Friday, 20 January 2012

Attack From Behind: Filler Arc Spectacularama Numero Trois

Ready to laugh at some shiny vampires? It's




's



!!


Where I'm sure our intrepid young do-gooder protagonists

Chingy Chong Big Wong! Alice "Frogeyes" Sullivan! Commissioner Rod "Surly" McGinger, Sr.! And Good Ol' Seamus!

will fight and defeat those mean nasties who want to destroy Soul Society! No no, those other mean nasties. No, those other ones.

Last we left off, Ishida used a power bangle lent to him by Nemu and voluntarily activated the Bounts' portal to Soul Society like an idiot, and the Bounts shot off to the afterlife in not at all amusing streaks of light to wreck some shit. Wreck ALL of the shit, actually.

Yeah, they're vampires and they're shining. But they aren't sparkling. We must classify vampire shininess by degrees.
Evidently, Mayuri was manipulated into giving Ishida the bangle by Ichinose's covert operation of tampering with Mayuri's data. He can become invisible using his light powers, and he rigged tons of explosives all over the city to boot. Ichinose should have just, like, turned invisible and slit Kenpachi's throat in his sleep or something. Or stage the captain title match (with 200 spectators and everything) and then use the preset explosives to kill Kenpachi, passing them off as his bankai or something. Then he'd be captain and he could change the regulation to make a more just society. You're welcome, shithead.

As Seireitei is ravaged by random explosions (PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE), Soul Society must send its best and brightest to put a stop to the intruders! Unfortunately, its best and brightest were all doubled over laughing at the above image, and so Vices Iba and Omaeda are the first on the scene.

Is that the third or the fourth time that Dalk animation's been recycled

I think my favorite part of the video (3:15) is where John Goodman holds Iba aloft by his own sword, and Iba goes "What the hell is going on!?" Noooot that hard to figure out, Iba--though you do have enviable shoulder strength. Yes, much like a Quincy in heat, the Bount is capable of snapping his or her fingers and absorbing spirit particles from the very soul-matter around him. This is a place where Bounts can RULE!

Ichigo and the gang learn from a quick visit to Shiba Shuukaku's place that they need to find some scientist chick named Ran'Tao who looks just like Yoshino (her accidental clone!). As it happens, Ran'Tao was the one who accidentally created the Bounts in a botched research experiment to lengthen souls' lives.

Which is sharper: The hair? Or the GLARE

She flouted the Soul Society brass (whose first instinct was of course "kill them all") and helped the Bounts, who were all supposed to be erased from history. She should have planned a few more steps ahead, seeing as the few remaining Bounts are now hellbent on razing Soul Society to the ground.

Yoshi vs. Rukia rematch? But this time Rukia's all by her lonesome, and with no sword release, against a bloodthirsty Bount who's even stronger than before! How can she survive?

It's a tad tough to take her seriously when her fan is chiding her for interrupting its nap time.
  
I share Rukia's confusion when Yoshi somehow blocked her downward slash and kept Rukia aloft like that for like a good three seconds. And then gravity up and surrenders when Yoshi flings Rukia off. Ririn, the chicken modsoul, uses her illusion powers to pad the episode just a little more, since Yoshi can just heal any wound using Bount reishi absorption. I like how it makes her hair defy gravity, I should make a course on anime hair physics.

Were I Yoshino, I'd be tempted to dribble that kid and shoot hoops with her, just to, you know, really cement my evilness.

I'm not sure there's a more perfect line after "Let's make her blood and flesh indistinguishable from each other!" than "Stop, you're killing her!"

Byakuya comes to save Rukia, and then fails to utterly obliterate Yoshi, probably because his Valium has yet to wear off. Afterwards as Rukua convalesces, Byakuya tells Ichigo to scarper off back to Earth, because the Gotei 13 are enough to handle the situation. Byakuya's amazing battle tactics and foresight, everybody. My theory is that Byakuya didn't want Rukia to hang out with Ichigo for fear she would realize how much better that is than hanging out with Byakuya himself.

Meanwhile, Kariya enjoys himself winning at card games in a seedy gambling parlor. No, I'm not making that up, Kariya hits up a wretched hive and starts a brawl for kicks. Betrayal-a-minute omnicidal smugfuck that Kariya is, I'd still rather have Rukia hang out with him than with Byakuya.

The criminals of the Kusajishi District, prone to terrorize Seireitei with their fearsome stench.

Shuukaku assures us these guys are a force to be reckoned with, but seeing as how the captain commander can literally cause a Vice-Captain to practically swallow her heart by staring at her, I'm less than convinced. Ganju enlists his friends to fend off the Kusajishi menace.

Well they had to write Ganju in somehow.

The bandits of Kusajishi soon launch their insurrection using siege weaponry and pelting Seireitei's gate guardian giants.
I realize that there's a new mortal threat to Soul Society every afternoon, but I think we might be getting worked up over nothing.

Considering just how underwhelming a plot thread this is, it's not hard to see why it never really went anywhere. Kariya just annihilates the invaders once they manage to open one of the gates. Was it meant to show us just how evil Kariya is? There was no other way to open the gate apart from throwing two-bit goons at the problem?


For the next fight, Byakuya encounters Kariya during a leisurely stroll through the forest at night, because there's a lot of trees that need to be sliced for effect and they're not gonna slice themselves.

I know this is a series where shiny vampires with talking dolls fight feudal-themed soul reapers with magic swords and they can all teleport and absorb spirit particles, but what's up with those light beams

Kariya had Yoshi toy with Rukia in order to lure in Byakuya, the "most famous captain," and demoralize Seireitei by defeating him. You've done a very admirable job researching your enemies, Kariya--you even knew Ichigo's name--but thinking that killing Byakuya would result in anything less than a week-long bash with streamers and loose morals, that's just naive.

Kariya's wind powers piss me off, because it's not wind. It's just your standard generic "energy" that happens to be colored partially translucent grey. If you're going to give a character wind powers, be creative about it. Don't pull shit like WIND FOREARM DEFLECTOR, wind doesn't fucking work that way. Not only that, but shouldn't there be leaves falling everywhere? Shouldn't those inexplicable beams of lights shooting up be disturbing soul-wildlife or something?

This peaceful sylvan evening is ruined even further for Byakuya when more and more other characters decide to enter the fray. When Ichigo intervenes, Byakuya decides to attack him, too, probably because the mortal peril of all Soul Society still isn't enough to rouse him from his morphine reverie. Byakuya has sworn to slay all those who would throw off the balance of his world, but he never said anything about prioritizing that duty above working in his sandals and savoring the cool midnight breeze.


3:48--Don't tell Byakuya that he sucks, Ichigo--that's my job!

"Well you certainly came out of nowhere, Ichigo."

"That's right!"

I'm guessing this battle is supposed to convey the vibe of "coolness" of a free-for-all, but instead it just feels interminably long. Thankfully, Ran'Tao shows up with her laser blaster of plot progression. Her dub actress falls so short of a convincing British accent it's almost more depressing than funny. She deserves your alms and pity, Kariya, not your promises of murder!

John Goodman arrives to save Kariya's shiny heiny with a volley of metal balls (clear subtext here). Here's a question, shouldn't those metal balls boomerang back to restore Dalk's original shape?

Afterwards, Ran'Tao takes Ichigo and Ishida to her exilic home and talks some backstory. It's not revealed in full until Ran'Tao and Kariya duke it out, but I might as well show it all right now anyway.



I'd like you to keep in mind that throughout their history, Bounts were constantly consuming dead human souls. Funnily enough, it's glossed over completely. Kinda makes their story a bit less sympathetic. If you would humor me, a dramatic reenactment:

__*__*__

"Honey, dinner's ready! It's your favorite, the souls of precious ol' grannies who were looking forward to heaven!"

