Home BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 19 — Frozen From Fear

BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 19 — Frozen From Fear

This week’s episode of BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation brought a new Bankai, a returning villain, and one of the most visually spectacular showcases of power in all of BLEACH. I think that these days, the strong focus on flashy impact frames and “sakuga” moments distracts people from the core of both of those things: the art. The most fluid fist fight imaginable would look horrible with bad art and poor design can take away from even the greatest plots. Just as was the case for the last episode that featured As Nodt, this episode felt like a master class in voice acting and staging.

On top of that, this episode did wonders in continuing to establish the new power ceiling as far as BLEACH Soul Reapers are concerned. During the first Quincy invasion, Yamamoto and Ichigo were the peak in terms of performance against the Quincy and, more specifically, Yhwach. Following the intermediary period between that phase of the invasion and the current one, plenty of people trained up either via conventional means or by going to the Soul Palace. In my opinion, this has been one of the more intriguing and rewarding parts of BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation. Characters other than Ichigo are getting mid-arc poweru-ps and vice captains like Rukia and Renji are now stronger than even some of the stronger captains by a significant amount.

Spoilers ahead for BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation episode 6 The White Haze

God Bless Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (again)

I pointed this out last time and I’m pointing it out again: this is one of the most incredible vocal performers I’ve ever listened to in any capacity. Even more, As Nodt was given countless opportunities to shine and show off the visceral side to fear. Unlike Mask de Masculine’s relatively unsatisfying, hacky power, As Nodt’s is one that is both powerful and understandable. Like he explained first to Byakuya and now to Rukia, fear is something primal that anyone is capable of understanding and explicating, unlike emotions like comfort or feeling at home. This interaction with natural emotion does two things that make it great in an anime. For one, it makes the experience of the victim of his ability somewhat understandable to a watcher. Personally, I have never been sliced in half or blasted by a Getsuga Tensho. Maybe someone else reading this has, but I cannot relate. I have, however, experienced the physical manifestations of intense fear and anxiety incredibly often. This gives me a basis for how Rukia (and Byakuya) must have felt as the essence of fear crept into their bodies. On top of that though, it adds a unique strategic component to how As Nodt fights and how he approaches his opponents, rationalizing his creepy presentation and the almost cinematic aspects to his arrival to battle.

Something a lot of people might not have noticed is the audio design of this episode. I watched with headphones and it truly added another layer to the fight. As Nodt has moments where his voice basically sneaks up on you, sounding far away directionally before sounding like he’s speaking directly into your ear. Similar effects happen during the scenes when he injects fear directly into Rukia’s eyes. The rattling voice is perfect for this and made the scene one of my favorites in the entire arc thus far. Complimenting that is his disturbing appearance. Each time he morphed and contorted his body felt like something out of a horror film and it only added to the rest of the performance. He was the perfect foil for Rukia; both of them fought with a foundation of hoping not to disappoint someone whose approval they crave.

A Beautiful Bankai

I’ve waited ten years for this Bankai and it looks better than I could have ever dreamt up. Rukia, in my opinion, has been annoyingly weaker than others for too long in BLEACH. She was basically powerless for the first portion of BLEACH, though she actually had a few impressive showings in the earlier portion of the Arrancar arc. However, to me, her power always felt inferior to Hitsugaya’s both in terms of it’s literal ability and its visual spectacle. Not only was she not taking on particularly powerful people, but she also was fighting in ways that felt derivative. I don’t care that Renji never got incredibly powerful, but I wanted Rukia to be someone more consistently fighting at Ichigo’s level throughout the series, even if the plot didn’t allow it.

This episode gave Rukia the shine she absolutely deserved. This improvement to her sword’s abilities, much like with Renji, brought her into another dimension of power. But, unlike Renji, her Shikai changed substantially as well. This change was welcome; it immediately made her sword feel meaningfully different from other ice-type swords and emphasized the careful control that feels appropriate for her personality. Her Bankai is incredibly powerful and satisfying, especially given that she froze someone who was trying to freeze her with fear. The design feels like a wintry version of someone dressing for a festival in the summer. BLEACH‘s new and improved lighting really emphasized the soft, transparent blue of her Bankai and added a degree of finesse to her ice that I didn’t expect.

The Fight Continues in BLEACH

Ichigo has completed his training and is heading down to join the battle. A new Sternritter has appeared and it looks like it’s time for some vice captains we rarely see in battle to draw their swords. Everything is positioned for the intensity of this episode to keep itself going and keep the quality high as it does. I’m looking forward to the exciting showcases of power to come and (hopefully) some new abilities for Ichigo that we didn’t get to see in the manga.

If you enjoyed the episode, don’t forget to vote in our weekly poll.

Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot

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