|Bleach always seems at its best when dealing with build up and aftermath. What a fascinating episode.|
First and most importantly: Rukia casually talking about Ichigo's Hollow side on the rooftop in front of Renji and Orihime, with neither of them looking surprised. Very interesting scene for what it's omitting, which is how any of them know this information in the first place. Unless we're to believe that these three have cottoned to the fact because of their closeness to Ichigo, it seems as though the entire Shinigami Karakura Town posse have been briefed, and that if it was Byakuya that briefed them maybe we've been a little hard on him in our speculations. Dickhead he may be, but possibly not an irresponsible dickhead. Or is all of this off-base? Again, I find it very interesting what this series leaves out.
Ichigo's speech to Rukia at this point is also excellent. The boy may be an idiot, but he's not stupid. I had come to think that Urahara was a closed book to everyone in the series apart from Yoruichi, but here Ichigo constructs a seemingly very valid reading of that shady shopkeeper solely through what the hatted one has chosen not to do. It's these moments that make Ichigo the character he is, pigheaded and moronic one second, full of insight the next. This might be a hard show to like if he wasn't so complex.
Likewise, his confrontation with the Vaizard. Of course he wouldn't ask for help. Of course he wouldn't back down. Of course he wouldn't join them. At least not at this stage, possibly not ever. He's inherently proud, distrustful, arrogant and can only process the world by fighting it. That his fighting - specifically the all or nothing throwing himself into battle, what he fights for and how he fights - seems to lead him constantly into situations of intimacy with his opponent seems to relate specifically to his history with his parents, his Dad's bizarrely tender form of tough love and his misplaced guilt over his mother making him the agonised protector and world-saver.
Rukia understands this about him and so she deals with him roughly. He understood Chad's principles and used fighting for each other as a means to bond as friends. His rivalry and antagonism with Renji and Ishida make them strong allies, and arguably this is why Orihime is jealous of him and Rukia, as fighting isn't in her nature. He's respected by Zaraki Kenpachi because of it, and his bond to Kariya Jin and Grimmjow Jaggerjack has also become deeply personal. Although this is the basis for every action movie star it's particularly well depicted.
Great to see that grinning bastard Gin return, and very creepy to see him seeming to be Aizen's right-hand man, commenting on the manner in which his leader treated Tousen and Grimmjow. And Tousen has gone from appearing to be conflicted and potentially capable of switching sides to being irredeemably vicious in his statement that slaughter is laudable in service to a higher cause. That he omits to state what this higher cause actually is is either an omission so that Aizen et al's goals are hidden from the viewer for the time being, or worring evidence that he's even more fucked in the head than Byakuya. Stated ideals can usually be used by the ego as justification for any stance, and there's a huge gulf between what people say and what they believe about themselves and the reality.
Amazing that while it's great to see Ishida again it's one of the least note-worthy aspects of the episode, along with Chad's decision to train under Urahara. We can be sure that the former's powers will be regained in kind and that his real conflict - with his father - is ahead of him. The speculation right now is whether he's genuinely forsaken his friends (which is blatantly a temporary thing, right?) or is intending to play his prick of a Dad for a fool. As for Chad on his knees... I love that guy.
All this and more at-home-with-the-Asanos, Ururu and Jinta antics and Isshin's amazing pink and white heart pyjamas (I want some). Not to mention Kon-as-Hana vs Zaraki Kenpachi! You know it's on.
How the hell do they get all this into twenty-five minute episodes?