Best keep up with these while I can.
The Price of Victory
Although Nanao was able to use Shinken Hakkyouken to defeat Lille Barro, the damage has still been done by the Schutzstaffel as Kyoraku collapses after trying to head off to join the other Shinigami. Kyoraku has done a lot to support Nanao in this fight, but I think it is now time for Kyoraku to take a rest and let Nanao heal his wounds for him. After all, he's in no position to fight right now.
Although both Pernida and Lille have both been (seemingly) defeated in the Soul King Palace, they still exacted a heavy price from their opponents, and left them unable to continue fighting.
Mayuri lost Nemu, and Zaraki, one of Soul Society's most powerful fighters, was completely incapacitated by Pernida's "the Compulsory"; now Kyoraku has collapsed from the multiple injuries that Lille has inflicted upon him, and is unable to join the fight with Gerard, which is probably for the best, given what just happened.
Either way, it shows that the Schutzstaffel are not a threat to be underestimated, as they have definitely done more damage to the Shinigami as a whole than the Espada ever did in their entire run as villains.
Inner Spirit of the Sniper
Speaking of the Schutzstaffel, we also see that Lille Barro is not dead from being split in half and scattered into light. I recall myself and others speculating this to be the case, because Hakkyouken was said to "reflect the power of a god" and split it in all directions, a description that does not mean it "kills" the God. It is nice to see that this is the case, as Lille rains down upon the Seireitei as the particles of lights scattered by Shinken Hakkyouken.
While mangaka do take liberties sometimes, I do believe these are literal light beams, since they covered the entire distance from the Soul King Palace to the Seireitei (through the 72 barriers no less), in a matter of seconds to a minute, whereas it took Ichigo half a day to cross that same distance. Moreover, these light beams are strong enough and fast enough to break through the Shakonmaku unimpeded, leaving only the lower ranks of Shinigami left to react to the event.
Aizen is also there as well, but he only made a passing remark about it. It still makes me wonder what exactly Kyoraku intends to use Aizen for. Is he only going to bring him in once only Yhwach remains? Is Aizen going to be used for some other purpose? Or did Kyoraku change his mind after seeing what Aizen did while still in his chair. Regardless, Aizen should at least do something in the future, since each light beam produced a Mini-Lille when they hit the ground.
Now, to examine his appearance once again. He still has the owl head on a long neck like before, but his body has abandoned its angelic, eldritch form and has taken on a more bird-like appearance, in terms of his body and of his legs.
But more importantly, his Heilgenschein (Halo) is missing, and its absence speaks to the nature of Lille's predicament - Lille Barro has lost his power as a God. Given the Halo appears with the Vollstandig, it backs up my idea that the Vollstandig, derived from the Schrift, is what made Lille Barro into a God, and having his power (and body) scattered by Hakkyouken caused him to lose that power and revert to this form.
As I said in my last review, Lille's form in Vollstandig is likely a reflection of what his inner spirit looks like, and that appears to be the case here as well. However, this time the appearance is one that does not reflect the influence of Yhwach's Schrift and Lille's status as a God, so it is less grand and more animal-like, akin to the physical appearance of a Hollow, or what kind of animal form a Zanpakuto spirit may take.
But Lille Barro does not take the loss of the halo, well, demonstrating the ability to still shape-shift his head and starts blasting everything that falls within his sights, vowing to destroy the Seireitei as reparation for losing his power as a God. This does show one of the big holes in every Captain-level Shinigami going up to the Soul King Palace, because it leaves virtually no one to protect the lower ranks should any enemy invade the Seireitei in the mean time.
Fortunately, it seems that Mayuri has that base covered as well.
Before another group of low-ranking Shinigami are blown away by a flock of Mini-Lille, someone cuts the head of a Mini-Lille and its attack in half before he can fire it off, causing the attack to detonate and blow up the Mini-Lille's head. This shocks the other two, as the man who killed the Lille is supposed to be dead, at which point we see Kira, 'alive' and 'well' with the moon showing through the hole in his torso.
