When Kubo started his seven deadly sins arc, I remember commenting that if he really went through with them, any chapter called "the Lust" was going to cause convulsions in the shipper fandom. In the end, while I was right, "The Lust" mini-arc was six chapters, concluding with "The Ash" for seven.
There was a minority that insisted this was the moment for the Ichigo x Orihime ship: Orihime asking and Ichigo delivering, Ichigo sacrificing his humanity (on a silver platter) to his beloved, a glittering moment where The Ship Of Bleach was crowned in a powerful and upstaging parallel to the Byakuya fight that capped off the end of the Soul Society arc.
I can't agree.
Now, I did not write this to soothe the anxiety from my own ship. I did not write this because I have sour grapes that this didn't happen to my ship. I did not write this because I am a vicious, evil human being who likes munching on the delicious feelings of Ichihime shippers for breakfast.
(Well, that last one is a little true.)
I mainly wrote this because I disagree. If this arc is the crowning moment of anything, it's the time Kubo Tite decided to show why Ichigo and Orihime won't ever be a couple. Together, their actions in this arc epitomize everything they don't want to happen: their worst fears come to life by their own hands.
This is what I'm arguing. If stating the obvious is being meaaaaaaaaaaaan, then I am guilty as charged. Read this at your own risk.
Disclaimers: I'm an Ichigo x Rukia shipper, yet I don't ship Ulquiorra x Orihime. Funny, that.
Warnings: I am extremely long-winded. Accordingly, VERY heavy image usage behind the cut.
The first hint that Kubo gives that this may not be the arc of Ichihime love is when he introduces it in the first place, by calling it "THE LUST". It opens with Ichigo fighting Ulquiorra, and the former's mask being blown to pieces. Down below, the rush of power is strong enough that it throws Orihime to her knees, though they don't know what's happening: "What on earth is going on up there?" (c347) Orihime then asks Ishida to take her up to the top of the dome.
While Kubo is sometimes lax with drawing the injuries on Orihime's face, note that as soon as she makes this fateful request: "Would you be able to carry me to the top of the dome?", the bruise is visible for the first time in the chapter. As the rest of the arc progresses, Orihime steadily becomes more and more bruised and beaten, a reflection of Orihime's mind and heart.
When they get to the dome, Ulquiorra has a present waiting for her. That present is shooting Ichigo through the chest with a huge cero, to which she is visibly horrified:
In addition to the physical bruising, at any given time, take a look under Orihime's eyes to see how she's doing. Kubo took a very interesting visual tactic here, because the bags give the impression that her face is spinning on itself. Somewhat like this: @_@
Eh-hem. In any case, we all know what happens next.
I circled the Kurosaki-kun fail here to be helpful.
This is the biggest mistake Orihime has made in the entire series. In fact, this is the biggest mistake of her life. Many years from now, after the war is over and they've danced in Aizen's blood and are living normal lives, she will look back on this moment and regret, with all her heart, that she did this.
I'm not exaggerating. Let's hop back to 192:
Let's not forget that the whole reason Orihime decided to go to Hueco Mundo was because she was hoping to protect her friends. In short, it was extremely, extremely important to Orihime that she herself not be protected anymore, that she do some protecting herself. These are not my expectations for Orihime: these are her own.
It is not an exaggeration for me to say that the person Orihime hurt most of all in this scene was herself. By relying on Ichigo yet again, she betrays the promise she made herself that when the time next came, she would not rely on Kurosaki-kun again.
To underscore how important it is that she need to protect him, let me clip back to... Masaki. Yes, Ichigo's mother. When Ichigo thinks back to her, there are two particularly important details. One is that it was imprinted into his brain that his name means "to protect one thing". The other is that the one thing he wanted to protect above all else was his mother. And it wasn't just because she was his mom.
The person Ichigo wanted to protect most in the whole world, above his sisters and his father and his friends, was his own protector. That was the person most important to him, the "one thing" he wanted to keep safe. The theme established in these original chapters is how screamingly important it is for characters in this series to protect.
When the moment came for Orihime to protect the man she said she wanted to fall in love with for five lifetimes, when he was lying there on the floor, eyes glazed open and a hole the size of a basketball hoop through his chest, she repeats his name like a prayer, asking him what she should do. When he doesn't tell her what she should do - because he's not there anymore - she instead asks him for help, the man she thinks she loves.
