Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Attack From Behind: Filler Arc Review [5]

Hiya! It's another installment of Attack From Behind, and today we cap off our stupendous and really quite endearing review of the Kasumiouji Conspiracy arc with Filler Arc Spectacularama, Part the Fifth! Take it away, Amagai!

Last time, our heroes managed to kill every major named assassin after the the life of the young heiress of the Kasumiouji Complex, the brave damsel Rurirchiyo. More accurately, Ichigo, Chad, Uryuu, and Rukia each witnessed a gruesome public service announcement against illicit tentacle weapons as each of the assassins removed themselves from the soul-gene pool and let their Bakkoutou devour them unto oblivion. Where to go from here?

Actually, Ishida's enemy, the winsome Kuzu, didn't die by way of Bakkoutou, but... but they're going to have to write him out, aren't they?

Can it be? Someone else so dear to our hearts, lost to the vagaries of pain and death? We're already still reeling from the tragic demise of Utagawa the Snake Whip Guy, and now I'm afraid Kuzu will join him in second banana heaven.

"Kumoi! Your beard is visible from behind you! That settles it--you've hoarded too much of that swagger!"

Kumoi dismisses Kuzu after he demands to be made the new leader in the wake of his comrades' dozenfold deaths, and Kuzu decides, hey, wouldn't Kumoi's ugly mug make a lovely addition to the avalanche of rolling heads? However, it's Douche Glasses Kibune that delivers the killing blow. (As it so happens, Kibune is in league with the Casa Kasumiouji.)

Sing it with me now...

I will remember yoooooooouuuu

~na na na na na na na~

At least for a day or twoooooooooo

~na na na na na na na~

You could have gone places, Kuzu. You could have been a contender. If only you'd aspired to Utagawa's mastery of lulz, maybe your mist could have spewed snakes. Or, better yet, your sword could have shot out mist snakes that form a glorious arc of rainbow droplets and pummel your enemies with shadow snakes that spit out more mist snakes, and all the mist and snakes and shadows and rainbow droplets could have converged together to grant you an odd number of wings (let's go with 15). Of course you'd still take a Getsuga between the eyes, but at least now you'd die with a little more style.

I have a very special sendoff for Kuzu in the works, so in the meantime let's analyze Version 2 of the 8th opening.

Oh lord, it's gotten stuck in my head. NOT IN THE GOOD WAY.

It's got Amagai and Ichigo fighting back to back against Nukui and Kibune. This does not happen in the story. Apart from Ichigo glancing swords with pink earthworm ball Nukui over there, it doesn't even come close to happening. It is a LIE. Even the place they're fighting (some weird desert?) is just, wrong.

I like how they expect us to believe Kibune is going to be some major antagonist on par with captain-class good guys. But then, I forget that Bakkoutou have the potential for INFINITE POWEEEEEER

So now that all the assassins have bitten the dust, what's the next story thread? Prepare yourself for the heart-stopping action of a Menos invasion of Soul Society!!

That lasts one episode, and was orchestrated by Yamamoto as a training exercise.

I wish I were kidding.

So Amagai tells everyone at the Captains' meeting that the squads can't work together efficiently, and everyone balks at the suggestion of joint training.

"The only thing we captains can accomplish together is get WASTED, isn't that right, UkiTuberculosis?"

I don't blame Amagai for being a touch depressed, as apparently his division has sunk lower than the 4th Division (the healing squad) when it comes to menial chore duty. That's when I remember that, considering Amagai's ultimate objective, he has NO REASON TO DO ANY OF THIS WHATSOEVER.

Then the Gillians invade, and Kibune cuts under Kira by leading the Division himself, without waiting for the Captain to return like Kira ordered--pooh pooh to that, they're out for glory!! This makes everyone like Kibune over Kira, a clever plot, except that again, Kibune has NO REASON TO DO THAT WHATSOEVER.

