Bleach – Season 14: Arrancar: Downfall arc

Bleach – Season 14: Arrancar: Downfall arc

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Aizen leads Tosen, Gin and the espadas as they continue to invade the World of the Living. Aizen’s real objective is to annihilate Karakura Town to created the Ouken – the royal key, and take over Soul Society. The Soul Reapers anticipate this and prepare for battle. Meanwhile, Ichigo is determined to save Orihime from the Fifth Tower where she is still being held captive, but he will have to get past Ulquiorra, first.

Meanwhile, The Visoreds decide that now is the time to help the Soul Reapers destroy the espadas and take their stand against Aizen and his defected Soul Reaper lieutenants. After rescuing Orihime and battling Ulquiorra, Ichigo is shaken up by the fact that his Hollowfication now feels different. As Ichigo finally joins the fight against Aizen, the ex-Soul Reaper reveals a shocking truth about Ichigo and goes for the killer strike… only for it to be deflected by Ichigo’s father, Isshin. Isshin whisks Ichigo away to the Precipice World where he can acquire the ‘Final Getsugatensho’ which could defeat Aizen. After achieving this incredible power, Ichigo returns to Karakura Town to defeat Aizen once and for all.

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This arc brings about the end of a storyline that has lasted several years, so there are many plot lines and references to wrap up along the way. These are all mainly dealt with long pieces of expositional dialogue between the main characters as well as flashbacks to earlier points in the series (so long ago that they were not shown in HD – a flashback indeed), now with new scenes to illustrate new points.

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In the present day, the battles rage on in the typical Bleach way that we have become accustomed to, occasionally treated to the odd flurry of something different when those new powers are whipped out (been fighting for ages, but kept this one back just in case). However, you know this is it now. This is the arc where everything that has happened so far is coming to a head. Will Aizen get his comeuppance? Will Ichigo master his powers in time? Now that we know what this arc ends with, you feel instilled with the compulsion keep watching, something which I haven’t experienced with Bleach for a long time.

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However, we’re still stuck with Bleach‘s fatal flaw: those fillers. Not just any old fillers that, say, could help explain a character’s backstory or develop supporting personalities, but fillers that are there just for the sake of it and jerk the viewer out of the immersive main plot for a couple of slapstick episodes with a silly out-of-the-timeline story. For example, episode 287 involves Ichigo waking up in a desert with Chad, Uryu and Orihime dressed in Arabian style and introducing themselves to him as completely different characters with different names, who are in search of a random treasure called the ‘Snow Crystal’. Whilst mildly humorous, these filler episodes bring a halt the pace of the preceding episodes and it’s irritating.

imageTowards the end of this arc, as the battles peter away and the primary focus once again becomes thwarting Aizen and his plans for world domination, we get to see some decent character interaction. The relationship between Ichigo and his dad which has, since the very first season, consisted of the two of them physically (yet comically) assaulting one another, has finally developed into something deeper. We see Isshin protecting his son and helping him achieve the most difficult ability to-date in a short amount of time in order to do what must be done. We also see some very touching scenes as Tosen battles Komamura and Rangiku tries one last time to reach out to Gin. They are some very powerful moments where we see Bleach at its best, and what it could have been if it wasn’t consistently bogged down by its ever-expanding cast of characters, the endless battles and some of the worst filler I have ever seen.

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The final battle between Ichigo and Aizen certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s something that everyone has been looking forward to and trying to formulate for a very long time. Ichigo has come a long way from battling the arrancar, the espadas and their fracciones and this is the fight where he will demonstrate all that he has learned since becoming a substitute shinigami. At the same time Aizen, now stripped of his bodyguards, lieutenants and tricks is faced with a one-on-one battle with his most successful creation. For the first time we see the true extent of his power and Ichigo’s capacity to overcome it.

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All-in-all, this one was a great arc – one of my favourite Bleach arcs in a very long time. Not everything was resolved, and I’m sure there are some things that I’ve forgotten were ever addressed (and indeed, even the producers must have forgotten some things on this long, twisty-turny mission to hunt to defeat Sousuke Aizen). It’s good to finally have some conclusions and closure and have my faith restored, to some extent, in this anime. It’s a long-time coming, but we got there… eventually!