‘You talk a lot.’Byakuya Kuchiki
Today, I think I’ll be taking a page from this guy, and keeping things fairly brief. This mostly has to do with this episode being one long, extended battle between Byakuya and Renji, and it’s always a bit of a challenge for me recapping battles, as a verbal play-by-play never really seems as dynamic as watching the real thing (yes, that’s my endorsement to go watch this one, it’s awesome). As any anime fan knows, a good battle speaks for itself (but a couple screenshots don’t hurt either).
Besides being a straight ahead battle, the episode also does a clever thing by intercutting scenes between the Renji vs. Byakuya battle with Ichigo’s continuing struggle to defeat Zangetsu, thereby achieving Bankai, and summoning the strength needed to save Rukia.
It’s clear to most viewers at this stage how many similarities there are between Ichigo and Renji, and this episode only brings it home. For starters, they share the same goal, as they both care deeply for Rukia; their personalities are both determined/stubborn beyond belief; and at this current point in time, they are both testing the limits of their physical and mental endurance.
Ichigo, clearly spent, has been battling Zangetsu for what seems an eternity now, and hasn’t made much progress, while it’s revealed that Renji has seen his Captain, Byakuya, as a rival for some time, and he now has an opportunity to surpass him. Unlike Ichigo, though, Renji has achieved Bankai, and we see it in its full glory during the battle. We also see, from the battle’s outcome, that achieving Bankai isn’t the be-all-end-all of a Shingami’s fighting skills; as a matter of fact, it’s just the beginning.
Another thing I noticed is that the techniques of both Byakuya and Renji involve weapons that are both able to separate and then reform, sort of making them suitable opponents. One of these individuals is way out of his league, though, and Byakuya knows it:
‘You won’t be able to make me fall on even one knee.’
Byakuya’s taunt motivates Renji even more, and so there are even some moments where Renji manages to surprise him, and attack him so that he has to land on one knee, refuting his earlier boast.
Renji’s moment of triumph is short-lived though, as Renji is not yet able to fully control his Bankai, and so Byakuya is able to dodge easily… as he knows, achieving it is just the beginning. He then releases what is maybe the deadliest Bankai we’ve seen in the show so far…
Dropping his sword in front of him, it sinks into the floor, after which a thousand giant blades emerge, surrounding him. Just as with his regular zanpakuto attack, the countless blades dissipate into razor sharp ‘petals’, only this time it’s multiplied by thousands, making Renji the victim of a basically inescapable attack. Blood sprays from his entire body, and the buildings around him crack and crumble….
More taunts from Byakuya:
‘Shall I tell you the difference between you and me? It’s class.”
Byakuya, clearly victorious, is about to leave him for dead, but to his utter surprise, Renji is still alive, and he even rises to his feet. He shouldn’t have survived the attack, but his sheer strength of will seems to be the only thing keeping him alive and going. It’s now impossible for Byakuya not to have a newfound grudging respect for his Lieutentant, but it’s also impossible that Renji has any chance left to win. Byakuya’s final attack puts him down for good. Renji’s Bankai has disappeared, which usually signifies to its user that death is near.
As Renji falls, his fading spirit is detected by Rukia, who is being escorted out of her cell by guards on her way to the her execution. Her expression is one of disbelief, but it quickly turns to fear, as she sees Gin Ichimaru menacingly advancing towards her… to be continued.
Looks like Bleach is turning another page soon, we get both a new OP and ED this week. This opening is definitely is definitely darker and more macabre, and as for the ending, well ‘Happy People’ never really suited a narrative full of grim death matches and tragic backstories. This one has a more ‘hopeful for the future’ vibe, which I suppose is more suitable.