‘Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War’ Part 1: Recap And Ending, Explained – What Was The Truth About Ichigo?

A decade-long hiatus in the anime adaptation of Tite Kubo’s manga, “Bleach,” is enough to drive any hardcore “Bleach” fan to send a few angry emails to the production house. The last we saw of the orange-haired substitute Shinigami, Kurosaki Ichigo, was as a 19-year-old high school student who had just defeated Ginjo at the end of the Fullbring arc. The ten years of anticipation ended on October 11, 2022, as Quincy God-King Yhwach unleashed his wrath on the world at the premiere of “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War.” The sleepy town of Karakura received a rude awakening when a stranger invaded Ichigo’s home at the premiere of the TYBW arc. What followed was the first part of one of arguably the best arcs in the series, as fans witnessed the rise of a god, genocide in Hueco Mundo, the devastation of Seireitei, and the merciless slaughter of the Shinigamis, some of the most tragic and shocking deaths in the series yet, and the truth about Ichigo’s past. “Bleach” returned in full swing and reminded everyone why it’s considered one of the Big 3, as our favorite soul reaper turned out to be the hero that Soul Society begged for. Sit back and relax as we take you on a recap of one of the best anime arcs in recent history.


Spoilers Ahead

Chaos Reigns In Soul Society

While the R&D department of the Soul Society notices a sudden surge in the destruction of hollows, Ichigo is called on to Hueco Mundo upon infant Nelliel’s request, who drops into his lap from the skies. Meanwhile, the offices of Captain Commander Genryuusai Yamamoto are invaded, and the masked men gloat that Seireitei will fall in 5 days. As a parting gift, they leave the lifeless body of Yamamoto’s lieutenant, Sasakibe, impaled against the wall. In another world, a strangely familiar man sits on a throne, and after handing out some brutal punishments to his underlings, he prepares to leave for Soul Society. The God-King Yhwach has opened his eyes and is ready to take over the world in nine days. Soul Society has faced enemies before, none more significant than the evil genius Sosuke Aizen, who’d have captured the Shinigamis’ abode if not for Ichigo. However, the world hasn’t seen someone quite like Yhwach, who’s known as the father of all Quincies, and it took the collective strength of the original Gotei 13, a group of bloodthirsty killers, to take him down 1000 years back. Now, the Lord of Wandenreich has regained his power, and his target is set on destroying Seireitei and changing the world as we know it.


Soon after, Soul Society is overrun by Sternritters, Quincy elites who have been handpicked by Yhwach and assigned a Schrift or letter, A through Z, each signifying a special ability. As the court guards start getting mowed down brutally by the invaders, the captains arrive at the scene. Komamura, Byakuya Kuchiki, Toshiro Hitsugaya, and Soi Fon unleash their Bankai, but lo and behold, the Sternritters seemingly steal the Shinigamis’ ultimate weapons. After witnessing the genocide of Arancars at Hueco Mundo, Ichigo tries traveling to the Soul Society when Sternritter’ J’ Quilge Opie locks him inside an unbreakable jail, Opie’s special ability. The slaughter continues in Soul Society as the soul reapers get mutilated by the overpowering Quincies. However, the direction of the battle changes as the grand old man of the Soul Society, Yamamoto, steps in. Armed with his formidable Zanpakuto, Ryujinjakka, the captain commander, balances the battlefield before facing off against Yhwach. In one of the most visually astounding battles, Yamamoto unleashes his Bankai, and we get to see the truest extent of the power of the founder of Gotei 13. The God of Quincies is completely out of his league and is ripped to pieces. Is Soul Society safe, finally?

Unfortunately, no. The ‘Yhwach’ that Yamamoto destroyed was actually Sternritter Lloyd, who had copied Quincy King. The real King of Quinices arrives and proceeds to steal Yamamoto’s Bankai and slashes him in two in one fell swoop. If this abominable disrespect wasn’t enough, Yhwach cuts off the dead Captain Commander’s hand that had grabbed his enemy’s coattails. 


Ichigo finally breaks free of Opie’s jail and squares off against Yhwach, but he is no match either. While trying to slice his throat, Yhwach notices a strange blue armor-like coating that appears on Ichigo. The armor is called Blut Vene and is the defensive mechanism possessed solely by Quincies that appears on Ichigo’s body. The Quincy King tells Ichigo that, thanks to his mother, Ichigo has received the Blut Vene. The invaders return to Wandenreich, and as Ichigo tries chasing them, Yhwach’s right hand, Jugram Haschwalth, casually shatters his zanpakuto before leaving. Seireitei lies in ruins as it mourns the loss of its Captain Commander and the hundreds slaughtered, and a lot of questions are left unanswered. Why does Ichigo, a Shinigami, possess the defensive mechanism exclusive to Quincies, and how is he supposed to face these marauding attackers with a battered body and a broken sword?

There’s a sort of divine intervention to lend a hand to the Gotei 13 after this brutalization, as Squad Zero descends from the heavens, or the Soul King’s palace. Squad Zero consists of five captains, each of whom has contributed to the creation of the Soul Society and is stronger than the collective powers of the 13 court guards. They carry Ichigo and Abarai Renji back to the palace, along with their shattered swords and the horribly injured Byakuya and Rukia. After treating their wounds at Tenjiro Kirinji’s hot spring and eating to their fill at Kirio Hikifune’s kitchen, Ichigo and Renji arrive at Blade God Oh-Etsu Nimaiya’s place to repair their broken zanpakutos. Meanwhile, the newest commander of the Gotei 13, Shunsui Kyoraku, has his hands full, making Zaraki Kenpachi train with the Captain of the medic squad, Unohana.


The Two Kenpachis

One might wonder why a monster like Zaraki needs to train with the calm and peaceful Unohana, but that’s the beauty of Kubo’s characters. Retsu Unohana is none other than the first-ever Kenpachi and one of the members of the original Gotei 13. The peaceful Unohana hides the terrible secret of being a bloodthirsty killer who used to slaughter people by the hundreds until she met a boy who gave her a massive scar on her chest. This boy was none other than Zaraki, who experienced the pleasures of battle the first time he crossed swords with this Captain of the Gotei 13. As Zaraki and Unohana battle again, we’re introduced to an unseen side of the medic captain as she slashes madly with killing intent and bloodthirst in her eyes. Over the years, Zaraki had installed limiters on his powers to restrain himself from ending battles within seconds. Again and again, Zaraki is almost killed by his trainer, and each time he comes back stronger as more of the limiters fall off. Finally, with her last breath, Unohana transfers the last bit of her powers and the name Kenpachi to the strongest man of this generation. Unohana breathed her last, and Zaraki finally earned the title of Kenpachi.

The Truth About Ichigo

Up at Nimaiya’s residence, Ichigo and Renji are put to the grueling test of fighting the Asauchi or Zanpakuto spirits to find the true spirits of their blades. Renji succeeds, while Ichigo fails because of which he is sent back to the human world to learn more about his roots. It’s here that his goofy dad, Isshin Shiba, reveals the true reason why Ichigo can use Blut Vene. Nineteen years ago, when Shiba, a Captain of the Gotei 13, arrived at Karakura to investigate the inexplicable deaths of Shinigamis, he came across a hollow that was unlike any he had ever seen. Of course, this Hollow is the creation of the Squad 5 captain, Aizen, who steps in with his underlings, Tosen and Gin, to attack Shiba while he’s busy battling the Hollow. Meanwhile, Uryu Ishida’s dad, Ryuuken, is all set to marry Masaki Kurosaki, a pure-blood Quincy, so she’s a house guest at the Ishida residence until they can get married. One thousand years after the obliteration of Quincies, they aren’t fans of the Shinigamis and usually stay away until the Seireitei dwellers have died before stepping in. However, Masaki wasn’t like the rest, and she jumped in to save Isshin and even managed to kill that terrifying Hollow, although she got bitten in the process. Soon after, the hollowing started, and Masaki lost consciousness. Enter Kisuke Urahara, the original R&D head of the Soul Society, who put forth a choice in front of Shiba. Let Masaki die and return to Soul Society or give up his Shinigami powers and stay with Masaki forever. To the surprise of Ryuuken Ishida, Shiba chose the latter. This is also a commentary on the portrayal of the Quincies. Always depicted as cold and calculating, they are presented as the antagonists of the show, while the impulsive and spontaneous Shinigamis are the ones we’re asked to root for. Anyway, Shiba gives up his Shinigami powers and stays with Masaki, and that’s how Ichigo, a Quincy with Hollow properties, was born.


Armed with the truth, Ichigo finally heads over to Nimaiya’s place, and he quickly chooses his true zanpakuto, which closely resembles White, Ichigo’s original Zangetsu. The forging begins, and in Ichigo’s mindscape, he sees Old Man Zangetsu standing afar. Ichigo finally realizes that the Old Man, whom he trusted as his Zanpakuto spirit for all these years, was actually Yhwach from a thousand years ago. In an emotional discussion, Old Man admits that he had always held Ichigo back because he wanted to protect him so that he wouldn’t have to kill him when the time came. Instead, it was White, the Hollow, that lent Ichigo his powers all along. Now, Zangetsu knows better and departs, entrusting Ichigo with the truest extent of his powers. Back at the forge, Ichigo pulls out two mean-looking Zanpakutos, each resembling the two sword spirits that resided in him. He doesn’t need to borrow the sword’s powers anymore; he is the sword. The new Ichigo will be unlike any of his previous versions, but we need to wait until Part 2 releases to witness the protagonist wield his newly forged blades against the one true enemy.

But wait, there’s more! In the post-credits, Haschwalth brings someone to Wandenreich, and it’s none other than Ichigo’s teammate, Uryu Ishida, in Quincy’s uniform! Betrayal rages as Uryu abandons his friends to side with his kind, the Quincies. Why would he do this, and what does he hope to achieve? Does Uryu attack his friends, does he help Yhwach overthrow the Shinigamis, or is this all a ploy to get close to the God-King of Quincies? We have so many questions!


A Lookback On ‘Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War’

“Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War” Part 1 ended on December 26, 2022, but fans can’t contain their excitement. We’ve watched Ichigo grow up as a substitute soul reaper, and the Soul Society was the place where his friends Rukia and Renji lived. To watch their homes devastated, to witness the brutalization of the people he considered to be his kind, and to learn such a riveting truth about his past, isn’t easy on a 19-year-old who should be in college. Kubo pulls out all the stops in this arc and shows the death and destruction in graphic detail. From charred bones to melting faces, some of the scenes in this arc might be disturbing. With crisp animation and some amazing background music, each episode tops the last and makes the 10-year wait seem worth it. While Ichigo’s teammates, like Chad and Orihime, take the bench for most of the arc, Urahara proves efficient like always. The characters of Komamura, Sasakibe, Shuhei Hisagi, and the rest are fleshed out more, giving them more of a personality. While the fate of Soul Society and that of Ichigo shall be revealed in time, fans are also excited about some of the most anticipated Bankai releases of the big shots of Bleach. 

“Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War” Part 2 releases on July 20, 2023, but in the meantime, what better way to wait for Ichigo and the Shinigami than binge-watching “Bleach” again?


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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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