Tag Archives: Viz Media

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 42 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 42       

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 3, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

And so the battles between the Thirteen Court Guard Companies and the Espadas continue.

Halibel is dismayed to learn just how powerful Hitsugaya is as he unleashes his Frozen Heavens Hundred Flower Funeral on her, encasing her in ice. Sai Fon and Omaeda face Reaper Barragan, and Sai Fon is forced to use her Bankai. Omaeda has never seen her Bankai before and wonders what she can do with a weapon of that shape.

Shunsui is still facing Stark, and throws his kimono down to Ukitake to catch. Stark calls to Lilinette, who is still trying to fight Ukitake, who refuses to fight a child. Turns out that Stark and Lilinette work together, their powers divided into two bodies. Not only that, but Lilinette becomes a gun that can fire cero blasts! Stark is determined to force Shunsui to use his Bankai, but Shunsui resists, until Stark ups the ante, turning Lilinette into a submachine gun. Things look bad until Ukitake steps in, claiming it isn’t unfair since there are two of them.

Suddenly a garganta appears, and Wonderweiss arrives. According to Stark, “If Wonderweiss is here that can only mean that Lord Aizen’s patience has been exhausted.” Wonderweiss’ unnatural scream shatters Halibel’s ice prison. And the strange creature that came with Wonderweiss has just extinguished the flames surrounding Aizen, Tosen, and Gin… which means they are now free to join the fray.

Although this is a matter of dismay to the Soul Reapers, there is another group who have also just arrived and are just as eager to square off against Aizen et al – namely, Shinji and the other Visoreds. They aren’t thrilled to be working with the Soul Society, but it’s more a question of the enemy of my enemy is my ally. At least for now. Shunsui and Lisa have a touching reunion, and Shinji lets Captain Yamamoto that he considers himself Ichigo’s ally, not Soul Society’s. The Visoreds get their first taste of battle when the strange creature that came with Wonderweiss spews out a bunch of Gillians. Captain Komamura steps up to fight alongside the Visoreds, and to face Tosen as well.  As he does, Hisagi, requests to join that particular fight.

Another battle-heavy volume of Bleach, but it feels like we’re finally progressing. Maybe because Aizen and his toadies have stepped into the fight. There could be no denouement without that. The appearance of the Visoreds was unexpected and very welcome. They certainly have just cause to hate Aizen, although they also have no real love for Soul Society, who should consider themselves lucky to have them as temporary allies. I loved watching Shunsui battle against Stark, and I loved the way Ukitake didn’t hesitate to join him. They’ve been friends for a very long time, and are favorites of the Old Man himself.

Nothing of Ichigo this time around, although that’s just a matter of time since he has defeated Ulquiorra. I guess he needs to figure out how to get out of Hueco Mundo first.

Another great volume, looking forward to the next.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 6 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 6     

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 7, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Tanjiro and the others are saved by the arrival of higher level Demon Slayers, the Hashira, but one of them, Shinobu, is intent on destroying Nezuko, who is being protected by another Hashira named Tomioka. Tomioka tells Tanjiro to take Nezuko and flee, but Shinobu is determined to slay the demon in their midst. Luckily a message arrives to take both Tanjiro and his sister to headquarters. There Tanjiro is told he is to be put on trial.

The Hashira have differing opinions on what to do with Tanjiro and his sister, and some of their solutions are rather bloodthirsty. One of them is more concerned with punishing Tomioka since he broke the rules by protecting a demon. Tanjiro tries to explain about the circumstances which led to Nezuko becoming a demon, and how she has never eaten human flesh in all this time and would never hurt a human. And how he became a swordsman in order to protect her. One rather insane Hashira, covered with scars, picks up Nezuko’s box and decides to insert his sword into it randomly. Naturally, Tanjiro attacks him, even though his hands are bound behind him and he has no weapon.

The Master of the mansion arrives, and he seems like a rather laid back sort of guy. He tells the others that he accepts Tanjiro and Nezuko, then proceeds to have read a letter from Urokodaki, verifying what Tanjiro has been trying to tell them. The Master then explains that Muzan Kibutsuji has sent agents after the brother and sister, thus exposing more of himself to them than he has ever done before. Surely this means something. The insane Hashira decides to test Nezuko for himself, though, expecting to trick her into drinking human blood.

While the Hashira deliberate, Tanjiro is sent to the Butterfly Mansion. They take him and Nezuko to the infirmary, where he is reunited with an unhappy Zenitsu and a slumbering Inosuke. The four are left to heal until Shinobu comes to tell them it’s time for their rehabilitation training. After a few days of intense training, Zenitsu and Inosuke quit showing up, but Tanjiro persists. He is determined to do his best and then help the others to succeed as well.

Since Tanjiro’s sword was broken, a new one needs to be forged. And the sword maker is not happy that this is necessary, taking it out on Tanjiro when he delivers the new blade. And in other news, another side of Muzan Kibutsuji is revealed.

I love the humor in these stories, and I love the characters. They are very much unique and well-drawn. There is also a great deal of warmth and love, especially between Tanjiro and his sister, and the way he relates to other people. Well, most of the time. He does have his moments, of course. The surprise reveal about Muzan was … well, surprising. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

Still haven’t changed my mind about Inosuke, maybe later.  Good volume, looking forward to more.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 21: Arrival of the Space Aliens by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 21: Arrival of the Space Aliens     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 17, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

A lone DJ plays the same song constantly, and begs for listeners, if there are any, to please call in. He finds he has to travel farther to forage for food as his local sources run out. What is this place with an old helicopter sitting close at hand? The DJ finds someone who has locked himself into the back room, and begins to talk to him. About the friend he let down in the year 2000 when his friend needed him. Turns out the DJ was a friend of Kenji’s. Small world.

In Rome, the Pope is rumored to be very ill, and people wait anxiously outside the Vatican. Father Nitani has been summoned by the Pontiff himself but finds he cannot gain entrance due to the fact he can’t prove he isn’t a space alien such as the Friend says are coming. Day after day he waits nearby, and notices a young boy who goes in and out through a subterranean entrance. Turns out this child has been looking for him, on the orders of the Pope himself. The boy’s family, who once lived in Japan, cook for the Pope, because he doesn’t trust anyone else, thinking he is being poisoned by them.  And the boy carries a message for the priest.

Just a wall separates Kenji and the others from Tokyo, but it’s a big one. Kenji talks to Chono about the Osaka Expo in 1970 and how badly he wanted to go but couldn’t. Chono then tells Kenji about the Expo he was at in Tokyo, and how he and a priest named Luciano ended up inside the Dark Tower, and what he heard— the sound of playing children and a voice crying “Yoo hoo, Kenji, c’mon let’s play.” Now Kenji is convinced he needs to go to the new Tokyo Expo. Luckily an underground entrance has been found to circumvent the wall. It might be smelly, but they have little choice but to take it.

Takasu has assumed the title of secretary-general, following the death of Manjome (at her hands). And she has accomplished her other goal as well – she is pregnant! She doesn’t even care if the current Friend isn’t the one they once knew. It’s all the same to her, as long as she is the Holy Mother.

Friend has told the people of the world of the coming of the space aliens with a dreadful virus that will wipe out all of humanity. The only way to survive is to emigrate to Mars! But even that is a sham, as the first rocket sent to Mars disappeared, and the footage shown of their arrival is all computer-generated. Meanwhile, space ships have begun to appear above various locations around the world, and they are shooting out red paint, as if doing a test run. It’s only a matter of time until they begin to spray the actual virus.

How can humanity be saved? Is there any place on Earth that is safe? And why is the Friend making this announcement right now? Did he just make a major confession?

Omigosh, everything is coming to a head and yet who knows how it will end? This could go so many ways. One more volume, do you believe it? Such an exciting ride this has been. I’ll be sorry when it ends. Good thing the author has other books. I intend to start reading Pluto, and I’m already reading Monster.

