Thursday, 18 December 2014

Bleach Two-in-One Chapter Review - Chapters 609 and 610

Bleach Chapter 609 Review
The Void Without a Name

As this chapter opens, we see the aftermath of Yhwach being struck by Ichimonji's ink, and there's a whole page spread of the ink extending out from the Vestibule Road in a horizontal line, and we cut to Yhwach completely blotted out as the chapter title "A" is shown. As Yhwach stands there helpless, Ichibei mocks him for his lost name, and states he will bestow a new name upon "the thing formerly known as Yhwach" as a whiteness emits from Ichimonji.

The effects of Ichibei's Ichimonji are truly terrifying to behold, and his power to take away names is a mix of his power over "Black" and the "power of the Void" that is sometimes seen throughout media. After all, he completely rips away a person's "Name" and "Power" from them, leaving a "black emptiness" from the void left behind by their lost name. As I stated before, this power is one of the most terrifying seen in Bleach, and leaves all struck by it at Ichibei's complete mercy.

As a Zanpakuto is a reflection of the Shinigami's soul, one must wonder what this says about Ichibei, for what kind of man must he be to bear a Zanpakuto with power over the "Black" and takes away the "Name" of all it covers in "Black"...

The "Evolved Zanpakuto"

As Ichibei's Ichimonji begins to emit a white light, he calls it "Shinuchi (True Hit)", "Shirafude Ichimonji". He goes on to explain that, based on the most recent terminology (which he invented, as you all know), "Shirafude Ichimonji" is a Bankai. Before Ichibei brought the terms "Shikai" and "Bankai" into existence, the Zanpakuto first born with such forms were called "Evolved Zanpakuto", and "Shinuchi" was the term used to describe the state that would become "Bankai".

However, there is a distinct difference in the terminology's meaning. "Shinuchi" indicates that the Zanpakuto has reached its true form, while the "Bankai" indicates the "Final Release". Moreover, the term "Evolved Zanpakuto" does not imply an end to the Zanpakuto's evolution, whereas a "Bankai" does. But while all Shinigami we know of before now - even Yamamoto - use the term "Bankai", Ichibei uses the term "Shinuchi", despite being the man who coined the term "Bankai" in the first place.

As a whole, Ichibei's Zanpakuto is quite out of the ordinary for Zanpakuto. While most Zanpakuto lack any abilities in their "sealed" state, Ichibei's paintbrush has abilities that reflect those of the Shikai. They reflect the power to a lesser extent, but his Zanpakuto still has its ability in the form of a paintbrush all the same. The same could be said for all the Royal Guard Zanpakuto, if they follow a similar pattern - their "sealed" Zanpakuto possessing abilities that reflect their Zanpakuto's true power.

Either way, this is a mystery I would like to see dug further into, because I wonder if the concept of "Evolved Zanpakuto" is actually tied in with Ichigo's Mugetsu, since "Deicide" was implying through Aizen and Ichigo's fight that "evolutions" of the Zanpakuto beyond the Bankai exist.

He Taketh Thine Name, and He Giveth Thine Name

As Ichibei explains this, he describes his Bankai's ability as being to give a "Name" to anything Ichimonji has blotted out, and he decides to vindictively give Yhwach the name "Black Ant" by painting the "Name" onto his body, giving Yhwach the "Power" of a black ant, making his life fragile and fleeting.

Yhwach appears to be in disbelief that he could only "go this far", and Ichibei continues his sentence, stating this was as "far" as Yhwach could go, how "far" behind in terms of abilities he was, and as "far" as his life will go, and tells Yhwach to carry all the lives of the Shinigami he has killed with him as he crushes him like the ant he now is, creating a giant foot construct to smash Yhwach down through the Vestibule Road and away from the Royal Realm.

Yhwach being smashed through the Vestibule Road grabs Haschwalth's attention, who calls out to "His Majesty" as Ichibei bids farwell "to the king of insects", and smashes him between two hand constructs, leaving the Quincy King to fall, believing him to be finished.

As a whole, this scene really shows Ichibei's vindictiveness and the inner "blackness" that shows through his Zanpakuto. It's not enough for him to simply take your "Name" and "Power" and the kill you; he will give you a new "Name" which reflects how lowly he thinks of you, and crush you in the manner he would crush what he named you as. It is a terrifying power, and is a further reflection of Ichibei's own soul, and how ruthless and wicked the "Head of the Shinigami" is.

