Saturday, 10 March 2012

Attack From Behind: Filler Arc Review [6] ~FILLER BITS~

Now that I've tackled two major filler arcs, it's time to tackle some minor ones. During the Arrancar saga, we had three major filler arcs and around three minor ones worth mentioning, along with at least a dozen or so one-off filler episodes that take a more goofy tone. That should give you a good idea of just how interminably that saga dragged.

Since these arcs are way shorter, I've got more room to describe the events of individual episodes. I'll supply videos for fights, along with captioned screengrabs for them when it pleases me.

Let's get the ball rolling with Filler Bit #1.


TIMELINE: During Ichigo's Vizard training, when the more popular shinigami characters are bumming around as high school students in Karakura.


At Casa Kurosaki, Yuzu is worried sick over Ichigo's AWOLness, and Isshin tells her he's probably just rebelling like Daddy used to when he was his age!

He probably became a shinigami to waste the souls of all the rival ruffians he murdered as a badass yankii

Meanwhile, Rangiku goes to do some shopping in a realm of existence that isn't half-dead.  And she couldn't have hoped for a better place for novelty consumerism than modern Japan! Moreover, apparently things are extremely expensive in Soul Society. I bet the spiritual-to-physical monetary exchange rate is killer.

We get an extremely filler-y scene of her trying out various ensembles that's so gratuitous it would make Mashima Hiro of Fairy Tail blush.

QUALITY animation is the true price for cheap goods

 Rangiku stumbles on a neat ocarina-like flute thing and impulse buys it.

Deduct 5 points from this review for the following joke:
"When I Google Images searched RANGIKU BLOWS, this isn't what I had in mind at all!"

After she blows on the flute a little, she begins to hear an ominous noise and flips open her Hollow tracker cell phone. She's the closest, so she's gotta go and deal with it. She leaved a modsoul in her gigai at the store. Her modsoul is a little handsy.

"Honey, this is SUPER not what it looks like."

A Hollow starts thrashing around a playground destroying fixtures like seesaws while Rangiku's on the scene, and your average crying-little-kid soul flees for his life. Actually, he gets pounded but keeps coming back for more.

(It's an incomplete Arrancar, like Grand Fisher was.)
I think I understand why this kid is dead to begin with, he joked

 Ahh, guess he had his eyes closed, then.

Ikkaku comes to slay the beast and the other shinigami arrive right after, but the ungrateful little snot they just saved uses that opportunity to call them names. Rangiku's "punishment" is questionable.

Has a real woman done this, ever

The fanservice just won't quit once Rangiku switches back with her modsoul at the ocarina shop, and the beleaguered owner guy finally succums to his moe.

I await his presence on Maury, "I got elbowed in the face by a ravishing ghost babe!"

 So the little kid refuses to give the skinny on the Arrancar, and he refuses to be beamed up to Soul Society. He's still got things he needs to do! Rangiku decides something's up with the kid and he's just confused, so they go nappy for the night, but the kid decides to run off with her sword. Rangiku intercepts him and teaches him some manners, and he apologizes. He opens up after her prodding and tells her he needs to find someone, and that his name is Shouta. The episode closes out with Rangiku sensing an identical Arrancar nearby.

The next episode begins with that identical Arrancar luring in a poor salarayman soul with its ghost whistle. Rangiku just sort of stands there while that Arrancar totally devours the dude.

 Rangiku, stop being bad.

"A little help here, Rangiku-san."

Man, I hate to say it, but Rangiku freakin' sucks. Luckily, Shouta is made of tougher stuff, and is unscathed by dint of being-a-little-kid plot armor (which is shed should a character of the fictional variety choose to become a salaryman).

"Our name is... BETTY!!"

Lol, they never knew what to do with the weird power of Rangiku's sword (its blade turns into ash) before it was fully explained in canon, so in filler it's always just a generic slicing attack.

 If your ashes can do this, chances are you died in a radiation chamber cursed by a pharaoh or something.

"I've heard of a SPLITTING headache, but this is ridiculous!" Excuse me while I die

Shall I call bullshit here? Let's say the original Arrancar's got a base number of Hollows inside him. He must keep dividing up the number of souls each copy is imbued with. But each copy seems to divide willy nilly, so wouldn't that mean each individual copy is getting twice as weak each time? So isn't multiplying a terrible idea? It's not like the shinigami they're dealing with are fodder, these are vice captain and above level dudes.

As you can imagine, Hitsugaya exterminates them all with no trouble, after which Shouta coincidentally bumps into the person he'd been searching for, his sister Yui (also a soul).

She's unconscious, but otherwise fine. Shouta divulges their backstory. The two and their parents were on their way to the amusement park when they got killed in a car crash.

 Shouta remembered to include in his recollection the ocarina his sister had randomly been playing

Shouta's still keeping something from them, though: what he knows about this whole cloning Arrancar business. After a while, the elite shinigami continue to prove terrible at their jobs once the clones launch their attack once again.

 Slaying legions of Hollows? That's cake. Saving a single human soul? Too difficult.

Ayasegawa's reaction to this is to call it hard on the eyes. No plaintive cry of anguish and misery at the horrible ravening of an innocent soul, though I guess that soul would only end up getting purified and sent up to Soul Society once the Hollow is dead anyway. No wonder they're always taking their sweet ass time scouring for souls to send up to Soul Society, they're just waiting for that one rainy Thursday to mobilize the troops and just clear out Hueco Mundo once and for all.

Anyway, one of the Arrancar Hitsu is tailing flees out of sight around a corner, and when Hitsugaya catches up, he sees a terrified human soul and questions it as to where the Hollow went, to no avail. Then as Hitsugaya leaves, we see the soul smile deceitfully.

Yui had run off, and Shouta and  Rangiku eventually find her by herself on a swing set. Shouta laments that this is the place he abandoned her, and the episode ends there. Next episode, their flashback resumes: After the car crash, Yui and Shouta's souls got separated from their parents' when they came to, and thereafter they searched for their parents together high and low, until one night while they were sleeping Yui went off on her own to go looking for them again. That's when she was beset by the cloning Arrancar. And Shouta turned tail on her. When Rangiku saved him during that first encounter, Shouta had been trying to get the Arrancar to tell him where Yui was.

The clone disguised as a human soul sneaks upon on Hitsugaya, but leaves licking its wounds. The cloning Arrancar divides in order to eat as many souls as fast as possible, and shapeshifts into human form to escape detection.

So the obvious conclusion is that, since Yui is still around, the original Arrancar must have done something to her. A failed purification confirms this. In any case, they've got to find and kill the Arrancar's main body before it gets out of hand. They lock Yui in a barrier for her protection, and Rangiku gives her the flute she bought to while away the hours. But Yui breaks out by getting Shouta to join hands through the barrier screen.

 Classic mistake, kid. Classic mistake.

 Jeez, talk about a faulty security system. Was it too hard to beam down some shinigami to keep watch, or did they not realize how shitty their barriers are.

The research corps report apprises Hitsu that that "Yui" must be a clone, and that the original Arrancar must have evolved into an Arrancar (therefore unaffiliated with Aizen) and gained the ability to split after munching on the real Yui, whose latent spiritual power was evidently through the roof. Shouta's spiritual energy must also be naturally sky high, and so now "Yui" is leading Shouta into a trap.

"Ah, I'm sure Yui spontaneously combusts ALL THE TIME!! That must be why she's looking so distraught."
 "See? So distraught."

Sure, spring the trap and summon your clones when the shinigami arrives. Little girls sure are stupid!

Shouta calls out to Yui and breaks the spell, so Yui isn't a out and out clone, and is in fact the real Yui.

Next ep, the original Arrancar shows itself.

"Finally, my plan has come to fruition...
 "...We shall shake it until we make it!!"

And then this happens.

Unfortunately, that's not her gasping in delight at a giant pony.

The cloning Arrancar reabsorbs the defiant Yui (which looks kind of horrific to be honest, what with that tail bloodily bursting out of her back and her getting swallowed down a monster's throat) and all of his clones. The rest of the fight is quite standard stuff, so watch the video if you care. Surprise surprise, the good guys win (basically, the original Arrancar hides but Hitsugaya exhausts his bankai's limit smoking it out, aided by Yui's whistling pinpointing the Hollow's location). Well, there *is* the magic that is this screengrab:

 They probably didn't show a lot of Renji's fight because his modsoul outclassed him

The Arrancar's final form is an ugly sumbitch.

 The CEO of Enron, pictured here at a meeting

Rangiku and Shouta aim for the ocarina attached to one of the Arrancar's weird hair strand things, which is where Yui must be. 

Well that was an awkward way to tie up that plot thread. Certain that Yui's flown off into the Great Beyond, Shouta hugs Rangiku and agrees to get beamed up to meet her.

