In my experience as a Bleach fan I’ve encountered many
arguments in favour of IchiHime and against IchiRuki – and I’ve never felt particularly bothered by them (except for that short period of time when I was still reading the SS arc and people on the Internet kept announcing the advent of IchiHime as if it was some kind of done deal – and I naively thought those people, having actually read the entire manga, must have been privy to some knowledge about future events consolidating their ship as opposed to the – in my opinion – more logical follow-up of IchiRuki. I spent almost three days pouting disappointedly and waiting for the axe to fall – before I actually caught up with the manga myself and wondered if some kind of epidemic of insanity had broken out on the web. Ah, fun times indeed
Some of those arguments ignore the context of individual scenes, some of them ignore a whole 200 CHAPTERS worth of story, some of them insist Ichigo is ‘just shy’, some of them insist that Orihime is ‘just making a big deal out of nothing’ with her jealousy, some of them insist that Urahara is an IchiHime shipper because he had so and so votes in the second popularity poll, some of them insist Rukia is ‘just one of the guys’ for Ichigo, and so on, and so on; I won’t bother making a complete list, you’ve all heard them before.
That said, there are
a few reasonable arguments out there (once again, not bothered by them because I disagree, but at least they’re based on something more than 1+2=3+2=5+2=7=CANON!ICHIHIME – or whatever the hell it is.
Man, sometimes when I read these things I’m reminded of 1984… don’t give up, Winston! IchiRuki is there for all to see – O’Brien is just twisting things!
)… so, in this little essay of mine, I would like to concentrate on one of the most ‘reasonable’ arguments used by the ‘other side’ and show why it really can’t be used anymore. This is the argument I’m referring to: “Ichigo and Rukia have a wonderful relationship between them, but nothing suggests that it is a romantic one – it could simply be a platonic one, in which case Ichigo would be free to develop a love interest in Orihime before the end of the manga”.
Okay. I can see why some people could say that in the beginning and even during the SS arc (as romantic as it was, in my opinion, I can understand people thinking of it as Ichigo being Ichigo and dismissing all the IchiRuki scenes as powerful and touching, but in no way conclusively romantic) – and the reason why I’ve decided to essay about this particulat subject is that (unluckily for all those biased fans who keep claiming that the IchiRuki ship is dead ever since the SS arc ended) it stopped holding any value and it was contradicted quite clearly by Kubo himself only in the two arcs AFTER the SS one. Because if you try to read the manga with an unbiased eye (well, as unbiased as it is possible for a fan to be
), you’ll see that the Arrancar and the HM arcs – far from killing our dear ship – have done nothing but ‘bringing water to our mill’ (as we Italians like to say).
Why? For two reasons in particular.
1) We had another rescue arc. We had another rescue arc.
EVERYTHING that could have be said about Ichigo behaving like a knight in shining armor and a romantic fool in SS for the simple reason that ‘he is Ichigo’ has been clearly and insistently proven wrong by Kubo in the HM arc, because we had a similar situation with a different person and Ichigo was consistently presented as having no clear goal in sight and no passionate declarations in mind. Conclusion: the difference lies in the person – Rukia is special and on a completely different level than that of a simple friend.
2) A great number of scenes that point to Ichigo and Rukia thinking of each other in romantic terms, or at the very least singling the other out over everyone else (except for the 213 look. THAT one was romantic, no two ways about it). ANYTHING that could be said about these scenes being ‘ambiguous’ and ‘interpretable in different ways’ is disproved quite easily by Kubo’s expert use of panels, thoughts and words – since they pratically TELL US how those scenes are meant to be interpreted.
Yes, you heard me right.
KUBO TITE TELLS US HOW THOSE SCENES ARE MEANT TO BE INTERPRETED.
And I don’t mean things such as: ‘Orihime was drawn in the panel exactly below Ichigo in that one page in that one chapter while Nnoitra and Neliel were fighting, Kubo MUST HAVE DONE IT FOR A REASON! It’s LOVE!’ (yes, I’ve heard things like that before); let’s see what I mean.
First of all, let’s go back to the aftermath of the goodbye scene.
That scene was simply wonderful
– very emotional and fulfilling, yet it could still have signified a bittersweet and touching ending for Ichigo and Rukia, thus opening up new possibilities for Ichigo to develop a stronger and ‘more romantic-slanted’ connection with someone else. A few things still didn’t seem to add up (such as Ichigo’s disappointed expression and his hand-clenching, or Rukia’s hesitation when she confessed that she had decided to stay in SS, but I’m sure Kubo could have found a way around those).
