It's pretty rare for BLEACH to start off SHONEN JUMP over the other titles in the Shonen Trilogy. I'm not sure if that's how it's organized in the Japanese publication, but that's the way things have been for the official US edition. For anyone who hasn't noticed, I've always organized my review submissions in that order. It's nice to see this series getting a bit more love.
The kick off of this chapter is pure shonen-action goodness. It's the 13 Court Guard clashing with Stern Ritter of the Vandenreich. The action builds and builds, and I would honestly love a giant poster of that chapter title, double-page panel hanging on my wall. Great art from Kubo throughout. Then things unfortunately come to a grinding halt.
It was painfully frustrating to turn away from the very climax before an epic clash of forces over to Ichigo turning into a deer in the headlights upon seeing Uryu on the side of Yhwach. I can understand his surprise to a certain degree. This is just way too much given the urgency of the situation. At best, they've only been reluctant allies through the run of the series. So, why does he seem as if his world has fallen apart with this revelation? There's no reason for him to freeze this much.
About the only positive that comes out of this scene is the reappearance of Sado and Orihime -- I almost forgot how to spell her name. Only reason I'm excited about this is the prospect that we'llFINALLY get to know who those shadowy figures were that aided them in Hueco Mundo. Obviously they were Arrancar, but which ones? Their appearance also bodes well for the reappearance of Tier to the plot.
This chapter had such a strong start with some awesome art, but then the story hit a brick wall. This sort of chapter is kind of emblematic of the issues that plague BLEACH as a manga. It's that events can tend to drag at times. That's why it reads better when collected in volumes. I don't hold it against Ichigo for being hesitating. The melodrama is just way too forced in service of dragging the issue out and ending on a farewell.
Follow along with the latest BLEACH chapters yourself, tune in for the SJ Podcast, and check out the free starter pack sampler at ShonenJump.com here. You can download the free app for both iOS and Android devices.