Kira's reanimation was shown in the most recent character book, both in a short chapter, and in a short novel written by Ryohgo Narita. According to the short novel, Kira actually did die, but Mayuri 'reanimated' him and made him more powerful by infusing his repaired corpse with the souls of many dead Shinigami, specifically his own subordinates. This process might be how he reanimated the Arrancar, and the reason Mayuri was stated to have done this is because the thousands of dead Shinigami threatened to disrupt the balance even further, so he decided to stuff the departing souls into corpses and 'reanimate' Arrancar and a Vice-Captain for his own uses.
This shows that Mayuri is able to use the souls of dead Shinigami before they depart to his own design, implying that there is a certain amount of time the soul of a spiritual being remains around its dead body before it departs into the "cycle of souls". Regardless of who it brings back, or if it was to keep the balance of souls stable, it is still a very unethical thing to do on Mayuri's part.
However, I must admit how ironic I find it that it was the Shinigami who were defeated and severely injured or killed (barring Yamamoto, whose body was blown to atoms) who have been healed/'reanimated' and have become far more powerful as a result of it (in the novel, Kira fought and defeated Shaz Domino). It is quite the turnaround, and this particular one does afford us the opportunity to witness Kira's Bankai, something we heard Kubo say was quite gruesome.
With Wabisuke in hand, Kira proceeds to strike two more Lille and incapacitate them with the increased weight from Wabisuke's ability, and is about to take on about a flock of seven before we jump back to the Soul King Palace.
Conversion into Miracle
Renji, stop trash-talking your enemies. Yes, you are now far more powerful than the average Captain, with your true Bankai, but you should at least realize that you have not had much luck in the series. I would think that your defeat by Mask de Masculine the first time would have humbled you, but you just seem to have a bigger head after the Squad Zero Training.
Gerard begins to talk about the nature of "miracles" after Renji claims he cannot beat the Gotei 13, he comments on the extent the Gotei 13 wounded him, and boasts about showing them what a "miracle" is. But Byakuya has none of this, and proceeds to use Senbonzakura to destroy Gerard's head, knocking off his helmet in the process, and even uses it on his body for good measure.
Byakuya has been quite determined since this arc began, and it seems that his defeat by As Nodt only made him more pragmatic, ruthless, and thorough in how he treats his enemies. The sheer brutality of how he dealt with Gerard was even enough to upset Momo, although Shinji reasons that Gerard was the kind of guy who could have turned the situation completely around if they let him have the chance, hence the need to kill him like that.
Shinji, you talk a lot too, but you are correct in this case...Although going so far in killing him was the worst thing the Shnigami could have done, in Gerard's case.
Just as the Shinigami prepare to leave, a giant foot appears out of nowhere, nearly crushing the Shinigami and they turn around to see Gerard has grown to the size of a Norse Jotunn, and all of his injuries have been completely healed in the process, revealing him to have completely white eyes, a laurel crown, and marks in the shape of an "M" on his head. It is at this point Gerard explains the exact nature of his Schrift - "The Miracle" allows him to "convert" the damage he takes into various effects. I say "various effects", because Gerard says this is the first time enough damage has been done to him to allow him to attain the "Size of God" he now possesses.
If this is the first time it has happened, then it stands to reason that he is almost a counterpart to Gremmy - Gremmy increase the power of "The Visionary" by creating another of himself, whereas Gerard's "The Miracle" achieves certain effects based on how much damage he has sustained against an opponent. It seems like a very circumstantial power, but its core premise is not "miraculous happenings", per se, but "conversion". The effects he "converts" damage into are what are "miraculous", but the power itself is based around "conversion".
It is not an "empowerment"-type ability in the same was as "The Superstar", "the Overkill", "Ira", or "Dirty Boots" - those require certain conditions to be met, and do not involve direct "conversion".
Funnily enough, the closest comparison I actually can make to Gerard's "conversion" is Hanataro's "Hisagomaru" - Hisagomaru takes the injuries of those its "cuts" and "converts" those healed injuries into power.
The rest of chapter 655 is relatively simple: Gerard demonstrates that his power has increased in proportion to his size, and he completely wrecks the Gotei 13. He squashes both Hinamori and Shinji with a hand, he effortlessly blocks Senbonzakura bare-handed and swats Byakuya away with his shield arm, and he finishes by literally blowing Rukia and Renji away, levelling the area, leaving Gerard to boast about how no "miracles" are coming for the Shinigami.
