Bleach – Thousand-Year Blood War 1×25 & 1×26 Review: ‘The Master’ & ‘Black’

The Master and Black - Bleach Thousand Year Blood War anime episode 25 and 26 review
Squad Zero gets ready to empower Senjumaru Shutara in ‘Black’ (Screengrab: Bleach – Thousand-Year Blood War Anime Episode 26)

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War anime episode 25 and episode 26, titled ‘The Master’ and ‘Black’ respectively, offered a finale featuring much-needed extra content to flesh out the fight between Yhwach’s forces and Squad Zero.

The creative team behind Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War did share during the promotional rounds that the current anime adaptation will have extra content, overseen by Tite Kubo. And while we have had some anime-original scenes in the previous episodes, the two-episode finale more than delivered.

The Squad Zero vs. Sternritter battle occurred off-panel in the manga. However, ‘The Master’ and ‘Black’ showcased why the Squad Zero were considered such powerful characters in Bleach lore. Even though we know Yhwach will succeed in the end, the battle sequences in the finale were still so much fun to watch.

Ichibe decided to take on Yhwach on his own while Senjumaru Shutara, Oetsu Nimaiya, Kirio Hikifune, and Tenjiro Kirinji faced off against Uryu Ishida, Jugram Haschwalth, Askin Nakk Le Vaar, Lille Barro, Gerald Valkyrie, and Pernida Parnkgjas.

The anime team did a good job of explaining each character’s powers as they tried to one-up each other. I liked how Askin found his special ability quite confusing when he was trying to explain it to Oetsu. The interaction made me laugh. At least Askin’s self-aware, and apparently, it took him a bit to hone his abilities.

Ichibe’s definitely a powerhouse who had faced Yhwach before. Their battle included dialogue of Ichibe feeling disappointed about Yhwach’s not changing his ways even after so many years. I liked how Yhwach shared his motivations for wanting to kill the Soul King because as far as Yhwach is concerned, the Soul King was responsible for dividing the world into different realms and causing a whole lot of pain and suffering. It’s not the most well-written motivation, but hey, at least it’s something considering how paper-thin certain villains can be in such a genre of storytelling.

With Yhwach getting his powers cut down to half due to Ichibe’s special ability, we got to see the Quincy King call upon more power from the Quincies that were left behind. We know that Yhwach’s not above sacrificing his comrades to keep his plan moving. However, with a bunch of Quincy managing to stay alive during the sacrificial ritual of Auswahlen and getting a harsh reality check of what Yhwach thought of them, I’m looking forward to seeing how their emotions will come into play down the line.

The Captains and other characters were working on making their way to the Soul King Palace, too, to give Ichigo and his crew a hand. So, let’s see how the surviving Quincy will serve in what’s to come. You know the Quincy are angry at Yhwach for treating them as pawns.

The Master and Black - Bleach Thousand Year Blood War anime episode 25 and 26 review
Shutara traps her opponents using her Bankai in ‘Black’ (Screengrab: Bleach – Thousand-Year Blood War Anime Episode 26)

The biggest moment during the finale occurred with Squad Zero deciding to get serious as Yhwach’s sacrificial ritual powered up their opponents. It’s revealed that the Squad Zero members were so strong that if they tried to use their true powers, it would shake all of the realms. But desperate times called for desperate measures. So, to defeat their opponents while ensuring the worlds didn’t get destroyed in the process, Oetsu, Kirio, and Tenjiro decided to kill themselves to allow Shutara to use her powers.

I think it’s implied that any of the members could have gotten the job done, but due to Shutara having a bunch of arms, she was best suited for facing a handful of enemies at once.

Seeing Shutara reveal her Bankai, the Shatatsu Karagara Shigaraminotsuji, was such an amazing moment. The anime department knocked it out of the park as a menacing Shutara trapped her opponents in different dimensions with each area having a unique way of killing her opponents. I mean, we know Ishida and the rest aren’t dead yet, but it was still fun to see Shutara’s Bankai because it’s something we didn’t get to see in the manga at all. 

Also, a round of applause for Tite Kubo. I will keep on saying that while Bleach has over-sexualized women when it comes down to it, Kubo knows how to deliver badass female characters. And yes, it’s disappointing to see that Masashi Kishimoto continues to fail at doing the same thing even though he’s been working on Naruto/Boruto for decades. Where is the growth? Sigh!

Cour 2 of Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War concluded with Squad Zero seemingly winning. But we all know that such a victory isn’t possible because the main villain has to be defeated by our hero Ichigo (who is still on his way to the Soul King Palace). I think Kisuke Urahara realized that and knew that the Zero Squad would only manage to delay Yhwach. That’s why he sent Ichigo up there and was preparing to send reinforcements.

I liked the scene between Urahara and Hiyori. She was familiar with Urahara making certain decisions to protect Soul Society even if it meant a bunch of deaths. And while I get why she would wasn’t a fan of Urahara acting in such a manner, I think Urahara’s decision made sense. When weighing the fate of all reality against protecting a handful of lives, the logical decision would be to ensure reality remained to exist.

With cour 3 announced to air sometime in early 2024, I’m looking forward to the scales tipping in the villain’s favor in the very first episode. Also, with not a lot of manga chapters left to adapt at this point, I’m expecting a whole lot of extra content going in cour 3 and cour 4. I’m already excited just thinking about what Kubo and the rest of the team have planned.

In a weird pacing decision, the creative team added a couple of comedic moments at the very end of the finale involving Kon and what happened to Renji and Rukia while training with Squad Zero. The Kon stuff was meh to me. However, I have to say that I enjoyed the scene between Rukia and Renji where they remembered how Shutara had them strip naked to create the perfect outfits for them.

The experience was unpleasant. So, of course, Rukia was worried about her beloved brother Byakuya having to go through the same humiliating process. I don’t know about you, but I want to see what happened when it was Byakuya’s turn to meet Shutara.

What did you think of ‘The Master’ and ‘Black’?

Let us know.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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