It would perhaps have been a little late to develop a new love interest for the main character, but it still could have been done – just think of Byakuya and Hisana, their story took less than a chapter and it’s still so beautiful and believable. Kubo is a master of relationships, I’m certain he could have done it quite easily, especially since Rukia was out of the picture and with things resolved between her and Renji she could have conceivably been ‘paired up’ with him with no harm done – Ichigo could have started discovering Orihime’s feelings and reacting to them in such a way as to create an actual
love triangle, and everything could have progressed from there.
e-on-to-something self was completely convinced this post-SS period would be the proverbial axe that would cut the head of my dear IchiRuki ship.
Instead, from this...
...we got to this.
Mmmh. But Ichigo was feeling down because of Orihime! She couldn’t cheer him up just because he is so ‘in luuuve’ with her that nothing in the world would have been able to erase the guilt he felt at letting her and Tatsuki, and Chad, and another shitload of people get hurt!
Orihime, dearie, how are we supposed to see Ichigo’s oh-so-in-luuuuve behaviour pre-Rukia-return?
Thank you, Orihime.
SO THEN RUKIA CAME BACK.
Shinigami, how are we supposed to read Ichigo’s Gaaaaaaah!espression?
Thank you, guys. Ichigo’s classmates, would you like to add anything to this detailed analysis?
Ichigo’s classmates: *disappear from existence*
…how very poignant! Thank you all. Now, back to the matter at hand.
ICHIGO IS BACK TO HIS TRUE SELF IN LESS THAN A CHAPTER. But that wasn’t such a big deal! Besides, Rukia brought Ichigo to Orihime because she knew Orihime was the main cause of his depression, she acted just like a matchmaker!
Orihime, dearie, please tell us how we’re supposed to interpret this scene.
Thank you, you poor dear. Now, this alone would normally have been quite enough to paint the scene irrevocably as having romantic undertones – BUT DEBBIE’S BOYFRIEND DOESN’T STOP THERE!
Orihime, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to torment you a while longer. Tell us again what you think of the scene, but out loud, if you please.
Yep, not jealous in the least. *hugs Orihime*
Don’t worry, you’ll get over it eventually! Notice how Matsumoto tries to help her with her self-confidence problems, but doesn’t actually deny anything about Ichigo and Rukia’s relationship. She was there at the reunion scene too, after all.
Oh, and as for the ‘Orihime is the main cause of his depression’… come on, guys! It’s easy to extrapolate the main cause of a character’s depression when you see what is the turning point that allows them to get out
When Ichigo was desperate enough to be eager to DIE after Rukia got taken away by SS, what got him out of his flunk? That’s right, Urahara telling him that there was a way for him to reach SS and save Rukia.
Cause of depression -> Rukia has been taken away
I can save Rukia -> Yay!
When Ichigo was gradually reaching the point of Fail!Ichigo post goodbye-scene, what got him out of it? That’s right, Rukia’s return and her PERFECT encouragement (which touched all the right points that had been giving him trouble – the hollow, the failure to protect, everything).
Cause of depression -> Rukia is not here, I failed to protect, Shirosaki is cooler than me
Rukia has come back, she trusts me and believes I’ll become stronger and win against my hollow -> Yay!
When Orihime (and Rukia *cough*, and all of his other friends and companions) was taken away, what got him out of the depression he fell into right after? That’s right, his companions’ return – first Ishida and Chad, then Renji and Rukia. Notice how Urahara’s ‘reassurance’ about the fact that yes, he had a way to smuggle him into HM, did nothing for him – no change of expression, no peak of interest, he even asked Urahara if it was alright for him to help!
But here is Ichigo after Ishida and Chad appear and prove to him they’ve regained their strength and are ready to battle at his side.
See the difference? Let’s look a little further - post Rukia and Renji's return!
Mmmmmh, happy Ichigo.
By the way – Renji, are we supposed to see Ichigo and Rukia’s conversation as something normal and friendly, or as something quite intimate that requires a minimum of privacy?
Thank you, Renji, you’ve always been an understanding guy.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, so let’s go back to perhaps THE most important point of debate all over Bleach pairing forums, shall we? The 213 LOOK.
Now, this is one scene that – more than anything else – CANNOT BE interpreted as anything but romantic. Orihime, please tell us how we’re meant to see it.
Thank you, my poor dear. *pinches cheeks* Since people can be stubborn, would you mind reiterating?
Thank you. Notice how Kubo purposefully underlined Orihime's romantic
feelings for Ichigo just before this scene, in order to color the entire thing with those particular undertones... really, it’s not as if the ‘character in love with other character watches and recognizes the other character’s feelings for someone else, thus underlining the other’s expressions of love’ cliché has never been used before. Orihime already did it – more than once:
It’s been used in many other manga as well – Naruto, for example: …lol, my Ichigo=Sakura correlations keep coming back, uh...
Now, then! The parting scene. Once again, Ichigo is feeling particularly helpful and makes it quite clear what his problem is:
Lol, Ichigo! Your behavour here is SO NORMAL that it actually scares the shit out of Ishida.
