It goes without saying that Bleach had a really rough ride on its way to its finale, which many felt was lacking despite its scale. Before The Thousand-Year Blood War ended one of Shonen Jump’s Big Three titles, there was The Lost Agent arc (aka The Fullbringer Arc), which acted as a prelude of sorts for what was to come.
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The arc introduces the Fullbringers who help Ichigo get back to being a Shinigami, though their motives for doing so may not be as charitable as Ichigo thinks. To this day, fans of both the manga and anime are split about the arc’s quality, with some defending it and others wishing it never even occurred.
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10 FELL SHORT: It’s Another Filler & Training Arc
The Lost Agent arc is unanimously agreed to be the weakest if not worst manga storyline for good reason. Not only does it merely exist to kill time before a full-powered Ichigo can return in The Thousand-Year Blood War, but it’s really just padding in between two of Bleach’s biggest wars.
This is even worse for anime-only fans, as it’s yet another by-the-numbers filler and training season. Once again, Ichigo has to get even more determined than usual to beat a rival swordsman, not unlike the filler-original fights against Jin Kariya or Capt. Shusuke Amagai. The flaws and pitfalls of past filler arcs are repeated in The Lost Agent, only now it’s official canon and yields diminishing results.
9 IT’S NOT SO BAD: It Has Some Of The Anime’s Best Animation
When it originally aired between 2011 to 2012, the animated version of The Lost Agent was the long-running Bleach'ssixteenth season. By this time, anime as a whole came so far from when it arguably exploded in popularity back in the early 2000’s, and this was evident in Bleach’s animation that only improved with each passing season after its 2004 debut.
While not exactly the most fulfilling in terms of narrative or characterization, The Lost Agent boasts some of Bleach’s best animated fights. Ichigo’s climactic duel with Ginjo stands out the most, and the other Fullbringers’ fights don’t slouch either. Only time will tell if the upcoming The Thousand-Year Blood War anime will top what’s arguably Bleach’s animated high point.
8 FELL SHORT: The Gotei 13 Saves The Day (Again)
One of Bleach’s biggest faults is that the Gotei 13 continually robs the spotlight from Ichigo. Despite officially being side-characters, the captains and lieutenants get more screen time than the main character himself. This was most egregious in Bleach’s last three major arcs, especially in The Lost Agent.
Initially, the arc focuses on Ichigo’s training with the Fullbringers while also highlighting his human friends, especially Chad. But at the climax, Soul Society dispatches a small unit of Shinigami to hurriedly put the Fullbringers down, once again stealing Ichigo’s thunder and leaving him with just one opponent (i.e. Kugo Ginjo). Apparently, this was mandated by Kubo Tite’s editors due to the Shinigami’s enduring popularity.
7 IT’S NOT SO BAD: It’s As Long As It Had To Be
The Lost Agent is one of the manga’s shortest arcs and anime seasons, and it’s arguably better that way. Given how disappointing it was, it’s a miracle that Ichigo’s Fullbring training only lasted 6 tankobon volumes (roughly 50 chapters) and 24 episodes. If read or viewed in a revisit, the Fullbringer saga would probably just zip by, leaving few traces in its wake.
Granted, Kubo had a lot of interesting subplots and ideas lined up in his original vision such as more development for Chad and the Karakura Town residents, but doing so would’ve dragged out an already lackluster arc even more. Contrast this with the infamous Bount seasons, which many fans agree overstayed their welcome.
6 FELL SHORT: Ichigo Gets New Powers (Again)
A running joke in the Bleach fandom is that Ichigo’s real power is getting even more powers. By the manga’s end, Ichigo is blessed with the powers of literally every known race in the Bleach universe, Fullbringers included.
Fullbringers are the children of people who survived Hollow attacks, thus allowing them to see and weaponize the environment’s spiritual energy. Ichigo learns how to do this to become supernaturally enhanced once again, though this is ultimately rendered pointless since Rukiarestores his Substitute Shinigami status by stabbing him after Ginjo steals his Fullbringer powers, anyway.
5 IT’S NOT SO BAD: Ichigo Is Brought Back To His Shinigami State
Regardless of its overall quality, The Lost Agent had one purpose and it did it right: it brought Ichigo back to his Shinigami state. Ichigo getting his powers and connection to everyone in Soul Society (particularly Rukia) back was pretty much inevitable, but it had to be done in a satisfying manner especially since Ichigo made the choice to lose them.
Following the decisive battle with Aizen where victory sadly cost Ichigo his Shinigami powers, Ichigo realizes just how much he misses having a purpose and how proud defending Soul Society made him. For all its faults and its rushed state, The Lost Agent understood the gravitas of Ichigo’s previous decision and made sure he worked hard to reawaken his abilities instead of just giving it back to him.
4 FELL SHORT: The Fullbringers Are Just Plot Devices
Simply put, the Fullbringers are glorified plot devices who help Ichigo get his powers back. After Ichigo regains the ability to fire Getsuga Tenshos ad nauseam, the Fullbringers are only brought back or mentioned whenever the plot deems it necessary. In fact, almost none of them factor much into The Thousand-Year Blood War even if they were hyped up for a comeback.
At best, Yukio provides commute to the Soul King’s Palace where Tsukishima stabs Ichigo to make him forget that Yhwach broke Zangetsu. Ginjo and Riruka say some quips, Jackie is practically non-existent, and Giriko was basically forgotten despite his joining the fight against the Vandenreich being teased in a single panel.
3 IT’S NOT SO BAD: The Fullbringers Look Cool
Leave it to Kubo Tite to make some of his manga’s weakest and most disposable characters look absolutely tough and cool. As inconsequential and archetypical as they were, the Fullbringers (especially those of Xcution) were undeniably attractive in concept and depiction. The Fullbringer were at their best on a surface level, and in their defense, they delivered there.
Xcution boasts a creative line-up of Fullbringers who each have unique power sets that correspond to their personalities, motives, and backstories. No two Fullbringers look the same, and their small number helps the creative spread evenly. Tsukishima stands out the most, given his memory-altering Fullbring that rivals even that of Aizen’s terrifyingly hypnotic zanpakuto.
2 FELL SHORT: Its Full Potential Was Squandered
After spending so much time in Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, The Lost Agent could’ve brought Bleach back to basics by focusing on Ichigo’s human life. Not only would this give his non-powered friends and family more spotlight, but it would’ve given Ichigo more development who, despite being the main character, got overshadowed by literally everybody else.
The problem is that The Lost Agent was more interested in sticking to the formula instead of trying anything new. Even by Bleach’s standards, The Lost Agent is too derivative and formulaic. When it ends, nothing meaningful is learned or changed, save for Ichigo having a new name for his powers. In the grand scheme of things, the arc was a forgettable stepping stone that, for a time, was Bleach’s underwhelming ending.
1 IT’S NOT SO BAD: It Explains Chad & Orihime’s Powers
For the longest time, Chad or Orihime’s powers contradicted the established Bleach lore and no one knew why or how. Long story short, the two are neither Shinigami or Quincy (i.e. the most human-looking of Bleach’s races); they’re normal teenagers who survived Hollow attacks in the past and are strangely receptive to the supernatural.
The Lost Agent finally reveals that Ichigo’s friends are actually Fullbringers; they just didn’t know it until Ginjo explained the specifics. Chad’s Fullbring connection was revealed in the arc, while Orihime’s was expounded by Urahara in the light novel Can’t Fear Your Own World. Not only does this put a long-running mystery to rest, but it finally addressed one of Bleach’s biggest plot holes before the main story ended.
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