The following contains spoilers for Episode 3 of Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War “March of the Starcross,” now streaming on Hulu & Disney+.Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War returned this week on October 24th at 11:30 am EST with riveting revelations in the third episode of the season, March of the Starcross. This episode not only expands on the ancient conflict between the Soul Reapers and the Quincies, but it also sets up the story for one of the most epic showdowns in the Bleach franchise: Soul Reaper Substitute, Ichigo Kurosaki, versus The King of the Quincies, Yhwach.

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As a quick recap, episode two of the season ended with Ichigo confronting Sternritter J after the defeat of Tres Bestias. Unlike the disposable Ebern and Luders, Sternritter J is established as one of the main members of the Wandenreich. What came as a surprise to the characters in the Bleach universe was the resurrection of The Quincies, an antagonistic group to the Soul Reapers in Soul Society, who supposedly went extinct 200 years ago.

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The Secrets of Sternritter J

During the battle with Ichigo, Sternritter J reveals several secrets that set up the story for more conflicts to come.

Prior to unleashing his final form, Vollständig, Sternritter J divulges to Ichigo that Uryū Ishida’s Heilig Pfeil should be several times stronger than his own. From this statement alone, the audience can speculate that Uryu Ishida comes from a more powerful lineage than Sternitter J in the hierarchy of the Quincies.

After transforming into his final form, Sternritter J also comments that Uryu Ishida’s Letzt Stil is the predecessor of Vollständig, a technique that he refers to as a relic of the past that died 200 years ago. Sōken Ishida, Uryū Ishida’s mentor, is said to have passed down the Letzt Stil technique to his family as a means to reject the evolution of the Quincies. As his legacy continues with Uryū and Ryūken Ishida, the audience can only hope that the Ishida Family runs counter to the beliefs of the Wandenreich, at least for now.

Another interesting thing to note is that, at first, Sternritter J’s Vollständig is seemingly unaffected by Ichigo’s Bankai, Getsuga Tenshō. Not only is he able to easily dodge his swing, but his skin also is not even scathed during the scene. The halo above his head, however, is a different story as Ichigo is able to destroy it with his Bankai later in the episode. The Vollständig form in and of itself is interesting since it amplifies Quincy’s basic ability to absorb Reishi to a ridiculous level. From Inoue’s Sōten Kisshun to Tres Bestias’ creation, Ayon, there is nothing Tres Bestias or Ichigo’s friends can do to stop the Reishi absorption apart from Ichigo’s Bankai.

The Deaths of Tres Bestias

As shown in one of the final scenes in episode two of the season, Tres Bestias was supposedly dead. Not too surprisingly, they did manage to survive and create an overpowered monster named Ayon by combining their left arms. However, even Ayon couldn’t fight against Sternritter J’s Reishi absorption technique and ended up merging with him. Although they managed to survive the initial fight against Sternritter J, they were still powerless against him. After Ayon pummeled Sternritter J prior to his absorption, Emilou Apacci approaches Sternritter J and is stabbed with his sword.

Later on in the episode, the other two members of the Tres Bestias, Franceska Mila Rose and Cyan Sung-Sun are absorbed along with the rest of the surroundings. While not confirmed dead, Ayon served as a good example of what they would turn into if the absorption was completed: fleshless corpses. As the show didn’t explicitly show their corpses, the audience will have to wait and see if they miraculously survived like last time or actually perished in the episodes to come.

The Revelations of Uryu Ishida

Refusing to join Ichigo and his friends, Uryū Ishida is shown to be researching the Quincies in a darkly-lit library. The library is revealed to be owned by Ryūken Ishida, Uryū’s father, who has restricted access to it. Whether a conscious choice or not, Ryūken hints that the information that Uryū is looking for is not within the library but located elsewhere.

Following this train of thought, Uryū finds himself sneaking into his father’s office and finding an old, brown notebook that apparently describes everything about the Ishida Family’s personal past and the fate of the Quincies including details about his mother and his grandfather.

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Depending on what Uryū discovers in that notebook, it could either lead to future conflict between his father and himself or reveal the truth behind the brewing war between the Soul Reapers and the Quincies. At the end of this scene, Uryū appears troubled with what he found, so the conflict may come sooner than later.