My hope is that Kenji and his song will save the day, and the Friend (whoever he is now) and his organization will be defeated and then the world can go back to normal. Whatever normal is now.  But I also worry that something will go horribly wrong. I have to say I am really curious to know who is playing the part of the Friend now.

Cross your fingers and keep rooting for Kenji!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 20: Humanity in the Balance by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 20: Humanity in the Balance   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 17, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Yukiji decides to close her dojo, to the dismay of her students. She tells them how proud she is of them and what they have accomplished then leaves them with the words of her hero: If you ever feel your life is in danger, just turn around and run like hell. She meets with Kanna, Yoshitsune, and Otcho, and tells Kanna she knows what she intends to do and she is coming with her. But first she advises her there is someone she needs to speak with first—namely, her mother.  She also says that Maruo is on his way there to find her even now.

Maruo finds himself at an armed checkpoint that is flying a flag with a frog on it? What the heck? Could it be? He requests to be taken to their leader, even though they try to shoot at him, claiming he knows him. And he is right. It’s none other than Keroyon.

In the year 2000, Kiriko has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Her baby daddy, Fukube, is acting strangely, going out for mysterious reasons. She follows him one night and sees his performance as Friend… and she is concerned. Now, in year 3 of Friendship era,  she wants to atone for what she unwittingly did back then. She has a vaccine she hopes will cure the new virus, but there is only one person she is willing to try it on.

Meanwhile, Kanna, Otcho, and Yukiji have gone to assassinate Friend, whoever he is. But Kanna has her own agenda, which does not involve risking anyone else’s life but hers. She faces down the Friend while Otcho and Yukiji  try to find her. They are confronted by Takasu, who reveals to them that Manjome is dead and they did it. Takasu’s agenda is simple. She wants to be the Holy Mother. Otcho and Yukiji escape, only to find an even greater secret, one that’s sure to play into Friend’s story about aliens coming to destroy them. What in the world is going on here? And what do the evil twins Yabo and Mabo have to do with anything?

We’re getting down to the wire, everything is coming to a head. And all indications point to the pivotal piece of the puzzle being Kenji. He is the one who will save the day. At least, that’s how I see it. He began it, with his Book of Prophecy. It’s only fitting that he be the one to end this madness.

Two more books to go, and then we’ll know all.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 5 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 5     

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 5, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga//192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

While on their way to Mt. Natagumo, having been summoned there, Tanjiro, Inosuke, and Zenitsu find themselves battling a family of spider demons in the forest! Although not actually related, Rui binds the family together through fear because of his desire to be part of a family. The largest spider demon is the father, who acts on orders from his “children”.

As Inosuke faces down the father, Tanjiro tells him to hang in there, he’ll be back as soon as he can. But Inosuke has doubts he will last that along. However assistance arrives from an unexpected source, and Inosuke is impressed by the skill of the newcomer. Tanjiro has problems of his own, though, when his blade breaks.

Rui captures Nezuko and tells Tanjiro he will let him live if he gives up his sister to him. Of course, Tanjiro won’t agree to that. The daughter spider demon sees the relationship between Tanjiro and Nezuko and longs for something like that for herself. Will Tanjiro be able to rescue his sister when the web these demons weave is so very strong?

Another member of the Hashira arrives, Shinobu, who is adorned with butterflies. Admittedly the only Hashira who cannot cut off a demon’s head, she has her own methods of defeating them. Namely through the use of poisons. Shinobu is determined to rid the world of all demons. And she makes no exception for the demon that Tanjiro is protecting. Will she kill Nezuko?

Most of this volume is about the demon spiders and the fight against them, but we do gain two new characters – Shinobu and Tomioka. I liked seeing the backstory of the demons, and how they came to form a “family”. That just goes to reinforce what Tanjiro says about demons all having been human at one time. We also see how Muzan insinuates himself into a situation in order to make new demons.

On an aside, I love the colors of Tanjiro’s outfit, as well as his earrings. I read that patterns from Demon Slayer have now been trademarked.

