The Soul Society suffers a major blow in volume twelve of Bleach due to a sudden, unforeseen event. Meanwhile, Ichigo and his friends continue on with their mission, which will inevitably lead them to cross paths with some of the most powerful Soul Reapers…
Volume twelve contains ten chapters. Nine of these, ninety-nine to one hundred and seven, cover the present day Soul Society arc, whilst the last chapter in the volume is one of the unconventionally numbered ones.
With reports of powerful intruders defeating a number of assistant captains, the inner sanctum of the Soul Society – the Seireitei, the home of the Soul Reapers – is put on a state of high alert. Matters are further compounded by the mysterious death of a prominent captain. Is his death a cover-up to prevent a valuable secret from being exposed? Meanwhile, Ichigo confronts Kenpachi Zaraki, captain of the eleventh company, and by far the most brutal fighter in the Seireitei!
Ichigo collapses at the beginning of chapter 99, ‘Dead Black War Cloud’, after his fight with Renji. Ganju and Hanatarô take Ichigo back into the subterranean canals, where the latter heals him.
Izuru happens upon Renji, but before he can make preparations to heal him, Byakuya appears and tells them to throw him in a cell. We also see Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya warn Momo Hinamori to be weary of Gin Ichimaru.
The chapter ends with the Head Captain declaring all-out war on the Ryoka.
Hanatarô begins healing Ichigo in chapter 100, ‘Flower on the Precipice’. He’s eager to get back out there, but his injuries prove to be too much. Hanatarô also discovers a Hollow mask on Ichigo’s person.
After Renji’s defeat, Momo spends some time with the captain of her company, Sosuke Aizen. She is able to take comfort in his words, though she ends up oversleeping.
When she gets up, Momo discovers a shocking scene.
Momo’s emotions gets the better of her, and she tries to attack Gin Ichimaru in chapter 101, ‘Split Under the Red Stalk’. Izuru protects his captain, but Tôshirô intervenes before things get too out of hand. Tôshirô has a warning for Gin.
The chapter ends witch Ichigo recovered from his battle with Renji, and ready to get back to rescuing Rukia.
Chad manages to find the time to doze off in chapter 102, ‘Nobody Wins’. He wakes up just as Soul Reapers are approaching, and easily defeats them. However, Chad unknowingly approaches the place where Assistant Captain Nanao Ise and Captain Shunsui Kyôraku are.
As Ichigo, Ganju and Hanatarô rush to their destination, a huge spiritual pressure engulfs them.
Momo receives a letter from Aizen in chapter 103, ‘Dominion’. It’s contents visibly shock her.
Ichigo and his companions push on despite the overwhelming spiritual pressure. However, it’s not too long before Kenpachi Zaraki stands before Ichigo.
Chapter 104 is ‘The Undead’. Ganju and Hanatarô make a break for it, whilst Kenpachi focuses solely on Ichigo. He allows Ichigo to have the first strike, but Ichigo just can’t muster the strength to cut the captain.
‘Spring, Spring, Meets the Tiger’ is the title of chapter 105. Hanatarô begs Ganju to go back to Ichigo, but Ganju acknowledges that neither of them stand a chance against a captain – only Ichigo is capable of fighting someone on that level.
Having allowed Ichigo to make the first move, Kenpachi draws his sword.
Elsewhere, Chad encounters a Soul Reaper whom he almost immediately puts out of commission. However, Captain Kyôraku appears before him right after that.
Captain Kyôraku tries to reach a peaceful resolution with Chad in chapter 106, ‘Cause to Confront’. However, Chad is determined to rescue Rukia, because Ichigo is putting his life on the line.
Chad’s attacks are not able to reach the captain, who decide he has to kill Chad out of respect.
Chapter 107, ‘Heat in Trust’, is mostly a flashback in which Chad gets involved in some trouble with delinquents. However, Ichigo shows up to save him, which led to Ichigo and Chad promising that they would fight for each other’s sake.
Recalling that promise, Chad tries to strike Captain Kyôraku, only to be cut down with ease.
Extra content in this volume includes a Radio-Kon Baby interview with Uryû, and chapter 0.8, ‘a wonderful error’. This chapter shows how Mizuiro and Keigo came to be friends with Ichigo and Chad.
This volume presents a rather interesting twist on the plot what with the fate of a particular captain – the Ryoka invasion has the Seireitei in a panic, and this event does nothing to help with that.
Suspicion is cast on Gin Ichimaru, and there’s also the small matter of the letter that Momo received.
On the action side of things, we get to see the kind of power that the captains of the Soul Society possess – even when holding themselves back. Captain Kyôraku doesn’t even need his shikai to defeat Chad, and Kenpachi willingly allows Ichigo to strike him.
At this point in the story, the captain certainly seem like insurmountable obstacles for the heroes to overcome.
Next time, we’ll see if Ichigo is able to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacle that stands before him.