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sahugani
September 16, 2007, 11:25 AM
Sahugani’s Bleach Review 290-291

http://img167.imageshack.us/img167/6190/thesmokeclearsax0.png (http://aj-chan.deviantart.com/art/The-smoke-clears-64462735)
this puts any other person's growth spurts to shame

Ya I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get out a review last week. I had the last week of a summer course and am starting to get things ready to move back down to college sometime next week. I don’t really want to say it’s lucky because I love One Piece so much, but it ended up quite convenient that there was no chapter so it frees up time for this double review. Lets just get going. The pics come from the M7 releases for both chapters and the title pic is a piece by aj-chan (http://aj-chan.deviantart.com/) over at deviantart, so go stick your head into her gallery and look around.


290: The Broken Mask

The Shocking Truth

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best last name in the world: Odershvank

As we last left things, we found out from the demonic Noitora that Nel’s true identity is that of a former Espada. In the fashion of a true bastard, Noitora manipulates this information to his full advantage and tells Ichigo that Nel has been lying from the beginning. From Noitora’s personality, his statement has no base and he doesn’t care whether it’s the truth or not. All he wanted was to see Ichigo’s reaction to an accusation. He doesn’t really give a shit whether or not Nel was using Ichigo to get back into Las Noches or if her intentions were in fact pure. His only concern was taking evil delight in seeing the shinigami in mental pain. Soon enough though, we find out that Nel doesn’t even remember her time as an Espada, so she denies everything. It explains a bit about her that was previously taken for granted. First of all, arrancar are rare enough in Heuco Mundo (compared to hollows) and so it seems odd that a naturally occurring arrancar would have a human appearance among the lower hollows. Also, she has never really gone into her life before meeting her hollow brothers and they’re too absent minded to ask, so it definitely helps explain her exit from Las Noches in the time frame. Finally, we have witnessed at least a fraction of her ability when she swallowed Doldorni’s cero and spewed it back at him. While various hollows and arrancar are known to have unique abilities, this is way too high-class for an average hollow. It definitely ranks among Aaroniero’s ability to accumulate abilities and Zaerapollo’s enemy cloning, so her status as an Espada explains this power.


Trust

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he doesn't exactly look up to the task at the moment

Since Nel has no memory of her previous life as an Espada, Noitora cannot make her relive the trauma of her departure. Since he can’t use this info to mentally cripple her, he quickly gets bored and decides to get rid of her. Ichigo however is not about to let that happen. His quality of only believing the best of his allies has earned him friends like Renji and Ishida and has been instrumental in saving others like Orihime and Rukia. He believes Nel when she tells him she wasn’t being deceptive. He does not state that he believes Noitora is lying, which is a noteworthy distinction. In cases of a person losing their memory, that person is technically the last person you should ask if the former events are true. It is in this case that Ichigo’s “big picture” way of viewing things is a great benefit. Noitora’s main intention in revealing Nel’s past was to see Nel relive her painful memories and cause Ichigo to doubt his friends, which is a very painful thing to such a loyal person. However, Ichigo knows that no matter what the truth is, Nel had no intention of betraying him. If Noitora is lying, then Nel had no reason to deceive him and if Noitora told the truth, then Nel lost her memory and still had no reason for deception. In any case, Nel is at this point a friend who he must protect and that is all that matters to him.


Confession

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this goes to show how damn tall Noitora is and how damn small Nel is

