What is Ichigo doing in this manga…? Oh, right, he’s the main protagonist! I’d forgotten!
All right, so Bleach 648 is out. I’m going to go against my usual recommendation and suggest that you start with the MangaPanda translation this time; it actually makes more sense. As always, feel free to compare to Manga Stream.
Kubo-sensei, being a well-known Troll, of course starts this chapter flashing AWAY from the long-awaited Kyourku bankai to remind us that Ichigo, Chad, Orihime, and Ganju are in the Soul Realm… doing things. Asken Nakk LaVarr appears in front of Ichigo. Ichigo, true to character, has no idea what this guy’s name is, and, instead, is far more worried about his boyfriend Grimmjow.
LaVarr tells Ichigo that Grimmjow is having a pleasant nap somewhere–though he can’t remember where because the streets are tangled and confusing.*
Ichigo (as you might) assumes “nap” means “dirt nap” and gets fairly enraged because Grimmjow is f*cking awesome and should not be this easily defeated, gods damn it all, especially not off-screen. Ichigo rushes LaVarr, like you do when you’re a shounen hero, only to stop mid-air when everyone feels a great disturbance in the Force.
Everybody feels it. Even dopey-a$$ Ganju is like, “Whoa, did you all get the creepy-crawlies just now?”
It should be noted, too, that Ichigo, who is NOTORIOUSLY bad at sensing individual reiatsu/spiritual pressure, instantly identifies this feeling as coming from Kyouraku.
*So, okay…. didn’t Ywach transform the Soul Realm into Quincy Town, just like he did to the Seireitei? The buildings certainly all look Quincy-ish now. So… why the flying f*ck would you go to the trouble to transform the enemy’s territory into your own home turf AND MAKE THE STREETS CONFUSING?????!! Unless, Askin Nakk LeVarr is simply just a raging idiot, which I could actually see, since he’s also the guy who wanted to stop for coffee in the middle of the battle. But, wait, Thor was complaining about getting lost too, so no, it’s the whole of the Quincy army that are morons. (Though to be fair, making it hard to get to the main castle is, in point of fact, part of the design of one of Japan’s capitols, possibly even Edo itself. But, still, that’s supposed to be the deterrent for the INVADERS, not the defenders. Ywach apparently forgot to issue GPSs or hand out maps.)
Okay, back to the synopsis. So… after that short commercial interruption, we return to the X-Axis/Kyouraku battle already in progress.
Kyouraku, being Kyouraku, asks X-Axis for a little feedback. “Say, so what do you think so far of my bankai, eh? Pretty creepy, amiright?”
X-Axis says he’d totally be creeped out if he wasn’t God’s Messenger and what is WROUGHT BY GOD has no feels!
Mmmm, okay, I’ll come back to that.
Kyouraku then gives us his bankai’s ‘dan’ or stages, but I really think the better translation would be ‘acts,’ as in a play. Because Kyouraku’s bankai is clearly telling a story/doing puppet theater/kabuki/something of a theatrical nature. I mean, it really is super-dramatic… the curtain falls, the whole area (audience) sits in darkness, swept up in anticipation, dread, and a sense of impending doom. Then, we get the preamble, where Kyouraku LITERALLY sets the stage and informs us this is going to be a tragedy.
X-Axis is like ‘whateves’ and shoots at Kyouraku.
Yeah, that seemed like a good idea, X-Axis, and you blew off half of the edge of the Soul Realm and everything, very dramatic of you, but…. turns out, the puppet play has already started and you’re one of the players.
Now, apparently, whatever happens to Kyouraku (during the first act) happens to you. Good job, you gave him a critical hit! Oh sh*t, actually it’s on you… and that means you’re the tragic hero (one of them) in this play.
Kyouraku explains, “Look, well done and all, but even though you get what I get, we’re bound together now thanks to bankai, and, no offense? But, you’re just too puny to kill me, so I guess you’ll just have to suffer.”
On to the second act, which is called “Pillow of Shame.” Kyouraku continues to tell his tragedy (I can see now why he writes a romance for the Seireitei Communique, his very soul is a romantic tragedy.) Kyouraku tells us that our hero has returned home in shame, wounded in battle, and his guilt turns to sickness, and he’s afflicted with an incurable disease. (Cue dramatic spots appearing all over X-Axis who is, suddenly, getting down with those terror feels, despite being an incorruptible creature of godliness.)
Third Act is: “The Lifeless Abyss.” I guess it’s not enough to have so much shame you made yourself sick, now you’ve thrown yourself off the cliff into the ocean to slowly have all your life force leeched out of you.
Kyouraku leaves us with the pleasant thought that this is now a waiting game to see which of the two of them has the most spiritual energy.
Okay, fun times.
So, about this “wrought by God” thing. I’ve been particularly leery all along about how Christian the Quincy seem. There have been resurrections, angelic wings, and, well… crosses. There was even that exchange between Toshiro Hitsugaya and Cang Du regarding crosses and pagans and… frankly, I tried to forget all that. Because YHWH (The Tetragammaton, aka unspeakable name of G-D,) and Ywach… I mean, they’re already too close for my comfort, especially with chapter what’s-it’s flashback where Ywach says, “They named me after their god.”
Please no, Kubo-sensei.
I mean, maybe? I’m usually cool with religious overtones in things, but… I dunno, this makes me a little uneasy. Maybe I don’t trust you?
I guess we’ll see….
My fears for Kyouraku are at least partly confirmed. My guess is that Kyouraku will, in point of fact, be the last man standing. He’s already implied that he’s too strong to kill, and I, quite honestly, tend to believe him. HOWEVER, this battle is going to leave him LITERALLY drained. He’s not going to be able to fight after this and will be sidelined with the Kenpachi and napping Grimm-Kitty.
The fic writer in me has to wonder how the living f*ck did Kyouraku ever first discover this bankai… or demonstrate it for the captain’s test. I mean, I suppose, being as old as he is, maybe there wasn’t an official captaincy test when he was first promoted, but… dang. Do you ask for volunteer? Who wants to see if they can survive my tragedy? You, in the back? No? And, then, let’s say Old Man Yama decides, sure, I’ll take you on, and Kyouraku is still young and not super-strong yet, he could be like, “Oh, sh*t, you win. I’m dead.”
I mean, this is kind of an end-game bankai.
Why in god’s green earth did Kyouraku EVER think he needed to go bankai with Stark? I mean, in someways, I have to wonder about Kyouraku’s mental health. “Hey, handsome,” he says to Ukitake, “How about I go bankai?”
Ukitake gives him the ‘what, are you insane??!’ look and says, “I’m sorry, you mean the one where if the other guy turns out to be stronger than you, you die? How about you start with those horrifying as f*ck children’s games of yours, huh? I mean, really, you have some chance of losing those, but can we PLEASE START WITH THE TERRIFYING GAMES FIRST BEFORE YOU GO ALL SUICIDAL??!! You know, the ones where you can leap out of shadows and, I dunno, make multiple copies of yourself. Try goddamn ‘King of the Mountain’ or ‘Tag’ or some sh*t before you go with the soul-sucking suicide, will you, huh???!! Plus, you know your bankai kind of bums everyone out in a million mile radius!! So, kind of not for public viewing, okay, crazy man???!!”
“Oh right,” Kyouraku says, disappointed.