Bleach – Season 8: Arrancar: The Fierce Fight arc

Bleach – Season 8: Arrancar: The Fierce Fight arc

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Everyone is still training for the up-coming battle with Aizen and his Arrancars, but no one is prepared for their true strength. Grimmjow makes another return to Karakura Town, accompanied by fellow Espadas Yammy, Luppi and the mysterious Wonderweiss. The defenders of Karakura struggle against their power… until Aizen’s true objectives become clear. Meanwhile, Ichigo and his team are closing in on Aizen’s headquarters and so far everything seems to be going to plan.

We have lots of one-on-one battles in this series: Ichigo vs. Dordonii, with Dordonii taking pleasure in beating Ichigo up in the hope that he uses his full abilities; Rukia vs. Aaroniero, who is a former Soul Society member that she is more than just acquainted with, which makes for a very difficult fight; Ishida vs. Cirucci, who seems to have underestimated the Quincy’s abilities; and Chad vs. Gantenbainne, which sees Chad finally harness the power of his own abilities – but is it all too late? We switch between these battles constantly as they play out in typical Bleach fashion.

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Of course, this involves breaking up these battles to make them even longer with lots of exposition, taunting, detailed explanations of what the enemy has just done and why they’ve done it and what is going to happen next as a result of this. It’s quite a tedious way of doing things and it’s something that really bothers me about the Bleach anime in general. The fans are looking for glorious fights, but it always feels like they’re never allowed to run freely without a character slowing things down just to narrate unnecessarily. Bleach is at its best when it fully concentrates on the plot or puts the effort into a decent comedy episode. When so many fights are stretched out for so many episodes, it feels like the characters are fighting for days, not minutes.

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Given that Orihime is a pretty big focus in this series, she doesn’t make much of an appearance anywhere or seems to do anything. The only time we see her is just so Arrancars can laugh at her about how poorly her friends are faring against them. I felt there were a few wasted opportunities to make things a bit more entertaining, especially during the hard slog of battles.

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Rukia takes on the Espada Aaroneiro, though she needs to realise that he isn’t Kaien anymore, and needs to accept that if she is to give herself any chance at winning. Uryuu and Renji run into Szayelaporro, whose cockiness at being able to prevent Renji from using his bankai eventually proves to be his undoing. Meanwhile, Ichigo is up against first Ulquiorra and then Grimmjow, showing that he’s definitely come on leaps and bounds since his time training with the Visoreds.

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Though there is the constant switching, every episode has a primary focus on one of the current confrontations and occasionally flicking to the others until they are all resolved. They begin with the usual taunts, the heroes losing ground and then, in typical shounen style, we have the outstanding comeback just in the nick of time. We also have bad guys that were down, defeated and dead proving that it will take more than this of finish them off. Turns out that death doesn’t necessarily mean the final curtain for characters in the Bleach universe.

As for elements that contribute story-wise, we see a selection of flashbacks scattered across these ongoing Soul Reaper vs. Arrancar battles that focus mainly on Rukia and Renji with a few spotlights on some of the Arrancar. Though not particularly detailed, they do succeed in breaking up the lengthy fights into smaller sections quite nicely. We don’t see much story looking to the future, though. We see Aizen looming mysteriously occasionally and we don’t get any more explanation about his ulterior motives, either. He’s given the good guys incentive enough to start roughing up his pawns, but not much for us viewers, I’m afraid.

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I’m not a dedicated Bleach fan, but I can see that it’s been very successful over its long run by giving the fan-base exactly what it wants. It looks like it doesn’t want to break its trademark flow of sword fighting, with each battle becoming more high-octane than the last. For me, I thought there could have been a bit more variety with the battles – why do they all have to be with swords? But then again, I imagine the fact that I’m actually questioning these things in the first place means that I’m no hardcore fan.