Golden Kamuy – 42 – Be Like a Boner

The moon over the hot springs is just a tiny sliver, almost new; Warrant Officer Kikuta remembers it being the same moon when he and Private Ariko were lying in the trenches of Mukden. But once the moon is new, Ariko is suddenly bursting out of the side of the inn and landing in the snow covered in bruises, then led through the dark by Toni, who is not dead.

So what gives? Tsurumi knows the skin Ariko brought wasn’t Toni’s and decided to give Ariko the opportunity to steal the other skins for Hijikata Toshizou. Rather than kill Ariko, he reminds him of the difference between how he’d rule Hokkaido and how Toshizou would, appeals to his Ainu heritage, and makes Ariko into a double agent.

He has Usami rough Ariko up, then sends the burly private back into the mountains with Toni to meet with Hijikata and his men, earning their trust by “stealing” Tsurumi’s skins and presenting them to the old samurai. But while the skins are human, Hijikata can tell they’re clever fakes. Even so, Hijikata sees the value of having skins that, while not “full truth”, are still incredibly close half-truths. And so the chess game between the two leaders intensifies.

Sugimoto and Asirpa’s group ends up sledding into Enonoka’s village, where they say their goodbyes to her, Henke, and the ever-trusty Ryu, now a lead dog. Cikapasi shares a tearful farewell with Enonoka, but when he falls off the departing sled, he decides to remain with her after all. He and Tanigaki then share a tearful farewell, with Tanigaki giving Cikapasi his rifle (to be used to hunt only when he grows up) and telling him to stand straight and tall—like the boner that gives him his name.

While it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to Ryu and the kids, I daresay they’ll be far safer in that village than staying with the rest of the group. As much as Sugimoto wants to protect Asirpa, the fact they’re cooperating with Tsurumi and the 7th at all means things are about to get a lot more dangerous and volatile.

Either on the dusk or dawn before Tsurumi arrives to meet with them, Koito has a serious talk with Tsukishima, asking him if Tsurumi had anything to do with the death of Ogata’s father, the only general opposed to the Manchurian annexation hastened by the gaining of the railway in the Russian war.

In so many words, Tsukishima confirms Koito’s suspicions and then some, while also declaring that he never considered his life worth enough to get upset over being used by a man as great as Tsurumi. He wants a front row seat to watch the lieutenant’s big plans unfold.

Koito initially seems overwhelmed by all this truth, but he then revels in just how cool Tsurumi is, even correctly deducing that the good lieutenant staged their meeting and his kidnapping years ago.

The next morning, drunk on booze and the company of a woman, Shiraishi gives Sugimoto a piece of his mind. He doesn’t mince words saying Sugimoto has gone soft in his crusade to protect Asirpa, someone who is neither lover, wife, or daughter. Shiraishi tells him Asirpa changed and grew when she was in Karafuto, and Sugimoto does her a disservice by treating her like a delacate flower to be sheltered from life itself.

As far as Shiraishi is concerned, Asirpa should be allowed and encouraged to lead the Ainu—in battle, if necessary—if that’s what she wants. Sure, Shiraishi undercuts his gravitas by booting into the snow, but they’re words he wouldn’t have said when sober or blue-balled, and they needed to be said.

I hope Sugimoto heard them. Tsurumi and Hijikata may be great men with big plans for Hokkaido, but Asirpa has the potential to be an even greater woman. As her friend, not her savior, Shiraishi won’t let her potential be stifled.

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 05 – Old Man Yama’s Fire

So sooner does word reach Soul Society that Kurosaki Ichigo is on his way, and everyone starts to celebrate, than Akon learns that Ichigo is currently trapped in Garganta, and the glimmer of hope fades as fast as it arrived Akon tries calling Ichigo, but when Ichigo picks up all he hears are screams.

The 12th division gets torn apart by Jidanbou, one of the gatekeepers a Quincy apparently brainwashed to do his bidding, which is a good trick. Back in Hueco Mundo, Quilge is about to murder Orihime and Chad when a bolt of red light cuts him in two. We’re left to wonder who it could be … an Espada, perhaps?

Back in Soul Society, Byakuya’s Quincy opponent notes that the shaking of the good captain’s hands isn’t due to any kind of poison, but plain old fear, something Byakuya hasn’t experienced in centuries. Specifically, fear without cause, which has no limits and cannot be overcome by experience.

Renji can only stand and watch while Byakuya is torn to ribbons by his own bankai. Renji is about to unleash his when a second, dumber Quincy hits him so hard he flies clean to the other side of the city. Honestly, it’s the best thing that could have happened to Renji.

The Quincy King and Blondie are looking for more serious opposition, and finally appear to find some in 10th Captain Zaraki Kenpachi, one of my favorite captains because he just doesn’t give a shit about anything but fighting the strongest motherfuckers he can. It’s why he and Ichigo are such good buds.

Zaraki arrives with the bodies of three Stern Ritters he defeated in simple yet poetic ways. Heck, the way he describes defeating them kinda sounds like a poem. But when Zaraki rushes the King and swings his chipped zanpakuto, the King manages to block it … with his bare arm. That might be worrying for some other shinigami, but a block like that is what Zaraki lives for.

Ichigo, completely isolated from both Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, can only rage within his cage of lightning. Either he can summon enough power to blast his way out and open the Garganta back up, or he’ll need help from Kisuke, Orihime, and Chad’s mystery savior.

That brings us to the battle where the tide is finally turned in Soul Society. 9th Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei is about to be murdered by a Stern Ritter when the latter’s attack is blocked by Head Captain Yamamoto-Genryuusai. When the Quincy unleashes the late 1st Lieutenant Sasakibe’s Bankai, it takes Yamamoto back to the distant past—the last time he saw it.

Then, Yama’s hair and trademark ‘stache were black, and Sasakibe, still wet behind the ears, didn’t have a ‘stache at all. He also went by Ejisai since the scar on his head looked like the character eji. Sasakibe pledged himself to Yamamoto not as a student who would mimic him, but a right-hand man who would complement his captain’s abilities.

Sasakibe used his bankai against Yamamoto, and it gave him a scar that changed the symbol and thus his nickname. Yamamoto ended up altering it to Genryuusai. And now we know why the cat’s name is so damn long and where he got it from: his trusty lieutenant.

The grief he must feel for outliving his young comrade must surely fuel Yamamoto’s rage as he laughs at the pathetic excuse for an imitation of Sasakibe’s bankai the Quincy throws his way. Yamamoto’s robes are tattered by the blast of lightning, but otherwise he’s unharmed. The Quincy isn’t so lucky: Yamamoto’s counter burns his flesh and bone away, leaving nothing but ash.

Yamamoto turns to a flabbergasted Hisagi and tells him there’s no further need for concern, as he will be personally murdering each and every Quincy invader. With that, he launches up into the sky like a rocket and screams across it like a burning mustachioed phoenix. It’s one of the coolest and most badass displays of power I’ve seen in Bleach … and he’s just getting started.

Sensing their head captain is angrier than they’ve ever seen him, the captains (both those with and without their bankai) and their lieutenants suddenly feel their second wind, and a resurgence of confidence after the initial onslaught of despair. Captain Shunsui in particular feels like Old Man Yama is scolding him for feeling so down on himself.

After the credits we see King Quincy, whose name is Yhwach, having no trouble at all with Zaraki. He has him in a chokehold and is ready to wrest the life from him when Yamamoto blazes in to announce that his true opponent has arrived. Very soon, the two will cross swords for the first time in a millennium. Should be fun. Ichiwho?

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