Kubo did not intend her calling his name like this to be read as a sane thing, either. Take a look at this panel in the original Japanese:
The name "Kurosaki-kun" is usually written in kanji (characters), like this: 黒崎くん
However, Kubo decided to write it in hiragana, which made it look like this: くろさきくんくろさきくんくろさきくんくろさきくんくろさきくんくろさきくん
It's not a name anymore. It is syllables coming out of her mouth that sound like "Kurosaki-kun", evidence of her loss of elocution and mental stability.
Some people have more pity than me, more sympathy than me, and probably more human kindness than me. Some people are just unwilling to see this as anything but Ichihime success. Whoever they are, they come with defenses, hoping that one of them will be sufficient to mitigate the extraordinarily high level of emotional failure in this scene.
"She had no other options."
"Well, she tried, and she's just sixteen, anyway."
"She knows her limitations, and that's so much better than characters who don't and keep trying stupidly."
"She was asking on Ishida's behalf, not herself."
"It's the love of her life and he's dead. Of course she would lose her mind."
"It's okay because he responded and by waking him, she saved his life."
Let's start here:
Orihime brought her fairies out, the three that make up her shield, in what looks like an unsuccessful attempt to shield from Ulquiorra. But do you know who's not here?
That's right. Her offensive fairy, Tsubaki. He's healed, he works, but he hasn't been seen in a hundred chapters because she won't bring him out. For a person who has stated that her goal was to protect her love of five lifetimes, is there any good reason that she should not have brought out her one weapon in a fight where his life is on the line?
Oh, that's right. I'm told she's a pacifist, one who could never hurt a fly. A pacifist whose powers do things like this:
I understand that her powers are a lot like Hachi's, no? After all, he tells her that like him, she is unsuitable for fighting. That must mean they have really, really good reasons for not fighting.
In other words, she's not a pacifist, and she has other options that she does not exercise in this scene. Even beyond that glaring one, there are others. Why doesn't she try bargaining with Ulquiorra? (As proven at the end of this arc, she's not afraid of him.) Why doesn't she throw her body in front of the attacks? Why doesn't she try her shields again? And if they break, again? Who cares if they break: she has no other moral options.
No, I don't cut her a break for being just sixteen - they're all sixteen. I would have cut her a break if she had tried absolutely everything she had in her arsenal - even if they failed, that would have been fine. But she didn't. Like powers with all characters in a shounen series, the limitations on her powers exist only for her to break them. It's not good enough that she fail once and stop - that's why it's important to keep trying.
When you love someone, when they need you, that is the time to pull through. She's capable of it. This is why it's also not an excuse that "Ichigo is the love of her life and he died, of course she would lose her mind." Backtrack here, to chapter five, the first Orihime arc:
Here is the moment when she recognizes her brother:
In talking to her brother, she's horrified at what he's become (a monster):
And here is Orihime, hip-deep in emotional despair, pulling her shit together anyway.
Orihime didn't have powers, she didn't even know what a Hollow was, she was confronted with the nightmare of the brother she loved becoming a monster who tried to kill her friends because of her, but she was calm and cool and broke through her brother's madness. She reached the person she loved.
So when again Orihime was wrapped in emotional despair, looking at someone she loved in pain and suffering, this time, what does she do? She fails both of them by asking for his help. There is every reason to think that Orihime can pull through. "She's so scared, it's the man she loves and he's dead! It's okay that she panics." No, Inoue Orihime is capable of better. She has a warm heart, kindness, and the willingness to do what's right, even in the most emotionally difficult of times. Saying that it's understandable when she fails to pull through for the man she says she loves - that is a condescending and brutal underestimation of her character.
Continuing on, as for her request supposedly saving Ichigo's life, since this chapter, 220:
It's been foreshadowed that should Ichigo ever "fall off his horse", his hollow will take over. Lo and behold, irreparable hole through his chest and his hollow came out. Now, I can't prove one way or another that his hollow would have come out for sure, but this early hint does indicate that there is no way it can be definitely assumed she saved Ichigo, either.
In any case, say she did. Say she's the reason Ichigo became a monster. That wouldn't make her "HELP ME, KUROSAKI-KUN" morally sound, unless consequences are the sole determinant of morality. For instance, Person X wants to drown a child in a freezing lake. He fails, through no fault of his own, so no harm done. Morally sound? Of course not.
And before anyone shrieks "hater" (more than previously, that is), I am not suggesting that Orihime would drown a child in a freezing lake. The point is, "the ends justify the means" is not a valid argument here.
Also, because I'm really tired of people making special exceptions for the incredible failure at hand here - never mind that Orihime is horrified herself:
You know what, Orihime is special. I went back through the manga to find other instances of people who asked for help for themselves.
I was pretty sure that Yuzu did:
No, not Yuzu. She's trying to protect her brother... okay. How about that screaming kid in chapter 2?
He falls on his face and screams a lot, but he never asks for help.
Someone suggested to me that this was just like that time Renji asked for help:
No, Renji specifically tells Ichigo to save Rukia, since he just tried everything he had to see if he could, and couldn't.
Maybe Hanatarou? Quivering, healer-boy Yamada Hanatarou? How about him?
No, he asks Ganjyuu to take Rukia out as he trots off for Byakuya to kill him.
Hinamori is in a lot of pain here, but ...
Misguided, yes, but the request is not for herself.
Who is it? There is no way she's the only character in this series to ask someone to save her.
Oh, I got it! It's another very special, unique individual.
Orihime and Noveno Espada, Aaroniero Aluluerie. It's a very elite group of individuals in this series that ask to be saved.
As for her asking for help for Ishida, to all the people who like to translate this scene as "Help us, Kurosaki-kun!", you are incorrect. There is no pronoun in the original Japanese. If anything, the most accurate literal translation is simply, "Help". Given context, that's why the translators assumed a pronoun...
... Just as they assumed one here. I am told by multiple sources that Japanese usually has a pronoun that is dropped after its initial use because it would be redundant. Guess what, everyone who thinks that Ichigo knows exactly who is calling him, this page is without even those pronouns.
Here, because the need exists, is EXACTLY what is written in the Japanese (credit to Cezaria):
tate, ore ga
Ore ga mamoru--
Which is literally:
Calling, I can hear
Stand, I will
I will protect--
There is. no. pronoun. for. "her". There is no pronoun. Really, if there is, challenge me and my translators and bold the specific romaji or original Japanese and bring it in the comments, because you can see and hear for yourself, there is no "her". The pronoun that isn't there isn't there.
Though really, I have never cared whether or not it was there or not. (Though please, it's not.) Here's this question: if Kubo really wanted us to think that Ichigo was responding to Inoue Orihime's call for help, why didn't he have her name in Ichigo's mind? A simple "Inoue... I hear her... calling... she's calling me..." could very well have been in the realm of possibility. It would not have been hard to insert. A proper noun - such an intimate thing. Yet, why didn't he?
The answer to this question is the same answer to, "Why haven't Ichigo and Orihime gotten a color spread?" and "why did Kubo name the arc of IchiOri lurve after the lust?" But in any case, why would Kubo do that if Ichihime is the lead ship of this series? Why wouldn't he have Ichigo specifically respond to Inoue if he was doing it out of love? Why does he just keep muttering about protecting, and in grammatically broken sentences? Why does it seem so... instinctive?
Every single one of you who insists that Ichigo's protection for Orihime is so very fierce and wild and special, you are missing the point. This is the backbone of what makes Ichigo Ichigo - it's in his name, for chrissake. He truly wants to protect people, specifically, a whole mountainful of people. Rare in this series it may be, it is unsurprising that he reacts to a request for protection. The man didn't need an excuse in the first place. In any case, the lack of pronouns and the lack of proper nouns - and the fact that Ichigo doesn't remember a thing later - tell me that it is impossible to prove that IchiThing was specifically reacting to the person, Inoue Orihime, she whom he should love.
And yes, I call him IchiThing. But before I get to why, I'd like to point out something that Cezaria spelled out in this post here: http://community.livejournal.com/bleachness/304544.html
If you can't take the time to read her excellent post, know that the form of IchiHime love, the supposed depths to which he will sink in order to protect her, talks 1) without pronouns that identify Orihime and 2) in katakana, a style of Japanese writing that in manga "most often used to signify that the speaker is NOT human or does not resemble anything human". To say that this is definitely Ichigo responding to his love, who he knows because who else could it be - that is incorrect.
What it really is? It's standard Hollow talk. A ton and a half of Hollows in this series, particularly the early ones and ones like Aaroniero, speak in Katakana. The "she's calling me / I can hear her" is in Katakana, as is this:
And of all the Hollows out there, who does IchiThing most closely resemble?
In case you're missing what I'm driving at, let me refresh:
Instincts vary per Hollow based on his or her original life. Some people become Hollows that really want pink champagne. Some really want to chew their little sister's friends into pieces. Some really want beef, pork (chicken, mmm).
When you get Ichigo to the core of who he considers himself as and what his primary goals are, he wants to protect. It is the most important thing to him in the whole world and makes up the backbone of his identity.
