The only version of Bleach 650 worth reading this time, IMHO, is Mangastream.
OMFG, so many crazy things happen in this chapter. First, we find out Captain Kyouraku (flower kimono captain) is still alive. THANK FATE FOR THAT. Then, Lillie/X-Axis turns into an owl/coo-coo clock chair of rage.
When the chair/owl demon starts blasting the sin out of everything with his super-sin killing laser beam, we learn (as I predicted) that Kyouraku has pretty much depleted his ability to do anything more than run. His materialized zanpakutō spirit Katen tells him that he shouldn’t be ashamed to just let go, close his eyes, and let her take him away (…uh….are you speaking metaphorically Katen? Because closing your eyes is not usually a prelude to RUNNING. More the sort of thing you do before you die!!). Kyouraku starts to give in and close his eyes when he’s shaken awake by his lieutenant/adjutant Nanao.
Nanao tells Kyouraku that it’s time to stop f*cking around, forget that promise he made to her mother, and to give her back her zanpakutō.
Yep. That’s right, somehow Kyouraku has been carrying Nanao’s zanpakutō spirit as a favor for… (a lover? a sister? a best friend?) because our last panel is this whopper of a reveal:
Before I go into all the various thoughts and theories I (and other people) have about this, I must to take a moment to applaud Kubo-sensei for finally listening to me. Obviously, Kubo had a chance to come over here and catch up on MangaKast and realized that he could be doing a better job of weaving action and story together.
Because THIS is how it’s done, kids.
I might be very confused about what it all MEANS (and maybe angry about the direction canon has shifted), but I have to appreciate that, even if it sends dozens of fans into tailspins about the state of the Shunsui/Nanao ship, this chapter was a perfect marriage of action and character moments.
So, well done, Kubo-sensei. Hats off. Props.
Plus, I have love any chapter that focuses on zanpakutō lore/abilities/secrets.
But, I have to admit that my first reaction was disappointment. I invested in the idea of Kyouraku as a natural dual wielder and had come up my own lovely metaphors for how a single soul could contain two zanpakutō spirits (I had a fic where Kyouraku explains it using the idea of single chicken egg with two yolks. So clever, damn it.)
But if I let go of all my personal investment, I can see how maybe this has been hinted at. One does have to wonder why Kyouraku learned to fight ambidextrously, switching between hands, when he carried two swords (we’d presumed,) his whole fighting life.
Also Kyouraku’s zanpakutō are the only ones that manifest as two swords when sealed. Ukitake’s split into two (connected by a prayer chain), but Kyouraku’s are two even when not in release.
Also, another fan, lightverse, on Tumblr, bless their soul, went back and analyzed the kanji of Kyouraku’s release chant:
From lightverse on Tumblr:
花風紊れて花神啼き、天風紊れて天魔嗤う (When the flower wind rages, the flower god roars; when heavenly wind rages, heaven’s demon smirks.)
There’s Shunsui’s release command! As you can see there’s plenty of repetition of the kanji 花 (flower) and 天 (heaven) related to Katen’s name (花天), and ‘heaven’s demon’ or ‘Tenma’ (天魔) is an actual deity in Buddhism. But notably there’s an entire lack of of the kanji used in Kyokotsu’s name (狂骨), that is madness (狂) and bone (骨)…
Which is interesting.
Also, I asked Tumblr (though my friend answered me) whether or not we saw Kyouraku carrying both blades during the Swing Back the Pendulum arc when Nanao appears as a baby. My friend reminded me that no one is seen carrying their weapons. So, it’s possible that a hundred years ago, Kyouraku only carried one blade.
We know from previous chapters that other people can TAKE zanpakutō and have that spirit accept them all the way to bankai. Tousen’s blade was taken from the body of his special friend who died at the hands of her abusive shinigami husband. Kenpachi probably stole his–though he could have, if my theories work out, manifested it out of himself (speaking of the zanpakutō rebellion filler arc.) Gin is another mystery, since we see him leaving the Rukongai in a shinigami uniform (and I kind of always presumed he killed a shinigami and took their stuff.) But, even if Tousen is the only example, he’s enough of one to show that it’s totally possible to do.
It’s not, therefor, unreasonable to assume you couldn’t give your zanpakutō someone else, or even transfer it forcibly.
Obviously, Rukia knew how how give hers to Ichigo in the heat of battle, so the magic behind it isn’t difficult or even much of a secret (unless you imagine premeditation from Rukia, which would be a bit of a stretch–though I have long wondered why she went to that extreme measure before, say, shikai).
So, this second blade was a gift/promise from Nanao’s mother. I have to presume that we’ll find out next chapter who this woman was to Kyouraku. Many, many people are freaking out that it’s going to be revealed that Kyouraku is Nanao’s father. (Sorry for your ship! A canon sunk it~) Even though I don’t ship those two, I’m happy to wait and wonder with everyone else.
The only thing I will note is that Lisa (Vizard and Kyouraku’s previous lieutenant) and Nanao look a LOT a like. Just saying.
Just FYI–the ship I’m on, the HMS Ukitake/Kyouraku, is still doing fine, because I think anyone who ships those two has to do with with the sense that they’re in an open relationship. Kyouraku flirts with everyone and he’s a living embodiment of the slang for bisexual:
For me the most interesting question looming isn’t who this woman was to Kyouaku, but WHY she would… well, that’s the question, actually. What is it that happened?
Did Nanao’s mother sense a ‘madness’ in her daughter (oooh, like maybe a berserker rage,) and decided to turn to her (brother, lover, BFF,) and beg him to seal inside himself her daughter’s zanpakutō? And, how old was Nanao when they did this to her? Was she three years old and already manifesting shikai? And what does it mean to have someone steal your power like that?
I thought I knew why Kyouraku drank so much last time, but now I wonder if this story isn’t going to really be a kicker.
I think there might be a wicked awesome story coming next chapter.