Another good volume, looking forward to more.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 4 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 4     

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 1, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga//192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Zenitsu awakens to find himself outside of the house of monsters, with no memory of what happened or how he got there. He’s too grateful to question that, though. Until the guy with the boar’s head comes charging out, exclaims he smells demon, and heads straight for Tanjiro’s box! What else can Zenitsu do but defend it, because this is more precious than life to Tanjiro, no matter the cost? Tanjiro himself arrives just in time to defend the battered Zenitsu from being beaten any further. Turns out the guy with the boar’s head is Inosuke, and he’s a Demon Slayer too.

Tanjiro’s crow arrives and leads the three Demon Slayers to the house of the Fuji Family, who have a wisteria crest, where they can heal. In the middle of the night, Zenitsu is upset to find that Tanjiro’s box seems to be moving. When Nezuko comes out, Zenitsu becomes angry because Tanjiro’s been keeping this cute girl all to himself!

Once healed, the three receive an urgent summons. They must head to Mount Natagumo as soon as possible. En route, they run across another member of the Demon Slayer Corps, who seems to be badly injured, and begs for their help. Suddenly, the young man is picked up and pulled back into the forest. Tanjiro and Inosuke decide to go in after him, while Zenitsu waits for them. They meet another member of the Corps who is disappointed to see them since they are such low level Slayers. He explains that he is part of a group of ten Hashira level slayers who, once they arrived at this place, began to kill one another! They have all fallen under the spell of a powerful Demon!

It seems that some of the Slayers have become hideous hybrid spider creatures! And the demons who are doing this to them are part of some evil Family. How will Tanjiro and Inosuke combat them if they get caught up in their spider strands?

This volume of Demon Slayer finds the boys getting into trouble while on the way to Mount Natagumo. This family of demons is very creepy, and a great challenge to both Tanjiro and Inosuke. It will be interesting to see how they fight their way out. I love how Zenitsu has become totally devoted to Nezuko (even though he knows she is a demon). We get a little of his back story in this volume, and I have to admit I like him better than I did before, especially when he’s sleeping lol. The jury is still out on Inosuke, although I might change my mind about him later, but as of right now, he’s given me no reason to and I find him very annoying. Not much of Nezuko this time, but hopefully more in the next volume.

Looking forward to the next one!

Book Review: Monster, Perfect Edition Vol 5 by Naoki Urasawa

Monster: The Perfect Edition, Vol 5   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 21, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Horror/410 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Tenma is hiding on top of a bookcase, rifle in hand, waiting for the moment when he can kill Johan, and end the life he never should have saved all those years ago. Dr. Reichwein has gone to see Herr Schuman, to warn him about Johan, fearful of what Tenma might do. But Schuman insists on going to the ceremony at the library anyway. Once they arrive, he tells Karl he has forgotten something and sends him home to retrieve it. Dr. Reichwein suddenly realizes where Tenma is and rushes out, but he can’t shake Dieter. And the persistent Detective Lunge, who still believes Tenma and Johan are the same person, heads to the library as well to talk to Herr Schuman.

Nina is shocked to learn that Lotte knows Johan and realizes she is a dead ringer for him. And what is this book that scared Johan so?  A Czech picture book about a monster with no name? Meanwhile Tenma has Johan in his sights. All he has to do is squeeze. So why can’t he? And who is this strange woman who has just set the library on fire?

Tenma receives a message, brought to him in the park on behalf of Herr Schuman by his son Karl. He says the mother of the twins is alive and living in Prague. A journalist named Grimmer is seeking information on the East German Kinderheim. He runs into Tenma on a train, and they become traveling companions. But when the authorities stop the train, he reveals his knowledge of Tenma’s identity and tells him to run. Afterward, Grimmer finds the former director of Kinderheim and learns, to his horror, that he has a number of young boys in his home. What is he doing, recreating experiments of the past? Can Grimmer stop him?

The more we know, the more I want to know, as these plots become more and more entwined.  I didn’t think Tenma would be able to shoot Johan, and yet I feel he has to die somehow. I think Nina can do it. Unless of course, there is more to her than meets the eye. I’m not even sure of that anymore.

Did Kinderheim create a monster, or was Johan always that? If he was, what about Nina? Grimmer’s alto ego is pretty amazing, I have to say. And Lunge is so delusional, I can’t wait to see his face when he learns the truth about Johan – that he is a real and horrible person who is not Tenma.

Another great volume of Monster, can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 19: The Man Who Came Back by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 19: The Man Who Came Back   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: February 14, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/230 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Friend’s right-hand man, Manjome, has approached Kanna and Otcho with a shocking proposition—he wants them to kill Friend. Furthermore, he believes Friend is not who he says he is and that Fukube is actually and really dead. That’s a lot for them to take in.

Chono is fishing on his time off and he is joined by the newcomer, the guy with the guitar. He keeps trying to get this Yabuki Joe to admit that he is really Kenji, but so far that hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, Maruo and Namio and an assistant producer at the TV station turn to Kamisama, looking for a way to get the producer to safety as he has seen too much. Koizumi is still at the bowling alley, and she is utterly bored. She even hates bowling!  But when she picks up a bowling ball just to show someone how it’s done, Kamisama realizes she might be the key to revitalizing the dying industry!

Chono travels with “Joe” toward Tokyo, but they’re stopped outside a great wall with a fortress, unable to pass. A town has sprung up there, filled with people trying to cross over to get to Tokyo. Forging travel permits is a big industry there. The trouble is that the fakes are quickly spotted for what they are, and the people carrying them are shot on the spot. Still, people try. A man in Western cowboy garb, who goes by the nickname of Ichi the Spade, catches some of the people leaving the bad forgery shops and convinces them not to try it, but to use his bus service to reach the other side through an underground tunnel. Can he be trusted?

Ichi runs into Joe and Chono, and admits that he knows Chono has a bounty on his head. He tells Joe about a man who used to be a really good forger but who isn’t in business anymore. They go to see him, and he turns out to be one of the manga artists who used to live next to Kanna. His partner was trapped on the other side, so he has had to go solo. He doesn’t make forged passes anymore because he doesn’t want to be responsible if people get killed because of him. Joe persuades the manga artist to make him an ID and agrees to take his pages to his partner inside of Tokyo, at the same time that Chono finds himself betrayed.

Joe takes his forged pass and not only gets inside the gate, but he comes back and tells the manga artist to make enough passes for everyone in town. It’s time for everyone to leave. But Kenji/Joe is about to meet someone from his past, someone who is the epitome of evil.

All right, it’s out in the open now, let’s say it all together.  KENJI IS ALIVE!  I’ve been saying that for some time, and I am finally vindicated!  Huzzah! Okay, back to business.

I can feel everything winding down, the beginning of the end. Everybody and everything are falling into place, wherever they are meant to be. Kenji is headed toward Tokyo, and nothing and no one can stop him. He has the strength and courage of his conviction, and he has the immoveable force which has sustained him for all these years—his music. I can’t wait for him to connect with Kanna and the others again! And to finish what was begun so long ago.

Now the mystery remains as to who Friend is, since we know Fukube is really dead. And has been for some time, apparently. We still need to see the Holy Mother make her appearance. Although I once doubted her, now I suspect her arrival will be on the side of good, and hopefully she and Kanna can have a chance to have a real relationship.

This series just gets more and more exciting. Only three volumes left, can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 18: Everybody’s Song by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 18: Everybody’s Song     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: December 27, 2011

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Otcho and the others are searching for Sanae, who went to warn the Ice Queen to call off the plans for August 20th, panicking when they can’t find her. But when she does turn up, Otcho is amazed that she did make contact, and that the Ice Queen is none other than Kanna, although that is really no surprise to him. But Sanae was unable to dissuade her from her ill-advised plans. Sanae further reveals that a guy she likes at work was singing a song that Kanna played for her on a cassette tape, but that his version went beyond what was on the tape. There is a refrain at the end: Gutarara, sudarara. Otcho perks up at that, eyes wide with wonder. Could it be…. Dare he hope…

Meanwhile at the border, there is a report of an alien invader attempting to gain entrance… and apparently he was admitted. Although it is his day off, Chono is called to action to help find the alien in their midst. They say he is carrying a guitar-shaped weapon. Huh?

