Ichigo, Chad and Uryû have entered the home of the Hollows, Hueco Mundo as of the beginning of Bleach‘s twenty-eighth volume. As you’d expect, there are more than a few enemies between Ichigo’s group and their objective.
There are nine chapters in this volume of Bleach, from two hundred and forty-three up to two hundred and fifty-one.
Ichigo, Chad and Uryû are determined to rescue Orihime from Aizen’s vile machinations. But though the Arrancars’ fortress is in sight, the would-be heroes must first pass Tres Cifras – the land of the disgraced Arrancars, who see destroying Ichigo and his friends as a way to redeem their honour!
Chad and Uryû’s fight against Demora and Iceringer continues in chapter 243, ‘The Knuckle & The Arrow’. Uryû has a new weapon; a spirit bow called Ginrei Kojaku, whilst Chad has developed a new technique called El Directo. Using those, Uryû and Chad make short work of their opponents.
With their enemies defeated, Ichigo and the others press forward in chapter 244, ‘Born From The Fear’. They emerge outside in Hueco Mundo, with Las Noches – the fortress of the Arrancars.
Inside Las Noches, Aizen casually greets the ten Espadas and informs them of the invasion.
Aizen tells the Espada the names of the three invaders in chapter 245, ‘THE WAY WITHOUT ENEMIES’. Grimmjow is eager to face Ichigo, but Aizen stops him from doing so and pretty much tells the Espadas just to wait.
As Ichigo, Chad and Uryû discuss how the atmosphere will affect their abilities, a giant worm Hollow appears and it seems to be chasing a human. Ichigo decides to go and help.
Ichigo and his friends attack the Hollows chasing the supposed human in chapter 246, ‘The Great Desert Bros.’, only to discover that they’ve encounter an Arrancar – Nel Tu – and three Hollows: Pesche, Dondochakka and Bawabawa.
Bawabawa willingly gives Ichigo and the others a ride through Hueco Mundo, though they soon come upon more reistance – a Hollow made of sand known as Runuganga. Ichigo is unable to harm it, but the arrival of Rukia and Renji brings the encounter to an end.
Ichigo’s reunion with Rukia and Renji is a painful one as they smack him about for not waiting to go to Hueco Mundo in chapter 247, ‘United On The Desert’. After being introduced to Nel Tu and her companions, the group presses on.
Inside Las Noches, Ulquiorra informs Orihime of Ichigo’s arrival.
Having arrived at Las Noches, Ichigo and Renji create an entrance for themselves in chapter 248, ‘Alive and Back Here Once Again’. As they work their way through the fortress, they come upon a path that splits off in five different directions. Ichigo, Chad, Uryû, Rukia and Renji all decide to take a different path, though not before swearing to survive and meet again before they depart.
Nel Tu decides to follow Ichigo in chapter 249, ‘Back to the Innocence’. Pesche and Dondochakka manage to lose track of her, so they end up choosing a random path to go down.
Within Las Noches, Nnoitora approaches Ulquiorra and starts asking questions about Orihime. We get some exposition about the method they used in order to persuade Orihime to go to Hueco Mundo.
A flashback shows Orihime’s arrival at Hueco Mundo, where she is greeted by Aizen. Two of Aizen’s loyal servants, Loly and Menoly, are less than pleased when Aizen dismisses them so he can talk to Orihime alone.
Aizen shows the Hôgyoku, saying that he trusts Orihime. Silently, Orihime decides that she needs to destroy the Hôgyoku.
Nel Tu catches up to Ichigo in chapter 250, ‘Five Ways To Three Figures’, and they soon encounter Arrancar No. 103, Dordoni.
Tôsen and Ichimaru discuss the location of the invaders – they are in the lair of the Tres Cifras. Arrancars with 3 digit numbers are fallen Espadas, known as Privaron Esparadas. Of course, Ichigo underestimates his opponent upon hearing his number.
It is revealed that Chad and Uryû have also encountered Privaron Espadas in chapter 251, ‘Baron’s Lecture 1st Period’. Dordoni tells Ichigo that he will need to release his bankai to stand a chance, but Ichigo is convinced that he can’t be wasting his bankai on a foe who is not an Espada.
Dordoni releases his zanpaku-tô, Giralda, and starts to overwhelm Ichigo.
The action in Hueco Mundo kicks off properly in this volume of Bleach, beginning with the introduction of Chad and Uryû’s new powers. Enjoy their relevance whilst it lasts.
This volume also brings up the issue of Rukia deciding to split their forces up, and everyone agreeing to it – the decision is questioned, but Renji backs her up on it. I do wonder how things might have played out if all five of them stuck together – for a start, it’s possible that there would have been only one Privaron Espada for them to deal with.
But well, this is Tite Kubo we’re talking about, and his method of creating characters to deal with writer’s block can probably be blamed.
Questionable decisions aside, this volume has some nice action scenes for Uryû and Chad at the beginning.
I also like Orihime’s resolve to destroy the Hôgyoku herself, though ultimately nothing comes of it. It’s a shame she ends up demoted to not much more than a damsel in distress, particularly when you take into consideration her powers. The whole Arrancar arc would’ve certainly be shorter if Orihime was allowed to follow through on her resolve…
Also, why is this volume called ‘Baron’s Lecture Full-Course’, when we only get one part of the ‘Baron’s Lecture’? Probably best not to worry about it too much.