Ichigo and the Shinigami wage a furious battle against the Arrancar, who are attacking Karakura Town. But this enemy is unlike anything they have ever fought before, and these aren't even the strongest of the Arrancar! If Ichigo and his friends can barely face them, how can they hope to fight off the elite Arrancar warriors, the dreaded Espada?
As the smoke clears to reveal Ikkaku, holding the broken bits of his Bankai, coughing up blood and plummeting to the ground, Edrad, repeating Ikkaku's name, states it is a good thing Ikkaku gave him his name as the smoke, clearing further, reveals Edrad with his left arm and a portion of his torso missing. Edrad plummets to the ground as well.
Lying on the ground, Ikkaku recalls the day he was defeated by Kenpachi. When Ikkaku tells Kenpachi to kill him, Kenpachi, refusing, tells Ikkaku if he loved fighting so much, he should stop begging for death. Kenpachi says Ikkaku should not accept defeat until he is dead, saying if he is defeated and lives, he was just lucky. Instead, he should get stronger and dedicate himself to kill the person who could not kill him. His statement impacts both Ikkaku and Yumichika, who had been watching the fight. As Kenpachi walks away, he tells Ikkaku he was not holding back, and Ikkaku should live and try and kill Kenpachi another day.
Ikkaku flashes forwards to the recent past, where Renji begs Ikkaku to reveal his Bankai and assume control of one of the captain-less divisions following the defection of Aizen. Ikkaku, cutting Renji off, says while Renji's dream is to surpass Byakuya, his dream is to simply fight and die as the subordinate of Captain Kenpachi. This is why he has no desire to reveal his Bankai to anyone besides Renji and Yumichika, as if word went out about his Bankai, more people would ask him to become captain. He tells Renji to never make such a request of him ever again. Left with no choice, Renji agrees.
Back in the present, when Yumichika, coming up to Ikkaku, happily states he knew Ikkaku was not dead, Ikkaku says he was lucky. Elsewhere, Renji and Hitsugaya struggle against their respective opponents Yylfordt and Shawlong.
Ururu fights Yylfordt, forcing him into his Resurrección.
Watching the battles Rangiku and Hitsugaya are in, Orihime worries for them.
Breathing heavily, Hitsugaya looks down to see Rangiku about to be killed by the Arrancar she is fighting. Mockingly asks Hitsugaya if this is all there is to a captain's Bankai, Shawlong tells him he was wrong about him.
When Renji sends his Bankai at the Arrancar, he, holding it down, appear right in front of Renji. When he makes a cut across his chest, Renji retreats back. Laughing, the Arrancar, mocking Renji's Bankai, questions if he is really a lieutenant.
Watching Renji's battle from a rooftop, Jinta notes Renji is going to lose. When Ururu appears behind him, Jinta, telling her she was already told to go to sleep, realizes Ururu, reacting to the Arrancar's Reiatsu, is going into genocide mode. As Ururu heads straight towards the Arrancar, Jinta tells her to stop.
As the Arrancar decides to put an end to this battle, Ururu, appearing behind him, kicks him in the face, sending him flying a good distance away. As blood begins pouring down the Arrancar's face, he asks Ururu what she is. Appearing right in front of the Arrancar, Ururu, choking him, calls him a danger. Stating enemies are executed, she severely injures him. While Renji wonders what Ururu is, the Arrancar, punching Ururu away, tells Ururu he is going to murder her and goes into his Resurrección. Impaling her through the chest with his horn, he forces her out of the battle. As Renji looks on in shock at his new form, the Arrancar explains this is how Arrancar release their Zanpakutō.
Renji and Hitsugaya are overwhelmed by their opponents.
Telling Renji this is how an Arrancar releases their Zanpakutō, the Arrancar throws the impaled Ururu from his left horn into the city below. Catching her, Jinta smashes his Kanabō into the Arrancar's head, which does nothing to him. As he attempts to impale Jinta with his horn as well, he ends up impaling the middle of Renji's Bankai. As Renji tells Jinta to run away, the Arrancar, mocking Renji's attempt to block his horn, breaks through the Bankai, impaling Renji. Laughing, the Arrancar, telling Renji he will hear his name in his last moments, introduces himself as Yylfordt Granz, the Quince Arrancar.
Realizing Yylfordt went into his Resurrección, Shawlong wonders if he is in trouble or wants to finish things quickly. As he concludes that cannot be it, he is interrupted by Hitsugaya, who attacks him. When he, blocking the attack easily, says it is useless, Shawlong is attacked from behind by the tail of Hitsugaya's Bankai. As the dust clears, Shawlong, stating he risked his life by attacking him with his tail yet accomplished so little, notes the ice flowers behind Hitsugaya's Bankai are disappearing, asking if it is a countdown for how long the Bankai can last. Noting the ice flowers are there because his Bankai is still incomplete, Shawlong, saying when his Bankai disappears it is going to be easy to kill him, decides that before he dies, he will show him his greatest fighting ability. Going into his Resurrección and heavily injuring Hitsugaya's body, Shawlong tells him before he dies, he will introduce himself fully. Saying he is Shawlong Koufang, the Undécimo Arrancar, he tells Hitsugaya it was a pleasure to meet him.
