Hitsugaya takes center stage in a small but thoughtful standalone episode.
What They Say:
Hitsugaya has taken some time off and comes to Karakura Town to visit Haru, an old lady he met during a previous visit to the World of the Living. Grandma Haru introduces Hitsugaya and Karin to Yosuke, a young spirit who died before being able to experience his first snow. Hitsugaya decides to wait on performing Konso on Yosuke until the boy gets his wish, when Haru's health suddenly worsens'
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bleach has such an expansive cast that it can do some fun things with individual characters, but some of those characters can have a hard time holding an entire episode on their own as we saw in the previous one. With this episode, the focus shifts to Hitsugaya, a character that has definitely made some inroads on being a well rounded one over the last few years. Some of his time early on in the World of the Living had him making friends with a lot of the kids there by playing soccer and that's something that has definitely lasted since it opens with him looking on at others playing with some affection. Connections to the living are definitely useful, though they can be a hindrance for a Soul Reaper. Chalk it up to Ichigo's influence.
One thing that has definitely stuck for Hitsugaya is his relationship with a woman named Haru, an elderly woman that he met once before whom he made a connection with. With him taking a little break in Karakura Town, he checks in with her to discover that she's taken in a little boy that she found, which is in a sense a replacement for the people she's lost over the years. What makes the whole situation sad is that the little boy, Yosuke, is actually a spirit and even Karin is able to realize that when she visits Haru with Hitsugaya. The whole storyline is definitely very easily telegraphed, but it has a good sense of atmosphere about it simply because of the ordeal it puts Hitsugaya through, one that he hands in a slightly pained way. You know it's getting to him, you know he's hurt by what he has to do, but he also knows that he has to deal with it soon less Yosuke turn into a Hollow that would likely hurt Haru.
The character driven side of the show is pretty nice as it does take us back to when Hitsugaya first met Haru when he was younger and how the two bonded since she had a significant amount of spiritual power that let her see him. There's a very grandmotherly feel about her when it comes to him that's pleasant and you can see the appeal of it to him as well. Which is why it makes things all the worse when it comes to what has to be done with the boy she took in since it can only lead to pain. He's always been a tightly controlled personality that bursts forth at the breaking point, so having him go through this in a much more personal way here is about as you'd expect, but it has the right emotional connection and atmosphere to make it work rather than just be a normal by the numbers storyline.
The standalone Bleach stories can go any number of ways, though they do tend to go slightly predictable most of the time. The plus is that they're not just flat out bad, they don't resort to being all about flashbacks to years ago or other similar tricks. Ichigo is pushed off to the side with only a token appearance again, a positive move in my book since it keeps him out of things considering the large scale battle he just waged recently, and it lets the rest of the cast in their current identities and levels shine. There's a lot to like with this episode, especially if you're a Hitsugaya fan, and a Bleach fan overall. This is one of those episodes that gives the show its heart, something that it has utilized well over the years and this one is no exception.
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.