One of the things about a long running manga serving as the base for an anime like Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War is that there is often a lot of housekeeping. Such is the case with “The Fundamental Virulence” as a whole lot of internal Bleach logic has to be processed before the action can pick back up. This a stark reminder that while this production is a take mostly for long-time fans.
Not that this approach is all negatives as “The Fundamental Virulence” spotlights two fan favorite characters, your humble reviewer included. Original shit-stirrer Kisuke Urahara arrives to give the Soul Society an answer to the Quincy’s ability to steal Bankai forms away. While a significant amount of the episode is dedicated to Urahara explaining how all this works, getting all this delivered with Urahara’s knowing shark helps a lot. He plays the part of being humble all the while knowing he’s needling scientific rival Kurotsuchi by simply being helpful. Urahara goes on to chew the scenery as he calls out to the rest of Soul Society with instructions. Veteran voice actor Shin-ichiro Miki (also of the Pokémon and Fullmetal Alchemist fame) has always imbued Urahara with a fun energy and its clear he’s missed playing the character.
As Urahara explains, the key is to imbue Bankai with just a tiny amount of Hollow essence makes the Quincy bodies unable to steal it. This gets showcased through the rest of the episode’s picking back up of the various battles happening, particularly as Hitsugya regains his Bankai and his voice gains a slight echo effect similar to other Hollowfication seen earlier in the series. It’s another nice touch afforded by the shift into animation. Another advantage of animation is the ability to showcase content the manga couldn’t, which is where “The Fundamental Virulence” shits focus fellow snarky character Shinji Hirako.
Shinji, restored to his Captain rank, was obviously a Bankai user, but Tite Kubo couldn’t fit it into the manga. Thanks to Kubo’s direct involvement with TYBW‘s adaptation, the anime could. So, we get to enjoy Shinji swag going around a bit more than before, along with his Bankai. This lets Studio Pierrot break convention again, delivering a 3D-tracked massacre of some Quincy foot soldiers without Shinji even having to lift a finger. The sequence is quite short compared to what I imagine fans expected but it is apt given that it turns out Shinji’s Bankai disorients the reality of anyone caught in it, turning them on their allies – violently.
All of this leads to, just like last week, another reversal from the Quincies as they now can use their specific powers. This kind of begs the question of why Yhwach bothered to have Bankai stolen in the first place – a question that bothers a bit more without a good answer especially since so much detail was paid to explaining how to get Bankai back. The real answer is of course to buy time for Ichigo to finish his last training arc, which gets checked in on once again after the end credits. He’s still in the same spot, but now experiencing blurry visions of shapes we don’t recognize, calling back to the idea that this experience will radically change him. Until then, things on Bleach: Thousand- Year Blood War are still in a holding pattern; albeit one that is giving fans quite a bit of service.
Featured image ©Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot
'Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War' - "The Fundamental Virulence" - 7/10