Finally, we’re at the climax of the Arrancar arc. Things are looking grim for Karakura Town at this point, and Ichigo has his hands full with some intense training at the beginning of this volume.
There are a total of ten chapters in this forty-eighth volume of Bleach, which contains chapters four hundred and fourteen through to four hundred and twenty-three.
As Aizen strolls through Karakura Town, Ichigo undergoes furious training in order to master the one technique that could bring an end to the conflict. But when the battle is finally over, how will Ichigo’s world have changed…?
Gin returns, and tells Aizen he killed Rangiku in chapter 414, ‘DEICIDE 16’. He then volunteers to kill Keigo and the others, but it is not Ichigo’s friends he turns his blade on. After years of planning, Gin finally makes a move against Aizen.
Turns out Gin had lied about his bankai, and he uses that to his advantage.
Gin is able to pull the Hogyoku from Aizen in chapter 415, ‘DEICIDE 17’, though not without getting injured. However, Aizen rises up once more. Flashbacks throughout the chapter show that Gin decided to target Aizen after Rangiku fell victim to him in the past.
Still alive, Rangiku awakens in chapter 416, ‘DEICIDE 18 (THE END).
Aizen cuts Gin down, and thanks him for making him feel the fear of death. That allowed Aizen to become a being that transcends both Soul Reaper and Hollow.
Rangiku arrives to see the heavily wounded Gin. Just as Aizen turns his attention to her, someone else arrives: Ichigo.
Ichigo takes a moment to check on everyone in chapter 417, ‘DEICIDE 19’. Aizen is disappointed, as he cannot feel anything from Ichigo.
Gin sees that Ichigo has stronger eyes now, thus allowing him to die and leave Aizen to him.
Ichigo suggests a change of location, but Aizen thinks it is pointless. However, Ichigo physically moves Aizen to somewhere else.
Aizen believes Ichigo relinquished his spiritual pressure to gain immense strength in chapter 418, ‘DEICIDE 20’. The pair then clash, in a battle that changes the shape of the very landscape. Aizen believes that it his power that is doing it, but it turns out that Ichigo has now become capable of surprising Aizen.
Aizen puts space between himself and Ichigo in chapter 419, ‘DEICIDE 21 (Transcendent God Rock)’. The Hogyoku then further advances Aizen’s evolution, allowing him to injure Ichigo’s arm and then grab him. However, Ichigo decides to stop wasting time and brings out his ultimate technique.
Ichigo uses the Final Getsuga Tensho in chapter 420, ‘DEICIDE 22’. A flashback shows Ichigo figuring out how to learn it during his fight with Tensa Zangetsu, though it does come with a price.
By becoming Getsuga itself, Ichigo loses all his Soul Reaper powers; hence the name ‘Final’. Aizen pretty much throws a tantrum as he realises that Ichigo has surpassed him, whilst Ichigo unleashes Mugetsu.
Aizen manages to stay alive after being hit by Mugetsu in chapter 421, ‘DEICIDE 23’, whilst Ichigo’s Soul Reaper powers leave him.
However, a kido suddenly activates from within Aizen; a seal placed into him by Kisuke earlier on. Aizen is powerless to do anything but yell at Kisuke as the seal activates.
Unohana tends to the injured in chapter 422, ‘the silent victory’, whilst Byakuya and Kenpachi return from Hueco Mundo.
Kisuke talks to Ichigo during the aftermath, letting him know that he didn’t change his friends’ memories and that Aizen’s containment unit has been taken to the Seireitei.
Ichigo is reunited with his friends who have returned from Hueco Mundo, but he collapses in pain shortly afterwards.
The Central 46 sentence Aizen to 20,000 years of imprisonment in chapter 423, ‘Bleach My Soul’.
The Captain General scolds Byakuya, Kenpachi and Shunsui for losing their captains’ robes. Whilst those who were injured in the battle recuperate, other Soul Reapers decide to put more effort into their training.
After sleeping for a month, Ichigo wakes up in his home to be greeted by Orihime, Rukia, Uryû and Chad. They are aware of Ichigo losing his powers, and Ichigo knows it won’t be much longer before he’ll be no longer able to see Rukia. As his power fades, he says farewell and thanks her.
That’s it. That wraps up this volume, and the entirety of the Arrancar arc. I’ll focus on this volume first.
I particularly liked seeing Gin pull of his gambit to defeat Aizen. The way in which Gin lied about his bankai was great, as it makes a nice change from the people who honestly explain what they are capable of.
It even looks like Gin is successful for a moment, but this is Bleach and there was no way that Aizen was going to be defeated that easily.
I think the battle between Aizen and Ichigo is pretty great, as well. Everyone who attempted to fight Aizen before was utterly overwhelmed, seeing him throw a temper tantrum when the tables are turned was quite entertaining.
We also see that Ichigo has let go of his self-doubt, which was really holding him back earlier on.
With the Hogyoku’s involvement, Aizen’s fight is almost a battle of wits between himself and Kisuke. Of course, Ichigo defeats him, but it is ultimately Kisuke who seals Aizen so he can be sentenced by the Central 46.
The Arrancar arc may have gone on far longer than it should have, but this final volume is a pretty good way to cap it all off.
As for the Arrancar arc as a whole; well, I’ve already said it overstayed its welcome. I wonder how much would be lost if the Fracciónes weren’t present – sure, their fights present opportunities for a select few characters to demonstrate their abilities, but having fight after fight after fight does grow a beat wearisome.
Having Ichigo’s group stay together when they entered Las Noches may have helped as well. The fights in Bleach tend to be one-on-one affairs, and it certainly feels like a missed opportunity to not have Ichigo, Uryû, Chad, Rukia and Renji fight their enemies as a team.
This arc also does not do any favours for Orihime. There are occasions when she resolves to do something, but nothing ever comes of them. Instead, she pretty much just reduced to a damsel in distress role who seems to be able to say nothing but Ichigo’s name.
It doesn’t help that she spends a fair chunk of the arc captive, either – perhaps had it been shorter than things may have worked out for the better.
The arc definitely has shortcomings, but we do get some thrilling action out of it, and some answers as to the abilities of certain characters. The climax of the arc is great, and I particularly liked everything that happens the moment Aizen set foot in the real Karakura Town. Seeing Ichigo’s friends flee from a nigh-invincible monster made for a welcome change of pace from the endless battles we had seen before.
Of course, it soon becomes another battle, but this one is quite spectacular, complete with Ichigo and Aizen wielding absurd amounts of power that you tend to find in manga such as this one.
To sum it up, the Arrancar arc is far too long, but it does bring along plenty of spectacular fights – and other moments – that makes Bleach what it is, for better or for worse.
Now many believed that Bleach should have ended there, but it did not. Nope, it still has two more arcs to go – and I will be covering them eventually. However, after dealing with the arc fatigue of the Arrancar arc, I’m pretty keen to share my thoughts on other manga series.
After all, I’ve got a fair few volumes of manga I picked up from Comic Con to talk about.