Before Ichigo can even finish reassuring Nel, he is quickly tossed aside by an irked Noitora, who proceeds to lift Nel up by her mask. He reveals that he was the reason for the crack in Nel’s mask and that is most likely the reason for her memory loss. He was apparently very irked by the attitude Nel showed him and he struck her from behind. This reveals quite a bit about Noitora’s personality and makes him even more detestable. His actions around certain types of people are quite different from others. With Ulquiorra and his fellow Espada, he is sarcastic and verbally confrontational, which I take to mean he resents the fact that others have reached his level. With Chad, he made no effort to hide his presence and allowed our hero the first strike, but neglected to deal a finishing blow since there is nothing to gain out of killing lower tier fighters. With Tesla, he is much more direct with his opinions and plays no games as there is no fun in baiting someone so emotionless. With Ichigo and Grimmjow, he had no problem attacking and trying to kill them while they are still weak from the last battle since beating them actually proves something. Add into that his sneak attack on Nel and we get a pretty good view of his personality. He believes himself to be the strongest and feels threatened when anyone else comes close or passes him in power, so he takes any measures he can to maintain this claim. He only accepts fights that he knows he can win and that will gain him bragging rights. He doesn’t kill off Chad because doing so would only make him seem pathetic. Although he despises his fellow Espada, he doesn’t fight them because he knows there is a chance he might lose. He even has this fear for Grimmjow since the Sexta Espada is only one step below him. As long as he has never lost to anyone, he can continue to make himself feel superior to them, but if he challenges them and loses, he couldn’t deal with the shame. With this in mind, he becomes an opportunist and picks off any person who might threaten his claim of dominance while they are at their most vulnerable. Grimmjow and the shinigami who beat him are the closest to him in strength and so at full power they actually have a shot at victory, so he waits till they wear each other down and then moves in to eliminate both of them. We can assume that Nel let her guard down for an instant and he used the opportunity to whack her from behind. The other Espada though are not so easy for him to take advantage of. Stark, Ulquiorra, the old man, and the black guy (Halibel possibly) are very calm and collected, so I doubt they would ever give Noitora the opportunity he has been looking for, explaining why they are not in the same situation as Nel.


Born Again

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a colorist's dream

With Nel in Noitora’s clutch, Ichigo once again tries to save her, but it seems to be all in vein. Just like with Zaraki, Ichigo’s blade cannot cut Noitora’s skin. Ichigo has no real chance of winning in his current state and both fighters realize this full well. Even knowing defeat is immanent, Ichigo still tries to cut his opponent to no avail in an attempt to save his friend. The fact that he has not tried to pull out his hollow mask is interesting. You would think that this situation is dire enough that he knows it’s the only way to get the necessary strength for victory. Even if he was too exhausted to use it, he would usually at least try to push his limit even if he knew it was useless. Perhaps he feels that since at this time he is both physically tired and emotionally attached, it is the perfect situation for his inner hollow to take control and he fears that. Other than that I cannot think of any reason for this. In any case, Noitora eventually gets fed up and tosses Nel aside so that he can torture Ichigo. He doesn’t just want to beat his enemy. Since Ichigo is already too weak to resist, Noitora might as well have a little fun and add insult to injury by causing as much pain as he can before granting death. However, the screams of Ichigo awaken something in Nel and she transforms into an adult form. While she has been aware of her abilities, she has not fully grasped the level of her true power while her memories were sealed and with emotion, she has up till now been able to use it to varying degrees depending on her emotional state. The immanent threat of Ichigo’s suffering combined with Noitora bringing up issues from her subconscious mind have caused whatever was sealing away her power to be shattered and she once again is in full control of her abilities.


291: Thank You For Defend Me

The Brothers Know

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i think these two have more pressing matters at the moment

Back in Zaerapollo’s room, Dondochakka and Peche immediately recognize the reiatsu of Nel’s full grown form, meaning they have knowledge of her powers before she was reduced to a child form with no memory. The fact that they have been hiding the truth from Nel and the fact that they know in the first place is quite concerning. Since they claim to have simply met Nel at random in the desert begs the question of how they could possibly know the truth. One idea is that they were formerly among her fraccion and left with her. This seems unlikely as with the exception of their humanoid bodies and the mystery behind Peche’s eye cloth, both seem to have intact masks and so are hollows rather than arrancar. The most likely explanation is that they came across Nel just after Noitora had discarded her. Since Noitora did not immediately recognize the child form, that transformation clearly happened some time after the two had parted ways. They likely found her and recognized her as an Espada from the number on her back, so they were afraid at first. Some time soon after, she awoke and somehow reverted to a child form with no memory and her appearance and personality were so adorable that the two hollows overcame their fear of the Espada and took her in. While Nel might have still been a sweetheart while in the Espada (and thus a reason for Noitora to hate her), the only experience the brothers had with her in this form is while she was unconscious. They probably fear that if she regained her Espada form, she would revert to a stereotypical Espada personality and would no longer be the Nel they knew, so they hid her true identity from her.