This is terrifying. Rukia, Renji and Byakuya were all trained by Squad Zero, and Byakuya and Renji were seen overwhelming Gerard when fighting together in chapter 654. But he uses "The Miracle" once to convert his injuries into his "Size of God" form, and he curb-stomps them. I've said this before about Nimaiya, but now I will say it again - I have only seen something like this with Aizen, and even then the quality of the people fighting is quite different, because Rukia, Renji and Byakuya are all far more powerful than the average Captain at this point (Renji wiped the floor with Mask, who defeated both Rose and Kensei easily without using his full power or Vollstandig), yet they still got beat like that.
The Heart of the Soul King
Meanwhile, Askin is casually observing from a distance that Gerard has activated his Schrift, to the extent that he decides to tell Ichigo about the nature of the Schutzstaffel.
The first point he makes is that Lille Barro was the leader of the Schutzstaffel, and was the first Quincy to ever be bestowed a Schrift by his Majesty. This seems contradictory, because Lille himself said he was "The last Quincy" bestowed power by Yhwach. Either it is a translation error, or Yhwach gave the original generation of Stern Ritter power by means other than a Schrift, with Lille being the first one given a Schrift, the new means.
As to why he calls himself "The last Quincy" bestowed power, Yhwach stated that, in his eyes, the Gotei 13 died a thousand years ago "together with [the Quincy]". Perhaps Lille was the last of the original Quincy a thousand years ago to be given power by Yhwach, but the first to be given the Schrift. The idea that he is "the last Quincy" implies the mind-set that all modern Quincy are not considered to be "true Quincy" by the higher-ups in the Vandenreich.
But the important stuff is with Pernida and Gerard. Gerard and Pernida are unique in that neither of them had any special powers bestowed upon them by Yhwach, as their powers had long been in place. As a result, those two were given Schrifts in recognition of their status, rather than as a means to "awaken" their power. Askin talks about how the Stern Ritter were "bestowed special powers", but I think this is more related to possibly the Vollstandig or awakening their "latent power", rather than Yhwach being the source of all Quincy abilities.
After all, the Lloyd brothers were born with their power, Askin was presumably taken in by Yhwach because "he would not die", and Haschwalth was born as a Quincy with the ability to share power, like Yhwach.
Because Pernida and Gerard already possessed their own abilities, rumours existed in the Vandenreich regarding who they were. As we saw in Mayuri's fight, Pernida was the "Left Arm of the Soul King", which was in fact the rumour that Askin describes.
On the other, Gerard Valkyrie of the Schutzstaffel, Stern Ritter "M" - The Miracle, is "The Heart of the Soul King". Since the rumour regarding Pernida is true, then it stands to reason the rumour regarding Gerard is also true as well.
Originally, we all believed that it was simply the limbs of the Soul King which were missing from the main body, but now we see that the Heart of the Soul King is also missing, which leaves open the possibility that there are at most two more parts of the Soul King missing from the main body. I will save it for a theory later on, but right now we have: The Left and Right Arms, the Left and Right Legs, the Heart, and the Body of the Soul King. The Body of the Soul King is what the Shinigami have used to "regulate the flow of souls", while the rest of the parts were cast away.
We know the Right Arm came to be worshipped as "Mimihagi" in a district of the Eastern Rukongai, but now we know for a fact that Yhwach not only collected the Left Arm of the Soul King, but also the Heart of the Soul King, which became an independent entity much like Mimihagi, only with a Human form. The fact that both are Quincy, and that both are serving under Yhwach raises further questions about the true nature of the Soul King, and his actual relationship with the Shinigami.
This also leaves the question as to what other parts of the Soul King there are and who they may be. It has already been speculated that Gremmy may turn out to be "The Mind of the Soul King", given his true form as a disembodied brain in a protective casing, and the incredible powers of "The Visionary".
