Just Desserts and the Nature of Villains
As most people predicted in last week's chapter, Liltotto was out for revenge against Pepe for trying to kill her and Meninas (I'm assuming Meninas is still alive), and she immediately activates Vollstandig and uses "The Glutton" to start devouring Pepe while he is pleading for forgiveness and his life.
Now, I know people will likely complain about how "poorly handled" Pepe's character was even in death, but I am not going to complain because we've seen this behaviour of villains in other manga. I've been watching "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The Stardust Crusade", and I can think of a couple of Dio's Stand users from the first season who acted all cool and confident when they had the upper hand, but completely broke down or begged for mercy when they started losing.
Not even the Arrancar escaped from that kind of characterization, as a number of them reacted in a similar manner to how a number of Stern Ritter people have complained about being "ungraceful" in defeat. Then again, most people only think about the Espada and ignore the Fraccion. Even then, the Espada suffered the same flaws as some of the Stern Ritter do.
Just look at Barragan. He was supremely confident about his power of "aging", and he always waxed on about the nature of his power, how it was absolute, and how all things are affected by "aging", not that different from As Nodt, Gremmy or Pepe talking about their powers. When he started losing, he also began suffering a villainous breakdown, ranting at Hachigen and calling him an ant, proclaiming his death to be "unforgiveable", all the while calling himself "the God of Hueco Mundo".
So people can complain all they want about the characterization of the Stern Ritter, but it is their fault for hyping the Stern Ritter to the high heavens in the first place without really knowing anything about them aside from "they look cool", and for choosing to ignore how this behaviour was seen in villains in the past and in other series.
Twisting and Turning, Shutara's Relation with Yhwach, and Shadows
After Liltotto finishes off Pepe we cut back to the Royal Realm. According to Kirinji, he hasn't been able to hit Yhwach once while Yhwach hasn't even lifted a finger, not using any illusions or bothering to dodge the attacks, as seen when he tries to attack Yhwach again, and we are treated to a panel with him behind Yhwach and Co, and the platform is bent completely out of shape as if space itself was twisted.
Shutara then shows up and she has a group of ten individuals with her. All of them look the same in every respect, so I suspect that these ten individuals are the Shikai of Shutara's Zanpakuto, as we do not see any of Shutara's arms in this scene. This makes another Zanpakuto that manifests its power through living beings generated by the Zanpakuto. Now, we can assume that her Zanpakuto (the arms) changed shape if these individuals are indeed her Shikai, since Isane commented that any Zanpakuto that manifests living creatures while remaining unchanged is unheard of.
Then she greets Yhwach with "it's been a long time", and asks if he is full of himself after defeating Genryuusai, also commenting on how he dared to enter the Royal Realm without an invitation. Considering Yhwach has been inactive for 990 years, the only way Shutara could possibly have met Yhwach in the past is if she was a member of the original Gotei 13 during the Shinigami-Quincy War of one thousand years ago, but her knowing Mayuri also implies one of two things: Shutara was a Captain in the Gotei 13 for a long time before she was chosen to go to the Royal Realm, or Mayuri is a lot older than we suspect.
So along with Yhwach calling the Royal Realm a "tombstone", it is also clear a number of the Royal Guard members personally know Yhwach from over 1000 years ago.
Yhwach, despite being confronted by Shutara, simply goes up the stairs and walks right past Shutara, who calls him insolent for doing so. This really shows Yhwach's confidence in his power, if he is willing to simply ignore the Royal Guard like this and go straight for the Spirit King. It was commented before this chapter came out that Yhwach might have done to the Royal Realm in part to stop them from training more Shinigami, but that doesn't seem to be the case - it feels like he is only interesting in taking the Spirit King's head.
Shutara then orders the soldiers of her Shikai to strike Yhwach. Looking at the chapter again, I am certain they are Shutara's Shikai because they drew their swords from their freaking HEADS. These individuals looked like they had top-knots before, but it seems those are actually their sword hilts.
However, in their attempt to strike Yhwach their swords and bodies just twist around into a circle, and Shutara echoes Kirinji's bewilderment over the event. At that point, a voice asks Shutara who is insolent, and we see a figure appear out of Yhwach's Shadow. Seeing it happen in this way, I am more and more reminded of the similarity between the Vandenreich's Shadows and the Shadows of Kyoraku's Katen Kyokotsu.
The new Stern Ritter claims Shutara and the Royal Guard are more insolent than they are, and his name and ability are revealed:
Stern Ritter "W" The Wind, Nianzol Weizol, who seems to have a distant look in his eyes with his
double-tongue forming the outline of a "W".
Now to be clear, this is not "Wind" as in moving air, but "Wind" as in twisting things around something. In Nianzol's case, "The Wind" allows him to twist the space around himself, and he is the one responsible for making all of the Royal Guard members' attacks miss. I wonder if this has something to do with what Askin said before Yhwach and Co went to the Royal Realm, since Nianzol's ability is powerful indeed if Yhwach trusted him enough to take to the Royal Realm in his proverbial pocket.
His presence here means we have another example of the power of the Quincy's Shadow. Just as the Vandenreich was hidden in the shadows of the Seireitei in another "space", Yhwach hid a Stern Ritter in a "space" created in his own Shadow. More impressively is that Nianzol's ability could work even from within that same Shadow. It makes me wonder if there are other Stern Ritter that Yhwach and Co have hidden in their Shadows, or if they will summon more of the unseen Stern Ritter to the Royal Realm.
Prepare for Liftoff
Back in the Vandentei, the ground opens up and the Crane Cannon replica emerges from the ground, finally ready to send Ichigo and Co to the Royal Realm by the end of the chapter - all to the beat of a BGM (nice way to announce to any Stern Ritter in the vicinity that you are about to leave).
It appears that Yoruichi will be accompanying Ichigo to the Royal Realm as well, a fact that must make all of Yoruichi's fans happy because it means we will get to see her fight again. It also makes me happy because it means that Ichigo will have someone else aside from Inoue and Sado accompanying him. No offense to their fans, but does anyone actually expect them to be able to do anything against Yhwach and Co? You have Yhwach, the man who killed [B]the Captain-Commander[/B]; Haschwalth, who broke Ichigo's Bankai in two and is the Grandmaster of the Stern Ritter, and you have Uryu, whose possessing the letter "A" like Yhwach likely means he's now more powerful than all the Stern Ritter. Inoue and Sado were stomped by a half-dead Quilge last I checked, and they also were not training in the Royal Realm, and I doubt any regimen Urahara has would equal the Royal Realm's training regimen in efficiency and in boosting their power.
Yes, I know that Uryu's presence is why Inoue and Sado are there at all (the whole "we are Nakama" cliché), but if you could have them there then why not Renji or Rukia as well? They are Uryu's Nakama too, so why are they stuck down in the Vandentei fighting Bazz-B? This cannon only has one shot, so the only possibility of either of them going up to the Royal Realm to assist Ichigo and Co (because goodness knows Sado and Inoue will likely need someone to pull them out of the fire...again) rests in either going up with the Shiba's Crane Cannon, or being taken there along with one of the Stern Ritter if any Stern Ritter are summoned there.
The first one is the most likely, because the second one banks on certain theories of mine regarding Rukia, and I do not intend to let those ideas cloud my judgement.
Overall, it was a good chapter and we have momentarily moved away from the fighting in the Seireitei to the Royal Realm, but I do still believe something is about to happen with Mayuri.