To the Bitter End – Bleach 649

Bleach 649 is out.  The MangaPanda version is so different, it’s probably worth a glance at, if for no other reason than to try to fathom how complicated Japanese must be to translate.

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SPOILERS

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Depending on your proximity to the larger Bleach fandom, you may have heard the collective squee this morning when we appeared to receive confirmation that the much-beloved (and debated) Zanpakutō Rebellion Arc is at least somewhat canon.

I have some mixed feelings about this potential possibility, though, I have to admit, that the majority of them are positive.  Senbonzakura, in that filler arc, for instance, instantly ‘felt’ right.  Also, for a much as I’m unhappy with the idea of that arc’s Zabimaru being canon, it would dovetail very nicely into the later canon moment when it’s revealed that Zabimaru kept their true name from Renji.  (In the Zanpakutō Rebellion, Renji looks at Zabimaru and says, “Who the hell are you?” He literally doesn’t recognize his own zanpakutō.) Similarly, the Rebellion arc foreshadows Renji’s win against the ausachi, since it’s him, not Ichigo, that figures out first how to ‘tame’ his zanpakutō.

But, if you haven’t watched that filler arc, you have no idea what I’m talking about, so on with the chapter….

We pick up where we ended, which is with Captain Kyouraku having thrown both himself and X-Axis into the ‘deep end’ as MangaStream puts it.  In the MangaStream version, it’s far more clear that Kyouraku is still playing out his theater performance.  He admonishes X-Axis for trying to break his promise to die of shame–which, if you remember, was the set up for everything that’s come before.

Kyouraku tells X-Axis that he gets what he’s going through, because it’s the same for him.  A man’s shame is that the woman he adores loves him despite his flaws–or something equally poetic–and then, those of us who have seen the Zanpakutō filler arc, instantly recognize that the woman holding on to his shoulders is his zanpakutō, Katen Kyokotsu.

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And he says this: Sakuranosuke. The only thing I found that seemed even vaguely related when I did a quick and dirty Google search on this name, was that it’s a Kabuki character, maybe?  Some people are saying that Katen Kyokotsu is the one saying that, and she’s calling Kyouraku “Sakura boy.”  For people wanting the Kanji, I found a poster who, from the raws, gives us: 桜乃助

(Please note, Tumblr user, fizzing wizard, has this amazing thing to say: “So are we to assume 総蔵佐 is always pronounced Sakuranosuke and people just assumed Souzousuke based on the kanji up till now? Or maybe it’s Ohana’s pet name?”  So, if they’re right, it’s possible Kyouraku’s first name may have always been “Sakuranosuke.” Huh.  Cool.)

He replies by calling her “Ohana” as MangaPanda did it, or probably more correctly from MangaStream, with the honorific attached to ‘hana,’ as in o-hana,  “Lady Flower” or “Honorable Flower.”

What happens next is some typical Kyouraku banter between him and Katen Kyokotsu, in which we find out–as most of us suspected–that the kimono he wears comes from some ‘other’ woman.  (My bets are still on Shutara, the Weaver Woman from Zero Squad.)

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For the record, I really love this banter.  This, and the moment when it seems like Kyouraku has won and he’s fallen back into Katen Kyokotsu’s arms and he makes kissy-faces at her… ?  Yeah, I really, really love that.  It’s perfectly in character for him.

Of course, Captain Troll Kubo, could not just let us ponder the marvel that is Kyouraku’s weird bankai.  After Kyouraku seems to have sliced X-Axis’s throat with the ‘thread of remaining love’ (or some such), we get THIS typical Kubo-sensei bullcrap:

Oh f*ck NO, Oh God, WHAT???!!

Oh f*ck NO, Oh God, WHAT???!!

And… that’s basically where everything ends–beyond some screaming from X-Axis that bankai can’t kill God’s Own Prophet–because… because f*ck Kubo and this has been Kubo’s favorite pattern for every fight in this arc.

As much as I otherwise enjoyed this chapter, I’m EPICALLY tired of that.

Okay…  so now the deep thinking about Kyouraku and this bankai.  I know there are a few souls out there who are disappointed, but I really like this.  I think it suits him and his personality tremendously well.

I also find it fascinating that for his final act, as he calls it, his grand finale, he actually sheathes his swords:

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For a guy who is canonically ambidextrous, it’s fascinating that he’s one of the few people who ‘lets go’ during bankai.  Byakuya being the other one, of course, who very famously drops his weapon to begin his fight.

However, I’m still sort of baffled by Ukitake’s insistence that this bankai is not for public viewing.  Okay, yes, it bums people out in a million mile radius.  That’s not good for morale, but… so what?  Yamamoto’s bankai baked  everything in the heat of a thousand suns in a million mile radius, and there was not much talk about how that wasn’t good for the other combatants.

Is it because Kyouraku has a 50/50 chance of dying from this theatrical Russian Roulette,  in front of everyone, or because he looks crazy talking to himself?

I think Ukitake just doesn’t like this story.  Honestly? If you were Kyouraku’s lover best friend, it might be kind of jealous making to listen to all this smoochy talk.

Also, I was right, bankai clearly drains Kyouraku until he can’t fight. It’s a stupid bankai that way. You can only use it against someone you don’t mind dying to try to kill.

It is madness.

I’m with Ukitake. Don’t use it, bro.

I’m not saying it doesn’t fit him and it isn’t perfectly creepy and suitable to his personality, I just think that it’s kind of tactically weird.

When I was talking to a friend about this, this morning, she said, “I’m pretty sure they have no control over what their bankai is or does. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised it there wasn’t some shinigami out there who’s bankai aren’t combat useful at all.”

My response was,  Well, right? It’s a manifestation of the soul. What can Kyouraku do, other than just put it out there? I can see why Kyouraku is slow to join a fight.  Big Theater Russian Roulette isn’t the game you want to play every time there’s a big bad threatening the Soul Society.

But, again, while I’m very, very pleased with bankai, I’m really upset with Kubo’s repetition.

This pattern of dead/not dead is bugging me, especially since if he follows pattern, Nanao will come in, try to rescue Kyouraku, and end up dead herself. That’s been well telegraphed. How many times has Kyouraku said, “I sure hope Nanao-chan doesn’t get caught up in this?”?

A zillion.

So, there’s that.

And then we’d be down ANOTHER a$$-kicking woman.

On the other hand, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Kyouraku’s “death” is part of this play. Especially since Katen Kyokotsu is left there to avenge him. I bet she does this a lot. It’s part of the promise Kyouraku continues to not keep. And, she says, she’s with him to the bitter end.  So, he appears to die and she dies for him.  It’s the whole play.

After all, the bankai is called Lover’s Suicide. Now that we know Katen Kyokotsu shows up in the flesh, it only makes sense that Kyouraku appears to die. This could be why it’s not suitable for the public. People try to rush in and interfere, help him.  But he’s supposed to die as part of the story, and once they’re inside the story….they get caught up in the “play.”

If Kubo fails to do this clever thought, I will be more and more convinced that he should really consult me first before writing the next chapter.

That is all.

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