It's not just me. I haven't seen this much excitement about Bleach chapters since the Turn Back the Pendulum arc started. I guess the moments we were all waiting for were in the IchiUlqui confrontation which has finally started to move. The characters we cared about most were there--Orihime, Ulquiorra, Ichigo and Hichigo. *Waves flag for Ishida's showing up* Do I smell the hougyoku around anywhere?
Ton of comments just about the summary spoilers here
And here is the scanlation of 344 The Pride by SleepyFans at OneManga
Pride is the worst of the sins and I was expecting the chapter entitled such to be something somber and indicting but no, we get the old play on the Quincy's favorite word and a title page with Ishida looking BISHIDA again and really cool.
And just after the title The Pride flashes across the marquee, Yammi takes a fall. Pride cometh before the pratfall? I loooooooove it.
Other than that, I waited nearly three years for my IshiHime moment and I got it for the Valentine's Day WSJ special issue. Well, I've heard shippers from all walks claiming the panel for Orihime's "look" already. She was looking sadly at Ichigo leaving. She was looking sadly at Ulquiorra leaving. Maybe she was. I think because the panel followed Ishida's words about how he would protect her even if Ichigo hadn't asked him to, that she's noticed 1) ISHIDA, and no, wait, everyone's into protecting her and here she was the one who vowed she wouldn't stand behind Kurosaki-kun's back in battle again (see chapters waaaay back... I'll have to search) AND LO, Ichigo has his back to her YET AGAIN and 2) Orihime doesn't want to be protected over and over and over--she wants to help!
In my book, it's a Valentine's pressie from my Kubo: I got Orihime noticing Ishida. I've squeed myself hoarse in the appropriate FCs and dbnext brought up the point (along with some more arts! ANOTHER REASON TO CELEBRATE! CHRIS IS DRAWING ISHIHIME AGAIN!) that this chapter is the first time Ishida has mentioned protecting anyone. Ishida said during the Mayuri battle that he didn't know what he wanted to protect. Besides that, we were given the enormous foreshadowing of Souken's oh one day grasshopper Quincy you will know what you want to protect to underscore Ishida's dilemma. Ichigo, since early chapters, has spoken of wanting to protect "mountains of people" but Ishida declaring to protect anyone is special, even if his actions have been protective for hundreds of chapters now.
So, bring it on! Ishida development! (Know what you want to protect!) Orihime development! (Show that you don't always need to be protected!) IshiHime development? (oh yes, please!)
Ten to one Orihime and Ishida have a moment with the Hougyoku before the IchiUlqui fight is finished!
And good money on Yammi landing near his proper opponent, Chad.
And HOLY 9&**(! The art was awesome when Ichigo went Visored. I was shaking in my boots. And the moon in the sky and Ulquiorra's eyes going weird when he pronounced his release command. Oh yeah, I love Bleach.