It has been a while since I engaged in a chapter review, so forgive me for not making reviews for the last two weeks.
Bleach 606 - Divine Division
The Trouble-Making King
The chapter picks up where we left off in the previous one with Ichibei lamenting Yhwach's behaviour. He goes on about how Yhwach refuses to behave despite being told not to call Ichibei's name and being sent flying by Senri Tsuutenshou to repent for his actions. Ichibei then mentions that, despite having gotten older, Yhwach is still a "trouble-making brat", and he states that now he has no choice but to kill Yhwach as they prepare to clash.
While this statement could disprove some theories I had in my mind, the fact that Ichibei calls Yhwach a "trouble-making brat" means that Ichibei is far older than Yhwach. This makes sense because Ichibei is one of the founding fathers of Soul Society, and it also presents a possible interpretation as to what relationship Yhwach initially had with the Shinigami before the war of 1000 years ago.
After all, Yhwach must have had a relationship with Yamamoto and the older Shinigami before the war of 1000 years ago if he is on such familiar terms with them.
Gathering of the Exiles
We cut back down to the Seireitei as a figure is running with a large package over their heads calling to Nee-sama. This will be addressed later, because this section of the chapter heralds the return of characters we haven't seen for a long time.
We see Urahara drawing a line outside of the area where the 12th Division's lab is, and Hiyori and the other Visoreds make their entrance into the Seireitei. While Urahara and Hiyori begin trading banter, Hiyori then asks why he sent Yoruichi and Ichigo on ahead, because the original plan was for them to meet up and all go together. While Urahara defends his actions by saying the situation changed (Yhwach going up to the Royal Realm immediately after Ichigo's arrival) and Hiyori accuses Urahara of not caring whether or not Ichigo and Yoruichi die so long as they slow down Yhwach.
This brings up a wide range of interesting implications. For starter, it implies there may be another method of reaching the Royal Realm that Urahara has up his sleeve but did not use before. The one thing I could think of is the two Forbidden Kido spells that Tessai used in "Turn Back the Pendulum", since their being able to take one up to the Royal Realm could be reason why their use is forbidden.
But Hiyori's accusation of Urahara not caring if Yoruichi and Ichigo die has the more troubling implications. While Hiyori could very well be wrong, it does cast Urahara's actions into doubt.
Before Urahara can form an answer, our mystery figure shows up.
Warden of the Divine Armaments
We quickly learn that this is Yuushiro Shihouin, the younger brother of Yoruichi and the 23rd Head of the Shihouin Clan, and that he was bringing what I assume are the "Divine Armaments" to Yoruichi to help her. When he realizes Yoruichi already left, he starts crying as Urahara assures him that the items he brought would help Yoruichi a lot, and that it was for the sake of the Seireitei that he sent Yoruichi ahead.
NOTE: Someone on tumblr broke down that Yushiro is a boy by looking at the Kanji of the name "Yuushirou", and the "rou" in the name means "son".
While some people may think this came out of nowhere, it was established back in the Soul Society arc that the Shihouin Clan was still active, since Soi Fon indicated that the Shihouin Clan would have fallen in a manner similar to the Shiba if it was learnt she was collaborating with the Ryoka. The fact that the Clan did not fall after its last head vanished indicates that there needed to be someone to replace Yoruichi as the Head of the Clan. As this chapter shows, that burden apparently fell to Yuushirou.
To continue on, Urahara invites everyone into the 12th Division, Hiyori recalls that she really hates it when Urahara says things are "for the good of the Seireitei", which is a line that Mayuri said a while back as well. While Mayuri would probably vivisect anyone who said so, he's more like Urahara than he likes to think, since both of them both morally ambiguous things "for the good of the Seireitei".
Inter-Script: For the past two and a half chapters, the focus has been solely on the fight between Ichibei and Yhwach. I didn't do last week's review because I had initially thought to wait out the entire fight before I give my thoughts on the chapter. But considering the events of this chapter, I decided to get caught up.
Half the Name It Used To Have
We cut back up to the fight between Ichibei and Yhwach, with brush clashing against blade as the Quincy King comments on how Ichibei's demeanour has changed, bringing up how Ichibei seems remarkably happy and that the decision to kill Yhwach turned Ichibei's expressions rather ghastly. It is curious that Yhwach brings this up, as if he has not seen this side of Ichibei before, despite the two apparently knowing each other in the past.
