A war is about to kick off and some fool went and swung back the pendulum! Now we’re stuck in the past, but it seems the history of Soul Society one hundred and ten years ago is an interesting place to be. The war can wait, bring on the history lesson!
Back in time the Soul Society is much the same as it is in the present. Except for the Captain and Assistant Captain line up which now features the Vizards and Urahara of course. The volume spends its time going through the ranks and what they’re up to, though primarily focussing on Urahara and an incident involving vanishing people. It’s great to see the likes of Byakuya and Mayuri in their youthful dead days (spirits can grow old too!) and seeing how the Vizards became the half Hollow creatures they are today is what we’ve all been waiting for. Of course big bad Aizen is mixed into all this somehow and it gives our fellow Soul Reapers that extra depth needed to make the war emotionally engaging. It is confusing how certain characters haven’t aged since this flashback while others have though. The age process is so confusing and currently unexplained, which can make it feel a touch jarring. I guess it’s down to how spirit power changes over the years, maybe. Or wizards.
The past story offers a surprising amount of depth Bleach often lacks and it offers a welcome break to the relentless fighting that’s been going on in Hueco Mundo. There aren’t any major surprises within the past, but to see it all laid out is a delight. And apart from some funky age dilemma going on and an impossible inclusion of jazz (it didn’t exist 110 years ago), this gets little wrong and the plot density harks back to the older days when Bleach was more about character interaction and story than pages of large panels with white backgrounds and little dialogue. Let the pendulum continue to swing back.