,000 Year Blood War arc. Aizen is sealed away and we get a long sequence of post-arc recap. The Captains in Hueco Mundo return to Soul Society, Ichigo collapses and is told he’ll lose his Shinigami powers “soon” (rather than straight away like the Manga, this was done to give him another filler arc in the anime…) and the real Karakura Town and its inhabitants are swapped back out with the fake one in the real world. Aizen is sentenced to several centuries in the deepest prison with no hearing, sight or ability to speak by the new Central 46 (which Aizen thought was hilarious) and everyone else returns to their duties.
Aizen’s final form, in which he drops all pretences about being nice.
This brings us to Episode 342, which I wanted to talk about here even though it was after the filler arc as it adapts the last few pages of the Manga Arrancar Arc. In the anime Ichigo struggles against some basic Hollows before waking up in his room and saying goodbye to Rukia as she fades from his sight due to his fading powers, whereas in the Manga it was right after Aizen that Ichigo woke up and did the same. It’s a shame the anime is set up like this, but at least these bitter sweet moments are animated at all… and that’s that! *sigh*! Man, this has been a long trek…
Tensa Zangetsu merged with Ichigo’s Hollow powers…. plus (spoiler for future content removed)
The only real “bad” in this part is a few episodes where Aizen wonders around the real Karakura Town and torments Ichigo’s human friends like Tatsuki, Keigo and Mizuiro, plus a brief appearance by Don Kanoji of all people, all for… no reason. Just Aizen being a dick, and Kubo wanting to give them a role in an arc that took years to write and therefore kept them out of the spotlight for that long. Even with the anime’s quicker pace these scenes still felt like they dragged on.
Also the anime adding a couple of filler episodes RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE END is extremely annoying, even if it was to promote the fourth Bleach film. The least said about changing the end of the entire arc for the sake of another filler arc the better, too… Oh and Yammy was killed off screen, as I’ve mentioned before, but it’s these episodes where it happens and it’s still annoying just to see Byakuya and Kenpachi arrive back in Soul Society and then cutting back to Yammy’s dying body…
Ichigo moments after his final ever attack as a Shinigami …. okay, no need to even put a gag future spoiler warning here, is there?
The fight between Aizen and Ichigo is brief but enjoyable if nothing else than for Aizen finally being wrong about something and getting knocked off his high horse. The bits with Gin were good too, but there were some filler issues, both from the actual manga and the anime kind. Still, overall a good end to an admittedly overly long story arc!
I’ll be back to review the final manga adapted arc (the “Lost Agent” arc) nearer the time of the 1,000 Year Blood War anime adaptation’s debut, whenever that’ll be!