If you’ve only been an anime fan for a few years, chances are good that you’ve never experienced the highs and lows of a weekly anime run without seasonal breaks. The lows are pretty obvious – glacial pacing, shortcut animation, filler, and more. However, there are also some advantages – particularly the ability to dwell on important moments. A great case in point for a series like Bleach would be when Ichigo Kurosaki first reveals his Bankai form. Seasonal anime doesn’t always get the breathing room; as demonstrated with this week’s episode of Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War, “I Am The Edge”.
Continuing the ongoing siege on the Seireitei, “I Am The Edge” brings Kempachi Zaraki back to the fray after his brutal training last cour. He comes to the aid of his vice captain Yachiru and finds himself in conflict with the self-described strongest Quincy Gremmy Thoumeaux, with the Scrift “Visionary.” Gremmy is an insufferable piece of work as he explains what his powers are in the most insufferable way possible – the truth is he can manifest his imagination. This doesn’t exclusively take the form of attacks, but in realized psychological warfare, demonstrated by turning Yachiru’s bones into cookies. Gremmy’s insufferable speech is rightfully unwelcomed by Zaraki as well, which perfectly reflects the two’s combat. Zaraki would just rather cut things and rush down on his opponents, and doesn’t seem equipped to play Gremmy’s games.
However, Zaraki turns out to be exactly the perfect foil for Gremmy, as his nonsense is just constantly cut through – literally – as Zaraki swings his Zanpaktō through all of Gremmy’s imaginings. This all culminates in a particularly long teased payoff for Zaraki and the highlight of “I Am The Edge:” the release of his Zanpaktō, Nozarashi. Much like episodes like “Heart of Wolf,” Nozarashi’s true form is a payoff set up way back in Bleach’s infancy, and it is genuinely exciting to see it (a giant cleaver) in action while Zaraki fights Gremmy’s increasing levels of nonsense. The entire fight is a very fast back and forth all while turning into what could only be called some real Gurren Lagann shit as Zaraki cuts through steel, meteors, and eventually the vacuum of space. It’s very cool and distinct even compared to TYBW’s other unique fighters so far.
A fun aspect of this fight is seeing Zaraki’s battle mania begin to have an effect on Gremmy. At first, Gremmy does think much of his opponent and feels like he won’t have to put in effort. As Zaraki continues to rush and overpower him, this tune changes and Gremmy begins to get absorbed in the fight. The more manic he becomes, the more both men start to take on the form of a Shonen protagonist trying to push through a wall. What makes this dynamic really click in animation is the moment Gremmy’s voice actor, Natsuki Hanae, sneaks past a bit of another familiar role of his – Tanjiro Kamado – in a moment of determination.
Like other fights, “I Am The Edge” wraps the entire fight within the single episode’s run time. Less time is spent away from the main focus – no Ichigo check in this week – but for once this efficiency is a bit of a disadvantage. Speaking as a weekly reader of the series at the time, Nozarashi sent fans in a hype spiral regardless of anyone’s opinions of the arc so far; and seeing it animated is easily one of the highlights fans have been waiting for. “I Am The Edge” does deliver this, but with barely any time to take it in. Other episodes of TYBW have been given anime-exclusive expansion, and this one fight absolutely would have benefited from an injection of more screen time. Considering the logic-defying that happens, I can only imagine what fun the production team would have had coming up with even more nonsense for Zaraki to cut.
That’s not the episode “I Am The Edge” is, though. As it is, the episode is plenty good enough, but could be even better. The choice not to dawdle over the course of Bleach: TYBW is more the right one than it is not; but knowing that there’s still another 20 or so episodes coming does leave it a bit disappointing that there isn’t anything being spread out even though there’s still plenty of episodes to go. Even so, this isn’t the last Zaraki will be fighting, so hopefully he’s given more time to show off in future cours.
Featured image ©Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot