After an unintended break, I think it’s about time I got back to looking at the Bleach manga. At the end of the previous volume, the Soul Reapers Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki appeared in the world of the living in order to take Rukia back to the Soul Society. Before they could do anything, Uryû appeared before them.
The seventh volume of Bleach contains nine chapters, starting at fifty-three and running through to sixty-one.
At this point, the blurb on the back of the volume has two parts – one summing up the beginning of the story, and one about what actually happens in the volume. As such, I’ll only be putting the latter here.
Rukia Kuchiki, the ex-Soul Reaper responsible for Ichigo’s transformation, is on the lam. Her brethren at the Soul Society are quite displeased with the fact that she transferred the powers of a Soul Reaper to a human and have dispatched two of their strongest agents to neutralise the situation. Their mission is twofold: to return Rukia to the Soul Society so that she may for her crime and to deal with Ichigo – permanently. But an unlikely third party is standing in their way: Uryû Ishida, the Quincy!
Uryû confronts the Renji in chapter 53, ‘Nice to meet you. (I will beat you.)’. He ends up angering Renji.
Meanwhile, Ichigo discovers Kon taped behind the toilet at his home. When he’s freed, Kon tells Ichigo that Rukia disappeared, leaving behind a note for them to decipher. Despite being told not to, Ichigo decides to go after Rukia – though he needs a little help from Kisuke to turn into a Soul Reaper.
Uryû didn’t manage to fare well against Renji, who’s prepared to strike a fatal blow. However, Ichigo appears.
Ichigo confronts Renji in chapter 54, ‘The Nameless Boy’. Renji proves overwhelming at first, but Ichigo manages to land a blow. This leads Renji to reveal that his zanpaku-tô has a name and can change its form. Renji easily claims the upper hand.
In chapter 55, ‘SHUT’, Renji moves in for a fatal strike, but Rukia holds him back. Ichigo is able to regain his composure and strike Renji, but when Byakuya makes a move Ichigo’s zanpaku-tô is broken and he falls in an instant.
Though Ichigo is seriously injured in chapter 56, ‘broken coda’, he still musters up the strength to grab Byakuya. It is Rukia who kicks his hand away, before willingly going back to the Soul Society with Renji and Byakuya. She tells Ichigo not to follow her.
In chapter 57, ‘July Rain, Interrupted’, Ichigo loses consciousness. When he wakes up, he finds himself at Kisuke’s place. Kisuke tells Ichigo that he healed Uryû, and Uryû said the only one capable of saving Rukia is Ichigo himself.
Kisuke tells Ichigo there is a way to get to the Soul Society, but he’ll need to train under him first. Ichigo agrees.
Ichigo returns to school in chapter 58, ‘blank’, where nobody seems to remember Rukia. Well, almost everybody – Orihime remembers her. She asks what Ichigo is going to do, but she knows what he’s already decided.
With summer vacation beginning and his wounds healed, Ichigo goes to Kisuke’s place to start training.
The focus briefly switches over to the Soul Society in chapter 59, ‘Lesson 1: One Strike! + Jailed at Home’. Renji checks in with Rukia.
Back in the world of the living, turns out Urahara has a huge space under his shop for training. Kisuke forces Ichigo’s soul out of his body, and the first round of training can begin.
Ichigo simply has to land a single blow on Ururu – who is a young girl. Ichigo is reluctant at first. However, Ururu proves herself to be more than capable of killing Ichigo in his current state.
Chapter 60 is ‘Lesson 1-2: DOWN!!’. Ichigo ends up running around, though he soon realises he may actually be able to dodge Ururu’s attacks. He grazes Ururu’s cheek, causing her to retaliate. However, he survives and as such passes the first lesson.
Lesson two begins with Tessai severing Ichigo’s chain of fate.
Meanwhile, Orihime and Chad meet Yoruichi, who proposes they have a lesson of their own – particularly as they insist on going to the Soul Society as well.
Finishing up this volume is chapter 61, ‘Shattered Shaft’. Uryû is about to start his own training, when Orihime, Chad and Yoruichi appear. He’s taken aback by a talking cat. He’s invited to go on the lesson as well, but he refuses.
Back at Urahara’s place, Ichigo starts panicking. The only way to recover from having his chain of fate severed is to become a Soul Reaper.
Ichigo is then sent to the bottom of a deep pit called the Shattered Shaft, with the goal of making it back out before he becomes a Hollow. To make things harder, Tessai binds his arms – oh, and the encroachment of the chain of fate begins.
This volume has a couple of extra chapters in which Kon presents a radio show answering listener questions, and then explores the rooms of the people of Urahara Shop.
The questions then continue, featuring special guest Rukia. These sections are just some silly fun.
So this volume showed us just how big the gap between substitute Soul Reaper and fully trained Soul Reaper is, though Ichigo was able to stand against Renji. Byakuya on the other hand…
We’re also shown that Kisuke knows a lot about what’s going on, potentially connecting him to the Soul Reapers in some way. The training he puts Ichigo through is played for laughs and deadly serious at the same time, and I quite like that. Ichigo’s very much in peril, but there’s some decent humour to be found in there.
Next time, Ichigo’s training continues – assuming he can survive.