“What’s wrong with the strong killing the weak?”Yoshi
Episode 103 opens mid-battle, with Yoshi just barely blocking the potentially devastating shot Ishida fired at her at the very end of the last episode. This particular battle has been going on for a while, and having just assumed him dead, Ishida clearly isn’t the kind of opponent that she should take for granted. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t still consider herself superior to him, though, with her loquacious Doll mouthing off about the inadequacy of his weapon.
But Ishida realises that he is actually becoming more accustomed to controlling the unstable power of his bow, and what he really needs to do now is work on his aim. Yoshi has caught on to this, as she stands motionless, and yet still hasn’t been hit, with Ishida’s arrows exploding harmlessly around her.
Yoshi take a moment to expound her philosophy: she actually agrees with Ishida that this battle is meaningless, and by extension, she cares nothing of Kariya’s ultimate plans, but this is exactly why she enjoys it, relishing the chaos of it all. Now it’s her turn to attack.
For the first time in this previously long-range battle, Yoshi gets up close, kicking Ishida to the ground. She then declares her intention to finish him off, once and for all.
Meanwhile, the number of casualties are piling up on the side of the Shinigami, which is of particular concern to Head Captain Yamamoto, who is being reported to by Unohana. Sui-Feng and her Punishment Force are currently recovering in her care. Shunsui, who is also there, then reports the break-in into the Department of Research & Development, and Yamamoto infers from this that the hidden Jokai Crest has most likely been found and stolen by their enemy; this might spell doom for the Soul Society, as this object has the power to instantly destroy the Seireitei.
After escaping from the R&D facility last episode, newly powered up due to the Jokai Crest, and meeting up with his right-hand man Koga, Kariya is now in good spirits, enthusiastically anticipating destroying the Seireitei, and killing every last one of the Shinigami. Perhaps the only one of the Bounts with a functioning conscience, Koga displays clear discomfort about having to go this far, seeing that several of their comrades have already died in service to this mission.
On principle, he disagrees with the Crest, the origin of the entire race of the Bounts, being used as a genocidal weapon, and realising what Kariya really is for the first time, makes the decision to stop following him. Koga confronts Kariya, calling him an ‘uncontrollable blade’. Kariya responds by attacking and injuring Koga. As he falls to the ground, bleeding freely from his torso, Kariya expresses his gratitude for Koga’s many years of loyalty to him, and abandons him in the dark, lonely alley.
“An arrow is not fired, it is released…”
Ishida is back on his feet, as determined as ever to master his weapon, something even his enemy has to give him some credit for. Remembering the Quincy’s Principles of Justice taught to him by his grandfather, Ishida decides to let his heart guide the path of his arrows…
Yoshi realises that his attacks have increased in power and accuracy, but also notices that this power is dissipating, and becoming increasingly difficult for him to control and maintain. Sensing an opportunity to advance on him, Yoshi leaps into the air, and Ishida does the same…
This time Ishida’s arrow hits its mark, and Yoshi gets an arrow in the chest. Ishida has noticed that Yoshi’s Dolls seem to make their decisions for her when summoned in fighting, and they have a fatal flaw: they can either attack or defend according to their assumed form, but cannot do both without changing forms back and forth. Now fatally wounded, Yoshi, as several of her comrades before her, dies and turns to dust.
Meanwhile, the person who started it all, Rantao, has returned to the Soul Society, and is surveying the grandeur of the Seireitei from a high perch.
Ukitake and Shunsui are in a dark library, doing research by surveying the old dusty books of a dark library. Ukitake luckily happens upon some of the writings of Rantao concerning the Jokai Crest, but then realises that the author cleverly hid random parts of her research among several books within the library, which means the library will have to be thoroughly searched. Shunsui isn’t thrilled about this.
Ishida has managed to survive his battle with Yoshi, but is now exhausted and injured. Unexpectedly, he encounters (or imagines he’s encountered) a vision of his sensei grandfather, who commends him for fighting bravely, but warning him that he has reached his limit, and needs to rest. ‘At times your obstinacy can dull your blade…’
Ichigo and Chad find Ishida just as he is about to keel over from exhaustion. Ishida tells them that he has just fought and defeated a Bount. Their worries are far from over, though, as Ichigo reveals that Kariya has stated his intention to destroy the entire Seireitei by the following day…
Koga has managed to heal himself with reishi, and is now going after his former comrade. From the lessons of his past, he is no longer willing to see the young die needlessly. When he encounters a group of Shinigami, it is already clear that his attitude has changed somewhat, as he now disarms them without a clear intent to injure or kill. But then he summons Dalk, who has a particular way of handling things…
Nearby, Hitsugaya and Rangiku have gotten wind of Koga’s presence, and are heading in his direction, when they hear the screams of the shinigami squad, which stop suddenly in quite an alarming fashion… has the unthinkable just happened, and is Hitsugaya already too late?
While this is probably generally thought of as just a random episode of a not particularly well-remembered filler arc, I thought the thematic consistency in this one was low-key impressive; there are a number of ‘uncontrollable blades’ in this narrative, describing both the weapons of Ishida and his opponent Yoshi, and is used in direct reference to the character of Kariya himself.
In addition, it has become clear that Kariya, despite considering himself the saviour and all-powerful leader of the Bounts, and appearing as a unifying force to outsiders, has actually done a pretty poor job of instilling his ideological goals into his followers, who it’s revealed have always all had their own individual motives as to why they were following him in the first place (Mabashi, Sawatari and now Yoshi), and they’ve all perished as a result. Ironically, the one true believer (and this is also debatable), Ichinose, isn’t even a Bount himself. Now the last of Kariya’s comrades, Koga, has basically defected.
So it looks like the Bount Arc is now headed towards its inevitable endgame, which should be resolved in the next couple of episodes… let’s see what happens next…