Bleach 654 came out early evening yesterday, Central Standard Time, and so a lot of folks woke up to it today. If you haven’t read it yet, go.
For me, one of the most important things that happened in this chapter was that both Nanao Ise and Captain Kyouraku MADE IT OUT ALIVE from their fight with Lillie/X-Axis.
Unsurprisingly, Kyouraku is down.
The Manga Panda version has Kyouraku saying something to the effect of, “Well, I guess that’s my body’s way of saying I should rest,” which I love rather a lot, because you get such a strong sense that this is a guy who has been in a enough fights that he knows when it’s time to step back, take a break, and let the rest of the squad pick up the slack.
I can not express enough joy that, even though Kyouraku has been off-staged for the foreseeable future, he (and Nanao) are NOT DEAD (any more than they already are being shinigami and such.)
So, that’s in the plus column.
I was unhappy to see that Lillie/X-Axis seems to still be alive in some form or other, however.
He’s rained down and reformed into his cuckoo bird persona (minus the halo, apparently) in the Seireitei, where Aizen sits presiding over the rubble in his bondage chair.
A bunch of knucklehead Gotei rank and file narrate this section–“What is happening? WTF, is that Aizen??”– and, were they not required to be in shinigami uniforms, I would imagine them in RED SHIRTS. Because, sure enough, when Lille/X-Axis springs back to life, one of the knuckleheads loses half a face (wow, thinking outside of the severed arm box, Kubo-sensei! Well done!)
I should probably hurry this review on to my reaction to the big reveal, but I want to take a moment to remark: “What the hell, there are random soldiers on the ground?”
I had honestly been thinking that the vast army of the Gotei 13 had been evacuated or otherwise neutralized (with the exception of the 11th Division, who we saw before, fighting Giselle when she was first introduced,) because otherwise there should be a lot more people engaged in this fight INCLUDING THE NINJA SQUAD AND THE KIDO CORP.
Don’t even get me started on how under-utilized the Kido Corps is in general, because, I dunno–you would think they’d be a pretty effective weapon against the Quincy given that their former head could STOP TIME and TELEPORT (that would be Tessai, in case you’ve forgotten.)
Given how these knuckleheads were drawn, I’m going to go ahead and stick with my personal head canon that everyone was evacuated/otherwise neutralized EXCEPT the 11th.
I won’t go into the fact that I’d’ve love to see some randomly ranked 8th or 14th seat whip out shikai and have it actually be effective and awesome and not just a prelude to something like this:
Speaking of that guy… you probably heard the tremendous bellow of excitement from fandom.
…and, looking mighty kick-a$$.
Welcome back to the ranks of the living (sort of) KIRA IZURU!!!
Then, we learn that Kira has developed quite the dislike of bird-creatures over the years (possibly related to the post-tramatic stress of decapitating the bird Arrancar in the Battle for Fake Karakura Town.) He seems to have awoken in a murderous rage due to all the damn chirping and tweeting.
And he’s willing to introduce himself as a “Dead Man.”
I’m thinking magical-cyborg is more accurate, but, you know, “Dead Man” has a nice superhero ring to it–Spider-Man, Iron Man… Dead Man, it’s all good.
Fandom is, of course, wondering how is it Kira was… rebuilt/revived. My personal head canon is entirely to do with Akon, whom, thanks to fanon and omake, I often imagine as an auxiliary member of the Hisagi/Kira/Renji/Momo gang. Mayuri Kurotsuchi was kind of busy, so Akon and crew could totally have done it. The 12th clearly has a “revival/autopsy” room, after all.
Many of us did know this reappearance was likely, since Kira made an appearance in his “cyborg form” in the most recent Bleach art book to come out of Japan, 13 Blades.
Even so, I was surprised and pleased to see him back. I’m also glad he continues to be his same glum self. Only… darker.
So after Kira looks ready to take out the remains of cuckoo-Lille/X-Axis, the action in the chapter skips up to the Soul Realm and a fight already in progress between Renji Abarai and Thor (aka “The Miracle.”)
Thor has been tossed around and looks soundly defeated. We get this amazing shot for my OTP-heart of Byakuya gazing
lovingly admiringly at a battled-bruised Renji, who gets a wonderfully Renji-esque line (on theme to his character):
The chapter ends, of course, with Thor reminding us that it’d “take a miracle” for him to win against Renji….
So, you know, expect Renji on his a$$ next chapter.
A friend of mine is super-worried about this up coming fight and I can’t necessarily disagree with her that it’s concerning to have Renji in the frame for the next fight.
We know how Kubo-sensei works. Renji is going down. Then, he’ll get up… and go down again. And, maybe squeak out a win…?, but nothing is guaranteed. So far, all the major characters who have gone into fights in the Soul Realm have been retired one way or the other. Lieutenants, in particular, have not fared well. One of them is currently nothing more than a brain, tucked into her captain’s kosode.
Renji is, at least, a substitute Scooby Gang member.
And a guy.
(Kubo seems hellbent to take out the strong women in this arc, so Renji could be saved by his Y chromosome. Though it didn’t help Kenpachi Zaraki, who has gotten no awesome fights at all and is now in a healing capsule with a missing f*cking SWORD arm.)
Similarly, I think it would be less satisfying for a lot of fans if Renji doesn’t make it to the final reel to join in whatever big shounen push the Scooby Gang is going to have with Ichigo to defeat Ywach.
I know there are people who HATE Renji, but, even so, I think he’s been well established as one of the innermost circle. He shows up in every movie, nearly all filler arcs…. so, you know, it WOULD be a shock if Kubo suddenly pulled the rug out from under him and took him out COMPLETELY.
I’m not saying that would never happen, but it seems unlikely, if only because, with the notable exception of Ulquiorra and Gin, almost EVERY fan favorite has managed to survive (even Kira, who I’d written off because I’d heard that he was NOT a fan fave… and thought of as a wet dishtowel.)
But, you never know. (See: Kenpachi)
So, I will be going into this fight with fingers crossed.
My friend, though, also pointed out that she suspects that Miracle’s power is going to be dependent on whether or not you THINK a miracle is needed, aka, the more confidant you are that you’re going to win, the more powerful Miracle is.
If that’s the case, my prediction is that Renji will survive. If anyone knows he can’t win every fight, it’s Renji.
I’ll also pre-predict that he’ll nearly die from overconfidence, because Renji does keep getting back up, but he doesn’t do it because he believes he can win, he does it because he has to give everything.
Plus, now I can hope for Renji’s new, longer hair to come down during this fight….
After all, he already lost his sunglasses.