However, Yhwach is not the kind of man who lets anyone take anything from him...

Eyes of God

He then clarifies on what he meant by "to go this far": he did not expect to see this far ahead with his eyes closed. We then get a close up of his eyes as a second iris and pupil splits off from the first one, and the next page immediately opens with a pillar of fire erupting from behind Ichibei, who turns around only to receive a sword to his chest as he does so. He expresses surprise at Yhwach still being alive, as the words "Black Ant" peel away from the completely black figure before him.

As Ichibei expressed his shock at how it should be impossible, Haschwalth narrates from afar how it is possible. Different translations say different things (Mangastream has him saying Yhwach "can understand all things that he sees from any given perspective"), but the one thing that seems to be constant throughout a number of the translations is this: he can see all that will happen. Haschwalth further explains that no power that Yhwach knows is able to best him, and he reveals what the meaning of "A" is:

"The Almighty". In the original Kanji, it is spoken as Zenchizennou i.e. "Omniscient and Omnipotent", and the two-page spread in which this is revealed shows us that both of Yhwach's eyes now have two irises and pupils in them.

Kubo is really going all-out with the symbolism here, as "God almighty" is one of the terms used to describe the Abrahamic God. As if his name being derived from YHWH was not enough. Either way, even if the original chapter translations left things up to interpretation, there is no denying the immediate effect of Yhwach activating "The Almighty" - the complete negation of Ichibei's Zanpakuto ability.

NOTE: I did not notice this before (and I have JohosafatsStudios to thank for pointing this out), but Yhwach also seems to gain these black marks below his eyes upon activating "The Almighty".

Bleach Chapter 610 Review

"...And Regain His Power After Nine Years"

In this chapter, Haschwalth explains that Yhwach usually fights with "closed eyes", and we see that he is talking to Uryu as he explains this. He clarifies it is not a matter of him taking his opponents lightly, and recites the "Kaiser Gesang", stating that he did not "open" his eyes during the "Nine Years for Power" because he could end up losing control over the power of his letter "A", and the abilities of all the Stern Ritter would end up being taken.

Since his eyes are now "open", the "Nine Years for Power" have come to an end, and states that the time for the Quincy's prayers, which spans across a thousand years, to be answered has finally come, and we see a double-page spread of Yhwach, with his Spirit Weapon now becoming pure white and radiating power.

What comes after the "Nine Years of Power" is "The Reclamation of the World In Nine Days", and I wonder if this is what Haschwalth meant by the Quincy's prayers - their prayers were for Yhwach to "reclaim the world". Yhwach spoke of the world "coming to an end in nine days", so I wonder if he was not referring to the world's physical destruction, but the destruction of the world created by the Shinigami. This certainly seems to be the case, since Yhwach wasted no time in going to the Soul King Palace when the opportunity presented itself.

The Eye Of Omniscience and Omnipotence

As Ichibei recovers from his wound, Yhwach exchanges bards back at Ichibei, reciting the questions that Ichibei must be asking himself, such as "how did he survive", "how did he free himself from my power", and "why am I the one about to be destroyed". He then proceeds to explain to Ichibei what his ability is - given that he can afford to, considering what he says.

Yhwach tells Ichibei that, with his eyes now "opened", he can see everything from the present all the way to the future. He states that he "knows"/"understands" everything he sees, and that he can make use of any power that he knows/make the "abilities" he knows become his allies. In other words, as long as he "knows" a person's power, they cannot defeat him, much less hurt him, with that power. That is "The Almighty".

The translations are a bit confusing on both sides when compared to each other, but the general message seems to be the same - once Yhwach "knows" a power or ability, he cannot be affected by it because he can "make use of it".

I'll probably sound like a broken record, but I will say it again: Yhwach consistently has shown himself to possess powers that I have not seen of anything else in the series, and I believe that makes him a Transcendent Being. I mean, he can see into the future, and he can make use of any abilities he comes "to know" through his eyes. This is on top of his ability to impart a piece of his soul upon others, the Auswahlen, being able to restore his own power back to himself if it were to be taken from him, and only Kubo knows what else.

And he is only starting to show us the scope of his power at this point!

The Perpetual "Blackness"

Ichibei, on the other hand, is unfazed, and seems to think that Yhwach defeating him is some kind of joke.

Really, even though he just up and negated your power?

This is where the translations take their standard complete deviation from one another. While they both have Ichibei telling Yhwach to not get too far ahead of himself because he removed the name "Black Ant", the next set of text is where the deviation comes in. Mangapanda has him call Yhwach "the one once known as Yhwach" again, in reference to his taking away his "Name" before, but Mangastream has him claiming the name "Yhwach" never meant anything to begin with. A re-iteration of what Ichibei did in the past in one, a blasphemous boast in the other.

Given that Yhwach seems to have completely cleaned himself of Ichimonji's "black ink", I might have to go with Mangastream on this one.

Ichibei asks how Yhwach will defeat him if he is still surrounded by "blackness" (like his own mantle), and claims that, no matter how much Yhwach may know, all the "blackness" is still his to control. A wave of "blackness" surges from Yhwach around Ichibei as the around around them is engulfed in "blackness", and we see echoes of Yamamoto once more as something familiar begins - the incantation for a Zanpakuto technique, and the longest incantation for a spells in the series period:

"Oh Twilight, and everlasting darkness, come to me, come and have a drink, and once you do, your life will fade. The flowers will bloom along the road to hell. Where are the fish, let me paint them black, cut them into eight, and cook them well atop a flame of black, and then enjoy the meal. All that's left are bones of white, make them a gravestone, and pay respect. May they never be reborn again, so that you won't be sacrificed as food."

The ritual involved in this is quite complex as well, as a bowl made of "blackness" forms in his hand, "black" pours into the bowl, he pours it around him into two circles. He then stabs Ichimonji into the ground as he completes the incantation for his final technique - Futen Daisatsuryou ("Slaughterous Mausoleum of Non-Reincarnation").

The "Blackness" of the Soul

Ichibei tells us that the Futen Daisatsuryou was made from the "blackness" of one hundred nights from the Soul Society's future, and he made it to be Yhwach's final resting place. Now, Mangastream says it is a hundred nights from the Soul Society a hundred years in the future, while Mangapanda just says Soul Society's future. I'll once again wait on another translation to see what this means, but I'll just stick with saying its future for now.

Depending on the translation, either it takes away the "blackness" Yhwach is enveloped in, or the "blackness" within him, latter which might led credence to those theorizing that the "blackness" taken from people is also on a metaphysical level i.e. the "blackness" of their soul. The technique will also take away the target's flesh, blood, and bones, until it is completely crushed and made into nothingness. He even says there will be no chance for reincarnation to whomever is taken by the technique, and he tells Yhwach to enjoy his descent into a pitch-black Hell.

Remember what I said about the Zanpakuto reflecting the Shinigami's soul, and what Ichimonji said about Ichibei's soul? Well, if there was a man who was the embodiment of evil in Bleach, I actually would not say it is Yhwach; at this point in time, I would say it is Ichibei Hyosube.

Akin to Yamamoto, Ichibei possesses a technique with his Zanpakuto requiring an incantation, but the nature of the technique also reflects the darkness that exists in both of their souls - in Ichibei's case, even more so. Yamamoto can reanimate all the dead he has ever killed via his Zanpakuto's flames, and use them in battle; on the other hand, Ichibei's technique summons this pitch-black mausoleum - created from a hundred nights of darkness stolen from Soul Society's future, no less - that crushes anything consumed by it into complete nothingness, even negating the possibility of the soul's reincarnation.

I do not know if the "blackness" of the technique actually destroys the soul itself, or if the person's soul is trapped in the mausoleum's "blackness" for all eternity - it is a mausoleum, after all - but this technique, the incantation involved, and the name itself just screams out to me - screams that Ichibei is one of the most vile beings in existence. The Shinigami were exterminating the Quincy because the Quincy are believed to destroy the souls of Hollows - I say "believed" because Yhwach's ability and connection to the Quincy may throw that into question - but Ichibei possesses a technique that not only transcends Time to steal the "blackness" from a hundred nights in the Soul Society's future to fuel it, but removes a soul from the cycle of reincarnation entirely, either through destroying it outright or trapping it in the mausoleum for eternity.

The fact that he knows how many nights' "blackness" it took to create the mausoleum means Ichibei has used this technique once before in the past, meaning someone (or a whole group of them) either had their souls trapped in this mausoleum or crushed entirely. If Ichibei was a member of the Gotei 13 in the past (their name as Squad Zero indicates a relation to the Gotei 13), then he is living proof that Yhwach was speaking the truth when he described the original Gotei as blood-thirsty, cold-hearted killers. He is a vicious monster who revels in his power over "blackness" and the dominance it gives him over others, from taking away their "Names" and renaming, to crushing them so absolutely that their souls are removed from the cycle of reincarnation entirely.

