Today I'm gonna revisit my first article.....which centered on Kenpachi.
....Oh Christ, you guys are putting a gun to my cheek, aren't you?
Let's get right to it, then. When we left off, I was expressing my rage with Kubo by, through haphazard story telling, ruining one of the best characters of the manga.
Yes, I'm aware of the detractors. Yes, I know if he was sucked into One Piece or something, he wouldn't be as....flashy? And I'm not trying to offer a defense.
Simply put, he's no longer one of my favorites. The luster has been lost. And I don't see it coming back.
....Who can I still like? Ikkaku?
I covered to his actions to the beginning of the Quincy arc, where Juha Bach solos him and leaves him for dead. No wait, I'm sorry, his clone Royd. Gag me, Kubo.
But seeing as how Kubo is a slave to his fandom, both he and Byakuya survive. The latter surviving is a much more improbable situation, but whatever. The weird thing is.....while Byakuya goes with Ichigo to the Royal Realm....to um, heal....Kenpachi does not. First off, can someone explain this to me? I can buy Byakuya's wounds being more severe, but they're both Captains. Healing both at once would've been a smart move in Seireitei, since right before Division 0 arrives-
Gas mask nazis. Does this mean the Shinigami are the Jews? I freaking hope not.
Seriously, if Renji gets to tag along....oh whatever.
While Kenpachi is recovering the more time-consuming way (under the 4th Division, ohoho we'll get to that), Solid Shunsui has a plan.
Oh darn, I dun spoiled the surprise!
Remember WAY back when we learned about Kenpachi's past.....and that he admired a woman named Yachiru, hence the reason for naming our favorite vice-captain that?
Apparently that woman was.....Unohana. Pros?
Well, this is a good chance to restore some emotional....depth to Kenpachi. See, Kyoraku's plan is to have Unohana train Kenpachi in the "art of killing" and doing so will have him learn the name of his zanpakutou! Whoa! Kubo.....you sure know how to please a reader.
And hey, two birds with one stone! We can learn about how.....Kenpachi admires Unohana.
STOP RIGHT THERE.
Do I have to explain how this situation makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER? Okay, so Kenpachi admired the Yachiru Unohana....yet there is no scene in the manga to indicate such a relationship between the two. Fluff, friendship, nothing.
But of course, this is Kubo. Retcons are his speciality!
And here's the other problem! She was also the first Kenpachi....the title given to the strongest Shinigami of each generation. And ol' Retsu was part of Yama's group of thugs (I'm not touching that), so the date checks out.
But how can there BE other Kenpachis if the first was not killed and did not die?!
How can there be a second/third/fourth/so on if Unohana is STILL AROUND?!
Maybe you're saying that no one knew Unohana was the first one....but even then, it's dubious. If no one matched the name with the face, what did other Kenpachis do? "Welp, we have no idea who #1 is, so let's just pretend one of us killed him, okay?"
And if people KNEW Unohana = 1st Kenpachi, her name would've been a lot more feared. Urahara and Yoruichi would've explictly warned Ichigo and company not to get within a kilometer of her when they did their rescue mission, for example.
Now what does this have to do with our Kenpachi?
Everything! Kubo's trying to install a connection between the two to give both emotional development, but it's based off of flimsy details and a hazy timeline.
Refer to the picture above. Kenpachi was a kid when he met Unohana?!
.....oh shit, I almost forgot.
Apparently Unohana Retsu is a secret psychopath.
For fuck's sake. Every Bleach reader always dreamed of seeing Unohana fight in the manga, since....well, the Soul Society arc! There had to be a reason why she scares the shit out of 95% of the cast. And everyone thought it was because she was a total bad ass.
Being psychotic, or like the current Kenpachi, is not that. It's recycling the same personality to another character, making two Unohanas-
A - Calm, best healer in the Seireitei, firm but fair, nice most of the time
B- A BLOOD DRINKING PSYCHO THAT GETS OFF ON PAIN
It's insulting to Unohana, and our pre-conceptions as readers. It's insulting to Kenpachi's past (let him idolize someone wiser and smarter, not someone EXACTLY like him)
Sigh. How did Retsu mask her killing persona all this time? And why didn't she DO anything in these past arcs?!
......no answer, eh Kubo?
So now we're getting pieces of the puzzle. As a kid, Kenpachi had a shit-ton of reiatsu and killed people with his zan-
....zanpakutou, that you can only make via academy asauchi...that he stole from a corpse.....let me stop myself before I get a headache.
kid!Kenny met psycho!Unohana, and they....fought....Kenny won?.....and then......yeah, they parted ways, Unohana just left him to rot in Rukongai, flash forward many years later, Kenny grows up, meets Yachiru-
HOLD THE FUCK ON
The puzzle is missing its center pieces! Why did Unohana just...leave Kenpachi? Surely she realized his potential? Seireitei was just beginning (or whatever, I hate doing Bleach math), and wouldn't it had been a priority to get this abnormal child?
....right, I forgot Soul Society is incompetent as all hell.
Ugh, so these two....duke it out in an underground arena, as not to damage war-torn Seiretei anymore.
Looks like As Nodt and Jackie reproduced
I'll give you credit, Kubo....for showing Yachiru and Isane realizing the battle has begun, and that one of their leaders and cherished ones will perish. But....I just don't GET this fight.
No, I'm serious. Kyoraku's plan was to have Kenpachi awake his zanpakutou, via learning "the art of killing". At the very least, perfect his swordplay! What happens?
A slashy back and forth!
I'm sorry, did we travel back in time to his battle with Nnoitra? How is supposed to improve his techniques?! How is fundamentally different than his previous fights? It's just two people with giant amounts of reiatsu hacking at each other!
We've established in my first article that fights like THESE make Kenpachi seem dull. That they're not very interesting. And it shows, because during these chapters....I was bored out of my skull.
Y'know, more than usual.
So they're fighting....blah blah....we kinda understand how Kenpachi's power level works. Apparently (third fucking time I've used this word, Kubo) Kenny adjusts his level or reiatsu or whatever term you opt to use to a level that's barely above his opponents. To not only win, but to provide a challenge.
This makes sense for the fights against Tousen, Ichigo, and Nnoitra (he struggled here)
This does NOT make sense for the fights against Giriko, Yammy, and Royd (either he steamrolled or lost badly)
But you know what....I suppose I'll take what I've been given. It's clear Kubo made this point up on the spot, however, it's also clear that managing Zaraki Kenpachi's power level in this manga is a challenge for any author, good or bad. So....moving on.....
Unohana's main directive in this fight is to.....use her zanpakutou's power? kill Kenpachi then heal him to full strength, in turn increasing his power and upping her enjoyment factor (think Vegeta and Dende)
I just hate how Kubo's presenting this as some deep conflicting battle. Kenpachi and Unohana have barely interacted, no matter how badly you want to twist the canon. It cheapens the emotional value....because....be honest, raise your hand if you think Kubo planned this whole relationship out.
I promise I'll go easy.
.....oh holy shit, the battle's getting intense! Unohana's gonna release her zanpakutou?! BANKAI?!
GO DROWN IN A WELL, TITE KUBO
It's comforting to know we're in the era of "hard to understand blank Bankais", a la Sasakibe. What happened to millions of blades, a skeleton snake, a freaking missile launcher?!
(yes I know that makes you cringe Gliby)
Is this how we're supposed to remember Unohana as a fighter? Being Kenpachi 2.0 (or rather 1.0, har har) and having......no seriously, da fuck is that?!
I need to wrap this up before I can't take it anymore.
So apparently (four times now) only one Kenpachi can live. One Kenpachi can stand. .....oh come, Kubo won't-
Unohana has to DIE?! After we finally get info on her?! After she finally fucking fights?! Doing what?! Slashing Kenpachi and grinning like a psycho?!
Someone tell me how this makes any sense from a story-telling perspective when a) there's no rule saying two Kenpachis can't exist, especially when TWO HAVE ALL THIS TIME and b) Seireitei needs all the strong fighters they can get to combat the Vandenreich?!
What is this, a pass-the-torch theme?! Based off the fact Kenpachi admired Unohana when 500 chapters never pointed to the relationship in the first place?! Based off the fact that Kubo took the high road, killed two birds with one stone, and "developed" both characters?!
Is any pay-off in seeing Unohana die? Is there?!
Well no, the chapter ends before we can learn his zanpakutou name or its form....but I've been waiting a LONG time for this. Too long. This would've mattered more to me during Soul Society or Hueco Mundo, but not so much here.
It's something fans and readers alike have been wanting to see. At least Kubo is man enough to go back and give this plot point another try, and not completely forget it.
Even though it was done half-assed.
Even though it required molding Unohana, one of the most hyped characters in the manga, into a Kenpachi retread, establishing a dubious backstory and confusing motives, and then KILLING HER.
But it's a point in Kubo's favor.
....Again, partially taken away when Unohana had to die. Now she may recover being healing her-who the fuck am I kidding?! Last time I checked, Unohana isn't a Kenpachi, a Byakuya, a Hitsugaya, a Ichigo; a character that Kubo binds and breaks to please the fans.
If she does stay alive, then I'll give Kubo the full point for giving Kenpachi his time in the sun (only in terms of the zanpakutou release, not the loldeep snoozefest battle) and improving him.
But I still can't find myself to like Kenpachi as much anymore, and that's just taste, I suppose.
Any future improvements may feel shoehorned in and not as significant, but at least Kubo's trying.
......Y'know, when he feels like putting out any effort.
Thanks for reading, y'all! Tune in for my next article, where I focus on....the Quincy race of this manga, and all the contradicting info we've been given about them. It's a tough job, but someone needs to get it done.