Volume twenty-six of Bleach ended with the Soul Reapers struggling to fight against the Arrancars, and Orihime having an encounter that will shape her role for the rest of the arc.
Of course, volume twenty-seven picks up directly from there, bringing the Soul Reaper’ fight to an end and setting up the next part of the Arrancar arc.
There are nine chapters in this volume, starting with two hundred and thirty-four and ending on chapter two hundred and forty-two.
Orihime’s return from the Soul Society is interrupted by the Arrancar Ulquiorra, who has a different, terrifying path for her. Using duplicitous tactics, Ulquiorra convinces Orihime to accompany him to Hueco Mundo, which brands her as a traitor in the Soul Society’s eyes and therefore unworthy of rescue. Ichigo refuses to abandon his friend, and sets out to storm Hueco Mundo to set her free! But can he win when the entire world is against him?!
We start volume 27 with chapter 234, ‘Not Negotiation’, in which Ulquiorra deals catastrophic wounds to Orihime’s Soul Reaper guards, and tells her that her friends will be killed if she doesn’t go back to Hueco Mundo with him.
In the world of the living, Yammy attacks Kisuke whilst he is focusing on Wonderweiss. Luppi is about ready to finish off the other Soul Reapers, but it turns out that Tôshirô hasn’t been defeated just yet.
Kisuke gets the upper hand against Yammy using some pretty neat trickery in chapter 235, ‘The Frozen Clutch.’ Elsewhere, Ichigo finds himself at Grimmjow’s mercy without his Hollow mask. Rukia intervenes and freezes Grimmjow, but it doesn’t stick.
Grimmjow attempts to blast Rukia in chapter 236, ‘The Sun Already Gone Down’, but Shinji shows up to save her. He and Grimmjow fight, and Shinji’s use of his Hollow mask results in Grimmjow almost releasing his zanpaku-tô – however, Ulquiorria appears to stop him and take him back to Hueco Mundo. Before they leave, he declares that they have been victorious.
The other Arrancars – Luppi, Yammy and Wonderweiss – also return.
After the battle against the Arrancars, the Soul Reapers rest and recuperate in chapter 237, ‘goodbye, halcyon days.’ Before Orihime departs for Hueco Mundo, she is given the opportunity to visit one of her friends – she picks Ichigo.
Tôshirô fetches Ichigo in chapter 238, ‘Eagle Without Wings’, in order to talk with the Soul Society about the disappearance of Orihime Inoue. The captain-general suggests that Orihime has turned traitor. He orders the Soul Reapers to return to the Soul Society, and forbids Ichigo from going to Hueco Mundo to save her.
Ichigo’s return to school in chapter 239, ‘WINGED EAGLES’, results in Tatsuki demanding to know where Orihime has disappeared to. Ichigo avoids the question, and just tells his friends to stay far away from him.
Ichigo goes to Kisuke for help, where he finds both Uryû and Chad are willing to lend him their aid in order to get Orihime back.
Kisuke opens a garganta – a portal into Hueco Mundo – for Ichigo, Uryû and Chad in chapter 240, ‘regeneration.’ Once they depart, Kisuke acknowledges that Tatsuki, Mizuiro and Keigo followed him.
In Hueco Mundo, Orihime shows her powers at the behest of Aizen by healing Grimmjow’s severed arm. With his full strength back, Grimmjow wastes no time in offing Luppi in order to reclaim his spot as the sixth Espada.
The path to Hueco Mundo proves to be a difficult one in chapter 241, ‘Silverflame.’ On their way, Uryû reveals the deal he made with his father to not be involved with the Soul Reapers, which means he can team up with Ichigo as he is going against the Soul Society’s orders.
In the world of the living, Isshin and Ryuken discuss their sons and their decision to go to Hueco Mundo.
Ichigo and his friends’ arrival in Hueco Mundo doesn’t go unnoticed, and they almost immediately discover an enemy.
After running to an open area to fight in chapter 242, ‘TWO MEN ARE BURNING’, Ichigo’s group find themselves confronting two Arrancars – Demora and Iceringer. Uryû and Chad step up to fight them, telling Ichigo to just stay back and watch. The Arrancars put up a fight, but Uryû devises a plan to deal with them.
That concludes Bleach‘s 27th volume, which starts probably one of the most drawn-out parts of the entire thing. It also does no favours regarding Orihime’s character development, despite the fact she does actually get some decent moments here and there throughout this arc – but we’ll worry about that when we get to them.
Highlights from this volume for me are seeing Shinji fight Grimmjow, and Chad and Uryû returning to active combat once more. They get to be relevant again – for a little while, at least…