Let's look at the timeline for this episode. Ten minutes of flashback between Soi Fong's and Yoruichi's past, five minutes of drinking session between Iba and Ikkaku, and then half flashback and half fighting between Ichigo and Byakuya. Take out all the flashbacks in Bleach and cut down the filler, this episode would probably be only episode 40. Okay, not really. The flashback with Soi Fong and Yoruichi was all right, nothing special, but it kept on hinting of a lesbian relationship. Although stupid, Iba and Ikkaku's drinking session was sort of entertaining just because it's ludicrous to have a drinking session with the enemy you're fighting with during the middle of the fight. The fight between Byakuya and Ichigo was mostly just Ichigo showing off and telling Byakuya to call out his bankia. Nothing special.
I must say, after a few lacklustre episodes, this one's a welcome change of pace. The interest of Soul Society doesn't just lie on the fights, but in its long background and interaction between the characters. The look into Yoruichi's past in Soul Society as well as her care-free attitude in life with Soi Fong works much better than random fighting.
I haven't read the manga (like many others), so I found the fact that Ikkaku and his opponent knew of 'Kidou' since I thought it was a technique developed by Soi Fong (or so she said in the last episode?) but anyways, the episode turns up the intensity in the last few minutes, showcasing Ichigo's new technique (albeit not the last).
The most exciting part for me must have been the episode preview. The look on Ichigo's face when he was all bloodied up... excellent...
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