There's nothing like fighting an intense battle against an impossible foe only to have your dad show up.
What They Say:
As they cross blades, Gin asks Ichigo if he recalls their last encounter, to which Ichigo responds he does not remember Gin's 'heart' being present back then. Ichigo's answer prompts Gin to display his Bankai and its incredible power. Meanwhile, Isshin notices a change occurring within Aizen.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bleach certainly threw a surprise into the ring with the last episode as Ichigo's father arrived just as Aizen was about to reveal something key about Ichigo's birth. While the father was a surprise, having something step in and slow down the revelation is not, so I can't say I'm surprised by it in general. His father and Aizen set up things for a nice little fight at the start here, after he knocks Ichigo off the building, but it also sets up a fight between Gin and Ichigo to be had. Considering the relationship of the two, which goes back to when Ichigo first made his way into the Soul Society, it's not a surprise here either that the two have a long standing issue between each other to take care of.
Bleach's use of recaps in this kind of format is still a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's not a complete recap episode like we've seen before as it still has a good amount of new animation to it that helps to, albeit slowly, carry the story forward. Some of the recap has been a bit long, more so in the previous episodes, but it's all been used better than it could have been by showing how Aizen has manipulated things as well as reinforcing the relationship between Ichigo and Gin. It's also used well in this episode to show that Ichigo is a bit more self aware of himself and how he deals with his opponents in terms of feeling the power of their hearts and convictions in battle, though he doesn't really register it until afterwards since he gets caught up in the heat of battle or whatever strategy comes to mind in the blink of an eye.
While we do have flashback recap material here, a lot of this episode is given over to the fight between Gin and Ichigo and it works very well. Gin has long been one of the creepier looking Soul Society members before he revealed his true self, which is why it's amusing to hear him call Ichigo a creepy kid. Bleach does fall into the usual trap though of everyone having that extra little unrevealed edge they can bring out and Gin is no exception and he even gives in to telling Ichigo about it since he believes there's nothing he can do to defend against it. It's classic bad guy claptrap unfortunately, and it helps to minimize the impact of the fight. Which isn't bad since it allows you to turn a more serious look towards the dialogue going on between Aizen and Ichigo's dad, which gives clue as to what Aizen is really up to. Perhaps. Maybe.
Bleach may fall into a bit too much of the recap mode at times in order to advance the story here, but I find myself giving it a pass when it does it like it has here since it fits in with the show and doesn't dominate. In fact, there's enough revelations and hints made here to make this a strong episode in addition to the rather decent battle between Ichigo and Gin. Aizen and Gin do both continue to play the typical bad guy role with their need to talk from a position of superiority, something I wish they didn't do, but it's not unexpected to have such things explained out in a straightforward way. Everything does continue to build well and bringing Ichigo and his dad together in this setting has the potential for a lot of fun, if it really gets going in that direction. Bleach does tend to have surprises show up... at the last minute.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.