Welcome to my 2nd review of Bleach and first review in a long, long time. This arc is such an awesome ride, isn't it. After the conclusion of the Aizen saga, the XCution arc promised us a fresh start for Bleach, but in truth this last arc is what a fresh start should look like.
Filled with lots of spectacle, meaningful scenes and most importantly new information about the world, this arc aims for the top spot in Bleach, along with the Soul Society arc and the Deicide saga. Well at least in my opinion.:p
And speaking of opinions, the upcoming wall of text is my take on this chapter, so be nice:D
But let's not stretch this any further
Taking the most logical step forward from the last chapter and looking at the title, we can definitely guess that this chapter will somehow involve the origins and the creation of Zanpaktous.
From what Nimaiya is telling us, the standard evolution of a shinigami graduate starts at the moment of receiving a Blank hilt or otherwise known as Asauchi. This is the primal form of the Zanpaktou and what makes it special is the ability to mold it into the image of the shinigami's inner spirit.
What is significant to note (and I will expand on this idea later) is the attitude and the appearance of the Asauchi.
They don't look very pleasant, do they? The reason for the apparent mindlessness and hunger is actually the primal and undeveloped state that they are in.
As I see those mouths (the eyes:s) are the ones that will continually consume reiatsu. But how will the molding happen? Well the theory is that their hunger will need to be matched by the ferocity of Ichigo and Renji. If their ferocity and fighting spirit will outmatch the hunger of the Asauchi, then the molding will slowly beginning to take place.
However as the reshaping occurs, there will probably be a phase, where both Ichigo and Renji will have to come to terms with their Zanpaktous and accept each other depending on their respective personalities, possibly with tackling the topic : What drives your fighting spirit?. This is not something new, we've seen this accepting each other a few times with Ichigo.
How will this actually influence the outer appearance of their blades? Well that's something Kubo will have to reveal.
The key word here is fighting spirit and Ichigo and Renji will have to show the extent of their abilities here.....
....not very unlike to what this terrifying face is promising.
WOW!:zomg...that's some transformation to be honest, and Kubo shows us once again that he can create creepy characters if he's in the mood. And this time he's definitely rocking, because one of the most anticipated fights/trainings/crazy slashfests will start in a short while
This person, ladies, gentlemen and bots, is Unohana Yachiru, or Unohana "Thousand Styles". She also has another nickname, which is "Retsu", and that means violent, extreme, or any similar word you can think of in the context.
As Kyouraku tells us, she was one of the original Gotei captains, characterized by Juha Bach as brutal murderers and fighters. Before that though she was craziest criminal in Soul Society. Her talents incorporate the knowledge of all the sword styles that are in existence, and since there are around a 1000, you can probably guess that she tested and perfected these techniques on lots and lots of victims.
Her opponent isn't a slouch either, since he has shown us time and time again that he is one crazy bastard. But even so, Unohana puts Zaraki in the category of babes on their mother's breast, which speaks more of Unohana, than Zaraki, but even more it kind of gives me an awkward image of the two.:oh
As we can notice here as well, the origins or pasts of both fighters are presented, but what is more surprising is that judging from the insinuations, these two have met once before and inflicted damage upon each other.
Well I sure hope we will hear more of that encounter, if it happened, in the following chapters.
The story moves forward at its own natural pace, and I'm glad Kubo managed to find the balance between a quick, alert rhythm and still taking time to explain stuff, revealing information about the world and its characters. And this is where this chapter excels. At revealing relevant information about the origins of key characters and key elements of the world.
Let's take the first origin story of the chapter. The origins of the Zanpaktou. I've mentioned it before, that the key word of Nimaiya's explanation is fighting spirit. As he puts it "The King of the Hill". This notion is not new. Ichigo's hollow called this the "rider and the horse" and how these roles can change as time progresses and as a character changes thanks to certain events.
The second origin story is that of the Kenpachis. Both were criminals who happened to be powerful enough to gain captaincy. Again, we can notice the "rider or horse" relationship, but this time it's "authority or criminal". This motif can be seen even between the two characters, as Unohana is currently the king or shall we say "Queen of the Hill" and during this fight, Zaraki will have to put his entire power into usurping that position.
I think we can see the pattern here, and we can notice how much the title is related to the content of the chapter. Two, seemingly differing story threads, are brought together in presenting an important motif of the manga. And Kyouraku is the one who accentuates it:
One will have to die. This is quite an interesting statement, and Kyouraku is rarely wrong when he sits down and thinks about a problem.
However I do not think that this will be the case. The relationship between the superior(rider, captain, king) and the inferior(horse, criminal) does not guarantee annihilation. One can be powerful enough to let his opponents or enemies survive. Ichigo has done this, Aizen has done this, and both are pretty damn strong.
Unohana is also very strong, and she has an impressive measure of control over herself, and I believe that while she will unleash her destructive powers fully, she will also use her healing abilities as well.
The troublesome issue that supports Kyouraku's statement is that she is teaching Kenpachi the art of killing, and succeeding in learning that, could possibly mean actual killing. However as I've said earlier, Kenpachi might rise to such a height in power, that he won't need to actually kill Unohana.
In conclusion this chapter served to tell us again about the frail relationship between the "rider" and the "horse", which is the origin, or fundamental truth of being a fighter. The way this was presented was also great too. The relationship between Unohana and Zaraki is exciting, the story moves ahead with a stable pace, and the action and the art are stunning as usually. I mean just take a look at this panel
This is viciousness over 9000, and even in their appearance Unohana is above Zaraki.
Great chapter all in all, I think a 9/10. The reason for deducting a point is the lack of more development on Ichigo's and Renji's part. I know a weekly manga can only offer so much, but I think it would've been a little bit better if we got some more of both character's thoughts on what is happening to them and how they will deal with it.
Predictions/Want to happen
I think the fundamental question after reading the chapter, and perhaps the review is that of motivation. Motives and goals for attaining power and consequently the title of King of the Hill. This is the question that is the most important in the battle between a shinigami and his or her Zanpaktou, thus concerning both Ichigo and Renji. And it's also the most important question regarding the battle of the monsters, since the answer holds the outcome of the fight, and the veracity of Kyouraku's statement.
For the first, I think that we know what the motivations are for the two of them. Protection is the most important, but there's also just the pure instinct of evolving. This will definitely bolster their rivalry as well, so I'm looking forward to great humor from those two, but also some measure of teamwork as well. There's rarely any teamwork in this manga, excepting the shinigami/zanpaktou cooperation, and when we had glimpse of such teamwork it was awesome: the captains vs Aizen, Urahara and co. versus Aizen. It was freaking great, and since they don't have any blades with them, Ichigo and Renji will have to work together for a while.
As for the 2nd story thread, as I said before, I don't think they will die. Death as predicted by Kyouraku can even be symbolic, as the final burial of the monster named Unohana Yachiru. So she will succeed in teaching Zaraki enough to hold his ground against the Quincies and attain some measure of control in the art of killing, but she will survive in the end. But that's a more distant prediction, since in the fight should last at least 2 or 3 chapters, if Kubo focuses only on the 2 of them. I think though that we won't see them next chapter, but later on, where we will be close to a conclusion.
Well....this is kinda it...it's been while since I've written a review, so don't mind the eventual logical inconsistencies or perhaps spelling problems. But if there are any please point them out.
And even if the review is perfect, which I doubt it is, I invite everyone to discuss both the review and the chapter, share new points of view, and basically just enjoy the awesomeness that is Bleach nowadays.
Mata ne! :beer