This episode was so awesome. Just truly so, so cool. I’ve praised BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation a few times for its tendency to radically improve the quality of the source material, even beyond the inherent enhancement that comes from adding audio-visual components to 2D drawings. Typically though that comment is in the context of enhancing the emotional intensity of a scene through music, voice acting, etc. Today’s episode is similar, but rather than enhancing the suspense of a scene, the fear in a character’s voice, or the expression tied to a character’s performance, this felt like an enhancement of how amazing these scenes were purely from the perspective of a satisfying fight. On top of that, this episode contained some incredibly pivotal scenes that were not present at all in the manga, massively adding to the overall lore of the series and (in my opinion) rounding out some things that needed some deeper foundation.
This all was a welcome improvement to last week’s episode. The prior BLEACH episode was a continuation of the fight between zombie-user Giselle and zombie-stealer Kurotsuchi Mayuri. Their fight was entertaining, sure, and seeing a cold-blooded (no pun intended) Hitsugaya was great. But, for me, the energy just wasn’t there and I walked away from the episode thinking it was good but nothing particularly special. This episode was much different in comparison.
Spoilers ahead for BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Part 2: The Separation episode 11 Too Early to Win Too Late to Know
Another Anime-Continuity Addition
Let’s start where the episode started, a flashback to a meeting between Squad Zero captain Ichibe and Yhwach. This meeting presumably takes place 1000 or more years ago before the war between Soul Reapers and Quincy. Ichibe offers a truce (of sorts) to Yhwach. This was a non-intervention pact wherein Yhwach would be left to his own devices with his followers so long as he did not intervene in the Soul Society’s management of the flow of souls between the three different parts of the world. Yhwach, obviously, rejects this offer, but it’s the structure of that rejection that I think is very important. Yhwach appeals to the version of the world that existed prior to the Soul King, revealing that the Soul King is his father and that he resents how the world is structured now. He blames the Soul King for the introduction of the fear of death and desperation to avoid it by separating life and death, something that did not exist prior to the Soul King’s rule. Because he absorbs the memories and emotions of those who have pieces of his soul, he at once is selfish and selfless in this ambition.
This is really, really important for a few reasons. For one, the manga did not give Yhwach the opportunity to have a clear declaration of his goal at this moment. Crucially, before someone says I’m somehow spoiling something, this isn’t a comment on the content of the manga or anything Yhwach did in it. Rather, what I’m saying is that this specific scene did not exist in the manga and does convey his goal at a chronological point in the series that I think makes sense. In my opinion it’s the most sensible of all of the antagonists’ ambitions throughout BLEACH. Every other major antagonist across the series (Ginjo, Aizen) were all rebelling against something that they felt incapable of subjugating themselves to. In Aizen’s case this was also the Soul King, but his pursuit of power felt relatively indiscriminate; it wasn’t that he hated the Soul King specifically, but more that he hated the idea of having to blindly follow some “thing” when he had the potential to surpass it and become a being worthy of living outside of someone’s thumb.
All of this alongside the extra scenes from Ichigo’s training make me think that BLEACH is going to make an explicit effort to give more screentime toward developing the lore around the Soul King especially in relation to the events of the current arc. A lot of that expansion and knowledge is only present in some of the BLEACH novels which take place chronologically after the manga and are of questionable canonicity. Tying that together here will really make the narrative more cohesive and make Yhwach feel less shoehorned in his ambition. Also, and this is very much a side note, but I found it kinda interesting that a Quincy spirit weapon 1000 years prior to the series start (which is pretty explicitly 2001) is a submachine gun.
Oestsu’s Incredible Skill
Now, the good part. Oetsu was an absolute dream to watch fight and the anime really gave him the treatment he deserved. This portion of the anime almost panel-for-panel adapts the manga with a small change. In the manga Tenjiro Kirinji (the hot spring guy) fights first followed by Senjumaru Shutara (whose fight happened in the anime just as it did in the manga). Senjumaru definitely fought well (and I’m a sucker for anime fighters who use cloth, wires, string, etc.) but Oetsu stole the show. His walk after taking down Lille Barro might be my favorite scene in the whole anime.
The first thing that popped out to me about him has to do with translation; the Viz translation of the BLEACH manga had some of his dialogue sounding a bit cringe for my taste, with plenty of sentences coming across a bit awkward in translation. Oetsu has a tendency to speak almost lyrically while using a mix of English and Japanese. This is then bracketed with short bursts of speaking with very straightforward and even word choice. In both the Viz translation and even the original Japanese this doesn’t always come through in the most obvious way. Voice acting makes it abundantly clear, and the swaps from a jovial, high pitched voice to a deeper, serious one as he goes for a killing blow really add to his fighting style. The second thing has to do with sound and timing, both of which indicate how fast he is and how interesting his sword is. At multiple points there is noticeable delay between Oetsu slashing someone and blood bursting from the wound, almost as if he’s cutting them so fast that their bodies don’t realize it immediately. His sword also has a pretty unique sound effect to it that didn’t come through in the English translation of the manga for me. This is a niche but consistent issue with some translations of BLEACH; Tite Kubo has some very unique sound effects and translations often discard them entirely or translate them to the point of them becoming new sounds entirely.
Overall, while it’s obvious the fight is nowhere near over (anime characters never start at full power, after all) I’m already incredibly entertained by it. Some of the coolest Sternritter, some of the coolest Soul Reapers, two awesome Black characters, and a big battle royale of wild abilities. On top of that, the finale next week will be a one-hour special. What more can we ask for?
Featured image and screenshots via Hulu.
© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot