This is just a copy/paste of the comment I left in the previous entry, I'm just going to reproduce it here as I'm too shaken by this chapter to type out anything remotely coherent, so here goes:
After looking at the watermarked raw (thanks Debbie and NoMorePrinces!), I have been rendered speechless. This fight was never 'really' about winning and losing as the stakes were based on tenuous grounds at best, but it has never been so apparent until the 'awakening' of beastly Ichigo.
The sheer inhumanity of Ichigo is so terrifyingly perceptible, I feel like Ishida here: appalled at what he's regressed into and petrified for him, for what he has become and what he is capable of in this form. I have never fangirled Ichigo, but I have always been very fond of him, of his righteousness and his inherent compassion, which he shows even to his enemies (Grimmjow fight, anyone?). Seeing him reduced to this state saddens me immensely.
In stark contrast, Ulquiorra is not a bloodthirsty monstrosity, he does what he must do, and him ceding defeat is perfectly in line with his character, IMO. This is why I find complaints of "zomg, why must he go in such a degrading wayyy" baffling.
Ichibeast's actions, like pinning Ulquiorra down by barbarously mashing his feet on his face and ruthlessly firing a point blank cero at him would unequivocally qualify as degrading. Ulquiorra ceding to a clearly more powerful opponent and going as far as to ask him to end his life quickly is anything but.
If anything, it displays a level of sensibility that is almost peerless. He isn't Grimmjow (or even Nnoitora) who was egotistical and narcissistic to the point of mania. Neither is he pumpkincar Zommari who pathetically groveled for mercy and then proceeded to have a hysterical meltdown by banzaiAizen-samaing to infinity. Now that is a degrading way to go. Ulquiorra’s actions are starkly dignified, and this cannot have been more obvious, especially since it is being blatantly contrasted with Ichibeast’s dreadfully savage and primitive actions.
The importance of winning almost seems of no consequence at this point. Right now, the goalposts have shifted: to that nebulous line between hollow and human, between what’s laudable and righteous and what’s clearly not, and what constitutes the tenets of being a hero vis-à-vis a villain. What is Ichigo? What bearing does a victory have if it comes at the cost of losing your humanity? Sigh, too many questions, too little answers.
I’m off to observe a moment of silence for my beloved Ulq; I’m a little shaken by this chapter. Why must you be so subversively brilliant while simultaneously ramming a sledgehammer into my gut, Kubo?
So what do you guys think? What becomes of Ichibeast? How will he regain his humanity? Is Ulquiorra really out for the count? When will Ishida's 'regret' come into play? Will Orihime play a part?
I propose a group hug. I think we all need it.