Usually I like to just sit back and read the chapters, and then Underscore's awesome reviews as a recap. Occasionally I'm even inspired enough to share my thoughts.
But the last two chapters have been a bit puzzling for me - specifically, those energy cuffs at the end of chapter 402 which for now I'm calling the Urahara's Patented Energy Cuffs.
How exactly do the UPECs work, I wondered? Urahara's explanation sort of kind of made sense at first. Apparently they block reiatsu from passing through them, so when Urahara put them on Aizen's wrists, it blocked the exit of reiatsu, leading to a buildup that caused an explosion. Logical enough.
But I thought about it a bit more after seeing Chapter 403. How did Aizen survive? Apart from his being the main villain of course, but what was the in-story explanation for his survival?
We now know that the Hougyoku grants the user his/her/its deepest wish. If we take Aizen's claim at the end of the SS arc to be true (and not one of his half-truths/lies), that he wants to surpass his Shinigami limits to attain Godhood, then we can assume that that's what the Hougyoku is doing for him right now.
So let's say he no longer has his limits (or his limits have been raised), so he has much more Reiryoku (and therefore Reiatsu) than had before. Here's where my confusion came in. If the UPECs block Reiatsu, then wouldn't Aizen have been hurt MORE since he was Hougyoku-amplified and would have more Reiatsu to block and blow up? One might argue that the UPECs didn't work because the Hougyoku somehow prevented it, but the UPECs did - they caused the explosion.
So did the Hougyoku "repair" Aizen like it did earlier? But Aizen's explanation for that was that the Hougyoku was protecting Aizen, not necessarily healing him. But does that also mean that the Hougyoku can protect Aizen from his own Reiatsu too? That might be true.
Or maybe because he's still halfway through his transformation (we don't know if he is or not yet), his limits haven't been expanded? But even then he would've been hurt...
Maybe his limits have been raised but he wasn't outputting that much Reiryoku at the time? But then again that implies that Aizen could stop it, and stop giving off Reiatsu before the UPECs blew up. Maybe Urahara told him that just before the UPECs reached their threshold...
What do you think? How do the UPECs work and how did the Hougyoku leave Aizen unscathed? Or maybe Kubo will explain it in another chapter?
I think it's safest to assume that Urahara knows what he's doing (he's been preparing damn near a century, right?) and that they seal the exit points of a shinigami's reiatsu blasting him with it. However, I think there were two hickups to this plan that enabled Aizen to survive.
The first is that Aizen was running pretty low on reiatsu as it was, because as he stated, he reached the limit of his shinigami self. That seems to have been his aim all along so that he could further bond with the hougyoku. The second is that Aizen possesses both a new kind of reiatsu as a result of the hougyoku. Just as hollow reiatsu differs from a shinigami's, I would assume a god's reiatsu is different too, and of course we have to consider that the nature of the hougyoku's reiatsu isn't easily sealable or else this entire arc would have gone differently with SS trying to locate, obtain, and/or seal the hougyoku. Then there's the third option, which is that Aizen is just currently too strong to be taken down with a single attack of that strength.
In fact, I would assume that as Aizen becomes more in tune with the Hougyoku, it will be harder to seal his reiatsu by normal means. But I wouldn't put it past Urahara to have recently discovered a way to seal/diminish the Hougyoku's power. So it's possible that this was only a first step to finish off Aizen's shinigami side so that the gang can finish off his god side. Looking at it this way, Aizen's new appearance as a creature in the middle of an evolution makes a lot more sense, because the more his shinigami powers have been used up, the further his transformation has progressed. But then again, all this is just speculation on how Aizen survived.
CNET's translation makes things much clearer. Urahara's seal isn't that hard for him to hit with. This is when he placed the seal on Aizen: http://www.mangastream.com/read/bleach/143/17
The funny thing is Urahara used the same tactic Yama did. He invited Aizen's attack, than hit him with his best move. I guess great minds think alike