Old Man Yama is always fun to watch, especially when he casually flexes, like when Yhwach thinks he’s slowly walking towards him, then a moment later Yamamoto is twenty feet away, Zaraki in his arms. When three of Yhwach’s subordinates descend on Yamamoto, he ethers them with a column of flame so big it gives his Captains another morale boost.
But Yamamoto isn’t here to play around. In what comes as a shocking escalation so early in the season, he releases his bankai for the first time in a thousand years. And it’s not a one-trick pony, but a four-cardinal-direction Swiss army knife of overpowered goodness. When he pulls all his flames within his sword, just touching the tip to the ground creates a yawning chasm instantaneously.
That first stage temporarily turned Soul Society into a waterless desert, but the second stage of his bankai makes him as hot as the surface of the sun, melting the very stone beneath him and making it impossible for Yhwach to touch him. This is when Old Man Yama starts his withering trash talk.
When the Quincy King summons the ultimate Quincy defense, Yamamoto changes gears once more, summoning not just any old undead army, but an army made up of Yhwach’s fallen subordinates. He can plow through them, but he must look each one in the face as he does it. It’s enough to make the hardened king weep.
That’s when Yamamoto brings the hammer down, as the fourth stage of his bankai is a blast so devastating it slices Yhwach clean in half at the midsection. But at this point I was already convinced that Something Wasn’t Right.
We just saw way too much of Yamamoto’s repertoire in just the sixth episode of the season, and the Quincy boss can’t already be dead. Sure enough, we learn that Yhwach wasn’t Yhwach at all, but another one of his subordinates disguised as him.
While his double fought Yamamoto, Yhwach infiltrated the dungeon below the 1st Squad barracks to have a few words with Aizen Sousuke, who is imprisoned down there. He doesn’t mince words, and asks Aizen to join him. Aizen may hate Soul Society and Yamamoto, but he may just hate the Quincy just a bit more, because he refuses without hesitation.
As for Yamamoto, his big light show didn’t seem like something he could easily repeat after such a brief rest. His intention from the start of the fight was to end Yhwach’s life, but he was deceived, and not being a Spring chicken anymore, dude is clearly winded. Worse, the defense he held against the Quincy—that they didn’t know enough about his bankai to steal it—goes out the window, since he just showed Yhwach virtually everything he had.
That enables Yhwach to steal Yamamoto’s bankai, then draw his glowing blue Qunicy sword and unleash one of his special attacks on his opponent. The episode ends with Yamamoto’s flames being extinguished, and Yhwach’s strike causing a great deal of blood loss and the clipping of one of his trademark long eyebrows.
But just as Yhwach couldn’t be beaten so quickly, it’s hard to believe Old Man Yama will be out for long. If nothing else, that was one of the best-looking battles in Bleach’s long and illustrious history.