The fortieth volume of Bleach features Ichigo’s next major battle after his encounter with Grimmjow. A single opponent stands in his way – if Ichigo can claim victory, he can achieve the objective he originally travelled to Hueco Mundo for.
This volume runs from chapter three hundred and forty-one through to chapter three hundred and forty-nine, which makes a total of nine chapters.
While the Soul Reaper captains deal with Aizen’s forces in Karakura Town, Ichigo faces Ulquiorra in Hueco Mundo. To match the powerful Espada, Ichigo will have to rely on his Hollow powers. But will the darkness overwhelm him…?
As Ichigo fights Ulquiorra in chapter 341, ‘The Envy’, he realises that he is far better able to keep up with the Espada now. In response to that, Ulquiorra goes on the offensive. However, Orihime interferes.
Ulquiorra asks Orihime why she didn’t protect Ichigo from his first strike in chapter 342, ‘The Gluttony’. Orihime struggles to give an answer, but Ichigo tells Ulquiorra to shut up and attacks him.
As Orihime watches the battle, she is grabbed by Loly and Menoly. Ichigo tries to save her, but Ulquiorra refuses to let him pass. Yammy enters the room shortly afterwards.
When Ulquiorra refuses Yammy’s help in chapter 343, ‘The Greed’, he turns his attention to Loly and Menoly. He smacks Menoly aside, which causes Loly to use her Resurreción, Escolopendra. Yammy easily defeats her, and then asks if he can kill Orihime.
Uryû appears and manages to get Yammy to step on an anti-Arrancar mine.
Uryû sends Yammy plummeting down several floors in chapter 344, ‘The Pride’. Ichigo then asks him to protect Orihime with his life.
Ichigo Hollowfies, and is able to force Ulquiorra outside. Ulquiorra then goes straight up, above the canopy of Las Noches. Up there, he uses his Recurreción.
Rukia struggles against an endless supply of soldiers in chapter 345, ‘The Sloth’, thanks to the ability of Rudobôn’s Resurreción. He also notices when Ulquiorra breaks the canopy of Las Noches.
Above Las Noches, Ulquiorra uses his Resurreción, Murciélago. Ichigo’s only response to Ulquiorra’s power is an instinctive one; he uses Getsuga to stop himself from being decapitated.
Uryû tries to assure Orihime that Ichigo will be able to win chapter 346, ‘The Wrath’. As Ichigo and Ulquiorra continue to fight, Ichigo fires off a Getsuga which has no effect on Ulquiorra. In response, Ulquiorra demonstrates the Cero Oscuras.
Orihime and Uryû are both able to feel the power of the Cero Oscuras in chapter 347, ‘The Lust’. Orihime asks Uryû to take her up to Ichigo, and he complies.
Ichigo is heavily injured after Ulquiorra’s attack, but he refuses to fall. He acknowledges that Ulquiorra is stronger than he is, but still refuses to give up. Ulquiorra decides to show Ichigo what true despair looks like.
Uryû and Orihime ascend to Las Noches’ canopy in chapter 348, ‘The Lust 2’. They can feel a strange power as they get closer, and Uryû realises something bad is going on.
Ulquiorra reveals his Ressurección Segunda Etapa – a second stage of Resurrección that not even Aizen has seen. With it, he is able to completely overwhelm Ichigo.
As Uryû and Orihime arrive, Ulquiorra blasts a hole through Ichigo’s chest.
Orihime tries to rush to Ichigo in chapter 349, ‘The Lust 3’, but is stopped by Ulquiorra. Uryû attacks Ulquiorra, allowing Orihime to reach Ichigo. Uryû doesn’t stand much of a chance against the Espada, and all Orihime can do is scream for Ichigo’s help. Ichigo’s body seems to have some kind of reaction…
The volume ends with a popularity poll for the zanpaku-tô, as well as a small sketch suggesting that Uryû saved Loly from falling before he confronted Yammy.
Ichigo doesn’t really have a good record against Ulquiorra, does he? Another fight, and another loss. However, this one leads into something quite spectacular, even if it is the sort of out of nowhere power up that people seem to know Bleach for.
As for this volume, Ulquiorra was very much the star as he utterly overwhelmed Ichigo. His Resurreción Segunda Etapa was just overkill by that point, though I suppose it was meant as a way to make Ichigo fall into despair.
Ulquiorra’s designs are pretty great, though, with the Resurreción Segunda Etapa form being my favourite. His position as the 4th Espada does raise questions about how powerful the top three are. I also wonder if Ulquiorra would hold a higher rank if he had shown his Resurreción Segunda Etapa to Aizen – as it stands, Aizen is unaware of it. Probably.
A fairly brutal volume of Bleach, what with Ulquiorra completely overwhelming Ichigo in almost every chapter. Things look pretty grim for Orihime, but Ichigo might not be finished just yet…