One of the concepts in Bleach I always found fascinating was that science and technology could be a major feature, even advancing or flourishing in a post-death, spiritual dimension. It’s not a combination you find often in fiction. Additionally, just like the world we inhabit, this technology can be used both for good, or for evil purposes. Episode 6 delves a little deeper into these aspects.
“It’s almost time to replenish.”
Rukia and her gadgets. The episode starts with her concernedly checking some kind of handheld device, seemingly a gauge for checking the energy level of something. From the way she waves around her hand and fingers, we’re lead to assume all this is concerning her ‘gigai’, which may be weak or malfunctioning.
She seems to have settled quite nicely into Ichigo’s closet for the time being. We see Ichigo bringing her breakfast, which means that, in her gigai form, she has to eat like any regular, living human being. No one in the family has caught on to her presence, not yet anyway. The family notices he’s acting weird. Yuzu notices his pattern of eating way more than he used to, and holing himself up in his bedroom for inordinately long periods of time. His father, not unreasonably, guesses that as a young adolescent boy, this ‘alone time’ may have something to do with his hormonal needs. Yup, the show just made a masturbation joke.
New characters abound in this episode, important ones too. We meet two young kids, Jinta and Ururu (or at least they look like kids, who can guess with this show), fighting outside a humble-looking storefront, and a burly, serious looking guy, Tessai, who’s supposed to be supervising them. Rukia arrives and interrupts them mid-fight, and asks for ‘the manager’. So this is where she gets her shinigami tech, then? For starters, the place doesn’t appear that official-looking, not for the all-important Soul Society that Rukia constantly speaks of.
Neither does the the manager when he appears, a mischievous-looking man with messy hair, dressed in a striped bucket hat and wooden clogs. They briefly discuss Rukia’s recent difficulty synchronizing with the gigai, and then Rukia gets down to brass tax and asks about her ‘item’. The manager asks Ururu to go retrieve it in the store room. It looks like another small gadget, wrapped in cloth. Rukia and her gadgets. The manager then gets a bit serious with Rukia, about her current situation with her gigai:
‘You can’t fake it forever.’
The ‘item’ is meant for Ichigo, Later on, at school, Rukia reveals that it’s ‘Soul Candy’, capsules that will force a soul out of the body, while a ‘substitute’ soul inhabits it.
Ichigo takes one of the pills and his shinigami form is forced from his physical body. Only this time, his body doesn’t fall to the floor lifelessly as before, but instead introduces itself in a manner that seems way too suspiciously friendly and polite. Right on time, Rukia gets notified of a new mission on her phone, and drags Ichigo along, who is very skeptical about leaving his re-animated physical doppelganger to roam around by itself, acting strangely.
It’s right about then that the manager seen previously realizes that Ururu’s made an oopsie, fetching Rukia’s item out of a box that says ‘defective merchandise’. Jinta starts to give her grief about it, but the manager is surprisingly calm and understanding about the whole affair.
The substitute soul definitely has a mischievous streak. The first thing he does is damage school property. He’s revealed to be freakishly strong, with superhuman jumping ability and speed.
He’s also a bit of a perv. On making a particularly dramatic entrance into his classroom, he starts checking out all the female students, and ogling Orihime’s cleavage. He then proceeds to ‘get fresh’ with Orihime and Tatsuki, which really pisses Tatsuki off to no end. A classroom melee ensues.
After quickly handling his shinigami duties, Ichigo hurries back to school to see what, if anything has transpired. He’s been getting some bad vibes about this whole ‘substitute soul’ situation. After all, what would become of his ‘image’ if anything happened?
He arrives to find a classroom brawl in progress between Tatsuki and the substitute soul, and confronts it immediately. Another standoff begins. From the viewpoint of the other students, ‘Ichigo’ begins sparring with an invisible person, which needless to say, is confusing to everyone witnessing it.
Shinigami Ichigo has some difficulty dealing with Fake Ichigo’s strength, and gets his ass handed to him. Fake Ichigo flees the scene. We see that Orihime isn’t as fazed by his weird behavior as Tatsuki and the rest of the class. “That wasn’t Kurosaki” she confidently concludes.
According to Rukia, the substitute is actually a ‘Mod Soul’, a being accidentally created by the Soul Society as a result of a project called “Spearhead”. Mod Souls were built for combat with hollows, explaining the Mod Soul’s extraordinary physical abilities; the really creepy, messed up part, though, was that they were inserted into the corpses of dead humans. As we’re only now beginning to see, the Soul Society has had a long history of dangerous, morally questionable experimental science projects. These Mod Souls were allegedly all destroyed, but it seems some may have escaped. According to Rukia, any remaining Mod Souls must be destroyed, by order of the Soul Society.
This doesn’t sit well with Ichigo’s sense of justice and fairness, individuals being created and alternately destroyed by the thoughtless whims of some seemingly faceless bureaucracy that answers to no one. For an organization naming itself the ‘Soul Society’, they seem to be pretty, well, soulless. In a moment of empathy, Ichigo wonders what the Mod Soul must be feeling, having been given the freedom of a new body, even if it does belong to none other than himself.
The Soul Society was previously portrayed by Rukia as a benevolent force of the afterlife, sort of like a society of Archangels, but this episode begins to suggest that they might be a deeply flawed organization capable of grave mistakes and moral misgivings. This particular rabbit-hole gets deep throughout the series, believe me.
Meanwhile, the Mod Soul is having an absolute blast with Ichigo’s body. He is a bit of a mischief maker, but the question is, is he an actual evil entity, deserving of complete elimination?
On his adventure in Ichigo’s body, he meets a bunch of truant boys playing video games, and hearing their talk about game avatars ‘obeying their masters’ and ‘getting killed off and replaced’, completely misreads the situation. Before he can start attacking the kids, Ichigo intervenes.
The battle of Ichigo vs. Ichigo continues in Episode 7. Stay tuned!