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Song to weep to while tearing into this final chapter: "Thank You!", the first ending theme of the anime
Well...here we are. Far sooner than expected or deserved for some, far later than it should've been for others, but we've officially reached the end.
As with last chapter, I'm mainly just gonna cover the stuff introduced because it's less a plot and more a string of introductions and explanations - which isn't a bad thing, especially after all the flak this arc has gotten for having chapters with little content or whatever.
So first off, we get some great color pages of the OG cast ensemble plus Renji. I've always loved Kubo's color pages, and these are no exception. Then, we get some of the captains investigating the Reiatsu thing mentioned at the end of last chapter - Byakuya's grown outwardly emotional enough that he's admitting to taking this on himself so Rukia and Renji can relax. In the human world, Rukia and Renji show up at Ichigo's...clinic (I guess Isshin retired), and all of Ichigo's underutilized Human friends are there, with the exception of Sado (now a professional fighter, god bless his soul) and Uryū, who's also taken over his dad's job. THEN, in probably the most polarizing and ballsy thing Kubo's ever written, we get explicit confirmation that Ichigo married Orihime and Rukia married Renji, and each had a kid. Hooooooo golly, that's sure to upset a lot of folks...but I don't care because I'm not a shipper and this was the logical outcome anyway. Moving right along, Yhwach's Reiatsu starts erupting, the captains prepare to fight...and Ichigo's kid sticks his hand in a hole in the wall, preemptively ending Swaggy Y.H.'s triumphant return by causing all his Reiatsu to just kinda burst and dissipate. So much for being almighty, I guess. Down in Muken, Aizen (who obviously didn't get his sentence removed for summoning an Ender Dragon against Yhwach) notices this abrupt defeat and flashes back to the end of Ichigo's battle with Yhwach, who finally and clearly reveals his motive: he wanted to create a world without fear by merging all three realms - the world of the living and the two worlds of the dead - which would cause life and death to fuse together so people would no longer live in fear of death. Aizen then proceeds to give his final monologue, this time about how it's better to have people live with the fear of death because that in turn generates hope and courage in the living. Meanwhile, Kazoo meets Renji and Rukia's daughter, Etch-a-Sketch, and reveals that he too has Shinigami powers. INHERITANCE CYCLE COMPLETE.
So there you have it: the manga has officially ended. The "big announcement" from last week ended up being a live-action movie that no one cares about, so let's get right into my thoughts on what matters: this chapter and the arc as a whole. As you may have seen on the subreddit or 4chan, there are a lot of loose ends that Kubo needed to tie up, and realistically speaking 6 chapters was nowhere near long enough to cover all that stuff (shoutout to the dumbasses at SJ once again for rushing this); with that in mind, I can accept what this chapter and the previous one showed us in terms of post-timeskip developments. The Gotei 13 has moved on from the losses they suffered during the war, people have grown up and hooked up, and the adventure continues. Would I like to know what happened to the Arrancar in Wahrwelt, Lille and Kira down in Soul Society, Iba and Komamura on their quest to well-round Yhwach to death, the truth about motherflippin Yachiru, and so on? Yes, wholeheartedly, I would have, but again, there was no conceivable way to fit in most or all the unresolved stuff in the last few chapters and still actually finish the plot, so I'll take what we go. As for the arc as a whole, probably my favorite. Many flaws, yes, but still highly enjoyable and hyped just about every week I read it, and the high points were some of the highest points of the series as a whole imo. Yhwach's still my favorite villain of the series for his sheer effectiveness and pragmatism, even if we didn't learn his goal until today, and Mask, Bazz, Askin, and of course our lord and savior Shaz will always have a special place in my heart.
Speaking of Yhwach's plan, I actually made a video about it last week. I wasn't sure when the chapter would be out so I published it early just in case, but I think my explanation and prediction was surprisingly on the mark with what we learned this chapter.
Oh, and one last thing: to everyone lambasting Kubo's decision to pair Ichigo with Orihime instead of Rukia, I'd very much like to know your reasoning for supporting that particular ship with Kubo's "More than friends, less than lovers" statement about the two and the various hints at Orihime's feelings for Ichigo in mind. Also, mad respect to Kubo for firmly trolling all the Orihime haters he's had to put up with over the years; my respect for him grows ever larger because of it.