Bleach, Vol. 26
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Bleach, Vol. 26
The Bount leader Jin Kariya has obtained the Jokai Crest and is absorbing its immense power. While Ichigo and the others rest and prepare for their next battle, the Soul Reapers are warned by Rantao that there are many Crests within the Seireitei, and all may explode if Kariya's Crest is released. Head Captain Yamamoto mobilizes all Soul Reapers to find and seal the remaining Crests. Then, atop Sokyoku Hill, Ichigo faces Kariya in their final clash!]]>
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With only a day to go before the Jokai Crest detonates, the Soul Reapers are trying to find and destroy Kariya -- but the ones who find him are Ran'Tao and Uryu. Both of them push themselves to the limit to defeat him, but eventually Ichigo has to get involved (naturally -- he's the hero!) and with only minutes to go before the Jokai Crest is unleashed, Kariya shows his doll's power.
And after the battle, the survivors recover and reflect on both their pasts and their futures. A lone survivor is left to ponder what the future will hold, and Rukia, Renji and Ichigo all think about the month before Rukia turned Ichigo into a Soul Reaper.
Considering that Kariya is about to destroy the afterlife (and probably the living world by proxy), "Bleach 26" is actually a rather bland ending to a decent-but-not-great pair of filler arcs. It also has a number of plot holes -- a Bount somehow survives even when his doll is destroyed, and the "sealing the Jokai Crests" subplot turns out to be totally superfluous since Kariya never hits any of them.
And with only a few hours before doomsday, the Soul Reapers... have a potluck and take naps? I didn't understand that either. Shouldn't these people be slightly more worried?
The fight with Kariya is an interesting if overlong one, interspersed with flashbacks and a brief flash of Ichigo's "hollow side" -- lots of flashy sword-fights and rock-splitting displays of spiritual strength. And Messer turns out to be a pretty cool weapon, after two seasons of hints about Kariya's special power. The downside: Kariya's final clash with Ichigo is pretty anticlimactic, especially since a bunch of powerful friends were just standing there to the side, talking.
The last episode of this arc is also a nice one -- we see glimpses of Renji's promotion, Rukia's first solo assignment, and Ichigo's "ordinary" life prior to becoming a Soul Reaper. It really gives you a fresh appreciation for their characters, especially when Ichigo comforts the ghost of a little girl killed in a car crash.
In fact, since most of this volume is about fighting and Jin Kariya's nihilism, it's nice to revisit the kind-hearted, punky, forgetful teenager's core personality. It's not quite convincing when Kariya insists that his friends will all abandon him because of his power, but it's nice when we see him wobbling and worrying -- and even talking about what he'd do even if he were sure that they would abandon him.
"Bleach Volume 26" is a splotchy hit-and-miss ending to the long Bount arcs, but it has some decent fights and a lovely final episode.