The Atrocities of War

Prior to the start of the war, a brief history of the ancient conflict between the Soul Reapers and the Quinces is discussed between Squad 13’s Sixth Seat, Hidetomo Kajomaru, and the two squad members, Shino and Ryūnosuke. According to Kajomaru, the fundamental nature of Soul Reapers and Quincies are at odds with each other. While the main responsibility of Soul Reapers, also referred to as Balancers, is to purify the souls of Hollows in the World of the Living, to guide them to Soul Society, and then to return them to the normal circulation of souls, the main role of Quincies are to purge the souls of Hollows by completely destroying them which disrupts the balance.

In the case that the number of souls in the World of the Living and in Soul Society was to remain unbalanced, then both worlds would be destroyed. Since the Soul Reapers and the Quincies couldn’t reach an agreement, a genocide termed the Quincy Extinction Operation was set into motion and all Quincies apart from the Ishida Family and a few others were killed. What is interesting about Kajomaru’s explanation, however, is that he expresses that neither side is wholly right and that they are fighting against each other because they believe themselves to be just.

Ultimately, this debriefing of ancient history not only serves as a foundation for the upcoming war but also emphasizes that there is no justice in the genocide of the Quincies or in the destruction of the Hollows. While a balance must be kept, it is not always simple enough to assign one side good or evil, and right or wrong.

The Murders in Rukon District

The mystery of the mass disappearance of the Rukon District’s inhabitants is solved in this episode. Squad 12 Captain Kurotsuchi, Head of the Research and Development Center, is revealed to be the culprit. The expunging of 28,000 souls to restore the balance between Soul Society and the World of the Living was not the problem, as the Head Captain explains, but rather it is the fact that Captain Kurotsuchi went forward with the plan without his permission. Additionally, it is noted that the action itself could’ve been avoided entirely.

This statement triggers Captain Kurotsuchi into a fit of rage, as he blames the Head Captain for failing to defeat the King of the Quincies, Yhwach, approximately 1,000 years ago. Captain Kurotsuchi is also revealed to harbor so much hatred towards the Quincies to the extent that he wanted action to be done against Uryū Ishida, the moment that he stepped foot in Soul Society as a Ryoka during the main Bleach series.

With the strong reaction that Captain Kurotsuchi has when speaking about the Quincies, avid watchers can only imagine what more shocking revelations will be uncovered during the course of the war. As Captain Kurotsuchi has always been somewhat of a mystery due to his sadistic personality and his inhumane experimentation, there is no telling what else will surface further along in the story.

The Attacks on Soul Society

After Kajomaru finishes his history lesson, a burst of blue flaming pillars wipes out his fellow Soul Reapers near the gate. In the following scenes, these pillars appear at every gate throughout Soul Society. The King of the Quincies, Yhwach, is shown hovering in the air orchestrating the attacks and watching the destruction below. During this flurry of attacks, each squad barrack is visited and the supporting cast members of the main Bleach series are shown for the first time in this season. Some characters that stuck out especially were Rukia Kuchiki and Byakuya Kuchiki.

The Appearances of the Sternritters

The Sternritter, a group of extremely powerful Quincies, make their official appearance in this episode. Previously, their faces were covered with masks that hid their true identities. During the first half of the episode, they were teased from a back-angle view with only a split second or so to see them. During the second half of the episode, however, most of the Sternritter’s members are shown through closeups with half or full-face reveals.

The first to be shown of the Sternritter is a young man with a red Mohawk and two earrings on his right ear. He reveals that his orders are to kill everyone, and he does so with ease slaughtering Lieutenant Kira without hesitation. Several cutscenes follow showing the rest of the members: a man with brown hair, a beard, and a burly figure; a man with wavy, black hair with a strand that runs down the middle; a man with blonde hair, glasses, and a mustache; a young woman with purple-black hair and short bangs; a young man with straight black hair, a mask, and no eyebrows; and the leader, a man with long, blonde hair and blue eyes.

In the last few seconds of the episode, the Sternritter’s leader announces to Soul Society these final words before the start of the war, “Tremble in fear, Soul Reapers. The Sternritters are going to purge all of you.”

MORE: Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War Episode 2 Review

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