‘It seems talking serves no purpose.’Byakuya Kuchiki
‘The time for words has passed.’Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto
In this episode, there is more than one instance in which adversaries, seemingly so far apart in their differences of opinion or personal philosophies, express no choice other than abandoning the recourse of resolution via communication, and opt for the more straightforward option of resolution via battle. Put simply, the time for words is over.
In the aftermath of the Sokyoku’s destruction, and Rukia’s subsequent rescue, communication has broken down between numerous factions, which has led to a number of new conflicts arising, adding to the ones that were already in progress.
Ichigo vs. Byakuya
Front and centre is the current confrontation between Ichigo and Byakuya, two individuals who absolutely cannot understand each other’s motives. Byakuya is unable to understand why Ichigo is so deadset on saving Rukia’s life, and Ichigo cannot understand how Bykuya can just simply allow his own sister to be executed, even standing by the decision to do so, and stating his willingness to carry out the sentence himself.
So far, Ichigo has been taking names in this post-rescue battle against the Shinigami, taking out quite a few of them, with them then being left in the care of Captain Unohana, who is canny enough to transport them far away from the battle site. This said, Byakuya looks to be his toughest challenger yet. But there is definitely a difference between the current battle and the last time they crossed paths, with Ichigo now being able to match and counter Byakuya’s blinding speed.
Facing the consequences: Shunsui and Ukitake
Knowing that there’ll be literal hell to pay for their role in the Sokyoku’s destruction and Rukia’s escape, Shunsui and Ukitake make a break for it, not necessarily to avoid the fury of Head Captain Yamamoto (which is impossible to avoid), but to lessen the collateral damage to their colleagues that such a fight would cause.
Shunsui makes sure to carry along his lieutenant Nanao, but Ukitake’s aides aren’t so lucky, getting stomped out by Captain Sui-Feng, who’s clearly very passionate about this whole treason business. But before she can finish them off, a masked figure flies out of nowhere and whisks her away. On their rapidly accelerating descent to the bottom of the hill, the figure removes the bandages from her face, and a stunned look of recognition crosses Sui-Feng’s face… a wild Yoruichi has appeared. Looks like there’s some future drama to be had here…
Meanwhile, Unohana has successfully transported the battle’s casualties to her headquarters, by summoning Minazuki, a strange flying manta ray-like creature that had swallowed the patients and regurgitates them on arrival.
What the teacher taught, isn’t necessarily what the students learned.
Shinsui, Ukitake and Nanao reappear in a clearing far from Sokyoku Hill, but as expected, Yamamoto is already there waiting for them. Just a stare and a dose of his spiritual pressure is enough to put Nanao down for the count. Shunsui makes sure to put her out of harm’s way before the conflict really begins.
Yamamoto expresses his disappointment in both his former students, whom he always thought of highly and had great hopes for, and what he perceives as their failure to uphold justice, the main tenet of all that he had taught them. They reply that what they actually learned from him was to uphold a sense of personal justice, even if that went against the ‘justice’ of the world. Clearly, a miscommunication has happened here.
As the episode draws to a close, so does any further discourse, as the battle truly begins. Yamamoto releases his zanpakuto, and is consumed by a vast fiery aura. Being the Head Captain, it’s a safe bet to say that he is probably by far the most powerful of the Shinigami (the only possible exception probably being Kenpachi). Do Shunsui and Ukitake stand even a tiny chance against him?
No need to say sorry, no need to say thanks
In contrast to all the escalating conflict, there’s a brief scene between Renji and Rukia as they both attempt to flee, and their attempts to talk things out in order to explain their feelings. Renji states that he will not go back to help Ichigo, as it will get in the way of what Ichigo considers a debt to be repaid. Rukia is out of the woods for now, but there are lingering feelings of guilt for pulling Ichigo into all this. Renji reassures her that there is nothing to feel guilty about, and nothing to feel sorry for. Funny how much progress towards understanding can be made using a couple of words…
That’s it for this one. See you again for Episode 56!