Otcho catches up with Kanna, who reveals why she chose August 20th for her plans, and why she won’t change her mind. Otcho tells her what her friends did for her, and how she has to do the right thing now. And how he thinks maybe Kenji is really alive. A DJ in the middle of nowhere continues to play a particular song, even though he receives no comments, no calls regarding it. But still he plays it, hoping someone is listening. And the so-called alien begins to sing. He tells the guards, “When somebody’s singing a song, you can’t shoot them.” Suddenly they are being attacked… by a group of hippies?

Otcho and Kanna find themselves apprehended by the Confidential Guard and taken to a secure location. There, waiting for them, is none other than Manjome. And what he has to say is shocking on more than one level.

Everything is moving now with lightning swift speed, and threads are weaving together more and more, as details we’ve been missing come to light. For one thing, we see more of what Manjome did to propel Friend to where he’s at, which makes what he told Otcho and Kanna actually not as surprising as it might seem. Kanna is undergoing a crisis of faith. Can the hope and belief that her beloved Uncle Kenji is actually alive spur her to do what is right? There can be no doubt of that now, too much evidence not to believe, and I am beyond excited to have been proven right in this regard.

We are barreling toward the end. To be honest, I really don’t know how this will go. I mean, the good guys have to win, right? Right? But at the same time, what is Friend and how has he done what he did? Or did we just get a clue to that question after all?

Great volume, anxiously waiting for more!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 41 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 41

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 5, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Although it appeared as though Ulquiorra defeated Ichigo, that turns out not to be true. But is the creature that rises from the proverbial ashes really Ichigo? If so, what is he now, and how did he arrive there? Neither Orihime nor Ulquiorra can believe their eyes. While Ulquiorra questions him as to who he is, he receives no response. But whoever this is knows how to fire a cero! That is something no mere human can do.

And so the battle continues…

Meanwhile, Rukia’s battle with Rudbornn is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Yammy, who is really angry with Uryu. Chad marvels at Yammy’s size, having fought with him in the World of the Living. “He was huge back then… but he’s a whole lot bigger now!”

Orihime realizes that this is still Ichigo, there to protect her, as he returns to himself. Ulquiorra is in bad shape. While he can regenerate limbs, that is not true of his organs. He wants to finish this now, but Ichigo tries to attain an even playing field. Ulquiorra tells him, “Hmmph. To the very end, you never do what I want you to do.” He asks Orihime if she is afraid of him and she says, “I’m not.”

Yammy is resolved to avenge Ulquiorra. The others are initially not concerned, as he is Espada 10, and they’ve defeated worse. But then Yammy reveals that they are wrong about the Espada ranks, and he is actually 0… and bigger and badder than they ever imagined!

The other captains’ fights continue. Shunsui receives the grudging admiration of Starrk, while Hitsugaya battles Harribel, and Komamura stands guard while Lieutenant Kira heals the others. Soi Fon and Omaeda face off with the old man, Berrigan, who reveals the true nature of the Espada’s powers – each governs a different form of death. His is senescence, or aging. When he touches Soi Fon’s arm, which begins to rot, she makes an instant decision and demands Omaeda help her immediately! Harribel thinks she has triumphed over Hitsuygaya, because she can also control water. But Hitsugaya lets her know she has far underestimated him.

Decisive battles are being waged here, more enemies defeated. You just know that at some point, Aizen has to be let back into the fray, or what’s the point of him being there? I enjoy the strange relationship between Soi Fon and Omaeda, and I don’t think she really hates or despises him the way she seems to. And he isn’t as weak as he thinks he is. Shunsui is handsome, as always, always glad to see more of him. I loved the battle with Hitsugaya and Harribel. People too often overlook him because he resembles a child, but he is far from that and he is far stronger than people give him credit for.

The most touching part of this volume was the scene between Ulquiorra and Orihime, which made me tear up, and earned Ulquiorra my reluctant admiration. Still loving this series and looking forward to the next book!