Anyway, Kubo decides to underline the point even further (hey, he got really depressed after that whole mishap with the children thinking the Soukyoku was Yamamoto’s bankai!
), so here are some other reactions to Ichigo’s little fit.
Renji? Rukia? Ishida? Chad? Opinions on Ichigo’s OOC behaviour?
Thank you, guys. I wonder what they would have said if they’d seen him in that little Episode 167 filler.
*shakes head* Put him into a nursing home, most likely. Because there’s canon, purposeful OOC and then there’s just OOC!OOC
Ichigo, please confirm the others’ interpretation of the obvious so that we can move on to the next moment, please.
Thank you, Ichigo.
So! We’ve finally reached our last ‘real’ moment, Rukia’s ‘death’! Our ‘last’ moment, because the plot apparently requires for them to stay separated for a loooong time before the inevitable reunion happens (and with it an immediate upheaval in the fandom, I’m certain).
But Kubo loves us (as well as IchiRuki itself) well enough that he made sure to leave us with a beautiful and mutual last moment right here, before undertaking the continuation of that endless mess of fight that is the rest of the HM arc.
Oh, yes indeed, mutual. If you’ve noticed, I’ve concentrated mostly on Ichigo in my essay, because in my opinion, his are the feelings Kubo has decided to concentrate upon the most in the Arrancar and the HM arc (well, apart from Orihime’s, I mean
) – Rukia has kept demonstrating again and again her loyalty, understanding and affection for Ichigo, but apart from the ‘heart’ speech and the HM ‘nakama’ scene there were no particular romantic undertones in her scenes (and even those could have been argued away as non-romantic. Not that I think they are, but for the sake of my argument, they can’t be used as definite
proof – we have no Renji looking at Rukia looking at Ichigo and bowing his head in defeat, so to speak
). The romantic undertones in Rukia’s actions and thoughts were mostly concentrated on before these two arcs, in my opinion.
Except, of course, for this one moment.
Rukia. On the verge of death. Thinking of her important people.
Ichigo. New panel. Beautiful profile. Last face to be seen (except for Orihime, obviously). Alone. In a completely different category than all the others.
CAN WE GET ANY MORE OBVIOUS THAN THIS?! WHAT CATEGORY IS LEFT AFTER ‘FRIENDS’ AND ‘BROTHERS/FAMILY’? IT’S NOT ‘FAMILY’S PETS’, LET ME TELL YOU!
This is not the first time it happens – but while Ichigo got the last, biggest panel at the Soukyoku scene as well, the categories weren’t so well defined in that moment. Once again, this is a case of Kubo telling us how to read what her writes and draws.
As for Ichigo? Yeah, obvious reaction is obvious.
I won’t bother repeating once again how Ichigo’s different reactions when his best friend
Chad falls and when Rukia
falls, his disbelieving expressions of desperation, his willingness to forgo a fight, his decision to go all out from the very beginning once he IS forced to fight, the way he apparently doesn’t even remember he’s supposed to be there for Orihime until Ulquiorra mentions her directly, all point to Ichigo being COMPLETELY OUT OF HIS MIND WITH WORRY FOR RUKIA. Because, as debbie once pointed out, his choice to abandon the mission (Orihime) to go to Rukia is very morally loaded
– and it’s simply preposterous to believe Ichigo made it out of anything but extreme desperation and worry. He’s a generous and protective person, as Nell is nice enough to remind us a few chapters later, when dear Orihime has apparently forgotten.
What I’d like to underline here is instead another thing you’ve probably all heard before, more relevant to the specific subject of my essay: ICHIGO WAS NOT FIGHTING FOR ORIHIME. For God’s sake, there couldn’t be a more clear case of ‘Kubo telling us how to read a scene’ and ‘people consciously ignoring that and making up their own author-contradicting interpretation’ than this – except perhaps the 213 look and Ichigo’s fight with Grimmjow (seriously, Grimmjow told Ichigo he was there to fight and Ichigo eventually said yes. HOW MUCH CLEARER COULD KUBO EVER POSSIBLY BE?!
So, Ichigo. Do you WANT to fight Ulquiorra (for your dear lady’s honor)? And if not, why are you fighting him again?
Thank you, Ichigo. You couldn’t have been clearer. At this point, anyone who refuses to believe you, well – refuses to believe Kubo, I guess. *shrugs* And a HUGE amount of other characters who obviously speak for him.
I could say more, but this has already become long enough – which is why I tried to set a few limits to the actual content of my essay. *cough*
I hope this has been an enjoyable read for everyone, and that I didn’t end up boring people by repeating points made again and again by all the wonderful members of this wonderful FC!
…..nnnnnnnh, how I wish we had some new material to discuss!
But I can be patient a while longer, I know we’ll be rewarded very soon.
And you should be too!
KUBO SAYS SO.
WITH EVERY LITTLE PANEL OF THAT WONDERFUL MANGA THAT IS BLEACH.