Since there is actually a chapter of One Piece coming out this week, Bleach is getting pushed to the backburner on Mangapanda once more because apparently some pirates doing some stuff in a dystopian country is FAR more interesting than watching one of the most powerful and chillest characters in all of Bleach tear an eldritch abomination to shreds with a bunch of blades that look like goshdarn cherry blossoms...meaning it's time to go back to the usual routine.
...however, I think that this time I can give a reasonable guess as to my reaction to and summary of this chapter, using the following, highly advanced mathematical equation:
(Äs being in his Quincy: Vollständig) x (Rukia not being completely out of the fight yet)^(how pissed off people are going to be regardless of what happens) x (Byakuya and his inevitable powerup)=
...and now that I've had 6 hours for my excitement to wind down, onto the review!
Song to listen to while reading this chapter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0i6YFrSs6c&list=PLFB4B8FACC881FB7E&index=67
So, first off, we've got some...very creepy dialogue from Äs. Apparently, he didn't just punch all the blood out of Byakuya; he actually ripped his internal organs out as well. Geez, Äs, you're more of a psychopath than I thought. Then we get the obligatory powerup I mentioned earlier, but in an interestingly subdued manner; Byakuya's discovered the true extent of his Shikai's capabilities, but he didn't go and display them all at once, only mentioning something about bonds and cutting the eye things of Tatar Foras to shreds. Intriguing, to be sure.
Then, we get to one of two really, really cool things about this chapter (3 guesses about what the other thing could be); we got some actual freaking character development between Byakuya and Rukia, with the former finally acknowledging the power of the latter and helping her regain her resolve. This is something I don't think has EVER really happened between the two of them, or at least not in a really, really long time. This part alone made the chapter for me.
As for the other thing...well, allow me to share my thought process as I read that last few pages:
"Wow, that was actually really touching, Kubo, good job. Hey wait, Byakuya's leaving, that's unexpected. And he's saying he'll leave it to Rukia, guess he must be really confident in the power of her Shik...wait, why's there a close-up on Ruk-HOLY SHIT BANKAI WHAT THE FU-"
Yeah, I think you can garner my reaction fairly well from that. I'll readily admit I really didn't like the fact that she had achieved Bankai at first because it felt like Kubo was just throwing out Bankai to all the lieutenants. However, after hearing and seeing some other opinions, I realized that it made sense because 1. Rukia's essentially the second-most important and featured protagonist in the series, and 2. she went to the palace and talked to Ichibei and stuff. Not a goddamn clue as to what her Bankai could actually be, but hey, I'm guessing it'll be good, given what Kubo did with her Shikai.
Oh yeah, and Äs is a parade balloon.
Anyhow, really, really good chapter. Kubo managed to pull a fast one on us twice with Byakuya not actually fighting Äs and Rukia activating the Bankai we had come to believe she didn't have after all; I give him major props for fooling Sal of all people. Also, something I wanted to address in light of what happened here; some of you guys were pretty quick to criticize Kubo for bringing in Byakuya last chapter because you perceived it as reinforcing the tired "guy saves the girl" trope, but then this chapter came out and he ended up not only letting her continue to fight, but acknowledging her growth and helping her regain the will to overcome The Fear. Not saying you guys don't have the right to complain or anything, but maybe we should all not be so quick to cast judgement when there are situations like this.
Also, to those pointing out how The Fear is no longer working for "no reason": I'm fairly certain Byakuya explained why he and Rukia would no longer be affected by it, namely because they realized there was nothing to be afraid of and hence could overcome it. And for those of you who are criticizing Äs's devolving into silliness, I'm pretty sure that was also intentional; he's acting this way because he's not some omnipotent god of fear or anything, which Rukia and Byakuya can see quite clearly. Just a couple thoughts.
Again, great chapter. Keep it up, Kubo.