BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 4 – Absolute Despair

BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 4 – Absolute Despair

This week’s episode of BLEACH, even compared to the action-packed episodes of recent weeks, was by far the bloodiest and most violent so far. It might even be the most in the entire series; BLEACH episode four absolutely wins in terms of active deaths. This is something that largely matches the manga story-wise. But anime is obviously able to add layers that manga would never be able to as well. In my opinion, the absolute star of this episode was the voice acting. BLEACH episode 4 featured constant fear, screams of pain, and the kind of confused terror that only manifests when one feels completely helpless in the fact that something they don’t understand. The only other time I have felt BLEACH capture the feeling that was constant this episode was during the first fights against Aizen in the penultimate BLEACH original anime battle.

Source: Hulu

This episode wasn’t that complicated in terms of actual plot development, so this review won’t include as much analysis of it as the others. But, I think this is a good episode to use to take stock BLEACH 2022’s speed compared to the original anime and source material. This review will discuss it and the episode’s content in the context of the wider series.

Is BLEACH 2022’s pace a problem?

The tl;dr answer is no, it isn’t. The fast pace of this arc is just fast compared to other arcs in the series. This is not a reason to immediately assume that the pacing is bad, especially given that this is the final arc of the main line BLEACH series. As mentioned in some of the previous reviews BLEACH 2022 anime is careful to cut out scenes that aren’t absolutely necessary to give more time to the more important scenes and fights. As we saw last week, anime is even dedicated portions of its screen time to expands some (in my opinion) underdeveloped aspects of the arc, such as Uryu’s learning of his Quincy heritage. The BLEACH The manga was well known for being rushed towards the end and it was noticeable. The fact that parts of it are being removed means more likely that something better and more refined is coming instead of some kind of random filler content.

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Source: Hulu

Even more, the kind of fast pace this arc goes through is a key component of it. The reason everything feels fast is that the overwhelming majority of the fights are curb stomping. Typical, BLEACH bows have a wide variety of matches across a range of skill levels, so matches of all levels go against something compared to them in skill and power. This time the power floor for Quincy is captain level. Obviously, that means lower level soul reapers lose immediately and are diced like vegetables. But this is just a strong mechanism to set the stage for the rest of the arc’s struggle.

Overwhelming gap in strength

More characters in BLEACH Episode 4 from 2022 explained the problem of fighting these Quincy quite clearly. This is a group of captain+ level enemies that can steal other people’s bankai. But because of their overwhelming strength, they are characters that the fighters we know can just stand up against the bankai. As we saw from Ichigo’s fight against Quilge, strong soul reapers who use bankai are much stronger than any Quincy.

The aforementioned “diced as vegetables” | Source: Hulu

What this veritable mathematical equation of content means is that yes, most fights are irrelevant, but it just means that the series is forced to employ some of its stronger fighters at full power. In previous arcs, even against opponents like Aizen, the strongest captains never used bankai. This time they surely have to. I’m of the opinion that the clearest and most explicit indication of this was in the excerpt we saw from Kyoraku’s fight. During the fight against Aizen’s rank 1 Espada, he was often encouraged not to use his bankai and won without it. That enemy, like his current one, used weapons and fired energy blasts. However, unlike last time, this match began with him immediately getting his eye out.

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The pace to BLEACH 2022 is really just a problem in the context of the original anime’s battles and the original anime’s efforts. This arc is special in the sense that it’s not only the last and most explosive arc, but also the first arc that all the minds behind the series have a chance to revise and tweak as they see fit. More likely than not, that means any changes, cuts or changes we see are optimizations rather than oversights. In any case, the series is already so poignantly four weeks in. That alone is enough to be excited about.

Featured images and screenshots via Hulu.

© TITE KUBO / SHUEISHA, TV TOKYO, dentsu, Pierrot

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