Shawlong explains about the Arrancar's numbers, Ichigo begins his fight with Grimmjow, and the Shinigami release their limiters.
As Hitsugaya and Shawlong continue battling, Shawlong commends Hitsugaya for continuing to battle despite the huge difference in their strength. Ignoring his comment, Hitsugaya asks him if his number, eleven, means he is the eleventh strongest Arrancar. Telling him the numbers simply indicate the order of their birth, but this only applies for those numbered eleven and above, Shawlong reveals when Hollows are made into Arrancar via the Hōgyoku, they are given a number based on when they were born, but if they are strong enough, they are given a number 1 through 10, with 1 being the strongest. The ones lucky enough to be this strong are called the Espada, and have their number tattooed into their flesh. The Espada rule over anyone with a number above ten, and the ones who are not Espada are called Números. Telling Hitsugaya the Espada are on a completely different level than him, Shawlong finishes his explanation by telling him an Espada came with them; Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, the Sexta Espada.
Easily overpowering Ichigo's attacks, Grimmjow, asking Ichigo if he is underestimating him, says he does not feel like killing him yet. He tells Ichigo to use his Bankai, or he will put a hole in him like he did to Rukia. When Ichigo does so, Grimmjow is not impressed.
As Hitsugaya and Rangiku think to themselves "they are late," a voice says their limit has been released. As the Arrancar fighting Rangiku attempts to stomp on her, she, easily blocking his foot, communicates with Hitsugaya and Renji, telling them the limit has been released. Rangiku, Hitsugaya, and Renji shout limit release.
Shawlong, Yylfordt, and Nakeem are all cut down by the newly released power of their Shinigami opponents.
As Shawlong Koufang and Yylfordt Granz ask their Shinigami opponents what they mean by 'releasing their limiters', before a verbal reply is given, both Arrancar are attacked, much to their surprise. The nature of these attacks are revealed; Shawlong had his arm frozen, and Yylfordt had one of his horns severed.
Tōshirō Hitsugaya, Renji Abarai, and Rangiku Matsumoto begin to explain the 'Limit Release' to each of their respective opponents. The Shinigami reveal the limiters are applied to captains and lieutenants to seal about 80% of their reiatsu when they are sent to the Human World. This process stops unnecessary ripples in the balance of the world. Rangiku explains the limiters are in the shape of the symbols representing their respective divisions.
This revelation comes as a great shock to the Arrancar. When Renji, attempting to demonstrate this greater power, swings his Bankai, Hihiō Zabimaru, at Yylfordt, Yylfordt manages to get a hold of the jaws of the giant, snake-like Bankai, but Renji, easily overpowering his opponent, sends him flying.
Nakeem Grindina throws a punch at Rangiku, who, blocking it with her arm, attempts to goad Nakeem into using Sonído again, which he does. As Nakeem appears behind the lieutenant, she, using Shunpo to get behind the large Arrancar, cuts vertically down her opponent's left-hand side.
As Tōshirō Hitsugaya informs Shawlong their fights are over, Rangiku releases her Zanpakutō, Haineko, while her Captain uses 'Ryūsenka' and Renji uses 'Hikotsu Taihō'. As Shawlong orders a retreat, all the of the Arrancar, while attempting to escape, are cut down, one by one.
As Rangiku successfully defeats the Arrancar she is fighting, Hitsugaya, severely injured from his battle, falls onto the rooftop where Rangiku is. Rangiku calls for Orihime to come.
Thinking to himself if he were to have had his limit off from the start, he might not have won, Renji fears all the Arrancar are this powerful.
As Ichigo continues his battle with Grimmjow, he is continually overpowered by the Espada. Mocking Ichigo's Bankai, Grimmjow asks if the only thing it can do is increase his speed. Ichigo uses a Getsuga Tenshō, catching Grimmjow off guard, and creates a huge wound across Grimmjow's body, arms, and right thigh.When Grimmjow, asking him what that attack was, says it was not in Ulquiorra's report, Ichigo asks if that ended his disappointment. As the Hollow within Ichigo begins taking over his body, a worried Tatsuki Arisawa watches him from the sidelines. Meanwhile, a Garganta appears and someone leaves it.