Innocence Lost

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i could stare for hours

We shift back to the scene of the Noitora fight as Nel has just transformed into a woman and the dust is settling. In terms of appearance, there have been drastic changes while maintaining the same basic traits as her child form. Since she has grown, her child clothes no longer fit and remain as tattered garments to cover the essential parts. She retains the scar on her forehead and the mark across her nose, but her expression is now intelligent and dignified instead of the innocent terror she previously had. Her mask has changed its shape as well. While it still maintains the style of a skull with broken teeth, it has become jagged and fierce and now has horns on each side of it. A hollow’s mask is a representation of themselves. When she turned into a child, the mask retained the same basic design, but reformed itself slightly to match the new innocent personality of the little girl. This is comparable to the evolution of Ichigo’s mask. A shinigami’s power is exemplified by the zanpakuto, which gives rise to a new consciousness within the person’s sword, which is why Tousen could wield his dead friend’s blade and when Aaroniero used Nejibana, its appearance and powers were unchanged despite the clear change in the user’s personality. Hollow powers on the other hand come from inside oneself and are a representation of the hollow’s personality and strength. As Ichigo has come to better understand his hollow powers, his mask has evolved. Similarly, when Nel’s personality took a major shift, her mask changed to match it.


Returning Kindness

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in some shots it looks like she still has gap teeth, but others its hard to tell

Now that Nel has her grown-up body back, her first action is to save Ichigo from Noitora. Faster than the Quinto Espada can follow, she dashes around him and snatches the injured shinigami to a safe distance. With Ichigo in her arms, she expresses her gratitude for all he has done. While at first she refers to Ichigo in the third person rather than the usual second, she quickly transitions out of it and loses all traces of her childish manner of speaking since she is now no longer the same helpless little girl that needed Ichigo’s protection. While I’m sure this little emotional moment is and will spawn a lot of Ichigo X Nel speculation, I say not to look too far into it. There is nothing romantic in Nel’s words as she is simply telling him flat out how much his protection has meant to her. Not only is this a more serious example of Nel’s habit of saying exactly whats on her mind, but it forms a good contrast to Orihime, who is also present for all this. Orihime does harbor romantic feelings, but can never really express it to Ichigo. She has trouble even expressing her thanks to him for saving her as she takes these incidents more as her own inability to help. For fans of Ichigo X Orihime, we might get a small treat after this arc as Orihime takes a small hint from Nel and begins to open up more to Ichigo. Granted, I highly doubt we’d get any big gesture as relationships are generally only hinted at but never flat out revealed until very late.


Angels and Demons

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the newest badass has arrived

After her short speech to Ichigo, Nel takes over the fight and apparently has a zanpakuto of her own now. As the breeze moves her now long hair from her back, it is revealed that she is the #3 Espada, so things are looking pretty good. With two ranks over Noitora, she quickly takes the lead and the #5 is not happy about it. Noitora should not be counted out though simply due to the number difference. Remember that neither Grimmjow nor Ulquiorra took notice of the fact that Nel was the former #3 Espada. Ulquiorra is far more intelligent and observant than Noitora and both saw her and heard Ichigo call her name. This clearly means that she was booted by Noitora before Ulquiorra’s and possibly Grimmjow’s arrivals. With these two and probably more not present at this point, there has likely been some shifting around in the ranks, so Nel’s strength might not be comparable to that of the current #3 and Noitora might have been at a higher rank back then, so the gap might not be as big as Nel’s first few blows would make us assume. Even if she does beat Noitora, she’s probably only as strong as the current #4, Ulquiorra, so if that bastard decides to come back, there might be some trouble. As for right now though, she has a clear upper hand on Noitora from either a definite power gap or from taking advantage of Noitora’s shock. She is at least able to cut his flesh and can dodge and parry each of his attacks, so for the first time, she has him panicking.


