I should probably get back to discussing my thoughts on the Bleach manga, huh? Particularly as with the twenty-first volume, the Soul Society arc comes to a close and the Arrancar arc starts.
Everything up to volume forty-eight is considered part of the Arrancar arc, so I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it for a while. From what I’ve seen, it seems that Tite Kubo never originally intended for the arc to run on for as long as it did.
Regardless, let’s just dive into looking at volume twenty-one of Bleach, which contains chapter one hundred and seventy-nine up to and including chapter one hundred and eighty-seven.
Ichigo and his friends return to the world of the living, where life goes on as usual. But the arrival of a new transfer student raises disturbing questions, for outside school he carries a zanpaku-tô and wears the mask of a Hollow…
We start with chapter 179, ‘Confession in the Twilight’, which takes place immediately after Aizen has departed the Soul Society. Soul Reapers run around tending to the injured, and Byakuya also reveals to Rukia that his deceased wife was her older sister.
Chapter 180, ‘Something in the Aftermath’, takes place a week after Aizen’s departure, and shows how the Soul Society is recovering from prior events. Ichigo tries to get in a sparring match with Ikkaku, but Kenpachi has other ideas. We also see that Tôshirô has fully recovered from his encounter with Aizen. The chapter ends with Orihime unable to find Rukia.
Ichigo goes searching for Rukia in chapter 181, ‘AND THE RAIN LEFT OFF’, running into various Soul Reapers around the Seireitei. Meanwhile, Rukia goes to the Shibas to apologise for Kaien’s death. Ichigo catches up to her afterwards, and she states her intention to stay in the Soul Society.
With that done, the a few Soul Reapers gather to see Ichigo and his friends off as they return to the world of the living.
As soon as Ichigo and his friends emerge in the world of the living in chapter 182, ‘GET BACK FROM THE STORM (TRIGGER FOR A NEW CONCERTO)’, Kisuke is there to greet them and apologise for not telling them about his connection to the Soul Society. We also see that Ichigo was handed a deputy Soul Reaper combat pass. After that, everyone returns to their respective homes.
Ichigo returns to his everyday life in chapter 183, ‘eyes of the unknown’ – well, almost. His combat pass alerts him whenever a Hollow shows up, and it does exactly that during class – though it seems that only those who are attuned to spiritual pressure can hear it. Whilst Ichigo vanquishes the Hollow that appeared, a stranger watches on.
In chapter 184, ‘HUSH’, a new student enrols in Ichigo’s class – a boy by the name of Shinji Hirako. Whilst out slaying Hollows, Ichigo meets Zennosuke Kurumadani, who does not recognise the combat pass. Shinji also appears, and warns Ichigo that ‘they’ will feel his presence. Hollows start appearing in Karakura, with Ichigo’s friends in their sights.
A Hollow attacks Uryû in chapter 185, ‘Be My Family or Not’. He’s not the only one, either – Kon, who is inhabiting Ichigo’s body – comes face-to-face with Grand Fisher.
Shinji reveals that he not only has a zanpaku-tô, but also a Hollow’s mask. He tells Ichigo he is a ‘Vizard’ (I’m fairly certain that went to to be translated as ‘Visored’ later on, but I’ll go with what I can see on the page in front of me).
Meanwhile, Uryû struggles to fight the Hollow, due to having lost his powers in the Soul Society. When things look dire, somewhere appears to save him.
It is revealed that the person who saved Uryû was his father, Ryuken Ishida, in chapter 186, ‘Tell Your Children the Truth’. Turns out Uryû’s claim of being the last Quincy were false – Ryuken very much possesses Quincy powers as well. Ryuken finishes off the Hollow and offers to restore Uryû’s powers as long as he never associates with Soul Reapers again.
Kon tries to flee from Grand Fisher, but is unable to escape. A Soul Reaper appears and challenges Grand Fisher.
The Soul Reaper that appeared is revealed to be none other than Ichigo’s father, Isshin Kurosaki, in chapter 187, ‘THE CIGAR BLUES, PART TWO’.
Ichigo and Shinji are able to feel strong spiritual pressure, but neither of them know who it belongs to. Ichigo turns down Shinji’s invitation to join the Vizard, and does a runner.
Grand Fisher reveals that he is an Arrancar – a Hollow that removed its mask to gain Soul Reaper powers. He wields a massive zanpaku-tô, which mirrors the size of his spiritual pressure. He tries to attack Isshin with his blade, but Isshin easily bifurcates the Arrancar.
Thus ends volume 21 of Bleach, which properly concludes the Soul Society arc and then starts the Arrancar arc. Some pretty interesting revelations in there concerning both Ichigo’s and Uryû’s fathers.
We also have the introduction of characters who have crossed the boundary between Soul Reaper and Hollow – the Vizard and the Arrancar. Grand Fisher’s Arrancar form was alluded to much earlier on in the manga, but we had to get through the entire Soul Society arc before the pay-off from that particular piece of information.
Though we have been introduced to both Vizard and Arrancar, we aren’t really shown what these hybrids are capable of – whilst Ichigo had little control over his Hollow mask, Shinji being able to materialise it at will shows that it is possible to learn control.
Without a doubt, there are some interesting concepts introduced in this arc. The beginning has certainly created some intrigue, but the sheer length of the Arrancar arc make it quite a slog to get through.