Though I did buy a few fair volumes of manga from Comic Con that I can’t wait to share my thoughts on, I figured I’d at least get up to the end of Bleach‘s Arrancar arc before that.
The fights between the Soul Reaper captains and the Espada continue in this volume of Bleach. There are a total of ten chapters in this volume, which contains chapters three hundred and sixty-eight through to three hundred and seventy-seven.
The battle against Aizen’s Espadas continues as the Soul Reapers search for a way to defeat Barragan’s terrifying abilities. Meanwhile, Shunsui will need every trick in his bag to compete against Stark!
Shuhei joins Captain Komamura to fight against Tôsen in chapter 368, ‘The Fearless Child’. Mashiro attacks Wonderweiss, whilst Tôshirô and Hiyori end up arguing. With those two distracted, Lisa takes the opportunity to start fighting Halibel.
Hachigen greets Soi Fon, but she denies all knowledge of him. Regardless, he tries to use kido to lock Barragan away, but Barragan’s power causes it to age and decay.
Hachigen requests Soi Fon’s aid in chapter 369, ‘Spit on Your Own God’ – more specifically, he needs her bankai. Hachigen then uses kido to entrap Barragan, leaving him unable to escape the blast of Soi Fon’s bankai.
Soi Fon suffers a lot of strain from using Jakuhô Raikôben twice in quick succession in chapter 370, ‘Discussing Life from God’s Perspective’. Turns out not to have been effective, though, since Barragan is only angered. Even in his Hollowfied state, Hachigen struggles to hold back Barragan’s power.
However, when his arm starts to succumb to Barragan’s power, Hachigen uses kido to give it to Barragan. Turns out that Barragan is just as susceptible to his own power as everything else.
Chapter 371, ‘Kingdom of Hollows’ is a flashback that shows Barragan reigning over Hueco Mundo, though he grows bored. That’s when Aizen suddenly appears in front of him, and shows the power he wields.
As Barragan fades away in the present, he tries to attack Aizen. However, his attack never reaches its target.
Love attacks Stark with his shikai, ‘Tengumaru’ in chapter 372, ‘The Metal Cudgel Flinger’. Stark seems to have been rattled by his comrade’s defeat, but Lilinette gets his mind back in the game. After Love unleashes his Hifuki no Kozuchi technique, Stark responds with a technique of his own.
Stark is able to summon a pack of wolves to fight alongside him in chapter 373, ‘Wolves Ain’t Howl Alone’. Both Love and Rôjûrô (otherwise known as Rose) Hollowfy, and the latter uses his shikai, Kinshara. Turns out the wolves are ceros, but Rose’s warning comes too late. Just as Stark is about to deal the final blow to his foes, he is attacked from behind.
Shunsui emerges from a shadow in chapter 374, ‘Gray Wolf, Red Blood, Black Cloth, White Bone’, and explains that his zanpaku-tô, Katen Kyôkotsu can turn children’s games into reality. Shunsui and Stark’s battle becomes a deadly game, with both trading blows. As they fight, Stark thinks about how he envied the weak or wanted a friend as strong as he was. Shunsui delivers a fatal blow at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 375, ‘EXecution, EXtinction’ has a flashback showing Stark and Lilinette meeting with Aizen. In the present, Stark turns his mind back to his meeting with Lilinette before he fades away.
Lisa uses her shikai, Haguro Tonbo, to fight against Halibel. Hiyori joins her and releases her own shikai, Kubikiri Orochi. Tôshirô doesn’t stay out of the fight, either.
Aizen decides that the time to bring things to an end has come, so he personally cuts down Halibel and says that the Espadas were not worthy of fighting under him.
Halibel tries to stab Aizen in chapter 376, ‘EXecution, EXtinction 2’, but naturally her attack does not find its mark. With all the Espada defeated, Aizen challenges the Thirteen Court Guard Companies and the Visoreds.
With her guard let down, Mashiro is open to an attack from Wonderweiss. However, she counters his attack and proceeds to deliver a beatdown to him – until her mask wears off. Wonderweiss is able to deliver a powerful attack, but Kensei steps in to prevent any further harm.
Kensei uses his bankai, Tekken Tachikaze, in chapter 377, ‘Shout at the Dark’ to fight Wonderweiss. As that happens, Aizen taunts the other Visoreds. Despite Shinji telling them not to fall for it, Hiyori can’t suppress her anger and charges right in. As a result, she gets cut in two by Gin. Shinji cries out for Ichigo to arrive.
That’s it for Bleach‘s 43rd volume. I really like Hachigen’s strategy for taken on Barragan, though it does take a bit of trial and error for him to formulate a plan to deal with him. Seeing a being who claimed to be a deity taken out by his own power is just satisfying.
Seeing Shunsui’s zanpaku-tô put to good use was great as well – it’s the first time we’ve got a proper explanation of his shikai, and Shunsui knows how to put it to good use. Stark puts up a pretty great fight on his end as well, particularly with the way he adapts to Katen Kyôkotsu.
It’s less satisfying to see Tôshirô, Hiyori and Lisa robbed of a proper fight against Halibel because of Aizen. A potentially interesting battle was squandered simply because Aizen believed that the Espadas no longer were required.
I also believe that Kensei is the first Visored to show his bankai – considering he was a former captain, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he knows bankai. Unfortunately, we don’t really get to see what it can do.
Yet more action is packed into this volume. It also marks a shift into who the Soul Reapers will be fighting, as the Espadas have served their purpose. There’s some pretty neat tactics on display in the fights in this volume, and that makes for some enjoyable reading. Hachigen getting the better of Barragan is certainly up there as one of the best moments in the Arrancar arc.