Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volumes 48-49 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2010 and 2011 by Shueisha, October 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, fantasy, supernatural
Gin returns from disposing of Rangiku, and at last his true motivations are revealed as he lashes out at his long time master. Just like Kaname Tōsen, Gin has his own reasons for following Aizen. Perceptive readers may have picked up on his motives a long while back, but regardless, all of his patient planning is for nought. He rips the Hogyoku out of Aizen’s body, thinking it will finish him, but instead the former Captain regenerates into another new form, claiming the Hogyoku recognizes him as its master. Aizen deals a brutal blow to Gin and takes the Hogyoku back into his body. As Aizen stands amongst the devastation he has caused, Ichigo suddenly appears, changed, slightly older, and with his unconscious father slung over his shoulder. Because he can’t feel Ichigo’s spirit energy (and neither can anyone else), Aizen assumes he hasn’t evolved at all, or has traded his spiritual power for physical power, which he believes is not enough to defeat him. Ichigo doesn’t confirm or deny the assessment, but he is clearly more powerful, and it’s already been noted in recent volumes that if someone’s power is vastly superior to yours, you can’t get a read on it. It’s already been shown that no one could feel Aizen’s power anymore…except Ichigo. And that was before he stopped to train in the Dangai to learn the final getsuga tensho. Aizen grows overconfident in his form that he believes transcends both Hollows and Soul Reapers, and is taken aback by the incredible power Ichigo now wields. Aizen enters his last, monstrous form, forcing a very calm and unmoved Ichigo to put his all into one final attack – the final getsuga tensho. The price for this powerful ability is quite high – using it causes the wielder to lose all of their soul reaper powers. And at long, long last, the Arrancar Arc ends.
The Lost Agent Arc begins with volume 49. It’s been seventeen months since the battle with Aizen, and a powerless Ichigo is living a normal, everyday life in Karakura Town. Everyone has changed a little bit. Ichigo’s sister, Karin, has seen her powers grow, but rather than talk with her brother, she goes to Urahara for help. Without Ichigo acting as a substitute Soul Reaper to protect his town, Uryu has picked up the slack. Ichigo doesn’t have to see spirits anymore, hunt Hollows, or deal with any of the crazy things associated with that world. It’s what he’s always wanted – a normal life. A normal life means planning for the future, so Ichigo auctions off his Soul Reaper honed skills (the agility and athleticism he gained) to the school’s clubs, and even gets a job doing odd jobs for a woman named Ikumi Unagiya. A strange client comes in requesting information about Ichigo’s father, Isshin. The man taunts Ichigo by suggesting he may not know as much about his own family as he thinks, and piques his curiosity. When Uryu is attacked by an unknown enemy, Ichigo calls up the strange man, named Kugo Ginjo, for answers. Ginjo and his group have approached Ichigo with the intent of helping him regain his Soul Reaper powers. The group, called XCution, can pull souls out of objects and use them for their own purposes. And Ichigo isn’t the only new ally they’ve recruited.
Volume 48 finishes off the fight with Aizen and wraps everything up. Mostly. Various characters are seen continuing their training, rebuilding, getting back to normal. The final fight itself is impressive. After volume upon volume of an arrogant Aizen near effortlessly tearing down all who oppose him, he’s finally faced with something he can’t understand, and he begins to unravel. He grows desperate, drawing on more and more power, trying to come up with valid reasons for what he’s seeing. Specifically, Ichigo’s increased power and abilities. Once he realizes Ichigo may be on an entirely different plane of power than himself, even after all the work he has put into feeding and transforming the Hogyoku, he completely falls apart. His arrogance is ultimately his downfall, a classic villain’s greatest enemy – hubris. Yep, Aizen is an ancient Greek tragedy villain. Anyway, Ichigo takes him out. Or he takes himself out, depending on your interpretation. The latter falls in more with the idea that it was his pride and arrogance that ultimately destroyed him. Volume 49 depicts a now powerless Ichigo going on about his life, but clearly missing the life he’s lost. Because really, how does a guy go back to being a normal high school student after 48 volumes of Hollow killing and hanging out with badass Soul Reapers. It just doesn’t happen. And the Hollows don’t just go away. Without Ichigo to deal with them, that burden is passed on to others, and that’s something Ichigo’s never been comfortable with. I have no doubt he’ll want his powers back given the opportunity, though it does also depend on the method of regaining them. If you haven’t been reading Bleach, well, now that the big “Aizen wants to rule the world” arc is over, this might be a good spot to jump in.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.