Debbie said go ahead as she would love to read Orihime character analysis. So I decided I could do that for the HM arc, and focus on her relationships with various characters.
But the HM arc is so damn LONG and stretches so far back, I decide that maybe I'll just do this for the only span of chapters I've been interested in lately, which is the Ichi/Ulqui battle.
And maybe I'll have a shot writing about a character I don't usually do. So in the end, it turned out to be about Ichigo.
Anyways, I know karenai wanted to write an essay on how those chapters are IchiOri fail (which, I do agree). I'll try to not be shippy when I write this.
I wouldn't even call it an essay, just my thoughts on Ichigo. I don't bash characters, but this is going to sound extremely critical of Ichigo. The boy isn't a god, he's also getting pretty screwed up by the day.
Characters do not have feelings and thoughts beyond manga canon. What we see in the manga and what is implied is all there is to the characters. The one with thoughts and feelings is Kubo Tite. It's very much redudant to argue day long about what we think is going through a character's head when they do such and such a thing, because it simply doesn't exist. The prudent questions to ask here are: Why did Kubo draw this? What feelings does he want to evoke? What does he want us to see?
Ichigo vs Ulquiorra stretches all the way back to the first time they came face to face. It was the moment where Ulquiorra was established as Ichigo's prime rival/enemy. Before then, Ichigo had never fought Ulquiorra, he had never thought of Ulquiorra as the one he must defeat in order to save Orihime. The first battled introduced them to each other, essentially paving the path for the much more dramatic clash later on. This is important as, in the second battle, Ulquiorra was pretty much what Ichigo had been focused on all the time.
Fighting to protect, or protecting to fight?
It started with chapter 315, Ulquiorra comes out, stares at Orihime, then we cut to Ichigo rushing to tower 5. And a page with Ulquiorra's invitation of "Come, Kurosaki Ichigo".
The page is actually quite important. It's impossible for Ichigo to physically hear Ulquiorra say that to him. And Ulquiorra was not anticipating Ichigo at all. We can only conclude that panel was borne of Ichigo's thoughts. His purpose, first and foremost, should be to save Orihime, yet the insight we get of his mind was Ulquiorra's invitation to battle. ETA: It's probably my interpretation of this since Ulquiorra looked so surprised when Ichigo DID show up. But in any case, those panels were there to highlight that it was a battle, not a rescue.
Looking at the dialogue at the commencement of the battle. Ichigo cared for a few things: Orihime stayed far away so that she doesn't get involved, and Ulquiorra seeing him as an enemy of equal footing. The former we can see from his "Get away from Inoue." Some might say that it was him being protective of Orihime and wanting the enemy to stay away from her. However, seeing as he invested no strong emotion into saying that phrase (both in the manga and in the anime), the better guess would be that he told Ulquiorra to get away so that they may battle without getting Orihime involved in the dangers. Ichigo's subsequent words, "I didn't think you'd draw your sword from the start" and "Can I take it that you recognize me as an equal opponent?" uncover what his true purpose there was: To fight Ulquiorra. He was even grinning, which is telltale of his anticipation of the battle.
Ulquiorra beats him to tatters, tells him their powers are as disparate as heaven and earth. Yet Ichigo put up an attitude and still claim he will defeat Ulquiorra. On one had that was the plot device that lead to Ulquiorra's second release, on the other hand, it was pure, utter, dumb heroism. Perhaps borderline on stupidity. It was how Ichigo had always fought, headlong into the fray without a plan and simply outlasting his opponent through pure stubborness (or when Shirosaki interferes). He didn't want to win, he HAD to win. That's the belief that drives Ichigo. What makes the Ichi/Ulqui fight different was that, it simply didn't work this time.
Attitude towards Orihime
Supposedly, Orihime is the main reason Ichigo is fighting. There is a little merit in discussing his attitude towards her. I wouldn't go as far to say he's apathetic towards her, but she wasn't something he spared a second thought for as he engages in battle.
After Orihime saves Ichigo from getting beheaded by Ulquiorra, Ulquiorra starts to question the girl. Ichigo interrupted and expressed that he utterly didn't give a crap. About what? Why Orihime saved him? Why she didn't save him from the start? In any case, he wanted to get back to the battle.
We seem a different Ichigo when Orihime was directly threatened by the lolis. He was outraged by what they were doing to her, and even moreso when Ulquiorra stood in the way. I won't discount his concern for Orihime, because that's genuine. I won't use the reasoning that "he'd do it for anyone" either, because saying such a thing is moot. Ichigo does care for Orihime, it's not disputable. But then again, if we look at the circumstances in which he shows that he cares...
Grimmjow said it. Ichigo saw that Orihime was safe, and he doesn't question further as to her inner changes. In other words, as long as she's physically fine, he didn't care beyond that. Yammy shows up and makes short work of the lolis, then Ishida shows up and gets rid of Yammy. And it was right back to the fight Ichigo goes. It was thoughtful of him to entrust Orihime to Ishida, though.
I won't talk about the shipping implications of Orihime calling out Hollow Ichigo. He turned Hollow in his death to protect her but at the same time, he was a heartless monster. It's a double-edge.
What certain people tend to overlook is that, Hollow Ichigo is the manifest of not only his will to protect, but also his bloodlust for battle. Strip Ichigo down to his bare instincts and that is what he is, and that is what Hollow Ichigo is. However, we're not supposed to condone his actions. No matter how "badass" Hollow Ichigo was, we have had both the two other main characters realizing it wasn't a good thing. Hollow Ichigo brutally killed Ulquiorra and stabbed Ishida, his only coherent reason for doing so is that he "must protect". And this highlights another problem with Ichigo's character: He had come to think that the answer to everything lies in violence, or defeating his opponents, even his job of protecting his friends.
As conclusion, I picked the Ichi/Ulqui battle to highlight because it exposes the problems Ichigo will have to face from now on. If he should ever be emotionally troubled by a battle out of the dozens he'd had in the past, then this would have to be the one. Ichigo doesn't kill those he considers rivals, it's the chilvalrous part of him that I admire (And the reason I ship GrimmIchi so hard, but that's another topic). Hollowfied Ichigo was not the real Ichigo, yet he can't go on denying that it was a part of his nature. Kubo introduced Shirosaki as something Ichigo needed to overcome. Now it's just another one of those things.
Anyways! It's the first analysis of Ichigo I've ever written. I welcome friendly discussion and criticism.