Bleach (Chapters 675-682) – Review Discussion
Reviewed by: Tom
Synopsis: Ichigo Kurosaki was born with the ability to see Ghosts. When his family is suddenly attacked by a evil lost soul, known as a Hollow, Ichigo becomes entangled in the world of the Soul Reapers, after life beings that hunt and exterminate the Hollows. Ichigo dedicates his life to saving the innocent and helping the tortured spirits find peace.
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
But now, the Soul Society is in great jeopardy as the Quincy King Yhwach has returned. He’s begun his final assault against the Soul Reapers, killing Genryusai and taking control of the Seireitei. Now he makes his way to destroy the Soul King Reio himself as near everyone is powerless to stop him. Ichigo, with renewed strength, makes his return just too late as Yhwach destroys Reio and absorbs the Soul King’s powers. Now all of creation has begun to crumble into nothing. With the world hanging in the balance, it’s up to Ichigo, Chad, and the rest of the team to stop Yhwach before everything and everyone they care about is nothing but dust.
I guess by this point we’re all aware that Bleach is in its final chapters, mere weeks away from ending. With that in mind I’ll be looking at each of these chapters for how well they help to wrap up this long running manga and offer true closure to its audience. I want to be clear that I’m a fan that has long ago stopped enjoying Bleach. I feel this last arc was a heavy mistake, suffering from near every major issue that has ever plagued the series, magnified to an absurd degree, and I primarily read for closures’ sake. I don’t have a lot of hope that Bleach will turn around in its final moments, and I think all this final arc offers is unadultered fan service, a need to parade every character for every fan across the page. It’s superficial and while fan service isn’t a bad thing, the writing beneath that devotion to the fans is severely lacking. But enough of that. Let’s jump in!
Uryu is still squaring off against Jugram and ponders why he still has such faith that Yhwach can win. They may be able to see the future with Yhwach’s power, but the future changes. However Jugram reveals that Yhwach perhaps has an even more terrifying power than being merely able to see the future. For a manga that’s in its final throws we keep adding elements and I fear that with an ever increasing number of twists it’ll only help to build to a rushed and unsatisfying ending. There’s no need to reveal Yhwach has even greater power at this point, the mere ability to read the future is really enough and adding this element only prolongs things. If we really don’t have much left to go, adding twists like this into the mix ensures the final chapters will be terribly rushed.
Meanwhile Orihime tries to stop Ichigo from recklessly charging at Yhwach again and again. Even Yhwach doesn’t understand, and taunts Ichigo to listen to Orihime. As Yhwach is about to strike Ichigo down Orihime saves him, and reveals that she knew that he knew that she knew that he knew– That he hadn’t lost himself in a mad rush for revenge. Ichigo reveals that he’s been doing all this to wake up his inner hollow. Ichigo explodes in a blast of energy and smoke, revealing his new super form.
Ichigo explains his new form, which is a culmination of the balance between his Soul Reaper side, his Quincy side, and allowing his Hollow form to come out and take him over. But not too over, as in the past, just over enough. You know? I guess I don’t understand how the equilibrium of his Quincy and Soul sides kept his Hollow in balance but then once unleashed he’s still able to maintain control? Wouldn’t the hollow taking hold mean it’s no longer held in check by the equilibrium? It’s one of those aspects of Bleach where it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense if you try and think about it too hard. So, I guess, let’s not.
Ichigo attacks Yhwach and, in a startling turn of events, we don’t get a 180 reversal! Or do we? Initially it looks as if Ichigo didn’t really gain enough power to take on Yhwach, but mere moments later Ichigo charges up a new super attack a “Gran Rey Cero” mixed with a “Getsuga Tensho” and chops Yhwach in two. So… yeah, here’s another 180 reversal where we’ve gone from Ichigo being underpowered to overpowered and I’m sure we’ll go through several more of these 180s in this fight alone before the manga ends. It makes things exceedingly predictable and while Manga hinges on frequent twists and turns, Bleach is unable to do so except in the extreme, always making twists the most extreme reversals and eventually, nothing comes as a surprise.
Within the chapters first two pages we already have our next 180 reversal. This time it turns out Yhwach wasn’t even phased by Ichigo’s newest super attack! (Who would have guessed!?) Yhwach quickly activates his own powers, namely those he gained by absorbing the Soul King. It’s looking bad for Ichigo as he stumbles into trap after trap Yhwach has laid.
Ichigo realizes though that Yhwach can’t in fact see everything, he keeps missing attacks against Ichigo. Despite this revelation, it turns out Yhwach cannot only see the future, he can see every possible future and catches Ichigo in another trap. It doesn’t entirely gel with Yhwach having missed so many attacks against Ichigo already, but perhaps there’s an explanation down the line. As Yhwach gloats Ichigo refuses to back down and activates his Bankai!
Recapping from the last chapter we get some expanded pages for Ichigo activating his Bankai. The art is pretty good and I want to reiterate that it’s the one element of Bleach that I think stays strong throughout the series, even within this disappointing arc. Perhaps it’s why I’m so willing to stick around to the end, even if I haven’t actually enjoyed the manga for several years now. The art is still so eye-catching, with enough style and attitude to keep it attractive.
As it looks like Ichigo is about to turn the tables, Yhwach breaks Ichigo’s Bankai’d sword in an instant. As it turns out Yhwach “broke it in the future” which I guess means Yhwach can manipulate the future? This is definitely one of the better twists and sits as a highlight amongst all the other dull twists and predictable turns we’ve faced over the past several years of this arc. I also don’t think any of this is needed and will only cause problems in the long run, but moving on.
