slight spoiler for 383 behind cut
Pssst, listen to debbie: The key word for 2010 is going to be reiatsu. After Kubo-sensei dropped his little clue on his recent Jump Bang appearance about the bodies in Szayel's lab being crucial to the plot and after all the to-do made of Ichigo's reiatsu and clothes, I started to count up all the times in the HM arc that reiatsu has been referred to out of the blue, in this "oh this isn't important now but just you wait" narrative manner. I mean, let's start before HM with Hacchi's not being able to heal Ichigo's impaled hand because of the nature of Arrancar reiatsu. Then the hand is all fixed by Orihime. Then in HM Szayel is ordering the Exequias about to gather reiatsu from the fallen Privaron and Aizen knows all about it. Presumably there was a nice sample of Ichigo's reiastu taken from Doldoni (Dordoni? I can never remember the proper romanization of his name--the Baron guy!). Szayel learned all Ishida's techniques from a sample from Cirucci, so let me make a cognitive skip across a puddle here--so now is it because Ulqui's corpse is unaccessible that no one will know of Ichigo's most monsterous form? Reiatsu--it keeps being mentioned almost arbitrarily at times. Orihime says she has trouble healing Ichigo (the first time Ichigo is killed by Ulqui) because of the intense reiatsu in the wound. Orihime and Ishida make reference later at the dome to the strange dark reiatsu that is Ulqui's second form. My money is still on Ulqui and possibly a whole army of Arrancar ressurrecting and coming back at Aizen with reiatsu manipulated by our favorite mad scientist Mayuri, but who knows--maybe the reiatsu riddle is that Aizen already has some dire information on Ichigo's reiatsu with which he will humilate him before all SS--like, "oh hay gaiz, did you know that this boy in whom you have put all your hopes is a damn freaking HOLLOW WHO WILL TURN ON YOU ALL?"
I'm really looking forward to the New Year. The bummer is always the holiday wait, but Kubo likes to leave on a grand note. I'll never forget when he gave us a crucified naked Szayel on a chapter cover for the week before Christmas. This year he seems to be playing with the false diety theme again. Aizen's speech in 383(oh I love Kubo's soliloquies--I've heard people wail over the pretentiousness of them but they're always so in character--Mayuri's "perfection" speech was a lovely bit of philosophy and poetry that would not have been out of place in a dark Shakespearean comedy)--anyway, Aizen's speech in 383 about people putting all their faith and belief in one man makes a creepy parallel to the way everyone is treating Ichigo right now as the "trump card" of SS and only freaking savior of Karakura Town, and the religious resonances are, as always, inescapable. Hey, I saw them way back when during the Ulqui fight when high on the dome, Ulqui held up Ichigo with a hole through his body like a god crucified. Then it was that body that Orihime prayed to for salvation "Save me, Kurosaki-kun!" and well, chaos ensued.
Aizen, Mayuri, Szayel, Ichigo?--the deities who rise too far and fall? But we know that Ichigo, being the shounen hero that he is will somehow come out of this all unscathed and peachy-pure again. And Ulquiorra, the one that Ichigo killed, the monster who gained a heart, has to rise out of the ashes somehow or else Ichigo is not redeemed. Mark my words. It won't work any other way. The Ichigo who is going to face Aizen is a sinner, a false god, a shounen hero with blood on his hands, a dude who stabbed his nakama and feels the weight of guilt and all the terrors of who am I really? in his soul. It's going to be fascinating to watch Kubo pull him out of all this. I can't wait.