‘Relying on people and loyalty are two different things.’Kenpachi Zaraki
Okay, so spoiler alert (kinda)… Ichinose gets schooled by Kenpachi in this episode… but before getting to that, hey, we have both a new opening and a new ending credits sequence, probably having to do with the fact that the momentous 100th episode draws near…
Back to the escalating events taking place in the Kusajishi forest. Despite the varied gathering of opponents before him, Ichinose chooses to stand firm. His zanpakuto, Nijigasumi, releases its blinding light, which results in a great deal of confusion for his Ichigo and the others, who are so disoriented that Hitsugaya and Renji end up unintentionally attacking each other, and are also open to attacks by Ichinose himself. The light has effectively isolated everyone caught up in it, and for safety’s sake, Hitsugaya asks the others to stay put, so that they will not unintentionally attack each other.
Quite unexpectedly, salvation come in the form of Kenpachi’s arrival, whose spiritual pressure completely blows away and cancels out the effects of Ichinose’s zanpakuto. Until now, Ichinose has been cool and reserved, even when dealing with other shinigami, but his calm is visibly shattered when he sees who has arrived to battle him. Kenpachi, meanwhile, seems completely unconcerned with the bigger outcome with the whole Bount situation, as long as he gets his fight with Ichinose. Yachiru, jumping from Kenpachi’s shoulder, assures the others to leave this fight to Kenpachi alone, giving them time to deal with the current happenings at the Seireitei. Ichigo and his companions surprisingly concede this request, and go on their way.
Kenpachi, still disregardfully addressing Ichinose very much like an underling, challenges him to show him what he has learned in the time since leaving the Soul Society. Ichinose once again activates his zanpakuto, which envelops Kenpachi in blinding light, but it has no effect on him whatsoever. With this, Ichinose decides to take his attack to another level, activating Saigyoku Nijigasumi, and surrounding himself in spiritual energy.
As he advances on Kenpachi again, he manages to nick his shoulder. Kenpachi graciously tells him that he’s actually improved, which annoys Ichinose to no end. After all this time, Ichinose is still filled with utter contempt at the fact that someone like Kenpachi was allowed to attain the rank of Captain, and he makes no secret of it. Ichinose’s attack, Saigyoku Nijigasumi, then activates, surrounding Kenpachi with sparkling lights. Blinding light swallows Kenpachi and the surrounding forest, and begins to expand outward, causing Yachiru, who was watching the fight, to temporarily run away and then double back to continue gleefully watching. The light which has trapped Kenpachi slowly begins to compress. Thinking that the battle is effectively over, and his opponent is definitely doomed to certain death, Ichinose begins to walk off, to Yachiru’s protestations.
But, to Ichinose’s disbelief, Kenpachi manages to escape from his light trap, and reappears, aiming his zanpakuto squarely at his forehead, and expressing his disappointment and underwhelmed opinion of the zanpakuto he happened to develop.
‘It’s no fun fighting guys who don’t have their own goals.’
Completely humiliated, at the end of his wits and exasperated by Kenpachi’s continued (and unearned, in his opinion) superiority, Ichinose begins to attack wildly, and gets slashed across the chest for his recklessness.
Thoroughly disappointed, Kenpachi walks away, all the while berating Ichinose for not choosing his own path and becoming a blind follower. He also gives him grief for the hypocrisy of selfishly staying to fight and pursue his own personal vendetta, while allowing the others to leave and potentially interfere with Kariya’s plan, the same man he declares undying loyalty to. Ichinose begins to get the first inkling that the man before him might not just be a savage barbarian, but more complex an individual than he initially thought. The final face-off between the two then begins…
Ichinose proves no match against Kenpachi; his zanpakuto shatters, and he falls to the ground bleeding, remorseful of the fact that he was unable to avenge his Captain.
With the mission accomplished, and the first enemy defeated, Kenpachi and Yachiru walk off into the forest ahead…