"Coming dear, oh no a shinigami GGAAARRGH"

~~Sad music plays~~

"It would seem I'm now a soul in Soul Society. CURSE YOU, SOUL REAPERS!!"

__*__*__

At least Quincies kill Hollows, thinking there's no way to purify them. Bounts, on the other hand, are munching on souls that hadn't become Hollows yet. And you can't forget all the instances they must have killed humans in order to eat their souls--especially since regular humans persecuted them, too. Sure, maybe Soul Society shouldn't consider genocide their first resort, but Bounts aren't exactly innocent of wrongdoing here.

And another thing! How did these last remaining Bounts all end up congregating in Japan? Near Karakura Town, at that!? I guess you could say there's more human souls there, no actually you couldn't because this happened way before Ichigo became a shinigami.

And ANOTHER thing: Why would Kariya want to kill Ran'Tao? She gave birth to you and your entire precious tribe. She gave you the seal that made you stupid strong. And she's already being punished with that seal on her back that's made her weaker. Poor Ran'Tao, a single fuck up and her entire afterlife turns to shit. I'd raise the counterpoint that her botched experiment rent a significant portion of Seireitei unto oblivion if that in itself weren't a potential boon to soulmanity. Just think how such a shake up in the order of things, how such an infusion of new blood, could revitalize Soul Society into not sucking utter ass. But then I suppose the same objective of effecting change in Soul Society was eventually accomplished by a 15-year-old kid being forced to kill all their baddies for them and then crying until they deigned to give him the same power to kill all their baddies for them once again.

Anyway, the next fight is Ichinose vs. Kenpachi, but first the cad Ichinose successfully diverts our lovable heroes (and Hitsugaya) by summoning a bubble of blinding light and illusions. One former Vice incapacitating damn near a half dozen good guys. Kenpachi comes to make everyone look bad and slashes Ichinose up, which leads to his sad death. Sad, but only because it's a false demise and Ichinose reappears later. (Tinting Ichinose's final moments black and white is a bit poetic, I'll admit, what with his whole illuminate everything until there are no shadows shtick.)

Bieber cut versus godly awesome spike hair. Oh how I will relish this

12:42--Goddamn them's some huge fucking shoulders. If that's how Ichinose looks upon Kariya,I'm amazed Kariya's hair doesn't shoot off to each side as wings

I know, I know, how could Kenpachi have managed to defeat the sheer manliness of rainbow droplets

As an aside, I will commend whoever wrote this fight for having Kenpachi troll Ichinose with a choice--follow orders and keep the others from advancing, or finish his blood feud and duke it out against the person he hates the most.

Upcoming are Soi Fong vs. Rebel Doucheballer, Mayuri vs. Old Fuck, Ishida vs. Talking Fan, and Hitsugaya vs. John Goodman.

The shit-eating combover soul vampire's elevator-themed flower-fox mind control-inducing floating puppet multiplies and they imbed themselves into the hearts of the soul reapers of Soi Fong's stealth ops squad, causing one of her retinue to lob a bug juice insect vial full of poison into her shoulder. I don't think I'll ever write a sentence weirder than that, so here's the rest of the fight.

The red arrow pattern pointing down to Mabashi's crotch is kind of distracting

A little known power of Soi Fong's sword release, Suzumebachi, is to syphon out poison using its own poison. Which is why the writer had Mabashi use poison--just like a proper fan to incorporate databooky info into his fanfiction. But I thought the second strike was supposed to be an instant kill? As in, once Suzumebachi touches the butterfly seal again he just rolls over dead on the spot. What was the point of having his own dolls maul him? I mean... they're flower-foxes.

Kariya invades the Research Institute for that which will destroy the world, the Joukai Crest, which is infused with the vast amount of energy released during the Bount experiment explosion.


