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Ch. 597 - Winded by the Shadow

Xilinoc September 18, 2014 User blog:Xilinoc

Well, that was certainly interesting.

Review skeleton as per usual, but I gotta say "The Wind" is an interesting one. Much like "The Love", I don't think anyone predicted that. And judging by the chapter name, it's the verb wind, not the noun, which explains what happened.

Now that I have that blessed free time, here's a more in-depth review. Liltotto eating PePe was expected and satisfying, although I kinda wish Kubo had kept PePe characterized as an aloof, giggly fat guy instead of having him become such a ham before death. Anyway, onto the main part of the chapter. Finally going back to the Soul King Palace was nice, as was seeing the resolution to Kirinji v. Yhwach in the court of badass - although I agree that the way it played out was a little silly. It doesn't look like Kinpika changed shape after being released, nor do we even know what its special ability is. Plus, there's the whole "you can't catch me, neener neener nee-ner" sctick Yhwach had going on that I'll get to in a second. Anywho, Senjumaru showing up with her Teen Girl Squad sorta ninja-squad was interesting, since she's definitely the most mysterious Royal Guard by this point, what with her connections to Mayuri and - seemingly - Yhwach, if her dialogue with him in this chapter is anything to go by. Moving along, the ninjas attack and also can't hit Yhwach, and it turns out this isn't everyone forgetting how to sword - another Sternritter's been hiding in Yhwach's shadow, one who can make attacks miss his target: Nianzol Weizol (it's going to take a million years for me to properly remember that name, and I thought Waccabrada was hard enough). He looks a bit like young!Yhwach in a hair metal band, and while we're on the topic of his ability, I'm just gonna say that I'm 80% certain it's "The Wind" and not "The Wind"; him "winding" his target around attacks makes much more sense than him turning the target into air or something, based on what happened when the squad attacked Yhwach. Oh, and Ichigo and co. are blasting off again. Weeeeee.

As for the essay of the week, given the main event of this chapter (no, the second launch does not count to me), I feel like talking about the Sternritter as a whole. Now, before I do so, let me state up-front that I don't intend to compare them to the Arrancar in any manner; unlike the Wandenreich, I wasn't reading when the Arrancar arc happened, and I wasn't present to evaluate whether or not the Arrancar were acting like Hollows or whatever. As such, this isn't about how similar they are to other enemies in the series - it's about how I perceive them on their own merits.

Let's start with powers. First off, I agree wholeheartedly that Quilge was essentially the perfect model of a Sternritter; he used almost every Quincy technique in the book, fought to the very end, and only really used his epithet as a last-resort. Royd was also good - even though he was constantly using his Schrift by nature of its ability, he also used Quincy stuff and wasn't too bad in the end. Cang and BG9 technically never used their Schrift in battle either (well, maybe BG9 did), and relied on Spirit Weapons and other such things. However, I don't automatically consider every Sternritter who relies primarily on their Schrift bad, and I'll explain why. When you think about it, Quilge couldn't really base his fighting style around The Jail. It wasn't a combat ability by any stretch of the imagination, and it was meant for impediment, not damage. Now compare that to The Heat, The Power, and *braces self for the wrath of the sun* The Visionary. You cannot honestly tell me those abilities should be used as an afterthought. It only makes sense that Bazz-B would use fire attacks that are likely stronger than his Heilig Pfeil, that Meninas would make frequent use of a power that lets her powerbomb buildings, and that Gremmy would be, well...Gremmy (on a side note, while I concede that The Visionary was really OP and Gremmy didn't use it logically by just imagining Kenpachi dead like he did with Kensei and Rose, I really like what Kubo did with the nature of the ability, i.e. having Gremmy kill himself by failing to realize how he was envisioning Kenpachi as a monster who couldn't be beaten - very rarely do imagination users actually harm themselves like they would in reality, due to plot). Same goes for Mask (may he RIP in peace). And, of course, there are Sternritter who use their Quincy abilities as afterthoughts, a prime example being the four Sternritter girls excluding Bambietta. Essentially, I see it as them using powers much stronger than their natural ones because that's the only way they could keep up with the Shinigami - Quilge seemed to be the only one strong enough to hold his own with only his Heilig Pfeil and, of course, Quincy: Vollständig, which I think I'll be covering in another blog. You could argue that this is derailing their nature as Quincy, but again, it's all a matter of power when fighting Shinigami, and if their bow and arrow just don't cut it, then it's only logical to use that whole "magical power bestowed upon you by an immortal psychopath of an emperor" thing.

Secondly and finally, let's go over characterization. It's pretty clear that almost every member, if not outright every member, of the Sternritter is mentally deranged in some way, whether it be lacking empathy, displaying violent levels of arrogance, believing fear is the root of everything ever, etc. I'm expecting Nianzol to turn out the same way. And you know what? I don't mind Kubo portraying them this way. They're not meant to be sympathetic villains who only want revenge for the genocide of their clan; they're bloodthirsty, homicidal maniacs who have lived in seclusion for generations and were trained specifically for annihilating the Gotei 13. When you think about it, they're not noble avengers either; the Quincy were massacred because they refused to stop doing stuff that would eventually destroy both worlds because, according to Urahara, they were afraid of Hollows. Seriously. That's not a tragic end, that's just common sense on the part of the Shinigami when peace talks failed and Sōken was ignored. That aside, the way I see it, Kubo is taking the opportunity to take a bunch of character archetypes/ideas and parody or deconstruct them. Gremmy, the imagination-wielder, is a psychopathic child who ends up killing himself through sheer arrogance and stupidity. Mask, the magnificently hammy wrestler, is a clear parody of Silver Age superheroes who has deluded himself into believing he's the hero of this story (which would make Ichigo the villain, obviously) - in fact, the whole idea of heroes and villains gets completely flipped on its head during his fights with Kensei, Rose, and Renji. Bambietta, the young and not-buxom explody gal, is just off-the-wall bonkers in pretty much every possible way, which to me is a realistic portrayal of what giving a child who has lived cut-off from the Human World for their whole life the ability to blow up cities. And if Kubo wants to do that with the Wandenreich, then by all means. I really don't mind, nor do I have a position to complain from.

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