The final arc of Bleach is one that even the staunchest fan of the series would say was a mixed bag. It delved more into the Quincy, something that had been needed for ages and set the stage for a wide-scale war arc that dwarfed the one Aizen put together. A lot of the characters had some interesting abilities as well, leading to some fun fights.
It wasn’t all positives however, much of the ending being marred by a squabble between Kubo and his publisher, a great deal of pettiness soon following that. The main villain also left a little to be desired, which we’ll get into below.
10 Good: The First Half Of The Fights
The fights were mentioned in the opening for a reason. When this arc opened, we got to see fun fights with captains who don’t always get a lot of shine, like Komamura. He’s never been a big fan favorite, but the background about him and his humanification technique against Bambietta was pretty awesome (as was Bambi). The real star was As Nodt, one of the lower level Sternritters with some of the coolest powers, his complete domination of Byakuya helped set the tone of the arc.
9 Bad: The Second Half Of The Fights
Unfortunately, the good times don’t keep rolling as we get to the second half of the arc, mainly when the Elite Guard is introduced, and it just goes downhill. Aside from Askin, the fights are pretty boring. It’s just an endless line of Captains or former captains releasing their Bankai only for the Sternritter to pull an even more powerful ability out of nowhere. Lille and Gerard are both huge culprits of this, their powers seeming to be near limitless. It didn’t help that none of the guard, aside Askin again, had any real personality to them.
8 Good: Bankais
If you ever wondered the full extent of a captain’s abilities were, this was the arc for you. You get to see just about everyone’s Bankai’s, from current captains to former captains and even some of the Lieutenants.
The effectiveness of them ranges, as does the cool factor they hold. For every Rukia, there’s a Kensei. Even if some of them are a little lackluster, it was still nice to see them all in action against powerful opponents. It’s just a shame, certain people, mainly the Visored, were so short-changed.
7 Bad: The Pacing
The pacing of this arc is god awful, and there’s no other way around it. It starts well, moving along at a solid pace, giving everyone their moments to shine. Then Kubo starts to crawl like a snail to the finish before suddenly breaking into a sprint due to the mandate from the publisher that he finish. A lot of this is the pettiness mentioned earlier, from both sides. It led to such a topsy turvy end where Ichigo and Yhwach have their second and third fights all in the under ten chapters total.
6 Good: Bazz B And Haschwalth
The Sternritter as a whole don’t get a whole lot of backstory, some not getting much in way of character either, but the history between Bazz B and Haschwalth was pretty well done, both of them being the most well rounded of the Quincy. Bazz is the only one who’s sudden turn to help the Shinigami against Yhwach made sense. He was never the super loyal soldier that the others were, more or less being their Grimmjow. His showdown with Haschwalth while short, actually had some depth to it that was lacking in certain fights.
5 Bad: Bland Villains
The biggest reason Bazz B and Haschwalth got praise is due to how bland a large chunk of the Sternritters are. Over half of them are entirely forgettable, many popping up and dying within a chapter of their appearance.
It just makes them all feel like fodder, in the end, a far cry from how amazing the Espada were done. Heck, even some of the Fraccion had more depth than given to the Elite Guard, let alone the lower level Quincy. Case in point, the only memorable thing about the man above is he looked like Colonel Sanders.
4 Good: Character Progression
While the Sternritter leave a little to be desired, the character progress for many of the Gotei 13 is fantastic. From the aforementioned Komamura backstory to Rukia facing down the man who nearly (should have) killed Byakuya to Kenpachi finally achieving Bankai. The list could go on and one for how well everyone developed. For as odd as their relationship can be, Shunsui and Nanao’s moment regarding her Zanpakuto is probably the best of the bunch.
3 Bad: Royal Guard
This was the most aggravating part of the entire arc, even more so than how dirty the Visored were done. At least with them, you could say that they were simply surpassed with time, as is a common theme with many Shounen. What’s the excuse for the Royal Guard though? They were built up as being the best of the best, but aside from Ichibei, they were all handled with relative ease when it came time to fight. The fact they were cast aside to prop up the Elite Guard rather than Yhwach himself was an utter disappointment.
2 Good: Chair-Sama
Aizen made being strapped to a chair one of the most badass things in the whole series, something very few characters could pull off. He was so strong that his mere spiritual pressure was enough to scare people, even those as strong as Shunsui. It was such a good visual that it spawned all sorts of memes, many of which were amazing. It made for a really hype moment when he was finally freed of it, leading to a fun little showdown with Yhwach.
1 Bad: Yhwach
Yhwach suffered more than anything from the fact he had to follow an infinitely superior villain in Aizen. He lacked any sort of charisma and felt more like the muscle for the true bad guy than an end game boss. His end goal felt one-note and bland as well, feeling like more a means to an end than anything. They tried to shoehorn him into Ichigo’s backstory to give stakes to their battle, but it felt so artificial and manufactured.