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Bleach Episode 9: A Fighting Boy

Written by Hikaru no Michiru

First Aired: November 29th, 2004

Corresponds with “Bleach” Vol. 3, Chapters 20 - 25

Opening: Asterisk, by Orange Range

Ending: Life is Like a Boat, by Rie Fu

Just as the hollow decides to eat Yuzu’s soul, Ichigo jumps in to save the day. Too bad it also has Karin. It’s then that Ichigo sees a familiar face. The girl that was going to jump into the river, the one from six years ago, the one he tried to save, was standing right in front of him.

Grand Fisher, one tough hollow.

 The kid before him admits he can’t remember details like that from so long ago, as his face slips off, revealing a farse body, connected by the head to the hollow behind him like a lure. It’s then Rukia realizes who this is: the Grand Fisher, a hollow that hides itself and makes the appendage growing out of its head take human form. Then any human with high spiritual power who sees it, gets lured over to the bait. Grand Fisher has evaded soul reapers for over fifty years. And its favorite meal is women.

Grand Fisher killed Ichigo’s mom.

This sets Ichigo off, takes a wild swing at the hollow and misses. It grabs Ichigo to crush him. Rukia attempts a binding spell*, distracting it while Saidou jumps in and severs the claw holding Karin. The hollow makes an attack on Karin. Saidou blocks the attack, only to be punctured in many vital areas of his body. Before collapsing, Saidou tells Ichigo that he could never forgive hollows for the emptiness they create when they devour loved one’s souls. He tells Ichigo to protect them, and falls to the ground. They fear the worst, to find he’s just dozen off. What a loser.

Strangely enough, the sky gets dark and it begins to rain in the middle of June, like it did six years ago. Ichigo gets face to face with the hollow, his sword drawn. He wants to go this one alone. Rukia refutes the idea that this is a strong hollow that has evaded the soul reapers for fifty years. But Ichigo insists that she not interfere. This is his fight. Ichigo makes a mad dash at Grand Fisher. He swings, but to no avail. “Too slow”, comments the Grand Fisher. Their battle leads on into a clearing. Ichigo reflects on the lives hurt because of this hollow. How he swore to protect them. Ichigo takes another swing, but it dodges again. Another swing, but it catches the sword in its claw. Grand Fisher asks Ichigo how many times he’s been careless with his attack plan. Grand Fisher’s claws extend, and pierce Ichigo through the heart.

Grand Fisher removes his claws to leave Ichigo struggling to stand. It sees that Ichigo is impulsive, that he bases his actions on fleeting emotions; because of this careless way of doing things, he will die, and with that, Grand Fisher regenerates its severed claw. Rukia pleads Ichigo to stop, but he refuses. Even if he has to die, he will beat this hollow. Grand Fisher tells Ichigo that his anger is what dulls his blade. Grand Fisher pulls out his lure extension, and has it take the form of Ichigo’s mom.

Grand Fisher reveals this is the secret to his power. Everyone has someone they could never kill, no matter what. By having his lure extension take that form, soul reapers wouldn’t attack, he evaded them for fifty years. Rukia wants to stop Ichigo and help him, but a memory holds her back. Her mentor once told her there are two kinds of battles: those to protect life, and

Don't kill mommy.

 those of pride. She could help him now, but his pride would be eternally wounded. Because of this, she cannot interfere. Ichigo rushes at the hollow, but it thrusts his mother’s image before him, and he stops. “Don’t kill mommy”, the image pleads. Ichigo distracted, Grand Fisher makes a swift strike, piercing him through the shoulder**. Before making his final strike, Grand Fisher comments that Ichigo is by far the youngest, most impulsive, weakest soul reaper he’s ever faced. The attack goes through his mother’s image, which lights up with electricity. The image of his real mom appears before Ichigo. ***

Her last thoughts taken form.

The lure remembered his mother's dying wish, which has taken form before him. His mother reminds him of happier times together. She tells him how proud she is of him. She tells him to live, to be strong, to be gentle, and smile. She thanks him, and disappears. Ichigo gets to his feet, and admits Grand Fisher may be right, about how anger dulls the blade. But a dull blade is all that’s needed to beat a loser like Grand Fisher. Ichigo thrusts forward which, gives the hollow a severe wound****. It screams, and runs away. He wants to pursue the hollow, it isn’t dead yet. Rukia pleads that neither can still fight, it’s over. With that, Ichigo collapses. Saidou resolves to go home to soul society. He figures he’ll make something up, and if they find her, well, they find her.
Enough to beat a loser hollow like him.
That night, Ichigo stands before his mom’s grave and apologizes for not being able to avenge her. His dad drops in, and lights up a cigarette. He smokes one once a year in front of her like this, because it’s the one thing she ever complimented him on. Ichigo wonders why he doesn’t blame him for his mother’s death. His dad tells him it wasn’t anyone’s fault she died. It's just the woman he married gave her life to protect their kid, and not to forget that he's that lucky kid. His dad walks away and

Decision: to protect.

tells Ichigo to live to the fullest, and if possible, die with a smile. Otherwise, he won’t be able to look his wife in the eye. Alone, with Rukia watching him, he tells her he’s going to be a soul reaper a little longer. He’s going to become strong. Strong enough to protect people from the hollows. Otherwise, he won’t be able to face his mom.*****

* Ichigo stops her before the spell goes through.
** This pierces him through the chest.
*** Doesn’t happen in the manga.
**** Ichigo’s attack is much more severe in the manga. He practically cuts off half the hollow’s torso. Instead of just jumping off, in the manga the hollow can condense itself into the lure and regenerate.
***** At the end of this chapter, Grand Fisher is seen being tortured by what appears to be his boss, another hollow, for failing.


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