It took a while, but Bleach 652 finally came out. If you were like me, you spent much of Thursday refreshing your favorite manga scanilation site, so probably you’ve read, re-read and read all the commentary about this already. In case you haven’t, go…. I’ll wait.
First of all, I have to say that Kubo-sensei has redeemed himself in these last few chapters in my opinion. Even though this story gives me timeline heebie-jeebies, I adore it.
In this chapter we get a lot of the continued fight happening in realtime between Nanao Ise and X-Axis in his owl/coo-coo clock final form. Things happen there, I kind of don’t care what. I think maybe he talks some trash about her blade-less sword and she tries to cut him and is initially unsuccessful and he tells her she’s wasted her opportunity to kill him. Yada yada. I really don’t care SO LONG AS SHE AND KYOURAKU DON’T DIE.
The best stuff is, of course, the flash backs. We get one from Nanao and one from Kyouraku. Little baby Nanao overhears her mother giving someone (we presume Kyouraku) the cursed sword. Mama Ise tells him that it will only harm those in the Ise Clan, so he should be fine. A lot of fans have been assuming Kyouraku, pictured here, is in Academy. It’s an interesting assumption, but they’re wrong.
Why are they wrong? Because you can’t see the stripe down the arm or the Academy insignia, which should be very clear. Also, he doesn’t look like he’s in dark blue hakama. Here’s Ukitake from his Academy days, and that stripe is wicked clear, and there’s also clearly an undershirt, a dark shitagi.
To me, what the figure that is speaking to Mama Ise is wearing, looks like a plain white yukata. White would be an unusual color, unless, of course, Kyouraku is coming directly from his brother’s funeral. At which, I believe, it is customary for the eldest male to wear a white kimono. (Though he’s awfully big here, so really, he could just be on vacation from the Gotei at any point in his career.)
Then, comes the question of what the hey? I thought it was stated that Ukitake and Kyouraku were the first captains to come out of the Academy, 2,000 years ago. Well, I believe what was actually said was that Yama-ji created the Academy 2,000 years ago and Ukitake and Kyouraku were the first captains to come out of it. It’s not NECESSARILY true that they were in that first graduating class (or even attended right at the beginning), only that they’re the first captains who were Academy trained.
We now know that Kyouraku and Ukitake were regular shinigami soldiers for a while, because we find out that Mama Ise was executed for losing a precious item (presumably the sword) from Ukitake…
That’s VERY CLEARLY not Academy clothes. That there is the Gotei’s standard uniform, the shihakushō. Yep, they both still have their Academy hairstyles, but we have no idea how many years they wore it that way or how long it takes either of them to grow out their hair.
At any rate, this whole scene fascinates me, because it goes to my whole personal theory that the Soul Society is a deep and dark dystopia. Kyouraku’s reaction to the news is to frown–clearly upset, but…. there’s absolutely no question that it’s the sort of thing that happens, like you know, Central 46 regularly executes people (on the sly, Ukitake’s all… “oh, it already happened yesterday….” and then Kyouraku is all, “Ah, ah well, Shit happens, I’m glad I found out now rather than later.”)
Shit happens, Kyouraku. Shit that you KNOW shouldn’t, because she didn’t “lose” that treasure. She gave it to YOU.
Obviously, at least to my mind, Mama Ise must have warned Kyouraku this could happen (that she might be punished, maybe even executed,) and he agreed to keep the secret. Or… there’s a dark universe where she didn’t, and he never even got a CHANCE to try to defend her, to keep her alive, someone who is so important to him that HE WEARS HER CLOTHES AND HAIRPINS EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Although, notably, not in this picture. So maybe he puts the kimono and the hairpins on after he finds out she was killed. Which, when you think about it, is a weird sort of silent protest. If Central didn’t know what happened to the sword, but here’s this powerful captain wandering around EVERY DAY in the clothes of the innocent woman they murdered without benefit of a trial or, it seems, any kind of public hearing…. I dunno. I can’t imagine what that would be like. I’m trying to think of an analog. Would it be like Jackie O. wearing the suit John F. Kennedy was shot it every day after he died? Except it would have to be someone executed by the state, where there’s a question of guilt or innocence. Because there is a weird cross-gender thing going on here. Kyouraku is intentionally wearing women’s clothing. EVERY DAY. In public. As part of the performance of his office of captain.
