This week’s episode of BLEACH focused on the events immediately following Ichigo’s rejection from the Soul King palace and the beginning of a bit of backstory involving his upbringing and complicated mixtures of powers. This was very much a needed episode for the series; BLEACH has been focusing on the recovery from the Quincy invasion and mostly going through the procedural parts of it. What I mean by that is that the sort of interlude scenes we’ve gotten the past couple of weeks haven’t necessarily felt driving even though the plot was moving forward. In contrast, this week’s episode, by looking toward events of the past, lends a decent amount of context both toward the past few episodes and even arcs from the original BLEACH anime. The rest of the article will talk about the events of BLEACH episode 11 — read on with that in mind.
Despite this sub-arc principally being about Ichigo’s origins, the backstory sequences started off focusing on exactly how his parents met. This makes sense of course — the core issue with Ichigo’s quest to repair his Zanpakuto revolves around the nature of his soul and his parents are what made it. BLEACH revealed that Ichigo’s father Isshin is the former captain of the 10th division, the same division currently led by Toshiro Hitsugaya who was 3rd seat at the time. Even more, it reveals that Isshin is a member of the Shiba clan, one of Soul Society’s noble families. To refresh the memory of those who have forgotten (it has been a long time), this is the family of Kukaku and Ganju, who heled Ichigo initially move deep into the Soul Society and who launched Zero Division back to the Soul King’s palace. The BLEACH 2022 anime made a more explicit note of this connection a few episode’s ago when Kukaku mentally asked for her uncle’s forgiveness and pictured Isshin, although from behind. This is also the family of Kaien Shiba, who mentored Rukia before being taken over by a Hollow and ultimately killed by her.
The scenes from the first half of the episode were fine but not spectacular. Perhaps its because of the considerably high bar many of the other emotional scenes set but Ichigo and Isshin’s reunion didn’t feel like it carried quite the weight it should have. The last time we’ve seen Ichigo feel despair and powerlessness like this was during the Fullbring arc. Even back then BLEACH showed it was capable of conveying strong emotion in brief scenes. I didn’t feel that come through this episode, which is surprising given how constantly it’s come through elsewhere.
Middling Action, Touching Encounters
Masaki and Isshin are fun to see together and its somewhat refreshing to see the memories validating Isshin’s intense love for Masaki throughout the rest of BLEACH. Putting aside the wild age gap (captains in BLEACH are almost at least many centuries old; it takes that long to get that powerful) the warmth of conversation between them was a nice contrast to the cold almost bureaucratic state of affairs within the Ishida household. Back when these chapters first released via the manga I felt like Masaki’s character could’ve been a bit more fleshed out than just being an idealistic teen. I hoped that the anime would add more to this section of the story given how much more they could do with visuals and sound. Ultimately it was a rather direct adaptation but I see a lot of potential for improvement in these backstory episodes.
The same is true for Isshin’s fight against the hollow, White. A lot of dialogue was cut from this fight, and not the usual comedic one-liners that have been cut elsewhere. Lines from Tosen about the Hollowfication experiments, lines from Aizen about Isshin’s combat potential, and line’s from Isshin were absent for unclear reasons. All of these added helpful layers to the fight in the manga. Even more, the fight itself felt sluggish to me. The animation was more than fine and the lighting was spectacular as always. When I say sluggish I mean that constant cuts and relatively still frames made the fight feel more like a progression of manga panels than a video. Again, this is only noticeable due to the high bar set elsewhere, but its noticeable nevertheless.
Overall, this was a solid episode, but I see many areas for improvement both from its action and non-action portions. I’m hoping the next improves in a few areas and maybe even weaves in some anime-continuity material.
Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot