With the end of its cour on the horizon, the time has come for Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War to lay the groundwork for the next cour to come. As such, “Too Early to Win, Too Late to Know” is more set up and explanations but also wisely performs this exposition with a lot more action. The numbers of Squad Zero finally get to show why they have that title, but Yhwach also once again demonstrates what makes him less compelling as a villain than he should be.
Yhwach is also who “Too Early” opens on, giving viewers the first good look at the man’s previous attempt to take supremacy over the balance of power. In a meeting with Ichibé, who explains to Yhwach that he was able to broker a tenuous peace between the factions only for Yhwach to curse the Soul King and attempt to lash out – and is completely shut out by Ichibé’s power borrowed from the King. That event seems to be in the front of the Quincy leader’s mind, not that he has much to say as his chosen few begin attempting to lay the same siege as they did to the Seireitei. This is when the anime really shows off by letting the guard do their thing in as cool a way as possible.
First, Senjuman Shutara makes short work of Nianco “The Wind” Weicol, who has the ability to dodge any attack (and a very strange tongue.) Compared to the already complicated fights some of these Quincy powers offer, it is pretty humorous to see one get dismantled so quickly. What follows is even more cool as Zanpaktō creator Oh-Etsu Nimaiya arrives and proceeds to just show off. Nimaiya’s combat choreography is fluid and quick, in a way that would be right at home in a modern shonen anime; all while roasting the Quincy and lamenting about how perfect his sword is – so much so that this is the only situation it could be properly used in. Of course, Yhwach’s side can’t let this slide, putting a spirit bullet in Shutara’s head. That is the moment that the guard reveals that the Royal Palace platform everyone on is a fake meant to be a trap.
Now that would be clever and show off the tactical skill of the Soul King’s chosen – if this wasn’t yet again a move Bleach has pulled before and to better effect. The fake Karakura Town that served as a trap for better enemy Aizen was about creating a stage for the explosive battles of the arc while setting clear stakes. In “Too Early to Win, Too Late to Know,” the trick exists exclusively for Yhwach to just walk through it. Once again, Yhwach has smugly and easily made everything a waste of time. While his constant “naturally, I knew this would happen” action is supposed to highlight the kind of threat he is, all that really does is make Yhwach suck. Aizen was that sort of character as the series previous recurring baddie too, but the execution was far different. When Aizen would pull his crap, it often came with his observations and commentary on the characters he was pulling one over on. It was never perfect, such a character is extremely difficult to nail on a good day, but there’s a reason Aizen is iconic. Through this cour, Yhwach has been more of an annoying breeze with zero charisma by comparison.
“Too Early” promises only more of this for less interesting version of Bleach‘s greatest threat. That’s a shame – when introduced Yhwach busted through the door in menacing and interesting ways, and most of that has petered out. Having only one episode before the end of the cour, hopefully the visuals will still hold up to the end – because the narrative is about to give out.
Featured image ©Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot
‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War’ - “Too Early to Win, Too Late to Know” - 5/10