In this thirteenth volume of Bleach, Ichigo and Chad find themselves confronting captains – Ichigo faces Kenpachi Zaraki, whilst Chad comes face to face with Captain Kyôraku.
Some pretty big challenges await the heroes, and in this volume we see whether they are capable of overcoming them or not.
Volume thirteen contains eight chapters, starting with number one hundred and eight and finishing up with one hundred and fifteen.
Chad has stormed his way into the heart of the Soul Society, only to meet his match in Captain Kyôraku. Meanwhile, Ichigo struggles in his battle against Kenpachi Zaraki, the captain of the 11th company. Although Ichigo succeeds in drawing blood, the secret of Kenpachi’s zanpaku-tô may be his undoing. Before Ichigo realises it, Kenpachi’s blade has pierced his heart!
We start with chapter 108, ‘A Time to Scare’, which almost immediately shows us that Chad was utterly defeated by Captain Kyôraku – though he’s still barely alive. The captain also receives the message concerning the death of another captain.
In the face of Kenpachi’s overwhelming might, Ichigo only finds himself able to run from his foe – however, the sudden disappearance of Chad’s spiritual pressure is enough for Ichigo to psych himself up and get back into the fight, wounding Kenpachi.
Kenpachi praises Ichigo for drawing blood in chapter 109, ‘Like a Tiger Trying Not to Crush the Flowers’. As their fight continues, a few of the Court Guard squad members gather and confirm the death of Captain Aizen. 4th company captain, Retsu Unohana confirms the news to two other captains – though we’re only officially introduced to 9th Company Captain, Kaname Tôsen. The assistant captain of the 9th company, Shûhei Hisagi, also puts in an appearance here.
Ichigo’s fight against Kenpachi continues, with the captain revealing that his zanpaku-tô has no name. He says that he has to restrain himself when fighting due to his immense power – and immediately stabs Ichigo right afterwards.
‘The Dark Side of the Universe’ is the title of chapter 110, where it seems as if Ichigo has been defeated by Kenpachi. Despite his injury, Ichigo remains determined to save Rukia – his zanpaku-tô, Zangetsu, appears before him and takes him into his inner world.
In Ichigo’s inner world, he comes face-to-face with a white version of himself – Zangetsu tasks Ichigo with taking his zanpaku-tô back from himself. This white Ichigo is one that people came to refer to as Ichigo’s inner hollow, but it turns out there was much more to it than that – but you’ll have to wait a long while before that information is revealed.
Ichigo fights himself in chapter 111, ‘Black and White’. Whilst he does so, Ichigo comes to the realisation that a zanpaku-tô is more than a mere tool to be used for fighting. After his epiphany, Ichigo’s consciousness returns to the real world and he gets back up to face Kenpachi once more.
Chapter 112 is ‘The Undead 2 (Rise & Rage)’, which begins with Zangetsu discussing Ichigo’s growth with the white Ichigo. Zangetsu mentions that Ichigo does not fight alone.
Ichigo strikes at Kenpachi, wounding him again. Kenpachi is thrilled by the turn of events, though he does wonder how Ichigo can be so strong and not love fighting.
Kenpachi’s subordinates, Ikkaku and Yumichika, can sense that the captain is having fun fighting Ichigo.
The chapter ends with Kenpachi removing his eyepatch and saying that he can go all out against Ichigo.
‘The Undead 3 (Closing Frantica)’ shows a messenger trying to deliver a message to Yachiru, but she’s far more interested in watching Kenpachi fight Ichigo.
With Kenpachi’s eyepatch removed, his spiritual pressure increases. In response, Ichigo borrows Zangetsu’s power to increase his own spiritual pressure. Ichigo and Kenpachi clash one last time, and they both heavily wound each other. Though Ichigo falls first, Kenpachi says that Ichigo was the one who won the fight. He collapses after that.
Yachiru thanks Ichigo on behalf of Kenpachi for the fight in chapter 114, ‘Everything Relating to the Crumbling World’. She carries off the heavily injured Kenpachi on her own (impressive considering her small stature).
We get a small flashback that shows Kenpachi and Yachiru’s first meeting, when neither of them possessed a name.
In the present day, Kenpachi tries to communicate with his zanpaku-tô, but gets nothing out of it.
We then get a flashback from Yachiru’s perspective, and learn that Kenpachi gave her that name. She’s determined to get stronger together with him.
The last order of business for this chapter is seeing that Ganju and Hanatarô are approaching their goal, whilst Yoruichi shows up where the unconscious Ichigo is.
Chapter 115, ‘Remnant’, begins with Rukia wondering if it is worth shedding blood over her – she wonders what Kaien’s response would be to that.
Yoruichi commends Ichigo for fighting Kenpachi to a draw, and swears to not let him die.
Ganju and Hanatarô are able to outwit the guards and find Rukia. Ganju is shocked to discover that Rukia is the Soul Reaper who killed his brother, Kaien Shiba. Ganju can barely hold himself back, despite Hanatarô saying that Ichigo entrusted them with her life.
However, Byakuya Kuchiki arrives before anyone can take any action.
This volume contains the second Bleach popularity poll, including some characters’ reactions to it – Kon is not pleased to be just edged out of the top ten.
We end with character profiles for Kenpachi Zaraki and Yachiru Kusajishi. Kenpachi’s theme song is “Superpredators” by Massive Attack, whilst Yachiru’s is “Yoo-Hoo!” by Sora Izumikawa.
That closes out volume 13, in which we began showing us something that will go on to become a trend: Chad being completely outclassed by an enemy. Of course, most of the focus in this volume is on Ichigo’s fight with Kenpachi.
Even after just barely managing to defeat assistant captain Renji, Ichigo’s opponent jumps up in strength by leaps and bounds. It sure seems like a hopeless endeavour at first, but it is through this fight that we come to understand the kind of bond that Soul Reapers share with their zanpaku-tô.
The same is true for Ichigo, as well – his fights had more or less been relying on instinct and the experience he gained from training with Kisuke. This fight with Kenpachi marked the first time that Ichigo had properly communicated with his zanpaku-tô, leading to his understanding that Soul Reaper and zanpaku-tô fight as one.
Whilst Ichigo’s part in the fight is impressive, Kenpachi’s sheer power and audacity are things not to be sniffed at. He suffers so many wounds at Ichigo’s hand, yet never falls until the battle is over. His berserker-like attitude towards battle makes him a formidable foe, too.
As far as fights in Bleach go, Ichigo vs. Kenpachi is arguably up there as one of the best. Ichigo’s trust in his zanpaku-tô is pitted against a lust for battle, and the fight can be felt throughout the entire Soul Society. It’s a rather impressive thing.
In the next volume, Ganju and Hanatarô find themselves in a rather problematic situation, whilst Ichigo recuperates from his fight against Kenpachi.