The pace picked up nicely in the last episode as Yamamoto really got to
taking down Aizen, though things obviously don't go as planned. Yamamoto
has long been the big power of the show since he is, as Aizen notes,
the history itself of the Soul Society. He has abilities that go above
and beyond, but it's little surprise that it all comes back down to a
battle between Ichigo and Aizen now that Ichigo has stopped being frozen
in place. Interestingly, Aizen seems to intimate that everything Ichigo
has faced is something Aizen has nudged him towards in order to bring
him to the position he's in now as part of some master plan.
What this leads to is essentially a recap episode. Not a terribly bad one considering what's going on in the present day of the show. With Aizen laying it out that he's orchestrated all of this, it is definitely useful to go back to the beginning, to show Ichigo from the start when he met Rukia and attacked his first Hollow, that Aizen has been watching since then. Going through some of his meetings with other characters, introducing the little bugs and things that have watched over him all this time and returned the information to Aizen manages to try and tie things together more tightly than Bleach may have been before. Having not seen about half the series at this point, I'll leave it to those far more in the know as to whether this all works and makes sense in the continuity of the series, but it's something that I do find amusing and an interesting angle to take for a series that has felt notoriously unfocused when it comes to what it wants to tell overall.
Because it is largely recap, it's an episode that doesn't have all that much to it that's worth talking about. Going back to characters that have had an impact over time and seeing the staggered growth that Ichigo has had is welcome, as is returning to the times he met certain people for the first time, especially early on with Byukya and Rukia along with others. What the episode needed more of was the little nods to how it's all been orchestrated so as to not make it just about the quick fight recaps of things that would be hard for Aizen to see. Some of them come across where you wonder how he could have snuck something in there to know what was going on or to push events in that direction, especially with regards to some of his training moments.
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