Author: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: September 6, 2011
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Even as the Soul Society rushes to the rescue of Karakura Town, the pendulum swings back, back, back… 110 years back to be precise. Back to what came before.
Shinji Hirako is captain of the Fifth Company, and his assistant captain is Sosuke Aizen. They, along with the other captains, are assembling to welcome the newly promoted captain among them. On the way, Shinji is suddenly attacked by Hiyori Sarugaki, assistant captain of the Twelfth Company, but she is quickly put in her place by Love Aikawa, the captain of the Seventh Company. Among the other captains arriving for the occasion is Shunsui Kyoraku, captain of the Eighth Company, and Jushiro Ukitake, captain of the Thirteenth Company. The captains line up and wait. After a time, a fellow enters through the large doors. He seems a little nervous and unsure of himself, even as he introduces himself as Kisuke Uruhara. He is the new captain of the Twelfth Company. He doesn’t make a very good first impression on the others, and is snapped at by his friend, Yoruichi Shihoin, captain of the Second Company, to enter with confidence.
The next day, Hiyori is outraged to find Kisuke changing his room, and she punches him. Despite her actions, he asks for a favor from her… to please accompany him to the Maggot’s Nest. As he explains to her on the way, the Thirteen Court Guards don’t have a plan in place for members who wish to resign. Also, there are eyes kept on all of them, searching for signs of trouble within the ranks. Those who display such signs, and those who wish to resign, end up in a special place (translate under confinement) from which they cannot leave. Why does Kisuke wish to go to the Maggot’s Nest to begin with, now that he is with another company? There is a particular prisoner he wishes to speak with, a man by the name of Mayuri Kurotsuchi. Kiskue wants his help.
Something strange is going on in the Rukongai. People are literally disappearing, leaving nothing but their clothes behind. Members of the squads are sent to investigate. Kiskue asks Hiyori to visit the scene of the disappearances to obtain samples he badly needs for what he is doing. Since becoming captain, he has established the Twelfth Company as Research and Development, with Kurotsuchi as his chief assistant. Hiyori dislikes Kurotsuchi and his disdain for rules, and she doesn’t want to go on Kisuke’s errand, but she grudgingly does.
At a meeting of the captains to discuss the situation, both the Captain and Assistant Captain of the Kido Corp are chosen by the Old Man to investigate. But Shunsui suggests that perhaps this is a dangerous idea. Instead of sending Tessai, he proposes his own Assistant Captain, Lisa, who just happens to be within earshot (she’s been eavesdropping on the meeting), and she agrees to help so off she goes.
Things go from bad to worse, as the three who are well known in the future as villains, begin to work their evil deeds.
This has to be one of my favorite Bleach volumes ever, this visit to the past where we see our heroes as they once were. I especially loved the story of Kisuke and Mayuri (who barely looks like himself!). We see the young and volatile Byakuya, as well as those who later become the Visoreds. I have to admit my heart broke, seeing them as they once were, before the perfidy of Aizen and his cohorts cost them so much. At one time I really disliked Shinji (whom I often refer to as the Little Dutch Boy), but I have come to really like him. We watch as Aizen recruits a very young Gin. And also, we see Shunsui meet Nanao, which is so cute in and of itself.
The worst part is watching the drama unfold and knowing how this story will end in much tragedy and sorrow. Yet also hope.
I’m sure there’s more to come, can’t wait to read it! Another great volume!