After finishing the first of this week’s two-episode finale, I maintain that an entire arc devoted to how Ichigo’s parents met and fell in love would have been just fine with me. And indeed, the two-part flashback feels a bit rushed at times. But I’m still grateful for what we got, which is nothing less than the most beautiful and heartrending story Bleach has ever told.
Due to the fact no one has harmed and minimal damage done, Isshin is not punished by Old Man Yama for his unsanctioned excursion to the World of the Living. However, Isshin lies when he says there was “nothing else of note” to report … like, say, he discovered that some Quincy were still alive.
Both he and Masaki don’t want to be done with one another, but Masaki is feeling the ill effects of being bitten by that weird hollow, and even bumps into none other than Urahara Kisuke when she momentarily faints.
Masaki comes home and is read the riot act by Ryuuken’s mother, who found out from Katagiri that she got in a hollow battle and was injured, all to save a hated soul reaper. Ryuu first rushes to Katagiri to castigate her for snitching, but Katagiri only did what thought she needed to to prevent the tainting of the Ishida bloodline.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for Katagiri informing Mrs. Ishida, Masaki may have well collapsed somewhere other than the entrance to the house, and it would be too late by the time someone found her. Because as a result of being bitten by the hollow, she’s undergoing the process of hollowification.
Ryuuken carries her out and flies through the sky, unsure where to go or what to do. A giant hollow sneaks up from behind, but is bisected by a returning Isshin. Ryuu exchanges some harsh words, but ultimately, the two men want the same thing: to save Masaki. Unfortunately, neither of them know quite how the hell to do that.
But Urahara does, and he introduces himself to both Isshin and Ryuuken as the only person who can save Masaki. He was banned from Soul Society for the very research he’ll draw upon to do so, warning that while he can save Masaki’s life, she’ll never be the same again. Meanwhile, Masaki is lost deep within her mind, descending into the mouth of a giant hollow.
Urahara describes what must be done to save Masaki—bind her now half Quincy, half Hollow soul with that of a half-Soul Reaper, half- human. Isshin is full Soul Reaper, but if he uses a special gigai developed by Urahara, he can become half-human, but will have to say goodbye to his life in Soul Society forever.
Both Urahara and Ryuu are amazed how quickly Isshin says he’ll do it, but I’m not. This is Ichigo’s dad we’re talking about, and even if Masaki isn’t his family yet, he can’t deny the two of them already shared a sense of justice and altruism that transcends their opposing factions.
He also admits that he’s not sure he really wants to throw his current life away, but he also knows that his future self will laugh at him or worse if he refused to save the person who saved him. The procedure commences, visualized by Isshin saving Masaki and getsuga tenshou-ing the giant mind hollow to hell. Masaki comes to giggling, wanting to know Isshin’s name.
Ryuuken heads home in the rain, knowing that while his potential future bride Masaki did not outright reject him, in a way fate and the universe did. He regrets not stepping in sooner before Masaki was injured, which turned out to be the beginning of the end of her being a suitable wife. Now her soul is literally bound to that of his historical mortal enemy of the Quincy.
Back home, Katagiri is waiting for him in the rain, and he tells her to inform his mother that he is no longer worthy or able to protect the Quincy anymore. But Katagiri, who met Ryuu when she was a small girl and has grown not just to dutifully serve him, but love and care for him, tells him that’s not true. She sheds tears that mingle with the rain; I’m sure she’d long hoped to be his wife one day, but probably not like this.
Isshin starts to wrap up the tale of his wife to Ichigo, their son, by saying she left the Ishida family when she graduated high school and would visit him as a college student when he opened up his medical clinic. He told her he’d been banished, but always assumed she immediately saw through the lie. The two soon fell in love, became inseparable, and she had Ichigo.
Again, I wish we could have watched more episodes of Isshin and Masaki getting to know each other both before the attack that would bind their souls and afterwards when he began his human life. The two are such compelling, rootable characters. Isshin is absolutely right that Masaki radiates light and warmth like the sun.
But there’s also a romantic quality to just how goshdarned fast everything happened to these young people, how they rolled with the punches, and came out of it living different but probably better lives than the ones they would have led had they never met. A life neither in the Quincy or Soul Reaper way, but in the middle way.
But that too had its cost, as Isshin wraps up this epic tale to Ichigo. The day Masaki died protecting a 9-year-old Ichigo, she shouldn’t have died. She was still part Quincy, and her Blut Vene should have been able to not only defend against Grand Fisher, but defeat him easily.
But she didn’t, and died instead, because her powers failed her. Rather, they were taken, by the awakening King of the Quincy, Yhwach. Uryuu’s mother Katagiri met the same fate, becoming frail and dying too soon as, like Masaki’s, she was deemed unworthy of keeping her powers by Yhwach.
That Yhwach is the father of all Quincy, and his blood runs through all their veins, means he was Masaki’s progenitor, and thus Ichigo’s as well. There may be no ecaping that. And like her mother, he inherited the part of her soul that had become Hollowified.
As if Ichigo needed any further motivation to defeat the guy, he can add “ultimately responsible for his mom’s death” to the list. When an uncharacteristically docile Ikumi stops by to give him his Soul Reaper talisman, Ichigo takes it, thanks her, then tells his father he’s headed off.
Now that he knows more about who he is and where he came from, there’s much work to be done … I just wish he’d at least said hi to his sisters!