Okay, yeah, the fatigue for this season has officially set in.
Last episode, even with its faults, was a pivotal turn in this story arc. With Ywach and his retainers taking the express elevator up to the Soul King’s house, we should be hurtling forward into a new stage of this war, where the stakes are higher and every fight holds the future of the universe in the balance. Instead, “Marching Out the Zombies” hits the brakes hard enough to snap the seatbelt, pulling onto the roadside to show us a fight that the narrative has demonstrably told us does not matter, and we’re in for at least another weak of it!
It doesn’t initially start that way, at least. While Ichigo and Uryu’s confrontation last time left a lot to be desired, the aftermath is pretty solid and is aided by how swiftly it happens. Ichigo is upset at the idea of fighting his friend, but he never succumbs to a feeling of betrayal – instead trusting that the always logical Uryu must have his reasons, and is thus also reasonable enough to be won back. What they have to do, then, is reach him and learn why he’s doing what he’s doing. That’s refreshing since an earlier version of Ichigo might have spent episodes angsting over this reveal, but now our hero has the confidence – and faith in his companions – to move forward and personally resolve things. It’s also just a testament to how much he trusts his friends, and while Chad and Orihime don’t do much in this episode, their presence alone does a lot to bolster the emotions of this storyline.
Unfortunately, that’s only about 30% of this episode, and the rest of the time is spent setting up yet another Soul Reaper vs Quincy battle; one that I frankly do not care even a little about. First of all, I just don’t find Mayuri entertaining. Much like Zaraki, there was a time when his increasingly ridiculous mad scientist shtick was edgy enough to work for me, but after a while, it became impossible to ignore how tiresome his battles were. They always hinge on him having prepared the perfect counter against his opponent, even when he would have had no idea who they were or what their powers entail. Much like the memetic version of Batman, he’s always super-humanly prepared for any and every eventuality, no matter how much it strains narrative credulity. As evidence, this week he just so happens to have made little devices that temporarily stop the activation of Reishi, conveniently in the right numbers and sizes to instantly neutralize Bambietta’s powers the moment he starts fighting her.
Oh, right, Bambietta’s back as a zombie, courtesy of Giselle Gewelle, Sternritter Z, who has to quickly be established as a sadomasochistic necrophiliac who sexually and physically abuses her postmortem ally, because anyone fighting Mayuri also has to be some level of gross creep. That’s to say nothing of the non-sequitur reveal that she’s physically male, which seems to be tied into the aforementioned zombie-domme stuff, so I guess we can pile some casual transphobic subtext onto this rotting carcass of a battle. Pretty much the only saving grace here is hearing Nao Tōyama vamp as a villain, but even her performance and Gigi’s silly little hat aren’t charming enough to make the character – and her fight – any less eye-rolling. Because we already know this fight doesn’t matter. Ywach has already sequence-broken his way up to the Soul Palace – any fight here is just mopping up the extras so this show’s incomparably extended cast can get some spotlight. There are no stakes here, which makes the questionable-to-noxious elements impossible to ignore.
Just in case that wasn’t enough of a momentum killer, however, we also see fit to bring back a handful of Arrancar characters for reasons that are beyond me. Seriously, who was begging to see a return of the Privaron Espada, aka the jobbers who only existed to fill time during the Hueco Mundo arc? Were people clamoring at the gates for another sighting of Cirucci Sanderwicci? Would anything have been lost by not bringing back Charlotte Chuhlhourne? I suppose that would mean excising the weird running joke where he and Yumichika, as the series’ camp gay stereotypes, intuitively know that Gigi is AMAB. God knows the story couldn’t manage without that bit! It’s a wholly unnecessary bit of fanservice for such a microscopic section of fans, and it grinds an already tedious fight to a screeching halt.
It’s just so tiring. Previous episodes had their problems but were still largely able to counterbalance through their greatest strengths. Here, though, the only potential saving grace is if the viewer is just an unabashed Mayuri stan who loves everything he does. Otherwise, what is there to get into? It’s a battle that we know won’t contribute towards either side of the war, populated by purposefully unlikable characters and baffling cameos. This is the worst part of Bleach rising out of the grave and trying their hardest to drag this storyline down to hell.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Season 2 is currently streaming on