Rubber and Glue

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she huffed and puffed and blew the bastard to frikkin Pluto

With Noitora in clear recognition that he is losing, he pulls out his first non-weapon move and fires a cero from the tip of his tongue. He must have forgotten Nel’s particular abilities as she not only stops the blast but drinks it. While she is consuming the powerful blast, Noitora seems to recall her power and in his head predicts what comes next. This is one of the reasons Noitora shouldn’t be counted out yet. It has been so long since he gave a thought to Nel that he has forgotten her style and abilities. After the fight progresses a bit, I think he’d start to remember these things and the fight will start to even out a bit. As for the nature of Nel’s abilities themselves, I have already mentioned that I consider them to be of a very high class. While both times she has used this, it has been to drink cero blasts, it is likely not limited to that attack specifically. That is simply the clearest visual representation of it as we get to see this mass of energy slip into her mouth. From this and her healing vomit, it is clear that her powers have something to do with regurgitation. This might give a bit of a rough explanation of how she ended up a small child. With the cero, she drinks the energy and it is stored within her until she releases it back at the enemy. With this ability to seal off another’s attack within herself at no harm to her body, it is not outside the realm of possibility that she sealed up her own powers in the same way. As Ishida said early in the arc, the smaller hollows in Heuco Mundo likely get their nourishment from the atmosphere. Nel’s ability probably at least allows her to absorb this form of energy more easily, thus allowing her powerful body to exist without the bloodlust of her fellow menos to consume and that would explain how she ended up so much sweeter. In battle this would be even more pronounced as the opponent leaks energy into the atmosphere much faster and Nel is able to convert that into her own power. I would not be surprised if her sword or at least her release was vampiric in nature and is used to drain the opponent of power while healing herself similar to Yumichika’s zanpakuto.


Overall

I think we can all agree that this has been one of the coolest twists in Bleach for quite a while. Nel is not only a total badass now, but she is sexy, so we get a double whammy of awesomeness. I just can’t wait to see this fight continue as it will be the first fight between Espada class arrancar and the opportunity to see the two release is enough to make me extremely impatient. Other than that I feel I must mention the giggle I got at the Engrish title for 291. it was just classic.

Sealed Melody
September 16, 2007, 04:38 PM
thanks for posting this, been looking forward to your review for quite some time..

sahugani
September 17, 2007, 02:55 AM
updated with pics

sorry it took so long to get the pics up. i am especially sorry because the new Nel is so fun to look at

aquavi
September 17, 2007, 11:52 AM
You know, I always enjoy reading your reviews every week (or whenever they happen); they're always incredibly insightful and if they don't manage to say things I didn't notice, they at least say what's in my head a lot more eloquently then I could ever manage to.

I personally love Nel's transformation and can't wait to find out more about her and see how this fight goes, but many detracters are saying that this transformation of Nel's is too much like Yoruichi's from the SS arc. And while part of me enjoyed the potty mouth that was Nel in her previous form, Yoruichi's transformation seems completely different to me. Yoruichi's happened during a calm break in fights, Nel's happened in the middle of one not to mention not really because she willed it so, unlike Yoruichi's.

... And I'm starting to ramble. Thanks for the review!

earthforge
September 17, 2007, 04:25 PM
Nel seems a lot like Mia Farrow (more specifically, the unicorn in The Last Unicorn.)

I am rather bored with bleach. I am loosing a lot of interest, so could someone tell me why they find this interesting? It seems Kubo's illustrating another Yoruichi. I mean, can't Bleach have more surprising turns than repeating history with another big-breasted woman? Seriously, I could sleep while reading this, even if I was on the Space <ountain at Disneyland.