Appearing from the Garganta, Tōsen goes to where Grimmjow is. As Grimmjow, laughing hysterically tells Ichigo he is finally worth killing, Ichigo realizes the Getsuga Tenshō barely did anything to him, and he can only use two to three more before his Hollow takes over. Telling him to not just stand there, Grimmjow begins to draw his Zanpakutō. When Tōsen, appearing behind him, tells him to stop fighting, Grimmjow, asking him why he is here, is surprised he is even asking. Telling him he attacked the Human World for no reason, took five Arrancar, and got them killed, all against orders, Tōsen tells him Aizen is furious and his punishment will be held in Hueco Mundo. As Tōsen opens a Garganta, Ichigo, yelling at Grimmjow, asks where he is going. When Grimmjow tells him he has to go back to Hueco Mundo, Ichigo, telling him he cannot just come here on a whim and leave on a whim, states their battle is not over yet. Countering by saying the only reason he is alive right now is because their battle is not over yet, since he can only fire off that technique two or three more times, Grimmjow states even if he can use that technique without end, it still would not be able to beat his Resurrección. Grimmjow tells him to pray he never hears the name "Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez" again because the next time he does, he will be dead. As Tōsen and Grimmjow disappear through the Garganta, Renji, going up to Ichigo, asks if they went back to Hueco Mundo and if he won the battle. When Ichigo says he lost, Renji tells him since he is alive, he won. Stating if he were in his position he would say the same thing, Ichigo says he cannot protect anyone.
Per their deal, Keigo, bringing Ikkaku and Yumichika home, asks his elder sister if they can stay, hinting he hopes she will say no. Enthralled by Ikkaku's shaved head, Mizuho readily agrees, much to Keigo's distress. Back in Urahara's Shop, Tessai heals Ururu as Urahara comforts her, while a worried Jinta waits nearby. As Orihime heals Rukia, Renji, Ichigo, and Hitsugaya watch on.
Meanwhile, in Hueco Mundo, Tōsen, bringing Grimmjow in front of Aizen, orders him to apologize. When Grimmjow refuses, as Tōsen bristles with anger, Aizen, saying it is all right, states he is not angry, as he is taking Grimmjow's actions as evidence of overzealous loyalty. At Aizen's prompt, Grimmjow readily agrees with him. Unsatisfied, Tōsen asks to execute Grimmjow. When Grimmjow asks if Tōsen has something personal against him, Tōsen states he merely believes anyone who disrupts the peace should be punished. When Grimmjow asks if that is for the sake of the organization, Tōsen says it is for Aizen's sake. When Grimmjow accuses Tōsen of hiding behind the cause, Tōsen, saying it is about the cause, states killing without purpose is murder, but killing with purpose is justice. Slicing off Grimmjow's arm, he incinerates it with using Hadō #54: Haien. As Grimmjow, distressed and angry, moves to attack Tōsen, Aizen stops him by saying if he attacks Tōsen, Aizen will be unable to forgive him. Disgruntled, Grimmjow leaves.
As Aizen comes down from his throne room, Gin accuses him of being cruel and playing with his subordinates. When Aizen notes Gin was eavesdropping. Gin points out Aizen knew Tōsen would do that as soon as Aizen said what he did. As Gin reminds Aizen they lost five Arrancar, Aizen, stating it is of no concern since they were merely Gillians, says when they have assembled enough Vasto Lordes, the Espada will be complete, and no one will be able to stop them.
As he continues to dodge attacks from his father, Uryū senses the end of the battle between the Shinigami and Arrancar. When Ryūken asks if Uryū is worried about Shinigami, Uryū, stating the only thing he is worried about is continuing to dodge his father's arrows in the secret room of Reika silver, asks if Reika glass is going to return his powers. Stating it certainly will, but Uryū must first survive, Ryūken resumes his attack.
The next morning, Yuzu, looking for Ichigo, does not find him. When she tells her father, Isshin is worried about Rukia, who, turning up, wonders what is going on. Upon hearing Ichigo is missing, Rukia recalls what transpired the night before. Upon being healed by Orihime, Rukia, noticing Ichigo's sullen expression, berated him for feeling guilty about her injuries. Telling Ichigo she does not need him to protect her, Rukia suggested if he is worried about the Hollow inside him, he should talk to Urahara. Declining, stating if Urahara knew a way he would have shared it with him already, Ichigo says he does not want to bother Urahara with any more of his problems.
As Rukia looks for Ichigo, Ichigo, finding himself at the crater where he fought Yammy and Ulquiorra, recalls Grimmjow, saying he knows things cannot go on as they are, as his left eye starts to blacken. Back in school, Ichigo's teacher, surprised to find Ichigo absent, notes while he skips class, he is rarely absent. Noting Rukia, Sado, and Uryū are also absent, she wonders what is going on.
Meanwhile, as Hitsugaya sends his report to Soul Society, Matsumoto, teasing him, asks if he told them things were a breeze thanks to the limit release, but Hitsugaya tells her those Arrancar were mere foot soldiers, and, given how much trouble they had with them, they should not take the Arrancar lightly.
At Urahara's Shop, an excited Jinta encourages Ururu to be happy about being healed. As Urahara tries to control them, Sado, arriving, begs Urahara to train him. In the meantime, Ichigo makes his way to a warehouse where the Visored are waiting, with Shinji asking if Ichigo has finally decided to join them.
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