The two continue exchanging blows and Yhwach blocks the paintbrush with his left hand, asking if their current clash is all that Ichibei has got.
As it turns out, it was a mistake on Yhwach's part, because Ichibei reveals that his brush "cuts" through the "Name" instead of flesh, which causes Yhwach's arms to drop as they are weakened from having their name cut in half. The Japanese name for "Arm" is made up of two Kanji, which taken separately are "U" and "De", meaning the name of Yhwach's "Arm" was cut in half to "U".
Because of this, the strength and capabilities of Yhwach's arm have now been reduced by half, making it difficult to even swing his sword. As he says this, he proceeds to "cut" Yhwach's "Body", reducing its power by half and sends Yhwach flying back to the Vestibule Road with one powerful strike of his brush.
Having struck "Yhw" such a blow, he then mockingly asks "Yhw" how it feels to be smashed to pieces by the Shinigami Leader he despises with only half his strength, to which "Yhw" dauntlessly replies by asking if he looks like he is suffering, as he prepares a technique.
NOTE: I say "Yhw" because two translations have Ichibei referring to Yhwach as such, having just cut Yhwach's power in half.
Throughout this entire chapter, we can see clearly the change in demeanour that Yhwach was talking about. His appearance in a number of scenes seem straight up demonic compared to the jovial personality he seemed to have before, as if the battle is bringing out a much darker side of the leader of Squad Zero. It is also quite the turn around to see Yhwach struggling against Ichibei in such a manner, since he was unstoppable against anyone else he thought, and his power is beyond the capabilities of normal individuals.
Chapter 607 - The Master
To Myself I Give All Things, For Myself I Take Away All Things
Continuing from where we left off, Yhwach then explains that there is no better feeling than what he is feeling right now, since he sees his predicament as the Leader of Squad Zero, the individuals who watch over the Shinigami, as fearing his power to the extent that he has to cut it in half. But he calls it a shame, because he reveals that he can just restore any power that he has lost back to himself, and he takes the reishi runes and does just that.
When I originally commented in the chapter thread, I had assumed that the power was the Kirchenlied, but it is in fact the same power he used to restore his "Voice" in 605. It is an ability like this that makes me think Yhwach is a Transcendent Being by nature, because he is basically a superior, Humanoid Hogyoku at this point. He can bestow Schrifts to Quincy to draw out their latent power, his soul fragments can cause "wounds" impossible for one soul to heal to finally mend, and he also showed he can use Auswahlen to distribute "Power" to Quincy he deems essential by taking it from those deemed unnecessary.
Now he is doing this with himself again, restoring all the abilities of his "Arm" and "Body" that Ichibei had reduced by half before. This actually surprises Ichibei, and Yhwach informs him that no one can simply take something from him even if they had abilities like Ichibei's, and he states his belief that everything in the world exists for his taking. This statement really gives strong insight into Yhwach as an individual, and ties in with his power to bestow a part of his soul unto others and to absorb their souls upon their deaths. It could show why he feels no emotion when using Auswahlen on the Quincy - he feels their power exists for his to take, which is backed up by Robert stating that the Stern Ritter's reason for existence is to live for and to die for Yhwach.
For the Sake of Preserving Dignity
Having restored his power back to himself, Yhwach then directs the columns of reishi against Ichibei, who claps his hands togethers and stops the stream of reishi cold, describing Yhwach as someone who takes people's kindness for granted. He explains that he chose to only take away "half" of Yhwach's abilities because it would forever tarnish the Quincy's reputation if he had crushed Yhwach at full power, but states that his reputation isn't worth anything if he's dead anyway, and prepares the Hyappo Rankan to fire at Yhwach.
While it seems like Ichibei is taking it easy against Yhwach, it really shows how confident Ichibei is in his ability to take down Yhwach, and he seems undaunted by Yhwach's ability. But his "kindness" is more of a mocking one than anything else, since he was smiling with glee when talking about how the Quincy's reputation would be tarnished if he killed Yhwach at full power.
Pinnacle Of Their Races
As the Hyappo Rankan is cast, black grid-like constructs extend out of Yhwach's arm and form a barrier around him, and Hyappo Rankan completely fails to get through. Ichibei exclaims that it is the Blut Vene, but Yhwach corrects him and calls it the Blut Vene Anhaben ("Outer Shell Blut Vene"), a defensive barrier that extends outside of the body.