BLANKedOut
September 18, 2007, 06:54 PM
Hey sahugani,

Excellent review as always. Besides the recent chapters, there were a few static chapters (plot-wise) or so it seemed. But your reviews amazed me because they brought life back into those chapters. In particular, I loved your combat critique on Noitora’s fighting style and his derivation from a snake.

Your section titles are very catchy.

I just started writing Naruto reviews and the amount of work that goes into them is surprising. It gives me more appreciation for what regular reviewers like you do.

sahugani
September 18, 2007, 07:08 PM
@aquavi - while there is some merit in the arguements of those who say the Nel transformation is similar to Yoruichi's, there is a major difference. In SS, Yoruichi transformed to strengthen Ichigo. Nel is pulling out a very rare occurrance and is actually replacing the lead character in a fight

@earthforge - i can see where you're coming from as the storyline is the slowest to progress and is the most repetitive out of the major three series, but there is a reason why you're still reading it. unlike OP, which deals alot with overall themes and emotions for each arc, Bleach's beauty is more engrained in the details. i felt pretty much the same way for a while until i saw Ulquiorra starting his mind games with Orihime. while i doubt i can do much for those disappointed by the Nel transformation, all i can say is that it will only get better

@BLANKedOut - thanks man and good luck with your own reviews. the naruto section has been in need of a good weekly reviewer for a while, so thanks for taking the job upon yourself

earthforge
September 19, 2007, 11:10 PM
My reason for reading Bleach is not the norm. I'm just waiting to see an interesting event happen. Actually, that's why it is an obsession. If I was more detached from it, like D-grayman, I might be able to stop reading it on a lark. Damn brother got me obsessed with the anime, so now I participate in all the fandom. But now I am finding more entertainment in fanfiction than in current manga. (no, I am not a Hitsugaya fan or pairing fan. do not confuse my following discussion with that misconception)

Back on subject, I thought the Aarinoro vs Rukia was one of the few points in the Hueco Mundo arch that wasn't fan service, but actually character growth. Same with the Ulqiourra torture (asshole he is.) But I found Renji's, Ishida's, and Ichigo's fights.... stupid. No growth.

The problem with anime and mangas that are hits with SJ readers is that, because of the immense fan base, they never end. It is like POTC. In the first movie, the executives ignored it and thought it was a dreg. That allowed the writers to have freedom over the production. After POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl came out, the execs had to get there fingers into it because it was money-wise, wonderful. POTC then essentially became a franchise, the name becoming better then the actual story. The execs got there fingers into the story for the second and third movies, and the effect was that POTC became stupid, melodramatic, and dull.

Exact same thing with Bleach, Naruto, and essentially every big-selling manga you know.

maaru
September 20, 2007, 11:41 AM
De-lurking to finally post here:

I've been enjoying your reviews for the past months or so, and this one (or two) didn't disappoint. Honestly, I was quite worried over the weekend that no one would review Bleach chapters anymore. I still enjoy this manga very much despite all the criticisms, because I think Kubo has quite a neat plan laid out and great characters to boot.

Nell's transformation may have shades of Yoruichi to it, but I think it's a bit different in that Nell has her innocent child-like side, plus the possible effects she could have not just on Ichigo, but on Orihime as well (we've already seen some of these back in 283 too).

The current twists still entertain me despite the slow pace, and I hope you too will also keep on doing so.

Thank you for the review and good luck!

sahugani
September 20, 2007, 09:34 PM
@earthforge - i can totally understand where you're coming from. as an OPtard, i adore unexpected twists in the plot that give new depth to a character, which is exemplified by the Aaroniero fight and everything Ulquiorra does. however, while in OP, Oda likes to surprise us with these twists when we least expect it, Kubo takes a different method in Bleach for the most part. He has already told us what the mysteries are so that we come back time after time to try to learn what the truth is. this applies to the big mysteries (Isshin/Ryuuken for example) to the more minor ones (the Bankai and arrancar releases). he has baited us with this suspense and is taking his time feeding our hunger for it

@maaru - first of all, thanks for joining the discussions. unfortunately this week my reviews are probably going to be a bit late if not put off for doubles next week since i am moving back to college