He may have the title of "Monk", but the true personality behind the jovial behaviour he exhibited before is sure as hell not that of a true monk. As it stands, this fight has really shown what Ichibei's true nature is like. It seems to be a tendency in Bleach that a person's heart is revealed through the battles they take place in (one of Ichigo's main traits is to see the hearts of anyone he clashes blades with), and we have definitely seen the true blackness of Ichibei's own heart through his fight against Yhwach.

Speaking of Yhwach...

I am Yhwach

When Ichibei tells Yhwach to enjoy his descent into a pitch, black hell, the speech bubble also connects to Yhwach, meaning he is saying the exact same thing as Ichibei. This shocks Ichibei, and Yhwach reminds Ichibei that he is all-seeing. As such, there is no ability he cannot "comprehend" and cannot "counter", and that everything he sees becomes powerless before him - just as a THIRD iris and pupil appear in his eye alongside the other two - and asks Ichibei if he still thinks his name means nothing/he has lost his name.

He declares that he is Yhwach, "the one who shall take everything from you", raises his hand, and completely blasts away Ichibei's torso in one of the most gruesome deaths seen in Bleach.

Now, unless Ichibei has something crazy up his sleeve, such as the "blackness" reconstituting him so long as Futen Daisatsuryou is active...He. Is. Dead. I mean, you can see the vertebrae of his neck attached to his now bodiless head. There is no coming back from that kind of destruction. Unless it's some kind of darkness clone, he's dead. But any possibilities of him surviving would be negated by the fact that Yhwach, who can see into the future, would see it coming. Unless Yhwach is stated to know it's not the real Ichibei and destroyed the clone to draw him out, he is dead.

Unless the Spirit King can do for him what Yhwach did for the Elite Guard, Ichibei is dead. But even if that were possible, Yhwach would probably just do what he did to Yamamoto's corpse and blow the rest of his body away, and ensure that no force in the world can bring him back.
Kubo is a madman.

Bleach is the kind of series where the power of a person's ability reflects their overall potential power, so there is always a relation between how powerful a character is depicted as being or can become, and the overall power displayed by their ability. Whenever a powerful character is revealed in Bleach, you can sure as hell expect them to have an ability that is just as powerful.

That is certainly the trend with abilities among the Shinigami - all the most powerful Zanpakuto are generally possessed by the most powerful Shinigami, or Shinigami who have immense potential.

But with this last arc, Kubo is raising the bar to a level no one could possibly have anticipated prior to this arc.

First, Zanka no Tachi was so powerful that it could destroy Soul Society if left active for too long; Gremmy's "The Visionary" could create a Seireitei-razing meteor, and Zaraki smashed that meteor to pieces with Nozarashi; Ichibei's Ichimonji can take the night's "blackness" from one hundred days of the Soul Society's future to create a mausoleum of blackness that crushes anything consumed by it so thoroughly that they cannot reincarnate.

But Yhwach tops all that. He can see everything in front of him all the way into the distance future; he can "know" and understand any ability he sees, "make use of its power", and completely negate it, even if that ability is something as immensely powerful as Ichimonji's "power of black", along with possessing enough power to completely blast away Ichibei's torso in an instant when "three eyes are open".

At this point, I believe that there will be at least one more eye that "opens" at this point. Hell, perhaps it will be a fourth set of irises and pupils and that way his eyes will look the same as those of the Spirit King, or perhaps it will be a third eye on his forehead to give him seven in total, further pushing the symbolism of him being God, as God is said to have "seven eyes" that represent the "Seven Spirits of God".

I expect this kind of shit from MITSUTOSHI'S TORIKO, but Kubo just keeps pushing the envelope even further. What happened to the days when the strength of the Captains of the Gotei 13 was actually considered significant? When we were in awe of the power of the Gotei 13 Captains? All the craziness happening in this arc is making them look like scrubs, and we have not even returned to the levels of power we saw in "Deicide".

I am being proven right in my thinking that the powers seen in "Deicide" were a preview for things to come. But despite claiming that, I did not even know what coming. I did not even think that the powers of the Shinigami and the other main races could come even close to what we've seen in this arc thus far.

It's incredible, and I'm loving every chapter of it.

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