Given the nature of this technique, I suspect that only the highest level of reishi manipulation would allow a Quincy to use the Blut Vene Anhaben since it is usually contained within the body. Since Yhwach is the "Father of the Quincy", it makes sense only he would have access to such a technique.
But Ichibei has his own tricks up his sleeves, and reveals a new sub-section of Kidou - "Ura Hadou - San no Do - Teppusatsu" (Hidden Kido - The Third Path - Iron Wind Strike"). This manifests through a karate chop motion by Ichibei and the manifestation of a dragon's head which appears to literally blow away the Anhaben with a blast of air, allowing Ichibei to bypass the barrier and grab Yhwach's throat.
Since the Teppusatsu seems to have been formed in a way similar to Senri Tsuutenshou, I suspect that the latter technique is also a Hidden Kidou, given Ichibei forms the hand out of reishi and uses it with a martial arts-style hand movement. While he could be the only one to know this technique, I would suspect that these Hidden Kidou are also known to the Grand Kido Chiefs of the Kido Corps. Either way, using this Kidou against Yhwach once again shows Ichibei's prowess in battle.
The Punchline Is Machismo
But simply making physical contact with Yhwach is shown to be dangerous in itself when Blut Vene Anhaben is active, as the Blut begins to extend along Ichibei's left side of his body, and Yhwach explains that the Blut Vene Anhaben corrodes anything that comes into contact with his body to expand its coverage, and boasts about how he is going to take Ichibei's left side.
But Ichibei has none of that, as he either exerts his reiatsu or flexes his body to force the Blut Vene Anhaben back into Yhwach's body, causing a spray of blood to erupt from Yhwach's face and neck.
And yes, I did refer to the web comic "Manly Guys Doing Manly Things" when I made this section title, because people would definitely consider forcing out an intrusive entity by flexing your body to be pure manliness.
Blackened By the Straight Line
I have just noticed now, but it seems every front of resistance Yhwach has displayed in this battle just makes Ichibei more and more angry, because he has now violated the body of one of the Zero Division members, "the family of the Soul King", and that he should keep his "Human-like insolence within its bounds" as he twirls around his paintbrush.
If you want to know why I say these lines and the reason for them, follow the link for more information. PlasmaWolf is very good at translating the raw.
But to give the short-form version, Ichibei is scolding Yhwach for his lack of manners and respect, and the "family" aspect is "kenzoku", a term with Buddhist connotations that refers to one who pledges an oath to follow a Buddha. The "Royal Family" mentioned by Matsumoto in 223 is written and spoken as "ouke" in Japanese. In other words, the Zero Division can be seen as "those who pledge an oath to follow the Soul King".
The chapter ends with Ichibei proclaiming he will punish Yhwach, and calls out "Black, Ichimonji", revealing his Zanpakuto with a black line forming in the air behind the blade.
Bleach Chapter 608 - Darkness From The Blackest of Black
The Brush and the Sword
The chapter opens in an unexpected setting. We are outside of the Seireitei in a forest nearby. Deer are drinking from a river and there is a black salamander in the water, whose tail suddenly starts to emit something black. While strange, the event does have relevance to the chapter, as we go back up to the Seireitei with Ichibei having released Ichimonji. From what I can see, it seems that the black line was in fact generated by Ichibei's blade.
Yhwach comments on how the blade transformed from the paintbrush, and makes a curious statement: despite the thickness of the blade, he can sense no reiatsu coming off of it. As we know, the size of a Zanpakuto's blade in some cases correlates with the amount of spiritual power a person possesses, so Yhwach might have been commenting on how he can sense no reiatsu from the blade despite its size.
However, his eyes seem to start playing tricks on him as the blade suddenly changes back into a brush, and then back into a sword, with Ichibei mockingly asking him if it is getting hard to distinguish the two. This follows up with the two clashing again as Kubo pulls some clever artistry with the title and number of the chapter being in Japanese instead of the usual English, and depicts the chapter title as if it was splattered onto the sky from the battleground, and we see an ink ring above where Yhwach and Ichibei are fighting.
According to Mangastream, the "Blackness" term which is associated with "Darkness" apparently refers to the evil connotations of the colour "Black". The fact it is an ink splatter shows right off the bat that the writing motif of the paintbrush sticks around with Ichimonji.
