Kubo-sensei, bless our manga-ka with the heart of a poet, is a nutberry. He's said that he's obsessed with seasons taking place in his story and the seasons in Real Time. He's urged his readers to read his "Memories in the Rain" chapters when it's raining. And this summer, in a Shounen Jump near you, just in time for Tanabata, Ulquiorra Schiffer will be battling Kurosaki Ichigo. The air will be thick with mythology. Let the metaphors roar!
Now, I can over-interpret with the best of them, but I've cautioned against using symbology as a way to predict plot in my essay last year about Tanabata. Characterizations and the interactions between characters, I've argued, are a better way to predict happenings, but I may make an exception in the case of Ulquiorra. Our fourth Espada is (essentially) affectless, lacks a backstory (so far) and his interactions with other characters has been limited. "He is a stone," Kubo told Ulquiorra's seiyuu when asked how to play him. "A stone." Ulquiorra is supposed to have little to no emotions and he radiates pure mystery. Unlike Grimmjow who landed in the Bleach plot with personality running out of his ears, snarking out a gut reaction to every remark and throwing a fist into the gut of every other character, Ulquiorra has been implacable. In many ways, he's a walking talking SYMBOL just begging to be played with.
"El Que Llorra" means He Who Cries in Spanish. Nice irony, eh? His name Ulquiorra sounds like the opposite of who he presents himself to be. The tears on his face may have something to do with the boatman myths of several mythologies. In the Tanabata story, tears are rain and the rain is what separates lovers, and in Bleach tears are what, oddly enough, unites people if we are to believe Orihime's volume poem by Kubo ("If I were Rain that unites Heaven and Earth that otherwise never touch, could I likewise unite the hearts of two people?"). Dizzy with the symbology yet? And of course we know that the rain in Ichigo's inner world was a bad thing that needed to be stopped by Rukia.... Rain, pain, emo, schmemo--they are obvious connotations.
To continue with Ulquiorra's mythologies, however, Schiffer means boatman in German, one of the many languages Kubo likes to play with, and it's a boatman who in some versions of the Tanabata myth reunites the lovers. In the Greek version of Ulquiorra's story (I hope r0ck3tsci3ntist will add a comment to this post that tells more about the Charon myth since I learned about its ties to Ulqui from her), Charon is the visually impaired ferryman who brings souls across the FIFTH (yeah, you heard that right--fifth tower, five lifetimes, whatever, five is just too much fun) river for the price of two coins. This unemotional character was said to cry once in his morbid career and that was when Orpheus sang for him and thus Charon let Orpheus cross the river for free.
Those are some mighty symbolic eyeball you have there, Mr. Schiffer. I'm sure it's a coincidence because I don't like to think of my Kubo-sensei as a Kabalah scholar,but here and there Bleach fans who play with Jewish mysticism have aligned the ten espada to the ten attributes of the Divine according to this ancient Spanish mystical tradition, and Ulquiorra, the fourth Espada correlates nicely with the Hebrew principle of Chesed (mercy), the fourth emanation and the power of vision.
Ho ho ho, I could run a few yards down the crazy field with that one, but I'm going to turn to another Schiffer possibility.
The surname also recalls the Jesuit monk Hubert Schiffer who miraculously survived the bombing of Hiroshima (Kubo Tite's hometown, by the way).
"If You Rise From the Ashes" was the title of the chapter in which Ulquiorra last saw Ichigo. Shooting around the crazy bleachness theories with friends Jasse and Kaya the other day, we came upon the idea that Ulquiorra, unlike his fellow Espada, is capable of regeneration. His next encounter with Ichigo will have to engage that ability.
The way we discovered this quality of Ulqui's was that Jasse and I were babbling, as always, about Ishida, our favorite character and wondering who Ishida would fight next. My fangirl fantasy--and I admit it's just a fantasy--has always been for Uryuu to meet Ulquiorra. After all, I've slashed the pair in fanfic and nothing would give me more of a thrill than to see the two go at one another--especially if Ishida is in some super-fine double-winged Angel Ultimate Quincy form and Ulquiorra is in some, say, sexy black demon-winged release a la the Charon myth....
Jasse was always shooting down all my proposed opponents for Ishida, but she did insist that because of the scene where Ryuuken saves Uryuu from the Menos Grande, that regeneration was going to play a part in Ishida's ultimate battle. Ryuuken seemed to point to something that Uryuu, in typical shounen fashion, needed to master.
Ah grasshopper, shounen law requires that Uyruu's ultimate opponent be a regenerating one.
I was told, "One, Ulquiorra is facing Ichigo this summer and two, Ulquiorra doesn't regenerate."
I didn't have much wiggle room on number one except that maybe Ichigo would get clobbered or have to relinquish the fight, but Ulquiorra CAN TOOOOOOO regenerate, I said. Remember his almighty eyeball? It grew back.
Ulqui simply didn't pop it out to show a movie to Aizen and then put it back. He squished the living daylights out of it.
Then my buds and I went a little fangirl wild. Remember when Ichigo socked it to Ulquiorra in chapter 270 and Ulqui had to use two hands to fend off the blow and it looked like our Mr. Green Eyes was done for? The sidetext said something mysterious about Hollow transformation that I didn't catch at the time.
"The power of Hollow Transformation--frightening!" A blurb to foreshadow the next chapter, "If You Rise From the Ashes," in which Ulquiorra does exactly that, reappears from behind the smoke the way unbeatable opponents do--but was there a transformation? Did Ulqui just sidestep the blast or was he, as the picture above implies, blown to smithereens?
Maybe Ulqui's eyeball isn't the only part of his body he can grow back.
Look at Ulquiorra's left hand in the third panel of this page after he "comes back from the ashes" in chapter 271. The hand is wounded and spilling blood.
Now look at the hand when Ulquiorra is pulling his Mr. Sexy strip tease with Ichigo's sword. Kubo-sensei has a habit of leaving out wounds from frame to frame but Ulqui's hand is all better here. Did he fix himself all up?
bananakaya later cooked up a theory about Ulquiorra being the voice of Experience when he sized up Orihime's powers earlier. He seemed to have a reference for what constituted healing and what didn't vis a vis bringing back destroyed limbs. Kaya had some theory about Ulqui's being a healer but I missed that because I'd stepped out of the chat by that time. Maybe she'll add it in the comments.
Add to this that Orihime had some real difficulty negating Ulquiorra's reiatsu when she was healing Ichigo before the Grimmjow battle and it looks like another hurdle for our heroes to face. What if when Ichigo is battling Ulqui this Tanabata, Orihime can't fix a wounded Ichigo? We know that Orihime's barrier is strong enough to contain Ichigo within it but can it protect him from Ulquiorra?
One last thing. We Ulqui fangirls are a little half-crazy with the possibility of seeing Ulqui's release soon but we're also afraid that our lovely Emocar is going to die. Sometimes I'm of the notion that no one who has put out a Bleach Beat CD will perish in the Bleach storyline; other times I'm convinced that Ishida (face it--I'm Ishida-centric) will have to wipe out one soul from existence with that Quincy power to destroy and that soul is going to be the one who isn't quick enough on the regeneration draw. Of course, then, all the UlquiHime fangirls will hate Ishida and I will go have to hide under a rock for a few weeks.
Grimmjow's not dead--he's just been lying around for months. Ulqui? Standard tragic story-telling and even some sects of UlquiHime romantics call for Ulquiorra's death to happen this summer. The oldest call is that he'll die protecting Orihime somehow. I don't know how it's going to go down--all I know is that the myths can't predict it and knowing Kubo, it's gonna be FUN.