The third volume of Bleach pretty much contains a self-contained mini arc, in which we delve into Ichigo’s younger years and discover a bit about the death of his mother, Masaki Kurosaki.
There are a few other instances of this in future arcs, but that’s something for the future. For now, this third volume contains nine chapters, starting at number seventeen and ending with number twenty-five.
Ichigo Kurosaki was a little boy when his mother passed away. One rainy day, Ichigo, whose ability to see the undead is a blessing and a curse, tried to stop a young girl from drowning in a nearby river. His mother, Masaki, ran after them, frantically trying to rescue her only son. Then everything went black, and Ichigo awoke only to discover his mother dead and the little girl gone.
It’s the anniversary of Masaki’s death, and the entire Kurosaki clan, along with former Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki, head to the cemetery to pay their respects. Sleeping demons rarely ever stay still and pretty soon Ichigo confronts the Grand Fisher, the Hollow that may be responsible for his mother’s demise. This and more in the latest, action=packed volume of Tite Kubo’s manga smash-hit Bleach.
Chapter 17, ‘6/17’ introduces us to Kon in a more familiar form: a stuffed lion toy. It also establishes that Ichigo will be absent from school the following day, which was something that Tatsuki took three years to pick up from.
Ichigo reveals that June 17th is the anniversary of the day his mother died.
Chapter 18 is ‘6/17 op. 2 Doesn’t Smile Much Anymore’. Tatsuki tells Orihime about Ichigo’s younger years, and what happened after the death of his mother.
Meanwhile, Rukia meets with Ichigo at the cemetery. When asked if a Hollow killed his mother, Ichigo says that he was the one responsible.
‘6/17 op. 3 memories in the rain’ is the title of chapter 19. This chapter recounts the events of that fateful June day.
In the present day, Karin sees a ghost. When she approaches it, danger quickly closes in.
Following on from that is chapter 20, ‘6/17 op. 4 A Face From the Past’. Karin and Yuzu find themselves at the mercy of a Hollow. Of course, Ichigo and Rukia realise that a Hollow has appeared so they race to scene. Ichigo saves his sisters and then confronts the foe.
‘6/17 op. 5 A Fighting Boy’ is the title of chapter 21. Ichigo discovers the truth of the ghost girl he saw all those years ago. Rukia arrives and identifies the Hollow as Grand Fisher.
Ichigo charges into battle, telling Rukia to stay out his battle as it is one that is personal to him.
Next chapter is 22, ‘6/17 op. 6 Battle in the Graveyard’. Whilst Rukia and Kon take Yuzu and Karin to a safe place, Ichigo continues to fight Grand Fisher. As you might expect from the title of this chapter, this battle takes place in a graveyard.
‘6/17 op. 7 Sharp Will, Dull Blade’ is the title of chapter 23. Grand Fisher uses Ichigo’s memories against him. This was the reason he was able to defeat so many Soul Reapers in the past.
Meanwhile, Kon has a discussion with Rukia and persuades her to go and help Ichigo. When Rukia arrives at the scene, she ultimately decides not to interfere as Ichigo is fighting for his honour.
Grand Fisher manages to strike a vicious blow against Ichigo, but he is able to use that to strike back.
Chapter 24 is ‘6/17 op. 8 One-Sided Sympathy’. Orihime and Tatsuki finish their discussion, and Orihime feels that she knows Ichigo a little better.
Meanwhile, Ichigo and Grand Fisher are both heavily injured. Rukia arrives on the scene, then Grand Fisher retreats. Ichigo tries to chase him, but his injuries quickly put a halt to that.
The last chapter of this volume is number 25, ‘6/17 op. 9 A Fighting Boy 2 (The Cigarette Blues Mix)’. Ichigo isn’t satisfied by the way the battle turned out, despite what Rukia tells him.
After that, Ichigo returns to his mother’s grave and has a poignant conversation with his father. After his dad leaves, Ichigo swears to Rukia that he will get stronger.
This chapter ends with Grand Fisher having his mask removed and taking on a more human form…
The character profiles at the end of this volume are for Tatsuki Arisawa and Isshin Kurosaki. Tatsuki’s theme song is “Mou Aoi Tori Wa Tobanai” (The Blue Birds Don’t Fly Anymore) by HAL. Isshin’s theme song is “Don’t Drag Me Down” by Social Distortion.
This volume is very much all about Ichigo and his past, and how it made him the person we see in the manga. It’s a pretty interesting look into his past, full of drama, action and a couple of poignant moments. The best example of the latter is arguably the conversation between Ichigo and Isshin at Masaki’s grave – yes, Isshin can be quite eccentric, but he’ll definitely be there when his kids need him.
Grand Fisher is the first opponent Ichigo fights that he doesn’t defeat, despite claiming victory (at least according to Rukia).
Whilst this does bolster Ichigo’s resolve to become stronger, it does hold consequences. However, that’s something that will be explored much later on down the line.
That’s not the only event that will be further explored in the future; there’s the small matter of the person who told Rukia about fights for honour vs. fights for life. Again, this will crop up later on.
Next time, a certain spiritualist arrives in Karakura Town to shoot a TV programme.