But now that I'm reviewing the chapter, I see the gap in that logic. While Askin was talking about the Schutzstaffel, he made mention of all the Stern Ritter as a whole, pointing out those two as having already possessed their abilities. He could very well be just like Lille - an exceptionally powerful Quincy whose ability was awakened by Yhwach's Schrift. After all, if that were the case, Askin would have made mention of it.
That said, looking back on it, Gremmy never did use a Vollstandig (even if giving him one might allow him to make a freakin' sun), he can create "life" via Stern Ritter with their own abilities, and even make another of himself. I don't know what to think when it comes to Gremmy, and Askin himself talked about Pernida and Gerard's natures as rumours and theories made on account of their abilities.
Someone like Gremmy did not seem to have such rumours about him, although Stern Ritter were apprehensive of his power. That said, perhaps such rumours could not spread, because he was apparently locked away by Yhwach until he deemed him necessary. He is one of the odd Stern Ritter out, and I would be happy to see if he somehow ties into the mythos of the Soul King's missing pieces.
Instant K.O. Area-Of-Effect Lethal Dose
"But how could Askin be talking so casually when he is fighting Ichigo Kurosaki?"
Because he was explaining this to Ichigo while he was eating dirt.
Either his Shinigami robs are just that baggy, or Kubo needs to learn how to draw people lying down on the ground better, because Ichigo almost looked as flat as board in front of Askin.
Remember what I said about the Schutzstaffel proving themselves to be a greater threat than the Espada? Well, the fact that Askin has taken down Ichigo without even a scratch on him is proof enough of that, as two of the five Special War Potentials have now been defeated by the Schutzstaffel with little difficulty. It really does set Askin on a level far apart from his fellow Stern Ritter, even if he too has been empowered by the Auswahlen - Askin easily knocked Ichigo out, whereas Bambietta's Stern Ritter brigade were being knocked around by Ichigo casually. It is no wonder Yhwach chose him to be one of the Schutzstaffel.
At this point, Inoue and Sado arrive and try to help Ichigo, with Sado attacking Askin, despite Ichigo telling them to stay back, but they fall within the radius of Askin's "Gift Bad", and begin collapsing and choking on the super-dense reishi in the Wahrwelt.
I will be blunt and say this is precisely how I imagined things would play out should Inoue and Sado come up against Askin - they would immediately be affected by "The Death-Dealing", and keel over. Also, Askin's power works as I imagined it would - he has to take in whatever element he wants to manipulate with "The Death-Dealing" for it to work. I suppose this means the "Gift Ball" Askin sent Grimmjow was either based on "reishi" or café au lait.
But this basically shows how dangerous Askin's ability is - you either have to take him out from a distance, or be immediately incapacitated by "The Death-Dealing". Based on what he says about "Gift Bad", it appears one may have to be on the ground and in physical contact with the "Gift Bad" for it to work, because...
Yoruichi was unaffected by it when she was hanging behind Askin. He is not shocked here, but he does look a bit annoyed at the cat that is now hanging behind him and mocking his power, much like how Bambietta once mocked it.
I must say, I am kind of in agreement with Askin, because Yoruichi, despite being the eponymous "God of Thunder" referenced in the title, is looking quite far down at Askin. I do not know why, but her rather laid-back attitude towards Askin throughout their entire fight in the chapter is kind of annoying. Even when she uses an advanced form of Shunko - Raijin Senkei - she still maintains that same laid back air of arrogance, simply telling Askin how she doesn't have time to deal with him and that he would let them through.
Askin even compared Yoruichi to Bambietta, saying that he prefers to fight with a certain amount of elegance and cachet, with those who simply brute force their way in battle i.e. "wringing people's necks" being more like Bambietta and Yoruichi. For Askin, it is about style and presentation (now I'm imagining him with Megamind's voice), both in terms of fighting and in terms of the value of women.
So Yoruichi's dead-pan look when she throws one of Askin's Heilig Pfiel back at him is kind of annoying, for my part.
And I know this is going to come back and bite her, since she just gave Askin a huge dose of electricity that he is likely going to channel through "The Death-Dealing". Askin is just that much more interesting, in my opinion. You don't go downing Ichigo in such a laid-back manner and not be a boss.