Ichigo gets the crap beaten out of him and even Orihime is powerless to protect Ichigo. Yhwach reveals that actually he has the power not just to see the future, but in fact to actually alter it (Still doesn’t explain why some of his attacks missed, is he, in fact, not able to see the future but merely manipulate it? Or maybe he was toying with Ichigo? I feel like the more I think about it the less concrete and thought out any of this feels.)
Again we get a recap of the last chapter (are we padding for time or something?). Thankfully it’s just a panel, but it’s followed by a more lengthy explanation of Yhwach’s newly revealed power. Yhwach is then about to end Ichigo when he screams and– We cut back to Uryu.
Jugram has beaten Uryu into nothing, and it’s looking bad for our flip-flopping, Quincy friend when he activates his Schrift power. It just so happens it allows Uryu to perform an entire 180 on the fight! Now Jugram is down for the count as Uryu’s power is the ability to reverse events between two designated points (Oh how convenient.)
Jugram reveals that perhaps Uryu’s ability could defeat Yhwach’s. If true, this is probably a pretty good sign we’re very close to the end of this story. The trouble is getting Uryu to Ichigo’s side. As Uryu runs off to aid Ichigo, Jugram uses his ability explained previously, which allows him to allocate misfortunes suffered by him onto others. Uryu is badly wounded as a result. As Jugram is about to finish him off we switch back to Ichigo.
Ichigo has finally lost all hope as he realizes all their options are ineffective. Yhwach decides it’s time to end things and grabs Ichigo’s face, saying that now it’s time he takes the power he gave him back.
Yhwach rips Ichigo’s Quincy and Hollow powers from him and Ichigo falls to the floor defeated with Yhwach laughing maniacally over him.
Meanwhile Jugram apparently hasn’t finished off Uryu (because plot) and Uryu begins sputtering on about his friends and what idiots they are. It makes him happy to be considered in their company. I do have to wonder, at this point, why Uryu can’t just do his reversal ability again? I mean, I guess it seems like Jugram and Uryu would be perfect for an endless match of switching damage back and forth between the two. I suppose they don’t because then we’d be stuck in an endless loop as they constantly swapped who was damaged or not.
Jugram finally gets fed up with Uryu refusing to bow before Yhwach and prepares to kill him. Suddenly an immense pressure catches everyone’s attention across the multiple battlefields. Yhwach apparently reabsorbs the power of his Stern Ritter’s (Well, I guess that takes care of the unkillable big guy. I’m going t assume Kubo wrote himself into a corner on that fight.) and bids farewell to Ichigo. Renji and Rukia arrive at this point. They’re unable to do anything against Yhwach, who taunts them to come after him and he promises them a magnificent death if they’re brave enough to give chase.
If I had to guess this is meant to be Bleach’s “all is lost moment.” It’s a concept in story-telling, primarily cinema, where the hero has tried everything, every option to defeat the villain and now it seems that everything has been lost and the end is near. From this the hero generally gains a new avenue, ability, or revelation that allows them to renew the fight and defeat the villain. This moment potentially marks the true beginning of Bleach’s impending conclusion.
Renji attempts to stop Yhwach and attacks him as he enters his newly created portal, but Yhwach merely destroys Renji’s weapon by altering the future and escapes through his portal.
Back with Uryu and Jugram, Jugram is dying because Yhwach has taken his power and he’s honored to have been of service to his majesty. He then urges Uryu to transfer his damage onto him before going to help Ichigo. I guess this is supposed to be a poignant development, but even with Jugram’s brief flashback (was it a year ago?) I don’t feel any sense of loss or redemption from this character. Considering his sheer devotion to Yhwach it feels, well, at odds with all his actions up to now. I’d argue Jugram suffers from some exceedingly poor characterization.
Meanwhile Rukia learns of Yhwach’s powers and questions how they can even stand against that. Also Orihime’s powers are unable to fix Ichigo’s sword, as it was broken in the future or some such. We don’t really go into why and at this point I guess it’s not best to question things. As Reiji tries to drag Ichigo off to challenge Yhwach again (Great lack of plan guys!) The Fullbringers randomly show up and provide a Deus Ex Machina type moment where Ichigo’s sword is instantly restored so he can fight again! (Nothing really matters for very long now does it?)
Yhwach has apparently ported down to the Soul Society where he finds Aizen waiting to greet him. We quickly bounce away from that and back to Uryu as he meets up with his father and Ichigo’s dad. Apparently Uryu’s dad is here merely to deliver Uryu an arrowhead made from the dead heart of a Quincy. (I guess we won’t be getting a fan servicey battle between them and Yhwach? What a tease.) Meanwhile Renji and Ichigo rush after Yhwach, both wounded, and it’s looking bad for the two of them. They also have a heart to heart and Renji reveals Ichigo is the one who healed his friendship with Rukia. It sorta comes out of nowhere, but I guess as we catapult towards the conclusion we gotta get some character stuff out of the way before it’s too late.
Back with Yhwach he attacks Aizen, but only manages to free him from the chair. As they’re about to square off Ichigo and Renji attack Yhwach from behind, but fail to land a hit. Then Yhwach merely breaks Ichigo’s sword again (Okay, this is getting really old now.) and it looks like Yhwach is again unstoppable.
Besides a few surprisingly and much needed high points, I feel each chapter gets worse and worse. In some ways Bleach feels rushed, and in others, dragged out. Many of these fights suffers from too many frequent 180 twists that keep battles going on far longer than they need to. Brevity is the soul of wit and all that. At other times it feels like we’re really rushing things. Big developments, like Ichigo’s sword breaking, feel like they should take several chapters to solve, yet the answer comes about in the very next chapter, and then gets negated again in the immediate chapter to follow! It’s an infuriating mess.
That’s it for this session! Please let me know what you’re thinking of Bleach in the comments below! Are you enjoying Bleach still? How do you feel about this current arc? If anything, what would you like to see improved before we hit that imminent final chapter?