Ichigo and Chad try to stop him--Ahaha, sorry, I forgot I should never mention Chad in a fight, heavyweight that he is. Ichigo tries to stop him, but it's their battle that ironically reveals the location of the crest by leveling the building. So now Kariya has the power to blow up the whole citadel anytime he wants. Nice going, heroes.

I'm sorry, but HOW does Ichigo fling aside a fucking gust of wind!? WIND DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY

In typical idiot overpowered villain fashion, Kariya says he's going to let everyone live for another day in fear before setting himself off (this is later retconned as it needing to charge for a day). John Goodman confronts him, and then Kariya kills him. I guess John Goodman didn't recall the point of the bug juice lecture: Kariya is not a fan of democratic decision making, outside input of any kind, or questions. Luckily for John Goodman, Kariya forgot he could regenerate.

You know, Hitsugaya is truly insufferably boring once you remove the only good thing about him: Romi Park

Why don't all these captains just bankai immediately? I get not using bankai right off the bat when the captain's bankai hadn't been revealed at that point (by the way, there was never any reason given for why Soi Fong didn't bankai), but with captains like Hitsugaya, whose bankai is really just MORE ICE, it's mere padding. I guess you could say they didn't need to bankai, but the fate of Seireitei is at stake here.

I like how John Goodman can kick off pillars of ice without slipping. Peak physical condition, that. And extremely high traction boots. Considering his ideal of suffering the little children, think of all the young lads he could have taught to make such boots, think of how much society could have improved. Ice pillars everywhere in every city, just kick off them for transportation (and fitness)!

DAMN YOU SOUL SOCIETY~

Sawatari, he of the interdimensional space whale, faces off against Mayuri, since although Mayuri was concealing himself, Sawatari could sense his "killing intent" a mile away. Where do all these anime characters get their Kimbley-sense? But Mayuri just wants to study Sawatari, it was Ichinose he wanted to kill. I feel a strange sort of kinship binding us together, Mayuri, our desires have converged.

Hey, when you've got Mayuri bloodied and kneeling before you? Maybe that's when you should attack, man

"What an amusing body you have there, captain!"

"Shut your mouth!"

Lol, Sawatari's regeneration even irons his handkerchief

Mayuri doesn't even bother to regrow his own arm back while killing him. Respect.

Ishida tries to kill Yoshi, a Bount with a perfect defense mode, while handicapped (his unwieldy bow). But I sympathize with Yoshi more. In her normal form, she has to carry around a talking sword and fan. But in her much cooler-looking fused form, she has to be one with those fucking things.

3:10--Those spires practically exist to get demolished during fights

Gotta love that endless, frictionless roof sliding action at 4:44. Though I suppose it's not so strange when these people can randomly teleport. Also, Yoshi should really stop dissing Ishida's explodey bow when her own weapons regularly and gleefully assault her with bitch-fits.

Yoshi honey, no amount of heads on pikes will ever make anyone take you seriously.

Yoshi's shitck is that throughout history all battles are meaningless, so she should just enjoy slaying weaklings, but then Ishida counters this with a grandpa flashback inspired arrow from the heart. Heart arrow, to the heart! Nice.

Next, Ran'Tao herself succumbs to terrible aim syndrome as she guns for Kariya.

"Those markings... that shoulder!"

Ishida swoops in to save her once Kariya's memory is jogged and he decides to kill Ran'Tao in vengeance for... creating him and his tribe. That's some dark shit. Kariya should just take up gratuitous gambling again, like every other sad person.

Please god someone make a gif out of 4:24

Refreshingly, Ishida actually manages to score a fair few hits. Then Ran'Tao seals Kariya's ability to regenerate and pleads with Ishida to run them both through with an arrow, presumably of the heart variety. Guys, I can think of a fairly simple solution to this impasse: have Ishida move a couple of paces to the side, then aim for Kariya. However, he can't bring himself to fire at full strength, and then he wastes his bow's lifespan saving Ran'Tao from her sudden meltdown, leaving Kariya free to recuperate.

