Spoiler free summary: In Volume 69 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, the soul king is dead, Kyoraku has asked a traitor for help. Ichigo is making his move, and now, now we see where someone has been all this time.
Character: This is one of those frustrating volumes where there is this “big” reveal that doesn’t feel as big as it should. First, anyone even reading this series of reviews should probably be wondering where “this” character has been the whole time. A main member of the cast has been absent, and no on has thought to wonder where he was? Then when the reveal happens, we get another shrug, and the characters march forward as if plot is the only thing that matters. It’s unfortunate. Where Naruto vs Sasuke was one (even now) of the most epic fights in the whole series (I personally think the first fight was better), this “betrayal” is so glossed over it makes it horribly obvious that it’s a feint.
Exposition: As is typical in stories, a lighter volume (last issue) is followed by one with heavier exposition. It’s not anything remotely near excessive, but if you read one after the other, you’ll feel the slow down. This is just the natural ebb and flow of a plot building up to the climax.
Worldbuilding: I guess I’m not done bashing the bad character development. Let’s assume I’m going to turn someone to the dark side. Why on earth would I take such a person and then immediately promote him to heir to my kingdom? We have this supposedly genius character who just up and says, “Hey there! I know I screwed your family and friends over, but why don’t you come work for me, and I’ll go ahead and put you right next to me. That way I’ll be nice and shocked when you inevitably (and anticlimactically) betray me.” Said character shrugs (because that’s how everyone in this series reacts to plot twists) and says, “Well … if you um … wanna make it that easy; I suppose.” Why this is here is because the worldbuilding we’ve seen indicates Yhwach is epic. First off, he doesn’t appear to be anywhere remotely in need of an heir. Second, if he just wanted one, there is no effort to show that side of him in his character (above) or the culture of the Quincies.
Dialogue: Honestly, that lame plot reveal tainted everything in this volume. It’s like Kubo had the greatest outline ever and then got too tired to put any effort into writing it. I know that’s harsh to say, but it neds to be said. The dialogue is almost a series of monologues explaining what’s going on to the reader as if we can’t see the pictures. But at least those are cool to look at.
Description: See above. Great art. But art without compelling characters only holds up for so long.
Overall: I admit that I’m going to become progressively more hostile each time I see what could have been just an amazing scene ruined by what feels like unsympathetic storytelling. I’ve read a few posts indicating Kubo didn’t really “want” to write this second arc, but why do it if you’re not going to put in the effort? Volumes like this, where they have so much lost potential, are evidence of this rumor. If you know more, I’d be glad to hear it in the comments below. The fights are still masterful. In fact, I argue these fights were the standard before Demon Slayer (the new standard entirely). But those fights that I think about were great because of their meaning. These fights don’t have that same impact. They’re just battles without motivation. That’s not enough for me.
Thanks for reading,