How would you rate episode 17 of
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.2
With Bankai and Voll Stern Dich returned to their respective sides, we’re fully in the thick of it now, and that means it’s time for to return to where it’s most comfortable: one on one match-ups. Our first bout of this new phase of the war features the Explosive- and Plosive-loving Bambietta Basterbine vs Soul Society’s Resident Furry, Sajin Komamura. It’s fitting that we start this off with a revenge match from the first invasion, but as the opening salvo for the “real” blood war, “Heart of Wolf” leaves something to be desired.
On a narrative and character level, at least, it’s a solid little story. While never a favorite of mine, Komamura’s quiet tragedy through the Aizen saga – being betrayed by the one man he called a friend, eventually forced to kill him to protect the greater society that he had always hidden from – was some compelling drama. Seeing that same sense of duty and loyalty twist into a raging beast of vengeance, hungry for the blood of those who killed Yamamoto, is a potent (presumed) capstone to his whole story. The hints that the “Werewolf Clan” give to the larger cosmology of are also pretty neat, made all the more tantalizing for how little is revealed. It’s cryptic enough that, between the giant talking dog that eats sacrificed organs and the giant-er sword automaton, it practically feels like a Dark Souls side quest, complete with a tragic conclusion for its central character. Komamura quite literally sacrificed his humanity for the sake of vengeance he’ll never be able to claim, yet even as a weary and beaten wolf, Iba is willing to pick him up and carry his captain at least a bit closer to that doomed catharsis.
Mechanically though, the actual fight is a letdown. For all the focus she got before this, Bambietta goes out like a total punk, and not even in a satisfying way. That sucks because her power is both dangerous and tricky enough to make for a compelling challenge. Yet Komamura no-sells her stand-like bomb powers without breaking a sweat, because he’s temporarily immortal, explaining as much to his opponent before one-shotting her into the dirt. It’s a pretty severe anti-climax to start this new phase of the war, and it frankly makes boasting about Voll Stern Dich from the last episode feel like empty bluster. Even with the justification that Komamura was using a temporary invincibility star to do it, seeing one of the Quincy go out so easily just makes them look weak, rather than making the Soul Reapers look formidable.
It doesn’t help that the fight itself features some noticeable technical shortcomings. I’m alright with the CG for Komamura’s towering Bankai – while there are some moments of awkward movement, it’s overall pretty well-integrated with the 2D visuals and environments. I even like its goofy mustache. The bigger issue is the sound design – a consistent but previously forgivable weakness in TYBW that comes back to bite it here. Dangai Joue looks and moves like a Kaiju-sized threat, but its footsteps sound like somebody hitting a metal washtub with a mallet, plunking along with all the audible menace of a sitcom janitor who got his foot stuck in a bucket. It drains the menace right out of the whole thing, and further weakens an already disappointing battle.
On the plus side, the battle being over so quickly means we have time to set up other bouts in the back half. I’m most excited for Luchador Quincy to take on Rojuro and Kensei. Partly because Kensei was always my favorite design among the Vizard, but mostly because the sight of a wacky pro-wrestler beating the stuffing out of the Soul Reapers is just hilarious. It’s boisterous, campy, and a perfect mix of legitimately intimidating and infuriatingly silly. There also seems to be some untoward stuff going down with the remaining ladies of the Sternritter, with “Gigi” doing…something to Bambietta after her defeat. Not sure what’s up with that, but Gigi is voiced by Nao Tōyama and I’m never going to complain about getting to hear her.
The most important part of this episode, however, is back up in the Soul King’s palace. I was worried that relegating Ichigo’s training to post-credits sequences would get repetitive, turning into ‘s equivalent of constantly cutting over to Goku running down Snake Way. However, that turns out to have been a smart move. The process of this whole ordeal amounts to Ichigo walking down a long path while his swords get progressively heavier, which really wouldn’t make for a compelling episode on its own, but it turns out to be vitally important and foreboding in its secret purpose. Between Ichibe’s narration and the cryptic flashes Ichigo keeps getting, it appears as if Zero Squad isn’t just trying to buff up our hero – they’re testing to see if he’s capable of becoming the next Soul King.
That’s a pretty compelling idea, especially after Shunsui’s little talk with the rest of Ichigo’s friends in the season premiere. It’s most certainly a fate Ichigo would not want for himself – effectively imprisoned in a separate dimension, forever holding down the corners of the universe with no connection to the loved ones he seeks power to protect. It would effectively be a more damning version of when he lost his spiritual awareness after defeating Aizen and dramatically complicates his quest to get stronger. Sure, it may be necessary to defeat Ywach, but like the Final Getsuga Tensho, it could come at the sacrifice of what matters most to Ichigo. It’s a great twist, is my point, not quite enough to balance out this episode’s shortcomings on its own, but exactly the kind of shot in the arm this arc needed.
Season 2 is currently streaming on Hulu.