...Whereupon he shall soon discover that souls sent to Soul Society might never come across their lost loved ones. Soul Society should really start up some sort of volunteer program to help reunite the souls of relatives.

 MY THOUGHTS: A simple and touchingish tale, unmarred by the overt, shallow "coolness"  that has made the series nothing more than an unbroken chain of cliche fights and confrontations ("Haha, I will now spout this one-liner and look bored while I appear behind you instantly. Now excuse me while I maim one of my subordinates."). An actual cohesive plot that displayed some measure of character development. A rather creative idea for an enemy Hollow, (even if it did look silly). Nothing remarkable, but it's enjoyable enough. However, the story is let down by the contrived nature of Rangiku coincidentally picking up a flute at a shop--the flute plot point probably should have fallen by the wayside. I thought it might have eventually had something to do with the ghost whistle lure, but nope. There's also how annoying it is that every human soul worth saving apparently has to be a little kid (models: INNOCENT AS CAN BE, or CHIP ON SHOULDER). There's nothing about the story that made it necessary for Yui and Shouta to be so young apart from serving as a transparent sympathy hook. Every other gripe has already been mentioned, so...

On to Filler Bit #2!


 I'd be angry at Aizen too, if he forced me to wear THAT.

TIMELINE: Same. During this period, Renji is training with Urahara along with Chad, but Chad is written out of the story when Urahara sends him away for some fresh air.


All right you guys, so this Arrancar in Aizen's service named Patras up and decides he doesn't like kowtowing to a lowly shinigami, and he steals the Hougyoku out from under Aizen's nose and has Ulquiorra killed by his fellow usurpers!

Yeah... maybe a tad suspiciously easy

Are these guys idiots or what? Not only is Ulquiorra a high level Espada who at the very least would put up a tremendous struggle before dying, the guy they're looking to depose is a known master of illusions. Misplaced confidence in the extreme.

I like the redhead's mask, but the burly one's mask is trying too hard with that unicorn horn. And Patras, dude, you need abs to pull that off.

Believing he's just managed to kill Ulquiorra, Patras and his goons descend on Karakura with the Hougyoku to go see Urahara about using it to rule the world. They're so insanely confident that the shinigami stationed in Karakura pose no threat that Patras says the real fight will come later when Aizen sends the forces of Las Noches after them. Seeing as one of those shinigami is Renji, we might forgive him for this inference.

Renji. Go to a goddamn pachinko parlor if you have to. Just...leave. Ya mooch.

The burly one's released form resembles Ikkaku's last canon enemy so closely I accidentally conflated them in my hazy memory.

Although--and let's give it to Kubo here--this character design looks much better. Apart from the half-half hairstyle thing, I hate that.

Patras happens to stumble across Kon, and somehow understands that Kon knows where Urahara's place must be. This is what becomes of poor Kon:

Patras arrives at Urahara shop and trounces Renji thoroughly with his iai sword technique (slashing and resheathing).

The whole flash step thing is so aribitrary. Why couldn't Renji have simply flash stepped away from the energy slash? Hell, it was going slow enough that he could have just sidestepped it at normal human speed.

Hitsugaya and Ikkaku actually have reasons not to use bankai immediately. Ikkaku doesn't want his to be seen, or else they'll keep pestering him about becoming a captain himself, and he just wants to serve under Kenpachi. Hitsugaya's has a time limit. Renji has no such reason.

The second episode in the two-parter begins with the obvious explanation of Ulquiorra's "death" as a ruse on Aizen's part. When Ichimaru asks Aizen why doesn't he just kill the traitors, Aizen answers: For shits and giggles.

Said the brave and noble man who thinks about how the world should be, and not how it is.

 You know what else is dumb? The constant smack talk. Renji, your job is Hollow Exterminator and Soul Purifier. Does an angel taunt a sinner as she's trying to save him? Stop putting up a "cool" front and just do your sacred duty.

Patras's shtick is that he levels up his energy slashes the longer he keeps his sword in its sheath. His released form is the same, only with weird flappy arm cannons instead. All throughout the fight, the filler modsoul characters (which were introduced in the Bount arc, as you'll recall) are the ones that deal all the blows that matter. Renji: useless both at home AND on the battlefront. When the modsouls have Patras's arm cannons clamped shut, why doesn't Patras just fire off some Cero laser beams?

After Urahara finally returns just as Patras and the goons he's abandoned all die, the Hougyoku they'd stolen reveals itself to be a fake and cracks.

And Urahara correctly surmises that Aizen not only trolled Patras for sheer lulz, but as a diversion so Ulquiorra could complete his report on Orihime's unique powers. To be continued.

MY THOUGHTS: Patras looked down on shinigami (he'd killed loads of 'em!) and held no concept of how fucked he'd be if Soul Society sent in the big guns after him, which amuses me. This ass clown literally believed he could flout all of Soul Society and all of Aizen's forces if he received a cursory Hougyoku lesson from a genius who has zero reason to tell him. Ironically, Patras was absolutely correct, since, as we now know, the Hougyoku is a miraculous wish granter. But still, remember that Patras thought all the Hougyoku did is make Hollows into Arrancar. Practically every other elite level Hollow is already an Arrancar under Aizen's command, dipshit. Aizen's cultivated a persona of total invincibility, what are his Numeros gonna do, defect to you? Think this through, Patras!

Filler Bit #3 ahoy!


 I didn't know Satan was a shinigami.

TIMELINE: Right after Ichigo and the gang enter Hueco Mundo and spot Las Noches in the distance. Baby Nel Tu and the Desert Brothers tag along.


Everybody gets sucked into a sand pit by the *second* body of the Guardian of Las Noches, Lunuganga (whose first body Rukia made her dynamic entrance by freezing).

Rukia gets separated from the rest.

They soon discover they've descended into the area underneath Las Noches, the Forest of Menos, where all the non-Arrancarized Hollows near Las Noches reside.

Later, Ichigo is stuck having to rescue Nel, Pesshe and Dondochakka after just having met them. Such is Ichigo's life. But honestly, who could fail to like them? Except for maybe Shinji and Mashiro, they're the most fun characters Kubo's come up with since the end of Soul Society.

It turns out that the trees up in the vast desert above are merely the tips of the massive trees that take root down here in the underworld.

Nel, Pesshe and Dondochakka are scared shitless--they've only heard about the horrors of this Forest in rumors and tall tales.

Ichigo reassures her that there must be a way out (couldn't you shinigami just airwalk up out of there?), but it's then that they realize Rukia's missing.

Rukia gets attacked by an overwhelming number of Hollows, and gets saved by the mysterious figure in the goat mask and skull cloak. Remember when a single Gillian caused everyone to shit their pants in terror? Now they die so easily you almost feel bad the dumb lugs.

While Ichigo's group search for her, the cloaked shinigami engages in some Naruto style tree hopping with Rukia in tow.

She manages to pry herself loose from the guy's vice grip on her after he wouldn't answer any of her questions, but he grabs her again and carries her off to his hideout. Whereupon he attacks her to "test her strength" (weak people can't survive in this Forest). You'd think someone as lonely as Ashido must be wouldn't be such a dick to a fellow shinigami, but I guess it's okay because it's not exactly easy to hone yoursocial skills when all you've got to do all day is murder heartless horrors.

I like Ashido, he's like a crazy hobo. You'd think Soul Society would generate more crazy hobos.

By the way, the first episode ends with a fake out stab in the middle of this fight, and resumes the next episode to reveal Rukia WASN'T stabbed after all! Anime, you had me there for a second!

Still in the first episode, a bunch of nearly identical-looking pterodactyl Hollows attack Ichigo's group.

I like to think they're the Hollows of some suicide cult that believed they could soar through the sky, only to fall to their doom. And now as Hollows their wish has been granted ^_^

"What's this?" "I have no idea!" Geniuses both.

Nel and the Desert Brothers are taken away by a pteroHollow, secured as bait and leverage by the Guardians of the Forest of Menos, non-Arrancarized Adjuchas in league with Aizen.


Ichigo gets full on blasted by a Gillian's Cero but emerges totally unscathed. Isn't the idea that if you get hit by one, you get utterly obliterated? Or do they just operate by fighting game hit point logic lol. Ichigo -14% HP!!

The Guardians of the Forest rear their ugly heads to the viewer.

So this is what happened to the Ginyu Force
They're going to use Nel, Pesshe and Dondochakka as hostages to lure the intruders and that pesky Ashido into a trap. One of those "Guardians" finds Rukia and Ashido and attacks.

This amuses me greatly.
"Giddy up, GilliAHNs!!"
If Ashido can kill Menos (including Adjuchas-level Menos) so effortlessly--without even having to release his sword--why doesn't he just rout the damn place? It's not like Hollows can reproduce.

Ashido asks her what the hell happened that made the Hollows so much stronger since he arrived, and Rukia doesn't recount Aizen's betrayal so much as tell him "Soul Society be trippin' yo." The sub has it as: "Soul Society isn't monolithic. Many troublesome things happened." Someone give Rukia a job as history professor.

Since Rukia was able to handle herself in a fight after all, Ashido apologizes for underestimating her, and then, upon her request, removes his mask.

A bishie. Of course. I preferred him as a crazy hobo.
There is indeed a way out of here, but Ashido feels he's got to stick around and kill as many Hollows as possible so that the number of Hollow attacks on human souls in the world of the living can decrease. Rukia reluctantly informs him that the number of Hollow attacks hasn't decreased. Damn Ichigo.

The Hollows gathered around where Nel and the Desert Bros. are being held captive bow down to them once they realize all they have to do is show them Nel's cracked mask (meaning she's been Arrancarized by Aizen).

But naturally they're barred from leaving by one of the Adjuchas.

It's Ashido flashback time:

All there is to it is that there was some Hollow attack on Soul Society, and Ashido and his friends jumped through the Hollows' portal back into Hueco Mundo to finish them off. But Ashido's friends got slaughtered, and he keeps the Satan mask as a keepsake of his friend. And he hasn't left since that happened hundreds of years ago.

Dude, if you don't want your comrades' deaths to have been in vain, then wouldn't it make more sense to return to Soul Society to build a team that can come to the Forest and systematically kill every last Menos there?

No: If the number of Hollow attacks hasn't dropped, then there's no point to reinforcements, he says. Good God, just how many freakin' Hollows have you shinigami let slip beneath the cracks? Ashido is likely the only competent and diligent shinigami ever to have taken blade to Hollow flesh. Still, could it have hurt to gather reinforcements? Ya dip.

Ashido tells Rukia to return to Soul Society once they found Ichigo and the others again, but Rukia responds that she's going to press on into Las Noches and save her friend, surprising him.

The mass grave of his fallen friends. Ashido brought her here so that they could listen to the speech of another shinigami. There's your crazy hobo streak again!

The second Adjuchas attacks them (as seen in one of the prior videos), and Ashido jumps in to protect her from one of its strikes. The episode ends with Ashido's keepsake mask splitting in two.

Ahaha, the second Adjuchas chides Ashido on allowing himself to be "slowed down" by Rukia, and Rukia's dub line after she freezes him with Sode no Shirayuki is "This slow enough for you?" That is a dub giving impressively few fucks.

Rukia beings to convince Ashido that his fallen friends will forgive him if he leaves, and that the situation since he came to the Forest has necessitated a game change. Meanwhile, the remaining Adjuchas spring their trap on Ichigo's group.

Ashido must defeat that one Adjuchas that's actually a challenge! He just wanted to save that fight to show off for a pretty girl, didn't he?

You know, now would be an excellent time to remind Nel she's in fact an unbelievably powerful former Espada.

This guy really reminds me of Trumpy from Pod People. If you don't know what I'm talking about, WATCH THAT MOVIE NOW. I PRIORITIZE IT ABOVE EVEN BLACULA.

How is it that they can get ambushed by Gillians? Aren't they supposed to be able to "sense their spiritual pressure"? That's another thing besides flash stepping that's extremely arbitrary. Sometimes they can sense each other from a  mile away, and sometimes they can surprise and get the drop on each other: Whatever the plot demands.

They defeat the Hollows (duh) and Rukia heals Ashido a little; then they run for the exit, but Ashido sticks around to ensure their escape as they're attacked once again. He gets caved in. Rukia laments that she couldn't bring herself to tell him that the Hollows were getting stronger due to the machinations of a fellow shinigami. She swears she'll come back for him, but this is filler so she never will. The end. The canon plot resumes and the episode ends.

MY THOUGHTS: Not too shabby. Ashido is likeable. I liked seeing non-Arrancarized Adjuchas before entering Arrancar Central. The Forest of Menos itself isn't a bad idea, even if does highlight the absurdity of the sheer number of Hollows kicking around (he's been there doing nothing but exterminating Hollows for hundreds of years, and there are STILL this many!? WTF.). Seeing as later on even Ishida is able to more or less fly (when he used that hovering platform thing to fight Ulquiorra), the "where's the exit?" plot point was pretty stupid, and having Rukia vow to return for him even though it's filler was not the cleverest move, but otherwise it was a solid mini-arc. 



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