Since the squads bicker with each other and generally work at cross purposes, this ruse proved that it's a simple matter to tie up the Gotei 13 in confusion and discord. Amagai uses his tuning fork to broadcast a command to all squads to follow his division's leadership to take down the Menos, which turn out to be dummies.

"Holy shit, even I didn't know I could do this."

Okay, so what's the REAL next story thread? It's time for our plucky astral cleaver-killer to stop a wedding!

After a bit of character development whereby Ichigo reassures Rurichyo that no one's ordering him or his friends to protect her, and that none of this is her fault, she runs off to Soul Society again to stop a sham wedding between a Rurichiyo impostor and a clueless Shuu, which Kumoi hopes will cement his control.

"Don't mind if Rurichiyo seems blank and mindless, she's just practicing for what her role as a human being will be after the wedding."
At the wedding, this happens:

 "During a noble wedding, the bride stabbing a dude in the gut is not considered proper."

Since backstabbing is so common in Soul Society that frontstabbing is now a greeting of salutations, a scuffle ensues between Rurichiyo's would-be rescuers and Squad 2, and everyone's unperturbed by Rurichiyo's faux pas.

All it takes to escape from a stranglehold of the Stealth Squad Vice-Captain is a light kick to the ankle.

I don't know what it is--maybe the fact that Vice-Captain Omaeda cries "I've fallen and I can't get up," then gets dropkicked to the face, or maybe it's that the fodder shinigami didn't have a protocol for what to do when they get petals in their eyes, and panic like children--but something about the Stealth Squad is seriously underwhelming.

Enryuu's sword release is two big blocky hands attached to chains with MASSIVE DESTRUCTIVE POWER. He then proceeds to hold Omaeda without using the big blocky hands. Explain please.

Amagai must shop at John Goodman's footwear store, look at that freakin' traction, man.

Amagai's sword proper is a fire crook named Raika, which would make that tuning fork we saw earlier a Bakkoutou. Yeah, it doesn't look anything like any of the other Bakkoutou, which means that so far the only clue we have for Amagai's twist is that he carries two weapons. No, that barely counts as a clue, since up til now we don't know if Kibune gave it to him without Amagai's knowing their true origin. For all we know, Amagai could be Kibune's patsy.

Speaking of Kibune, here he is shmoozing while the real Rurichiyo languishes in her cage.

"Well, they don't call me the Douche King of Soul Society for nothing. Now will that be two floggings or twelve?"

He also kills this poor fellow squad member, who saw too much.

"Oh hi, 3rd Seat Kibune! I'm retired in only forty-eight years! Care for a shot?"

They equip a bunch of no-name assassins with watered-down Bakkoutou as part of their master plan to usher in a new order where the clan's power may reign supreme using the invincible Bakkoutou. I think I see a flaw in this plan, in that the Bakkoutou kill more of the assassins than the good guys do. They exist to job to the ninety-seven or so good guys.

There's a feeble attempt at some tension while the squads once again act at variance with each other on the question of whether or not to trust Ichigo.

Kira bucks up and finally faces Kibune, who is, for the most part, the only villain capable of battling a top-tier shinigami left.

2:33--"Since we last met, my glasses have grown EXPONENTIALLY!!"

You have got to be kidding. The blade is SPINNING. SPINNING. How does Kira manage to block it!?

If I were Kira, I'd keep stalling him out by getting him to speechify his backstory while he's wreathed in fire, hoping he'd burn to death. Here's his backstory, fetch your handkerchief so you can wipe away tears of boredom

Kibune's dub VA sounds a lot like JFK sometimes. "I whill be strrwong!"

 The upshot is that Kibune is a callous man who resents the weak because in school he was a callous man who resents the weak. Unsurprisingly, his only company in the whole wide world became a tentacle monster. As is so often the case, his backstory only comes after he dies, so here's the rest of the fight.

6:14--Never thought I'd see a character besides Ichigo receive heart/frienship hax.

"We're all just enemies in your way, is that it?"

Yeah... he kinda just said he couldn't wait to kill you all. I'd reckon that's more than a hint, Kira. I love dub logic.

Kibune's logic also leaves something to be desired. He claims that he "earned" his power, but relies entirely on an alien weapon to augment his strength.

Why not the ears, too?

Lolll, that face just sits wordlessly on the screen for a few seconds. Now it's become even harder for me to believe that Kibune isn't JFK's soul turned shinigami.

Meanwhile, the assassins have augmented their own fighting prowess, from suicidal to SUPER suicidal. Watch the end for Amagai's sudden, unforeseen betrayal.

 Uhh, Amagai? You grabbed Rurichiyo pretty handily. What exactly was the point of siccing the assassins on everyone? Was it asssassin liquidation day or what?

The moment has come. Time to talk about BLEACH Chronic Twist Syndrome.

BLEACH Chronic Twist Syndrome has plagued the series ever since Aizen first nursed warming thoughts of feeling Ichigo's long jet-black sword with his index finger. Every arc following Aizen's actually sudden, unforeseen betrayal has to one-up that moment for shock value somehow. The problem, however, is that constant twistiness means you're always expecting the twist, which in most cases is either just one of the good guys revealing his secret evil plan, or a bad guy revealing that his REAL evil plan is something entirely different. A proper twist should evoke a "Holy fuck!" A BLEACH twist evokes a mighty groan or a chuckle.

Questions! Why didn't Amagai abduct Rurichiyo sooner? Why the theatrics? The total 180 of personality from dopey and amiable to cold and calculating?

Get this--This was all Amagai's plan to wreak vengeance for his father and kill Yamamoto.

Wow, even for the dub, the exchange between Amagai and Yamamoto is is wooden goddamn acting.

"I thought you would know"?? Seriously? You really are dense, aren't you, Amagai. If Yamamoto hadn't been so slow on the uptake, do you think your sorry ass would still be breathing.

Kenryuu's sword can now shoot proper energy needles, which would have come in handy earlier, but the writers hadn't thought of it then. Meanwhile, the joke with Enryuu is that he never speaks because of his insanely high pitch. Okay, I'll hand it to the dub there, that is a pretty funny voice.

I like how Yamamoto was about to burn Rurichiyo into a crisp there. Wasn't the whole point of the manhunt for Ichigo to protect her?

Amagai feeds the core of Reppuu to his own tuning fork Bakkoutou to energize it into a sick looking dragon arm beam blade. It can nullify every zampak within its range apart from his own. He combines it with his fire crook Raika's bankai, an erupting fire shield, to form the ultimate Yamamoto-killing suite of weapons. The character design here is quite neat.

Ichigo uses his Hollow side to bypass the ability of Amagai's Bakkoutou. Bitching will come later, but for now enjoy the most enjoyable moment of the arc, the final battle.

Bitching time in roughly.... T-2

How's this for fucked logic? "You shouldn't die for a fight that doesn't concern you, Ichigo! You're from Earth, this is a strictly Soul Society matter! Oh, all those suicidal assassins and the fodder shinigami that may have gotten killed by them offscreen, all toward no discernible end? Uhh, they were technically part of Soul Society, so they must all have harbored at least one positive thought about Yamamoto in their centuries of existence!"

It strikes me as fairly ridiculous that Amagai went through the trouble of building enough trust to be promoted to the position of Captain (or was that just serendipity?), when he's got a weapon that totally neutralizes enemy zampakutou. By that reasoning, if he's nerfing Yamamoto, the strongest guy there, isn't he nerfing everybody?

You could say a mob of shinigami would restrain him with kidou magic, but that brings up another point--are you telling us that Yamamoto has NO kidou spells in his arsenal of attacks? That he relies solely on his planet-burning flame sword, Ryuujin Jakka, to take down enemies? (Seems rather impractical, what with its REDUCING EVERYTHING IN CREATION TO SMITHEREENS). Even if we were to suppose Yamamoto has no grasp of kidou, couldn't he just punch Amagai in the face really fucking hard?

Let us also focus our scrutiny on Amagai's retarded priorities. The guy was definitely around when Aizen and company turned rogue. He's got a weapon that renders enemy zampakutou unusable. The main baddy, CLEARLY far worse than Yamamoto--whom you've charged with the heinous crime of covering up a class of highly unstable weapons that eagerly gobble up their wielders--has a zampakutou ability that renders him virtually invincible. Yo, Amagai, mobilize your plucky assassins and mosey on over to Hueco Mundo alongside Ichigo and friends to murder the shit out of Aizen. Like, seriously.

Beats killing a little girl simply because "she's destined to die, she's a Kasumiouji Clan member!" I swear, Amagai's brain must be a fucking funhouse with a sieve as a floor. I suppose that's how he's rationalized treating everyone in the clan he's worked alongside with so disposably? Ichigo rightly accuses him of titanic selfishness and of being a nonsensical prat.

You know, for a guy motivated entirely by an aching, gnawing hatred, Amagai was chill, like, every time Yamamoto convened a Captains' meeting. In fact, he was chill pretty much all of the time. He displayed pat concern when Kira came to him with suspicions about Kibune. It's almost as though... Amagai's face heel turn was an ass pull.

But then! They gave him a Bakkoutou from the very beginning, and the message couldn't be more blatant--it's the evil all-consuming Bakkoutou that are whipping the wielders out of whack. So I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and conclude they meant for Amagai to be a baddy all along. However, offering the filler guys that benefit of the doubt means that their well-laid plans were executed atrociously.

Could Amagai escape from this abortion of a plan any more of a glass-eyed dolt? His vengeance is based on a huge leap to conclusions. While serving in Yamamoto's 1st Division, his dad was killed by Yamamoto himself, and his dying breath was "Bakkoutou," To Amagai that meant: Yamamoto killed his dad to keep the Bakkoutou hidden, but the misconception is cleared up after Yamamoto took his sweet ass time explaining that his dad was just warning him about the corrupting influence of the Bakkoutou. That's essentially the lesson of the whole arc here.

They do give Amagai something of an honorable funeral service, despite his having masterminded a coup, but you know, the priorities and motivations of every character in BLEACH is so warped by now that it doesn't surprise anyone anymore. Just go with it. Rurichiyo is the clan's head now, the end.

Lulz Index: 5.5/10

This is a ZERO on the Lulz Index:

And this is a TEN:

Fun screengrabs notwithstanding, not all that lulzy an arc overall. The impostor little girl stabbings, especially that first one where the assassin tore through guards like they were one-legged Dodo birds, were damn funny. You had Kibune's sustained flame-out O-face, and man oh man... I can't think of anything else off the cuff.

SSS (Soul Society Shittiness) Rating: 7/10

Okay, I can observe three major facets of shittiness to take into account here. Social sciences cap, on.

1) Dense, recent history of coup and concomitant political instability.

2) Widespread incompetence and inefficiency within the military state structure.


I shall elaborate a little on this third facet of shittiness. Rurichiyo may be the head of her clan, but it's not as though she's going to have a life of anything but dreary etiquette and formality ahead of her. Let's not forget the Kasumiouji Clan can't be terribly popular--we're talking about a legacy of assassination here! Reputation is everything in her world, and hey, how can we be sure she wasn't an accomplice? If kindly Captain Aizen can turn into a monster, surely she could, too!

In All Seriousness Score: 4/10

The pros!
  • The filler-only characters could have been far more terrifyingly annoying, especially Rurichiyo. Thankfully, they went with "little girl shouldering a huge burden, but tries her best under the circumstances." That makes it easy to see why Ichigo would eventually stakes his soul to protect her. It's good that he warms up to her over time.
  • The idea and execution of the Bakkoutou were neat. They're like weird alien Cthulhu weapons. I like how the ultimate moral was essentially, don't use Bakkoutou lol.
  • Everyone in the main cast (except Orihime, which is understandable since she's a pacifist) gets their own fight. The captains don't. That's a refreshing change of pace. Hey, Kubo, remember who the main characters are supposed to be?
  • This arc could be used to explain how Kira transitioned from being such a wiener in Soul Society arc, to a stone cold badass that dispassionately beheads his enemies in Fake Karakura arc.
  • Amagai's zampak was pretty okay I guess. And let's not forget RePOOOOOOO
The cons.
  • There is not a single sentient being on this planet that cares about squad training sessions or unit cohesion. Fodder shinigami and squad cooperation have never mattered and never will--Kubo basically admitted as much when he had Aizen say that the only forces in the Gotei 13 that figure into the equation are the captains. That means that the training exercises are just there to make Amagai seem like a good guy. Straight padding, through and through.
  • Given their ultimate goals, Amagai and Kibune's duplicitous actions make very little sense. Why bother doing 90% of the "good guy" shit they did, like building morale?
  • This could be said of any series that features ineffectual assassins, but the point still stands: don't make an arc where no one but baddies can die, all about assassins. I hate that. It makes the assassins less menacing and impossible to take seriously.
  • And while we're on the subject, the Kasumiouji Clan sure raised a SHITCOCKING FUCKTON of assassins. What the hell were they all up to half the time!? How can no one have noticed!?
  • That half of Soul Society would still seriously suspect Ichigo of wrongdoing is baffling. Lest you forgot, Gotei 13, the main baddies came from YOUR ranks. Half of every awful atrocity in history is perpetrated by YOU GUYS. And then you have the gall of accusing your buttboy substitute--who, need I remind you ungrateful turds, solves approximately 100% of your hairy situations--of what, exactly? Stopping a wedding? Yeah, I'm sure he has some despicable ulterior motive there. Christ, no wonder Ginjou went nuts. "They were under orders." Yeah, I know, half of the facepalmy plots run under that excuse.
  • Amagai's twist had no clues leading up to it. If you're generous, half a clue. Maybe if he had shot Yamamoto a withering glance now and then, that could have sufficed. As it stands, it just seems as though the writers made Amagai a villain when they ran out of them.
  • While the anime-only characters like Rurichiyo weren't groin-stabbingly irritating, they weren't all that great or likable, either.
  • There's a whole episode whose title is Ice and Flame! Fierce Fight of Amagai vs. Hitsugaya, but the match is only around two minutes long, and it's so inconsequential I didn't include it at all.
One thing you could not have called the Bount arc, in the end, was "boring." Actually, it's kind of amazing that an arc as clinically insane as "shiny soul-sucking vampires with talking dolls with superpowers" has less fridge logic than an arc as plain as Amagai's, which will only ever be remembered as "Lovecraft tentacle blades, yet another troll traitor captain." It's even got the staple perfunctory twist that, upon reflection, fits into the larger canon perfectly, since it's confounding and nigh on impossible to reconcile with past actions.

For best story moment, let's go with the Mom's Strangling Ichigo nightmare and fight with Nukui ("For centuries we have slain the enemies of the Kasumiouji Clan using their forbidden arms, and that is why I will wrap myself in a sea anemone to defeat you, cur!").

For most enjoyable battle, the final fight between Ichigo and Amagai, with Yamamoto chilling like a villain on the side munching on popcorn lodged in his millennium-beard.

For worst story moment,



Haha, I kid, the worst moment was definitely the dummy Menos training ruse episode.

Please, folks! Comments, corrections, differing opinions, your undying praise and adulation! This article wouldn't be complete without you lovable peanuts chiming in.


A sendoff for Kuzu? Who the fuck is that?

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