Kariya sends a razor whirldwind Ishida's way, and there's NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE to save him now. How can he survive!? What could possibly happen next!? Oh, the nonexistent tension!

Don't let the title and the screencap fool you, this video features Ichinose getting brutally ripped to shreds, so it's definitely worth a watch

Oh yes, at long last, it's final fight time. If you're wondering, all the other shinigami are off sealing the other Joukai Crests hidden all over Soul Society so that, in case Kariya does blow himself up, it won't cause a chain reaction and kill everyone (with the locations written in a book of Ran'Tao's). Meanwhile, Ichinose shows up to put a sword to his throat, finally learning the lesson of Kariya's life, betrayal always pays (which Kariya proceeds to demonstrate). Ichigo doesn't like betrayal one bit, which is why later on he has no qualms with Soul Society secretly surveilling him.

Kariya turns his power from wind to lightning by generating electricity through atmospheric pressure. The implication is that he's mastered his weapon to that extent, but my theory is that the atmospheric pressure is increased whenever Kariya takes off his coat and undoes his tie, thereby becoming too sexy for the atmosphere to handle.



Byakuya and Yoruichi show up to prevent Kariya from blowing up individual Joukai Crests. This time I don't blame Byakuya for not emoting throughout the battle, as it IS pretty boring.

"Haha, you're weak."

"Haha, now I'm stronger!"

"So you are, but haha! Now I am also stronger, and once again you are weak compared to my strength!"

"In the time it took you to speak that sentence, I have become stronger than your strength!"

"The same could be said, except FOR ME!"

"Is that all you've got? Haha!"

Ichinose's sword acts as a lightning rod to spare Ichigo from a fatal super charged lightning attack. Yes, it conducted ALL of the continuous, extremely broad, inexplicably yellow beam of lightning. Your sword is kind of hax, Ichinose.

We get some late game theme-building for the battle--only Ichigo can fight Kariya because they've both suffered, and they're foils for each other in that Kariya's strength led to his isolation while Ichigo strives to use his strength to protect his friends instead of, you know, murdering them when they're no longer useful--but it's very weak and very too little too late. Kariya's body conveniently holds out until he finishes telling Ichigo he'd like to know if he'll be following in the path of friend-murdering he's made look so fun, and then he instantly dissolves into mist.

Oh and then there's some typical post-battle Ichigo philosophizing about how the main baddy wanted to die all along. Ichigo is both in the business of staking his soul to protect his friends, and making Freudian excuses for kill-crazy sociopaths. And so the Bount arc concludes as a warning of things to come in canon.

As far as final baddy fights go in the anime continuity, this is by far the worst. The next arc's main villain isn't nearly as entertaining as Kariya, but his fight with Ichigo is way more happening.

Wrap up time: John Goodman's alive.


And Ichigo reflects on Kariya's lust for power. Quoth the wiki: Ichigo thinks to himself that what he sought was a turn of fate and he begins having flashbacks to his time in Karakura High School. Ichigo then thinks to himself that the only thing in the world that hasn't changed is his lack of power and he remarks that sometimes the spirits he finds disappear and that the only thing left in their place is a puddle of blood. He states that no matter he strong he becomes, he cannot protect them. In a flashback, Ichigo is shown handing flowers to the Dead Girl and the Dead Girl begins crying and she asks if he could come tomorrow. The thing to take from this is that the wiki has an article on the little girl spirit from Episode 1 named "Dead Girl."

Ichigo concludes that he can protect others and that's good enough--man, these writers capture Ichigo's sole point of characterization so well.

WHEREIN I RATE THIS FILLER ARC WITH ARBITRARILY DERIVED SCORES

Lulz Index: 8

This index measures how ridiculous, comical, amusing or easy to mock an arc is.

 So this would be a 1



 And this would be a 10


The more I laugh when I'm not supposed to, the higher the score. For the most part the story was clearly meant to be taken seriously, but the character designs and overall premise are just too absurd. I talked a lot of shit about the talking fan, but upon reflection the rainbow sword that can do fucking everything is pretty bad too. Wind that doesn't act like wind, though that pissed me off more than it amused me. Ichigo and friends losing at every turn to the fruity modsouls. The bug juice bonanza. And, best of all, UTAGAWA. He and his wondrous snake whip will be missed.

Soul Society Shittiness (SSS) Rating: 7.5

With THIS many explosions, maybe it should have been an 8!

This rating grades Soul Society on what a shitty place it's revealed itself to be in this particular arc, with 1 being a paradise, 5 being a normal first world major city, and 10 being eternal torment. I decided to go with a score of 7.5 for the Bount arc due to the following factors:

  • The ease with which the villains were able to rig explosives (for PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE) all over Seireitei without even Mayuri catching wind
  • The fact that all it takes to whip up a hard-scrabble bandit rebellion that can successfully punch through one of Seireitei's gates is to win at Blackjack and beat up some dudes
  • Those other insanely powerful explosives hidden all over the place which everyone seemingly forgot about
  • That historic explosion that wiped out a tenth of Seireitei and ultimately created a whole new race of ageless vampires which feed on humans souls that shinigami are supposed to be purifying in the first place
  • That any spirit particle-absorbing dude with a chip on his shoulder can waltz right into Soul Society and instantly attain captain class power
  • Seireitei is given one day to survive. Instead of evacuating every shinigami and simply letting the place blow up (they come out and say that it's quite easy to repair), the people in charge decide their best bet is to stick around and try to defuse the bombs in a race against time. Let's say they had a 50% success rate, if Ichigo hadn't defeated Kariya (which, lest we forget, was a fluke due to Ichinose's sword diverting a finishing blow), that would have led to half of everyone in Seireitei exploding. Here's another idea: why not just get Yamamoto to completely incinerate Kariya.
In All Seriousness Score: 5

This is my serious overall score of the arc in terms of story--exactly average. Just as reference, current canon would rank an abysmal 2 (but only if it's lucky and I'm being generous), and early BLEACH would rank 7ish. (One Piece would damn near always rank 8 or 9 after Arlong Park.)

How did I arrive at this conclusion? Why wasn't I harsher?

Well, let's start with the bad: The uselessness of the heroes/ overpoweredness of the villains throughout most of the story was significantly grating. Lots of the backbone plot and backstory is quite contrived. Examples include:

  1. Yoshi stumbling upon Rukia in SS, and then we find out she was ordered to fight her
  2. The location of the Joukai Crest being revealed during the fight at the Research Institute just cuz
  3. Ichinose's randomly meeting Kariya in Desert Through Which to Wander #12
  4. The Bounts needing a Quincy for their plan and oh, how lucky, there's still a single Quincy left
Those are all off the top of my head.

Now the good: Apart from the modsouls, the main original characters clearly had some thought put into them and their unique perspectives. The fights, while padded, were decent, with just a few stinkers (both Kariya vs. Ichigo fights, Orihime and Rukia's friendship fiesta). The John Goodman vs. Ichigo fight and the accompanying backstory were the best point in the arc in terms of storytelling.

And that's my opinion. Fill me in on your thoughts in the comments.

















ALL FAAAAAAAAILS






1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your endurance. This was certainly way more enjoyable than watching the actual Filler :D !

    Man, I'm really glad I only watched the first 2 dozen or so episodes before switching to the manga (before dropping THAT after Aizen FINALLY got defeated and just starting to pretend the series ended with that). That way, I missed out on this crappy filler and this infamous "quality animation" XD

    And is it just me, or does "All Fails" seems to be foreshadowing the overall quality of Bleach after the Soul Society arc Oo ?

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