Also, am I the only one who thinks this story reminds me of Tousen’s? Tousen took the sword of the woman he loved (who married another man) when she was wrongly killed (in her case, because her husband beat her to death and Central could care less). That’s the other thing. Presumably, before he started swanning around in the clothes of a woman murdered unjustly by Central, Kyouraku had one sword that split in two. Now, he suddenly has two swords. It’s like he’s saying to Central 46: LOOK AT ME, I’M WEARING HER CLOTHES AND HER F*CKING SWORD YOU F*CKING BASTARDS.
They must have sh*t a ton of bricks when he became head captain… oh, wait, probably not BECAUSE THE CENTRAL 46 WHO DID THIS WAS KILLED BY AIZEN.
At any rate, we also find out from Nanao’s flashback that she was able to graduate from Academy even though she couldn’t get an ausachi to accept her.
Apparently this happens enough that she figured the route for her was Kido Corps. Then, of course, she’s somehow MYSTERIOUSLY taken into the 8th Division.
Now the other question is how long was Nanao wandering in the wilderness, before she enters Academy. We know now she was adopted by an elderly couple.
And the only other clue we have to timeline is that Nanao is accepted into the Gotei at the same time when Aizen is the vice-captain of the 5th and Shinji is captain (so during the Pendulum Swings arc.)
Anyway, so how old is she? How is it that Kyouraku went from small to tall in this time period, where Nanao seems mostly to stay small?
My friend has an interesting theory that has to do with Nanao’s placement with the elderly couple. Maybe the way people age in the Soul Society has to do with the “Ichigo factor.” We know from way, way back in Bleach that the Scooby Gang all came into their powers (with the exception of Ishida, of course,) because of their proximity to Ichigo. Hanging out with the shounen hero gives you superpowers. I like it, Kubo. But, here’s the thing, what if it’s actually true for all shinigami?
Kyouraku is young but he goes off to Academy where he meets Ukitake. Together they build their power up, not unlike the way Renji remembers that when Rukia joined his group his own powers began to really manifest (technically he says he was initially jealous of her because she had power, too, and previously he was the only one who had any.)
A lot of Bleach fans have noticed that it often takes two to get to Academy. Gin and Matsumoto, Renji and Rukia, Momo and Kira, etc. It’s not always true, of course, and the one really notable exception to everything is Toshiro… (Captain Hitsugaya to you!)
… who spent a long time with his elderly grandmother.
Which could explain why he’s still so young looking.
But in the anime, at least, one of the triggering events for Rukia and Renji gaining power is fainting in the presence of the other shinigami who apparently came from Inuzuri (where did that guy end up anyway??) And Matsumoto showing up sort of triggers a closer connection between Toshiro and Hyorinmaru.
I dunno. I feel like there could be something there. Long time Bleach fans all know that timelines are our biggest bugaboo. How old are these shinigami? Was Renji full of hyperbole when he told Ichigo that Ichigo was “two thousand years too late” to outmatch him? Or…. is it now actually possible that Renji spent 2,000 years in Inuzuri (would explain why he still sounds low class. I mean, of course, she’s had Kuchiki training, but it’s not like he didn’t go to Academy and couldn’t have learned to shake his Inuzuri mannerisms/accent.)
Aging in Bleach... so gnarly and twisted.
At any rate, I love these kinds of chapters that me think and that expand the edges of the “known” universe. We now know, for instance, that getting an ausachi to accept you isn’t required of graduates, if you can compensate with Kidou.