The series draws to a close, for now?
What They Say:
Ichigo and Ginjo both release their Bankai to settle the score once and for all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the manga still going, the Bleach anime draws to a close with this episode after quite the lengthy and uneven run. With this arc, it’s actually been pretty welcome for the most part as it dealt with the powerless Ichigo for awhile and worked a slow but interesting storyline involving the Xcution group and Tsukishima, both of which became increasingly irrelevant as it went on and the focus shifted to Ginjo and the truth behind him being a Substitute Soul Reaper himself. One that intended to get a bit of revenge eventually on the Soul Society that wronged him by using the new Substitute Soul Reaper to achieve that goal. Unfortunately for him, the Soul Society did undergo changes because of Ichigo and his personality, which is markedly different than that of Ginjo. So while they were intent on originally using Ichigo to draw out Ginjo at some point, Ichigo instead became more than just some form of eventual bait but rather a key part of who they are.
Thankfully, though the fight is fairly intense between Ichigo and Ginjo here, it isn’t one that drags on for the entire episode and has a good sense of character about it, a little humility in what it does as they talk as things draw to a close and you empathize with Ginjo a bit more. On the downside, more time is spent with the remaining Xcution members who have been manipulated by Ginjo and Tsukishima than I would have cared for, but it’s that necessary bit of closure to deal with the arc in total. Some of it is pretty nicely done though as you get some like Riruka who are helped and dealt with in an clean and honest way while others like Tsukishima are able to slink of into the background and wonder what they’re supposed to do now that Ginjo is no more.
Unfortunately, we don’t get nearly enough time with Ichigo himself over the episode as a whole to deal with the closure of this particular series, but it’s not too much of a surprise since there’s the potential for another season or two down the line for when the manga itself gets ready to end. What it does work through in a good manner here is the remaining fallout form Ichigo regaining his abilities and coming to terms with them and what the Soul Society will do about it because of how they’ve dealt with him since he first became one. There are issues to be had with his position in general, but also some ancillary bits as well that Ichigo throws at them which is rather fun since it shows just how easily he can throw them off balance when they least expect it. Ichigo’s part in the Soul Society is made fairly clear here in that while they are largely a fairly static group in their own way, he’s what will keep them growing and changing to deal with the threats they face.
Bleach has been like a number of long running Shonen Jump shows in that it has a strong following overall, not entirely dedicated in a way, and it’s been rather uneven over the years with its arcs and original stories. I’ve always enjoyed the basic idea behind it but it had the main problem for me in that it did not have any large, overall story it wanted to tell in a very clean way. It was so drawn out with so many other and seemingly irrelevant things to it that it didn’t compel you to follow it because of this other background story that made it amazing, ala One Piece or Naruto. I suffer through Naruto filler because core Naruto is great. Bleach filler can often be better than core Bleach and that’s mostly because of pacing and how quickly the anime kept catching up to the manga. That said, Bleach is one of the big guys of anime and for good reason, so it’s definitely sad to see it go even if it wasn’t anywhere near as compelling as it once was. I do hope that as the manga works towards its end that we get a follow up season or two, tighter and stronger, in order to give the anime fans a better sense of closure. What’s here isn’t bad and it serves as a decent ending – for now – but it’s not what the long time fans or the people involve really deserve to have as the ending.