Ah, Kisuke, I never doubted you. It was slick and it was easy and so many people fell for it but that is-Urahara-THAT-bad? stunt Kubo pulled was so right out of Mystery and Intrigue 101; in this chapter Urahara is revealed to not be the one behind the Rukongai disappearances. Ha! HA! I told ya! *wipes brow* Okay, Kisuke, I did doubt you a teeny bit.
We have to doubt Urahara's motives, though, if we're to seek a sense of certainty and justice in the universe. He's our wicked uncle, the boogey man, the seducer and corrupter of the young like Plato or Elvis. It's too easy if we follow the yellow brick road--it's a character like Urahara who teaches us to trust our own senses and our own moral compasses.
Kubo's made Urahara make us laugh too often--he's made Urahara give Ichigo, our sweet and clueless protagonist--too many lessons and tickets to a Greater Good to betray this character. For Kubo to turn Urahara's character into anything more complicated than that of the goofy roshi would betray 300 previous chapters. This is shounen manga, not some dystopia of some adult sci fi novel and sometimes when I read critiques of the way the Bleach plot is going, I think people are expecting the weirdest stuff. Kubo is a master of plot twists, but he follows convention. It would've been so .... wrong ... to make Urahara more of a bad guy.
But it's so right to make us doubt him. That's how we, the readers, like Ichigo, the shounen protagonist, clarify our hearts and hone our wits on this spirit quest. That's how we gain information about ourselves and about the Great Truths on this journey.
What a chapter this one is, eh? Oh Kubo, I love you. The last chapter had a little slaying of Hollow and a cute Hisagi and now we've got more of that hero-worship story, with the 69 blaring on Kensei's sexy abs if we didn't get the clue the last time, and we've got the whole mystery-mystery plot with its tendrils into the future (why did Urahara invent the gigai? Does Mayuri's liquifiying ability have anything to do with a soul's ability to hold shape within it? ARGH! WE CAN SPECULATE ALL DAY!) and we've got Kubo teasing a new ship with Kensei/Mashiro (awww) and we've got widdle biddy Akon ( like, super AWWWW) and finally, we've got a panel that focuses on Urahara and tells us--
HE MEANS WELL.
So sleep tight, children. This is Bleach. This is a feel-good fighting manga. All will be right with the universe in the end.
Comments welcome if you understood any of my crazy talk on that chapter.