Previously, Ichigo had an encounter with the Soul Reapers Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki. Things certainly didn’t go his way, and now he finds himself undergoing some rather dangerous training with Kisuke Urahara.
There are nine chapters in this eighth volume of Bleach, starting with sixty-two and ending with seventy.
Ichigo knows that to retrieve Rukia from the Soul Society, he’ll have to enter that world himself. But his fight with Rukia’s brother Byakuya showed, in no uncertain terms, that Ichigo still has a great deal of rigorous study and training ahead of him. Deep beneath Kisuke’s Urahara Shoten, Ichigo practices his fighting and hones his spiritual energies, and now he must face the most daunting challenge of all: prevent his Chain of Fate from consuming itself, or be forever transformed into a soul-devouring Hollow!
Volume 8 kicks off with chapter 62, ‘Lesson 2-2: Bad Ending in the Shaft’. Whilst Ichigo tries to ascend the Shattered Shaft as his Chain of Fate consumes itself, Chad and Orihime continue their training under Yoruichi. Ichigo’s attempts to escape the Shattered Shaft prove fruitless, and his Chain of Fate completely consumes itself. A Hollow mask begins to form…
Next up is chapter 63, ‘Inner Circle Breakdown’. Ichigo begins transforming into a Hollow, though Kisuke realises he’s resisting it. Meanwhile, we get a glimpse of Ichigo’s inner world, where a mysterious man tells him that the powers Ichigo lost were those he received from Rukia – Ichigo still possesses his own Soul Reaper powers. As his inner world collapses around him, Ichigo is tasked with seeking out his powers.
In chapter 64, ‘BACK IN BLACK’, Ichigo emerges from the pit. Tessai moves to restrain him. Eventually, Ichigo emerges with a Hollow mask. He breaks it, and passes the second lesson. The third one is simple: he has to knock off Kisuke’s hat with his zanpaku-tô – only his blade is still broken.
Byakuya tells Renji that Rukia is to be executed in chapter 65, ‘Collisions’. Rukia seems to take the news in stride, but Renji has doubts about the whole thing.
We’re then introduced to the captains of the third and eleventh companies: Gin Ichimaru and Kenpachi Zaraki, respectively. Kenpachi tries to pick a fight, but Gin puts a halt to that.
Meanwhile, Ichigo’s training continues. Kisuke reveals he has a zanpaku-tô, and it is called Benihime.
Chapter 66 is ‘THE BLADE AND ME’, in which Kisuke tells Ichigo that each zanpaku-tô has its own name. With his zanpaku-tô revealed, Kisuke further destroys Ichigo’s sword, leaving him with only a hilt. After running from Kisuke for a while, Ichigo has a vision of the mysterious man from earlier – this time, he can hear his name. It is Zangetsu.
‘End of Lessons’ is the title of chapter 67, and where Ichigo is able to call on Zangetsu and thus release his zanpaku-tô. The attack that Ichigo unleashes right after that forces Kisuke to go on the defensive, though he does lose his hat. Ichigo completes the lesson. We also see that Orihime, Chad and Uryû complete their own respective training.
Chapter 68 is ‘The Last Summer Vacation’, which sees Ichigo and his classmates reunited. Ichigo’s family also make an appearance. Oh, and Tatsuki realises that Orihime intends to go somewhere. Orihime promises to come back to meet her.
Ichigo also delivers similar news to his dad.
’25:00 Gathering’ is the title of chapter 69, which begins with the R & D department making a rather interesting discovery when researching Rukia’s gigai. Meanwhile, Kisuke puts the finishing touches to something.
Ichigo receives a summons to Urahara Shoten, though his dad has a talisman to hand to him before he goes. As he heads out to Urahara Shoten, Ichigo meets with Orihime and they find Chad waiting for them. Uryû shows up shortly afterwards, and Kisuke invites them all inside so he can tell them how to get to the Soul Society.
The last chapter of this volume, and the Substitute Soul Reaper arc, is number 70, ‘Where Hollows Fear To Tread’. Kisuke reveals a senkaimon; a gate for passing between the world of the living and the Soul Society. Kisuke explains how it works, and most importantly that they have about four minutes to make it through.
Once that’s been taken care of, Yoruichi leads Ichigo and his friends through the gate.
This volume includes the first popularity poll, and another Q&A session featuring Tatsuki at the end.
That wraps up Bleach‘s first arc, which is more character driven than almost everything that comes after it. From here on out, things become more battle-oriented, though that does lead to plenty of enjoyable moments.
However, it seems that Tite Kubo’s original intention was to expand on the other world of the living characters, which could have been quite interesting. I think Tatsuki serves as some pretty compelling evidence of that, considering she was somewhat aware of the spiritual presences.
Regardless, the first arc of Bleach is rather enjoyable, with a pretty good mix of funny moments and serious drama.
In the next volume of Bleach, Ichigo and company arrive in the Soul Society. Forget about Hollows for a while, since Soul Reapers will be playing the role of antagonists from now on.