Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: December 7, 2010
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Ichigo has defeated Grimmjow, but another Espada is waiting to take him on, Nnitoira. Contemptuous of Grimmjow, and baffled as to why Ichigo would defend his fallen foe, Nnitoira orders his second-in-command Tesla to keep Orihime close to him. (Will these people never learn? Nothing makes Ichigo fight hard than when one of his friends is in trouble, particularly Orihime).
Meanwhile, Uryu and Renji, having thought they’d escaped the cluthes of Szayelaporro, find themselves back where they started, to their frustration. Besides his disturbing habit of eating his minions in order to regain health, apparently he has the ability to manipulate the inside of his palace to his satisfaction, thus sending the boys on a loop right back to him. “Shall we begin the Second Act?” he queries.
And oh, he has other tricks up his sleeves. Even nastier ones.
Orihime is powerless to do anything to help Ichigo. Although Aizen has made it clear she is not to be harmed, all bets are off if she has her Rikka attack. Tesla wonders where the small Arrancar has gone. When she is found cowering on the ground, Nnitoira recognizes her, to his surprise. Ichigo wonders how an Espada knows a simple Arrancar, and a child at that. Nel recognizes Nnitoira… and still doesn’t like him. But what is Nel’s secret? And for how much longer can she hide it?
Renji, Uryu, Pesche, and Dondochakka have their own problems. With multiple versions of each of them running around, it’s difficult to know who is real and who is an imposter. But again, things can get worse… and they do.
This volume of Bleach is divided between two battles—that of Ichigo and Nnitoira and that of Uryu and Renji vs Szayelaporro. Not sure where Rukia is at this point, but Orihime is being held hostage, a witness to Ichigo’s battle. The surprise here is not Ichigo, but Nel, as we learn her back story, and as she transforms into what she once was. Who saw this coming? Certainly not Ichigo, who never expected to encounter a fully grown former Espada once named Nelliel. Her story is very touching, as is the story of her friends, Pesche and Dondochakka, who prove themselves to be much more than comic relief. They are true subordinates and faithful friends. As for Uryu and Renji, they are being tortured by the devious Szayaleporro. Getting out of this sticky wicket will be a problem. If I had to guess, it will be Uryu’s quick thinking and calm demeanor that will get them through this but we won’t know until the next volume. Likewise, how will the encounter with Nel and Nnitoira end? Gotta wait and see.
Another good volume of Bleach, looking forward to the next one!