Before the showdown with Aizen commences, there is the rather large matter of the Espada Yammy. Chad, Renji, and Rukia all fall to the massive Espada, then Ichigo shows up to try and finish him off. Unfortunately, something is off with his Hollowfication powers, and even though Ichigo wants to protect his friends, there’s little he can do when his power fails him. Just when it looks like our favorite strawberry-haired hero is done for, Byakuya and Kenpachi arrive and take over the battle. Mayuri arrives, too, with a new gadget to send Ichigo back to the world of the living immediately, along with Unohana. Along the way, Unohana restores Ichigo’s spirit energy, and also informs him that he may be the only person in existence who can confront and beat Aizen. Ichigo is the only person who has never seen Aizen’s zanpaku-to’s shikai. The sword’s higher powers only work on those who have seen its shikai, which leaves only Ichigo currently immune. With Ichigo out of the way, Byakuya and Kenpachi set about bringing Yammy down in their characteristic fashions, only to enrage the Espada and have him activate his final form. Back in Karakura, Shinji finally gets serious about fighting Aizen, finally activating his sword’s ability, sakanade. Meanwhile, Komamura and Hisagi battle against Kaname, and try to understand their old friend and captain’s motivation for betraying the Soul Society. To Komamura’s horror, Kaname activates his newly attained Hollowfication powers, followed soon after by his monstrous Resurrection form.
As volume 45 begins, Shinji wastes little time trapping Aizen in his world of illusion. His sword’s ability reverses an enemy’s senses, so that right is really left, up is really down, etc. Unfortunately, Aizen figures the trick out all too quickly, but just as things are about to fall apart, Ichigo comes crashing through into the world of the living, in a prime spot to take Aizen down with a single blow. He makes two fatal errors, however. He doesn’t activate his Hollowfication (worried it won’t work properly), and he fails to realize that Aizen would of course protect his vulnerable spots ahead of time. Ichigo is immediately overwhelmed by Aizen’s immense power, but the other captains and the Visoreds step in to protect him so he can take the rogue Soul Reaper down. Ichigo watches as one by one, his allies attack Aizen with nearly no impact at all. Even attacking simultaneously, Aizen wards off every attack. Just when they finally think they’ve defeated him, Aizen reveals that they have all been under his power (Kyoka Suigetsu’s hypnosis powers) the entire time. Aizen strikes the captains down, but before he can finish them off, General Genryusai finishes his preparations and finally steps into the fight. Genryusai intents to use his deadly flames to burn Aizen, along with himself and the other captains, but he is stopped by the reappearance of Wonderweiss, whose sole purpose is to contain Genryusai’s flames. It isn’t for any petty reason that Genryusai has ruled over Soul Society’s Thirteen Court Guard Companies for 1,000 years, however.
More battles, more crazy ridiculous powers, more revelations. Just the normal Bleach fare. There’s only so many things to say about the series, especially when the focus narrows to just a couple of main battles. What is interesting here in these two volumes, however, is the amount of faith the Soul Reaper captains are placing in Ichigo. Not only do they trust him to get the job done, they genuinely believe he is their best hope and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he is able to do so. Despite the harsh words, despite the past dealings that put them on opposite sides, even captains like Byakuya and Mayuri respect Ichigo now (even if it’s a begrudging respect). Although it’s the ultimate showdown, Kubo keeps the tension high as Aizen uses his power to trick the Soul Reapers into hurting one close to their hearts. He also tugs at readers’ emotions through Kaname’s struggles as he tries to avenge the death of a dear friend (which I believe is the first time his motivation for joining up with Aizen has been explained). Not much else happens here except for some showcases of power, and some humorous and quite violent banter between Byakuya and Kenpachi. And, of course, a mid-battle cliffhanger.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.