Is there a pecking order when it comes to the mysterious supernatural creatures called hollows? Do they conspire, make long term plans? Given recent events, Rukia begins to ask if perhaps there is actually a ‘mastermind’ hollow controlling the others, with the goal of targeting Ichigo’s extraordinarily strong spirit energy. This brings up many questions about their nature, and exactly how intelligent or sophisticated they may actually be. Last episode, we had already gotten the revelation that they used to be humans, after all. How much human characteristics are left after their souls are taken?
On the way to protect Orihime from a possible attack from the hollow, Rukia reveals that hollows frequently target the souls of their former loved ones, suggesting they might still be influenced by their former human nature, and that memories and emotions are still a factor.
As we saw last episode, Orihime’s brother is already at the apartment, and things are getting bizarre and horrifying for Tatsuki and Orihime. Blood inexplicably appears on one of her stuffed toys, and the two girls start getting attacked by an invisible malevolent force, being thrown around violently like rag dolls. It’s straight out of a horror movie, and shows how this show really set itself apart from other shonen at the time; because of the supernatural theme, it’s tone could go straight up ‘horror movie’ at times (and a good horror flick too), along with being action-packed and occasionally silly.
It turns out Tatsuki can only make out the vague form of the monster, but somehow Orihime can see it clearly. Not only that but she can also see her own body passed out on the ground, with a thick metal chain attached to her chest, later revealed to be the “Chain of Fate”, which chains the soul to the living body. Needless to say, in the midst of an out-of-body experience, she starts to panic. The hollow reveals itself to be her brother. Right before he lands an attack on Orihime, Ichigo appears right on time to save the day. The interrupted hollow still attempts to abduct her soul, almost succeeding.
“Have you forgotten me?”
It is revealed that the hollow indeed has lingering human feelings, expressing sadness and regret that Orihime has moved on since his death, and has gradually stopped praying for him. Her brother’s soul lingered on all this time for the sake of not leaving Orihime’s side. It was him that saved her from the potentially fatal car accident the day before. Orihime also expresses that it’s her fault he became like this, because she frequently begged him to stay with her in her prayers, in the midst of her grief and loneliness.
We get a glimpse of a mysterious hairpiece that Orihime wears, which her brother gave to her. Is it significant in some way besides its sentimental value?
He is still conflicted, and fighting the hollow inside him, so apparently these conversions are gradual. Not wanting to fully convert into a monster, he picks up Ichigo’s sword and does himself in, liberating his soul and finding peace. An emotional Orihime weeps, consoled by Rukia.
The tone gets lighter the next day, as Orihime has somehow completely forgotten the events of the night before and her wild, silly imagination tries to fill in the blanks. Wow, this character was actually quirky and entertaining early on in the series, it would have been nice if it stayed that way, or if the character had progressed in an interesting manner.
More afterlife tech! Rukia has some sort of memory replacement gadget that she flashed in front of Orihime’s face the night before, sort of like the ones in Men in Black, but much sillier in appearance. Icihigo puts two and two together, and realizes that she used it on his family so that they would misremember the hollow attack. The episode ends on a hopeful note, with Ichigo finally resolving to help Rukia in her shinigami duties.
This has been the most emotional and serious episode so far, as we delve deeper into the story, lore and characters. Also, the first without a cliffhanger. Onward to Episode 4!