Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War ?
Community score: 4.7
It's hard to believe we're already more than half a cour into this new arc. Like, sure, quite a lot of events have occurred since episode one, and if you just listed them out, it would fill up a lot of space. But it wasn't until now that it hit me how little we've gotten to know our new villains, despite them taking up most of the past three episodes and being the defining aspect of this entire arc.
Part of that is just sheer size since introducing two dozen new characters and having most of them stomp our heroes into the dirt in quick succession takes a lot of time. But even Ywach, our big old mustachioed lead villain, has yet to reveal much about himself besides being stronger and more intelligent than everyone not named Aizen. That can be fine with how long this arc is set to be. Still, as somebody who's drawn more to character dynamics and thematic parallels than cool new superpowers, I was happy when he finally started talking a bit in this episode.
Sure, it's funny that he spends several minutes monologuing to a bisected corpse, but hearing him gloat over his fallen enemy and besmirch Yamamoto for going soft over the last millennium at least tells me what he's about besides pure revenge. Ywach respects ferocity and dominance and sees little value in holding things precious if they can be used against you. It's not a ton, but it's enough to make him feel like more than a boss fight waiting to happen. Plus, the anime-original sequence of the first war was pretty damn awesome, showing off the original Gotei 13 in their prime, and communicating the brutality of the first war without so much of a word.
I'm also thrilled that Ichigo is finally out of Main Character jail, breaking out just in time to stand in the smoldering ashes of Soul Society's resistance. It's a genuinely affecting and brutal sequence that delivers a level of destruction Bleach has never dabbled in before. This is a blood war; we're getting both terms in vast quantities here. It's enough that I'm almost willing to buy that Byakuya is actually dead, despite decades of “nobody dies in Bleach” being run into the ground by fan discussion. I certainly hope it keeps, if only because Byakuya going out asking Ichigo of all people to protect Soul Society would be a perfect, tragic conclusion to his character here.
The ensuing fight between Ichigo and Ywach is messy, occasionally sacrificing clarity of action amid all the effects of dynamic combat, but it works. Ichigo has never been a terribly complicated fighter, and here he's the most furious and desperate we've ever seen him, so it makes sense that he'd get right into a chaotic melee. Though personally, the most exciting moments came just before swords started swinging, seeing all that rage boil up around our hero in vibrant colors shining out against the darkness around him. I'm repeating myself, but the bold use of color to accentuate the emotions of any given scene is so strong and effective, and I don't want to start taking it for granted.
After that fight, things start getting dicey again. The reveal that Ichigo has secretly been part Quincy his whole life is indeed a bold choice, but not one that I find very appealing. Partially that's because I don't like overloading characters with a ton of special designations. After all, eventually, it starts making them feel wholly unrelatable. Ichigo being a soul reaper, human, hollow, and now Quincy feels like loading him up with too much world-building baggage that his character doesn't need, especially not when we have an established Quincy main character who's been waiting on the sidelines all season. The only real upside for me is that we might learn more about Ichigo's mother (and his dad, for that matter) now that her heritage is in question. I also recognize that I'm probably in the minority here, and for most people, this will be a mind-blowing revelation, but I can't get too excited about all this.
That (admittedly significant) hang-up notwithstanding, this may actually be my favorite episode of TYBW so far. The anime-original glimpse of the original Gotei 13 is a fantastic addition. Most of the episode was tense and cathartic as we finally see Ichigo enter the war. It's got the strongest atmosphere, which says something about this new adaptation. And while I have quibbles with the more significant implications of the big reveal, it makes for an excellent cliffhanger.
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