Bleach – Season 9: The New Captain Shūsuke Amagai arc

Bleach – Season 9: The New Captain Shūsuke Amagai arc

imageDo tsundere princesses float your boat? Then this season of Bleach is for you. Rurichiyo Kasumioji is heir to a powerful Soul Society household, but a relative who wants the power for himself is trying to have her assassinated. Cue Ichigo for bodyguard duties. However, new Soul Reaper captain Shūsuke Amagai knows more about the secrets of the Kasumioji clan then he lets on.

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Amagai has spent most of his time on distant missions. So long, in fact, that he is fairy unknown to any of the other captains. After a shaky start, though, Shūsuke and his right-hand man Kibune soon prove their skills and earn the respect of everyone. All except lieutenant Kira, who feels his position is now threatened.

Spoilt heiress Rurichiyo Kasumioji has just arrived in the human world with protectors Kenryu and Enryu now that they realised there’s a target on their mistress’ back. Not long after the group reach Karakura, they encounter Ichigo and Rukia – and find the extra protection Rurichiyo needs.

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Two distinct plot lines here: the arrival of Captain Amagai and the natural tension that arises from being put in charge of a group of people that don’t know you. After he establishes his power to the team, it’s the viewers turn to decide if he’s a good guy or a bad one. Only time will tell. Then we have Rurichiyo – a stubborn brat who’s unaware of the threat on her life. As she begins to realise her situation, she makes silly and impulsive decisions that ultimately make life harder for new ‘bodyguards’ Ichigo and Rukia. Every time an assassin is defeated, it seems a stronger and better-equipped one replaces them.

This wouldn’t be Bleach without copious amounts of fighting – in both plot lines. Amagai impressively demonstrates his fighting prowess and Ichigo has plenty of professional killers to wade through. This time there’s a bigger focus on the number of fights rather than length, so battles are tolerably short and less roundabout than what we’ve been seeing recently, which is refreshing.

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When Rurichiyo is abducted some of the Soul Reapers become suspicious that there’s something untoward going on within the clan – but efforts to persuade head Soul Reaper Yamamoto that something is wrong seem to fall on deaf ears. Amagai is the one who agrees, and so joins Ichigo and Rukia to uncover the truth. The fact is that he already knows and may just be directly involved.

It’s hardly a shock that the two main plots for this season have begun to intertwine, so when Kibune is spotted in the Kasumioji compound, at least Kira is smart enough to put two and two together. But convincing others will be more difficult. Are all the other squad captains being deliberately obtuse? After being given orders to treat Ichigo as a traitor, they are quite happy to hunt him down without questioning anything. And they were just fighting side-by-side in the previous season. I know this is a filler arc, but you think someone would have cared enough about character continuity to do something about this.

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This time around, we don’t have the most complex plot. Rurichiyo’s problems turn out to almost be a sideshow, a distraction from the main event of learning what Amagai has been making use of the clan for. Towards the end, she is limited to only the occasional cameo. Amagai is revealed have been doing some underhand plotting, but his reasoning is surprisingly well explained and believable (I thought he was rather justified). However, his reasoning is eventually ripped from underneath him in a plot ‘twist’ that is counterproductive to most of the arc. Pretty disappointing.

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In the final episodes ‘next episode’ preview, we see Ichigo back with Orihime and the rest of the team, reminding us that this season was just a detour and now we have to climb back into the middle of a rescue mission and thwarting Aizen. And we have that disconcerting feeling of knowing that we’ve just watched a lot of non-canon episodes that have nothing to do with Tite Kubo’s storyline. Wonderful.

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It’s not the worst Bleach filler, but it’s not the best either. Rurichiyo was character that brought fun to an anime full of characters that lack it. Plus it was good to have more female characters around for a change – we’ve become a bit short in that area recently. There’s a lot about this story that made it good as an isolated season, but it just could have played out a little better – less so-called ‘twists’ and more character continuity. I wonder if things will suddenly snap back to normal now that we’re back in Heuco Mundo for the next season?