This week’s episode of BLEACH, like the last one, still felt surreal to watch. It means that the anime is well and truly back and that we’re back in the familiar pattern of weekly episodes providing periodic bursts of content. This week’s episode, also like the prior one, covered a few chapters of the manga (4 this week vs 5 last week) and kept the per-chapter pace fairly consistent. I imagine BLEACH will have a bit less hype this week though. This is because, in contrast to a lot of the second episodes of a lot of other shonen / action anime this season, BLEACH 2022 episode 2 focused largely on setting context and establishing more about the enemy. These sorts of episodes may worry fans who remember the era of slow episodes without much intention, but this week is very clearly different. Rather than long strings of meandering dialogue that feel formless, BLEACH this week presented an episode that reintroduced important elements of the BLEACH world to viewers and provided more looks at old characters animated in the new 2022 style.
The remainder of the article will discuss plot points from BLEACH 2022 episode 2. Read on with that in mind and make sure you check out the episode first if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Return to Hueco Mundo
Episode 2 of BLEACH began with the return of some arrancar we haven’t seen since the Hueco Mundo arc, the third to last canon arc of the BLEACH original anime. Nel (in her hilarious child form) and Pesche (usual loincloth) inform Ichigo and friends of an invasion in Hueco Mundo. Simultaneously we get a peak into the mysterious army, who has taken arrancar hostage in a strange dimension apart from the Soul Society, Hueco Mundo, and world of the living. This is somewhat of an interesting way for this new arc to start off. For one, journeys to Hueco Mundo before were solely about fighting arrancar and working to eventually take down Aizen. Secondly though, and more notably in my opinion, the level of power the main cast of characters has creates an interesting atmosphere for all of the combat we’ve seen thus far.
In the opening episode of BLEACH 2022 we already saw that Ichigo, Uryu, Chad, and Orihime are all more than capable of handling large gangs of hollows. These same hollows can’t be easily engaged by pairs of soul reapers. Even more, the hollow invasion dealt with in minutes for the group now would take an entire episode before. Similarly, the fight Ichigo had last episode and his entry into Hueco Mundo now are with a version of him that is ridiculously more powerful than any previous iteration; his friends have little fear for his safety and he’s confident enough in his abilities to focus more on information gathering than just staying alive. All the while, the (now revealed as Quincy) army is creating obvious large impacts on Soul Society and the world of the living but (so far) mostly in ways detached from the main cast.
I think this dual-progression of stories works well to scale the strength of multiple groups at once. It shows us the difference between old and new forms of the old characters while also showcasing the different elements of the enemy army. Its peons are strong enough to cause problems but not enough to beat main characters, its front lines can easily shish kebab a Lieutenant and take out a whole division, and their leader can effortlessly dispatch members of those front lines.
Existential Threat in BLEACH 2022
The revelation and confirmation of the enemy army as Quincy is very interesting. We’ve seen the enemy so far use all kinds of weapons other than bows, something atypical for Quincy, and there are a lot of them. Plus, Quincy are a neat aspect to the various powers in BLEACH lore. Unlike soul reapers, who purify hollows and allow their souls to move along in the cycle of rebirth, Quincy eradicate hollows from existence entirely. This is an interesting change to BLEACH fights; this is the first time that the major antagonists are disturbing primal forces to this extent.
This episode was undoubtedly slow but I do think it laid additional groundwork for the arc in an important way. It adapted manga chapters at a similar rate as last week as well. To me, while the episode perhaps lacked the wow factor and novelty of the premier, it did its job. In that sense I’d say it was a solid follow up to last week and a good continuation for BLEACH 2022.
Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot