How would you rate episode 18 of
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.1
”I think we’re quite excellent adversaries if you want to make a name for yourself.”
That’s what Rojuro says when he and Kensei arrive to take on this week’s Quincy adversary, and while he meant it as a tongue-in-cheek bit of pre-fight boasting, he has no idea how right he is. Once, long ago, the Vizard represented a cool new faction within the world and power-scale of , combining the ferocious power of Hollows with the varied powers and strategy of Soul Reapers. Then they all arrived in force during the Fake Karakura Town battle, promptly got their heads kicked in by Aizen, and haven’t factored into much of anything since. Now, much like Shinji’s instant KO last week, it seems their cosmic role in this story is to lose to make the bad guys seem really strong. In the polite company, we’d call them “Enhancement Talent” and in an honest company, we’d call them total Jobbers.
That bit of wrestling parlance is especially fitting here, as they take on the ludicrous MASK DE MASCULINE; the beefy, mustachioed luchador who I will only refer to in all-caps from now on. He deserves it. Pretty much all my affection for this episode comes from just how goofy this guy is with his bizarre gimmick. It’s not just that he’s taking out all these magic samurai with exaggerated wrestling techniques and calling them “Villains” for him to stomp out like he’s shooting a backstage promo. It’s that being a baffling, hammy wrestler is his superpower. So long as his symbiotic fan James is there to cheer him on, he can never be hurt and never lose, because Superstars never die, baby. It’s pure cheese, and I’d honestly think the whole thing was embarrassing if it wasn’t so damn fun.
While Kensei and Rojuro’s loss is pretty embarrassing for them, it’s a blast to watch. There are some great cuts of animation as MASK DE MASCULINE mollywops the two of them through buildings, grinding Kensei into the ground with knee drops and elbows, and blasts perfectly star-shaped holes into them with his mask’s laser beams. He even punches out his own eardrums once Rojuro makes the rookie mistake of explaining how his Bankai works. Is it a dramatically satisfying way to progress the tension and stakes of this war? Not really. Is it so much fun I don’t care? Absolutely – especially when we get to see the mixture of horror and exasperated disbelief on the Soul Reapers’ faces when they get taken down by a burly man in a Speedo. If the rest of this season will be Villain-of-the-Week battles, I can only hope the rest of them can offer the same amount of unique and entertaining personality as this mad lad.
It’s also fitting that this leads to Renji’s return from the Soul King’s palace. I don’t think any character in (besides Chad) has earned the title of Jobber as well as Renji – the dude stomped Uryu, off-screen, to start the Soul Society arc, and has proceeded to get his ass handed to him by every opponent that mattered since. So his arrival as the hero is a long-awaited bounce back. It’s also fun to see him play the Heel against MASK DE MASCULINE, calling back to when he played the same role for Ichigo all those years ago. Even the reveal about his new Bankai works for me – since the idea that Zabimaru only revealed part of its power to him would explain why he’s taken L after L since achieving Bankai. I would have preferred to see the sword spirit reveal that itself, rather than Ichibe just telling him, but So-Oh Zabimaru looks way cooler either way.
Unfortunately, the episode’s energy wanes right before Renji delivers the finisher. Despite playing the Heel, Mr. No-Brows with his new sword pulls out an easy, near-instantaneous win like his name was John Cena. It’s so fast that for a minute I thought it was a fakeout. Surely a single blow, even a cool new one that our hero had just pulled out, couldn’t crumble MASK DE MASCULINE to dust with minutes to spare, right? It’s practically anticlimactic, and dampens my overall enthusiasm for this fight, along with the episode as a whole. At least it was a fun ride for a while.
Season 2 is currently streaming on Hulu.