This week’s episode of BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation didn’t have an incredible amount happen plot-wise, but does provide a lot to talk about. There are a few reasons for this. For one, there is a pretty cool reveal near the end that makes the episodes to come even more exciting than they were on their own. But additionally, this episode revived for me one of the more frustrating character moments in the arc and for the general BLEACH fandom one of the more irritating anime debates. Last episode we were treated to Ichigo’s return from the Soul King’s palace and Yhwach’s started ascent to it alongside Uryu, who finally came face-to-face with Ichigo. That episode was amazing from start to finish and was action-focused, while this one was more just about introducing the mechanics of some abilities and setting up some more battles.
Spoilers ahead for BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation episode 9 Marching Out the Zombies
Giselle and Yumichika
As the episode made obvious, Giselle is a trans woman. People have tried to debate that aspect of things for years (based on some interviews BLEACH author Tite Kubo has done about the subject) and typically the argument against her being trans is that it is never explicitly stated in the series. I don’t personally think that’s a very realistic standard for storytelling in general. It also goes against common conventions for conveying information elsewhere in BLEACH; characters very frequently say things like “I can’t sense so-and-so’s reiatsu anymore” to indicate (implicitly) that a character has just died. Not everything has to be stated. What bothers me about the interactions between Yumichika and Giselle, especially since Charlotte Chuhlhourne is also involved, is that it felt like a character regression for Yumichika without much narrative value.
The conversation where Yumichika calls Giselle a man has gone through various layers of censorship (or localization, if we want to be charitable) over the years. In the original Japanese, Yumichika’s reasoning for calling her a man is that she smells like seminal fluid. In the BLEACH Viz translation, this is changed to “I can tell by your smell” and in this episode, Yumichika doesn’t give a reason at all (but does clutch his nose). A few other comments with the same sentiment also are missing from the anime. Charlotte, unlike Yumichika, simply expresses feelings similar to Giselle, which makes sense if she is trans. Charlotte’s resurrección features a Ballroom-esque outfit and he refers to himself as a princess while using it. He and Yumichika are both queer-coded (in my opinion). In a narrative sense, their battle also is very much relatable to queer experience. For those who don’t recall this fight or Yumichika’s background, two details are important for analyzing it. One, squad 11 (Yumichika’s squad, led by Zaraki) has an unspoken rule that swords are only used for direct, melee attacks. Kido or magical sword abilities are strongly frowned upon and those who use them are derided by their teammates. Two, Yumichika’s sword is unique in that when he calls it by the wrong name, its Shikai only partially activates and it only undergoes a change of appearance. The true ability of the sword is kido-based.
Charlotte’s ability surrounds an area with thorns and prevents others from seeing inside the area or sensing any reiatsu within it. This allowed Yumichika to use his abilities without fear of being seen; something he claims he’d rather have died than do in view of others. The parallels to queer life are pretty blatant here; Yumichika calls his sword a different name in order to obscure its true (and notably non-masculine) nature. Both fighters are only able to use their full abilities once in an area obscured from perception, i.e. only in the presence of each other. Yumichika has an incredibly resigned, deep expression as he kills Charlotte, even offering thanks for giving him the opportunity to use his sword. I felt as though he had learned something fundamental in that fight that would prevent him from provoking an opponent quite as he provoked Giselle. This contributes very little to the fight and Charlotte’s acknowledgment of being “similar” to Giselle works just as well to imply that she’s queer. All of this makes me wish Yumichika’s comments were removed entirely since they were edited to begin with. Cue the “snowflake” accusations, but sequences like these lead to waves of transphobic comments under every post about an episode.
Kurotsuchi vs Hitsugaya in BLEACH
I’ve been waiting ages for this fight and I’m incredibly excited to see it animated. Kurotsuchi is very entertaining to watch fight for similar but slightly different reasons than why Urahara is entertaining to watch the fight. Both of them are incredibly smart and go far out of their way to prepare a variety of tools and gadgets that either counter an opponent or just trivialize a fight. Kurotsuchi is a bit different from Urahara in that he’s a lot more heavy-handed on the gadget side of things, to the point of creating his own lieutenant. This means that he tends to have incredible drugs, poisons, and weapons that he reveals, keeping fights fairly exciting. This didn’t matter quite as much early in BLEACH when people’s powers were still evolving and being revealed. Now that most people’s abilities are established its refreshing to see new things pop up (like reviving Arrancar).
The fighting between the revived Arrancar has already been pretty great to see. It basically acts as a direct upgrade to how these characters were animated in the past, though obviously, they’ve gotten much stronger after Mayuri got his hands on them. On top of all of that, Hitsugaya pretty much got annihilated earlier and could use some more screen time to fight. Hopefully, we’ll get that next episode.
Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot