REMINDER: Do NOT Tweet to Kubo about this chapter, or using pics from this chapter, until MONDAY!
Aizen is, as Spacecat on BA put it, very Hannibal Lecter-ish. Or, as karenai put it, the star of Sereitei's bondage porn films. (Ohhhh, yeah.) So Central 46 apparently can't kill Aizen while he's still fused with the ho
Yamajii is alive... with one arm. His priorities are, as always, in the right place - scolding perverted Shunsui, prissy/bored Byakuya, and annoyed/bored Kenpachi over losing their captain's haori. Their answers are really cute <3333 Especially nii-sama's. <333
UKITAKE. YOU'RE ALIVE, YAY.
Mayuri is in Hueco Mundo studying... who knows what.
Poor Toushirou. One day you'll be able to protect Hinamori... probably. Oh, and Hinamori is alive, but it's hard to say if she's in another coma. She's undergoing organ regeneration, so it's probably best if she's not awake. Poor girl.
RANGIKU ;_____; It looks like Gin really did kick the bucket. (For Gin to have "vanished" without dying means Soul Society probably let Gin escape, but I doubt they'd be that far gone.) I really love the panels on this page, with all the snow imagery. So pretty, goes back to Rangiku's memories of Gin leaving her behind. And then Rangiku reflecting that it's better Gin didn't leave a memento behind since she'd be unable to move past that otherwise. T_T Then saying she liked/loved that about Gin... waaaaah. ;________; Gin/Ran. ;____;
Unfortunately for Gin/Ran, they were overshadowed by the blatant, tragic Ichigo/Rukia of this chapter. Just... waaaaaah. T__________T Where to start.
Ichigo collapsed due to the pain of his powers leaving him, and he's been in a coma for a month. His hair's short because his body underwent time reversal of what he'd gone through in the dangai. Apparently Ichigo already knew he'd lose the ability to see spirits, too, already, since he's unsurprised by Rukia's explanation.
Ichigo awakens to the faces of four of his nakama. Orihime is loud, but then she's blatantly ignored by Ichigo. And that hamster-like face, as velvetsword described it... really, Orihime? >_>;;; Rukia petting a childish Orihime is very cute, but Kubo is quite cruel in making Orihime a non-entity to Ichigo. He does it again outside, when Orihime is partly shown in a panel, but Ichigo's focus is solely on Rukia.
Those pages are so gorgeous. As members of the Ichigo/Rukia FC at BA pointed out, this takes place in the same spot where Rukia originally gave Ichigo her powers. It comes full circle, in front of the Kurosaki Clinic. Rukia's never looked more beautiful, and Ichigo's sad expression... Then the two tease each other, to try to reassure each other, and in the Japanese raws, you can see that the font used is different from the normal text, as if to emphasize that the two's hearts aren't in their bickering, that they're forcing themselves to act this way. (velvetsword pointed out that their expressions here look similar to the infamous telephone spread.)
melodymix notes that the SFX indicate that Ichigo and Rukia walk toward each other in the panel of their feet. Then, as Rukia starts to fade away, Rukia looks down and Ichigo looks to the side. They can't bear to look at each other. ;___; The two are standing so close to each other, it's very intimate. karenai pointed out that Rukia's hands are near her heart. And much has been made by some fans about Ichigo's hands being in his pockets. In the field at the end of the SS arc, Ichigo's hands were at his side, but there was a panel where Ichigo's hand looks clenched; I wonder if that was how we were supposed to see it, especially since the anime decided that yes, we were, and it animated Ichigo briefly clenching his hand together. That's what I'm reminded of, with Ichigo's hands in his pockets in this scene.
The nakama are shown in one panel, watching silently but apparently not really fully understanding what is going on (they can still see Rukia, after all, so it's not something they can exactly relate to), and Ichigo and Rukia are in their own little world. Rukia's head is still down when she says "aa" ("yeah", "okay") to Ichigo. The two then look at each other... and to me, this is the most touching scene in the manga so far. I'm an Ichigo/Rukia fan but I don't think you need to ship them in order to be moved by the raw emotions on their faces. The looks Ichigo and Rukia give each other are just so painful, so naked, so open - Ichigo is tender, gentle, and sad; Rukia looks so vulnerable and yearning. These two panels are powerful - Kubo's expressions are always wonderful, but I think he outdoes himself here. There's no doubt in my mind the feelings Ichigo and Rukia have for one another, nor the depth of those feelings. karenai has a wonderful comment below, so I'll leave that to her.
Ichigo says "See you, Rukia" (MS says "goodby, Rukia"), the same words he said to her at the end of SS arc. And then he thanks her, the same thing he said mentally to her at the end of SS arc. But this is, obviously, quite different from the SS arc in many ways. Finally, Ichigo looks to the clear sky - a contrast to what his inner feelings must be like - and we only see his back. Din from the IchiRuki FC at BA said: "For me, that expression of Ichigo was only for Rukia to see, so when she was gone, we no longer had the right to see his vulnerable face." I think this sums up Kubo's intent quite nicely.
For those saying that all Rukia need do is get into a gigai, as peca_06 and others stated, this is more about Ichigo not being able to see Rukia when both are shinigami than it is necessarily about Ichigo and Rukia being forever separated. However, as karenai and others said, it's also doubtful that Rukia will remain in the living world. It would be painful to burden Ichigo with the reminder he can't see her or spirits anymore. T_______T As well as for Rukia to be reminded that Ichigo can no longer see her. Gigais or not, the two are definitely parted... It's just... so terrible. Waaaaah. ;___________;
I have to say, I wonder about anyone who thinks that Ichigo is happy about this, that he'll be content to focus on schoolwork and movie theaters now, that he'll be pleased as punch to be just a 'normal' teenage boy. We all know that Ichigo's never been normal; he's always been able to see spirits. And for years he's yearned for the power to protect others and to crush destiny. Having been a shinigami, having been PROUD of it, Ichigo won't be content to be powerless once again. Not after what he's been through. And certainly not when all of his friends can still see spirits and hollows. Ichigo sitting on the backburner, having to rely on his nakama rather than leave them behind, for him to be protected instead of protecting, might be good for him and his hero complex, but he won't be happy about it. Yes, Ichigo will get his powers back eventually. But for now, I think this chapter succeeded in tearing out the readers' heartstrings and playing them like a violin. T___T Kubo, you wonderful, masterful SADIST.