A Blotted Out Name
As the two clash, Yhwach tries to figure out what Ichibei's blade is. He cannot slice through it despite it splattering ink everywhere, and he inquires if it is the same blade that sliced his "Name" in half before. However, he remains confident that he can take it on, since he showed himself able to restore his "Power" and "Name" against the paintbrush's power. He seems prepared to use his Spirit Weapon - the implication he was going to call out its name - but something is terribly.
Once again with a mocking demeanour, Ichibei enquires to what Yhwach was going to say. He states he believes that Yhwach was about to state his sword's name, and asks whether or not he know the fact that blade has no name. Ichibei then clarifies Ichimonji's power - anything blotted out by its ink loses its "Name", thus losing its "Power". He blotted out the name of the sword, and he blotted out Yhwach's Quincy Cross as well, and asks with a terrifying countenance if Yhwach still thinks he can kill Ichibei.
Yhwach's sword having a name can mean two things: 1) Either it is a named weapon, like Uryu's Kujaku and Ginrei Kujaku, or 2) He was about to reveal a Zanpakuto, as a number of people have speculated. Regardless, we will not know its name right now because it has been "blotted out", and as a result Yhwach cannot call out its name.
In the context of Bleach, Ichibei possesses a most terrifying power. "Names" have power in Bleach, and Ichibei can remove the "Name" from anything Ichimonji blots out with its ink. Making it even more terrifying is how he could also do it to someone as powerful as Yhwach, meaning virtually no one is safe from his power in the series.
The Light Altar of the Cross
However, Yhwach is not done yet, as he intends to steal Ichibei's power using the power of his own body, and summons the Sankt Altar, five points of reishi that surround Ichibei and strike him.
I would assume that the Sankt Altar is another one of the Kirchenlied - given it shares a title with the Zwinger - but I am starting to wonder if this technique is not simply exclusive to Yhwach. The fact that stealing Ichibei's power fits along the lines of Yhwach's power as a whole seems to indicate that much. It is either that or this is another high-level technique that only a Quincy at Bach's level could perform.
If it is, then this is a very potent spell, if it is able to take the power of the enemy and make it the Quincy's own. Yet this is apparently below the Sankt Zwinger that Yhwach!Royd tried against Yamamoto.
But we do not see how it turns out because Ichibei simply dispels it in a splatter of black.
The Master of the Black
Yhwach's legitimately shocked by this, and wonders if he failed to take Ichibei's power. Ichibei replies that his power was stolen, but that Yhwach simply could not make the power his.
This is when the scene with the salamander is made clear - Ichibei's power is "blackness". Until a better translation appears, it is hard to figure out what Ichibei means. According to Ichibei, once Ichimonji is released, all the "blackness" of the world, be it from Quincy, Shinigami, the living or the dead, is his. As he said "all the blackness in the world is mine", the chapter end with Ichibei's face once again takes on a demonic countenance and he blots out Yhwach's body with Ichimonji.
Throughout this entire fight, Ichibei has been depicted as being some kind of demon. What Ichimonji's power have been revealed to be is just the clincher - any it "blackens" loses it name, and all the "blackness" in the Universe is its source of power. In a sense, it is an abstract power dictated by the existence of "blackness" in the world. That is the reason why Yhwach cannot sense any reiatsu from Ichimonji - its power is not Ichibei's reiatsu, but the abstract existence of "blackness". As long as anything with "blackness" exists in the world, Ichimonji will have power.
It is why he cannot take Ichibei's power for his own. It is terrifying, to tell the truth - it does not seem to be an ability dictated by "Power" or "Reiatsu", but it seems like an ability dictated by "Reason/Nature" like the Koutotsu. Yhwach could take the "Power" or "Reiatsu" from anyone else, but Ichimonji's source of power being "Blackness" means it cannot be taken - it is "Absolute", and nothing that uses "Reiatsu" can interfere with it.
The only thing I could possibly think of that could resist or override Ichimonji is a Transcendent Being, which throws doubts onto Yhwach being one unless he is not yet drawing on that aspect of his power.
That's now terrifying the power of Ichimonji is - it is making me doubt my belief that Yhwach could be a Transcendent Being.
Can Ichibei even be called a "Shinigami" at this point?