So when you take away Ichigo's heart and literally break him down, this is what happens. All that is left is this pile of instincts. This is his version of "beef, pork". His screaming, the incoherency, the inability to express oneself - all of these are characteristics of when Allon and other Hollows are born. Orihime doesn't deserve all the blame here. Ichigo himself left Vizard training early; he refuses to accept that his Hollow is a part of himself and is constantly warring with it, leaving him open to a coup; Ichigo has gotten the attitude that he can protect everyone and no one can protect him.
And there's the problem, isn't it? Orihime can't intervene with Ichigo because she is feeding into this exact problem. And once his hollow kicks him off the horse and takes over, once instinct takes over Ichigo in a way that hasn't been previously seen other than Allon, shit goes to hell.
IchiThing is born screaming a healthy rush of katakana and with a brand new appearance that hails something completely different. The first thing he does to this love of his life, Orihime, is this:
If the only thing he cared about was protecting Orihime, it's pretty funny that the first thing he does is explode her face-first into the ground. He clearly does not care enough about her to stop from hurting her, which is the exact opposite of protecting.
Ah, and to address another argument I've seen about this scene. From time to time, I remember to be polite, but not here. You're 100% insane if you think this is Ichigo tossing Orihime to Ishida. This is not anything like Ichigo tossing Rukia to Renji, so stop making that comparison. For one thing, Ishida had to lunge in order to catch her; for another, I sincerely doubt that a man in love would calculate the pass such that his beloved would have to bounce. On her face.
But really, I find this hilarious, given that back when Ichigo did toss Rukia to Renji, Ichihime people were swearing up and down that Ichigo had passed Rukia to her beloved. Strange that it's "just like that time with Rukia", except ... her beloved isn't catching her?
Now, looking back to the vice-captains in FKT chapters, I didn't originally know where Kubo was going with Allon. "This is boring and pointless," I said. Now I know. That character's whole existence was to give you a reference point for IchiThing. And Allon is, of course, the chimera-like creature made from the spare parts of others, a screaming, howling, bestial creature with a desire to fight and fight violently.
At this point, if you don't see the resemblance, I can't help you. They're only both screaming in katakana, roaring the same awful OOOOAAARGH noise, being drawn in the same poses, scaring the crap out of people around them, and in general, being quite incoherent. Which is not the same as stupid - they are both damn good fighters with a lust for blood.
There's even similarities in their chimera-like foundations. Ichigo has been hinted at since 289 to contain within him the various incarnations of living and dead beings. The top left corner is what most closely resembles his IchiThing incarnation with the horn, distinct from his "Shirosaki" self.
To give you another angle at Kubo's message regarding Allon, here's his volume 39 poem. Translation is from here. http://mangahelpers.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1396093&postcount=323
Ayamatsu ha hito, korosu ha oni
Translated as: To err is human. / To kill is the devil.
That translation was by sheetz, who posted the translation at mangahelpers. (The irony here does not escape me, no it does not.) Cezaria verified the authenticity of this translation.
But in any case, this is as clear as Kubo has ever been in a volume poem. Making a mistake is human enough, but killing is evil. Whether or not you agree with this kind of morality, Kubo thinks it's bad to kill - killing is the devil's work. It's this ideal that he's expressing through his characters. Like with Ishida, here:
This is why Ichigo is freaking out here.
He woke up to find that he stabbed his nakama in the chest. However stupid his attempt at reparations may be, he knows that what happened is wrong, and that is why he is panicking. Ichigo likes to think that he's all about protecting, about fighting to protect, and when he comes out of whatever just happened, he finds that he stabbed his own friend and fought in such a way that his enemy is now dying. However much he wants to deny it - and this is one of his problems - protecting isn't the only instinct Ichigo has.
Why was Ichigo fighting this fight? He never tells Ulquiorra why he has to win, only that he has to win. I am perfectly happy to point out that in the oft-compared Byakuya fight, Ichigo would not shut up with why he was there and why he had to win and what he was going to do once he won. Ichigo never says any of those things here. And no, it's not because he's overtaken by his feelings for Orihime, the love that dare not speak its name.
Ichigo has problems in this arc. He is overprotective of his friends to the point where he tries to exclude them, in the misguided hope that this will help. He cannot properly resolve his Hollow - he relies on its powers without accepting it, the equivalent of hating and beating your horse and using it anyways. And as much as he is overprotective, there is a part of him that is here to fight, exclusive of the need to protect. Ulquiorra tells him that he won't kill Orihime... but Ichigo wants to fight anyway. When Ulquiorra agrees, Ichigo is pleased that he's been accepted.
That is not the right attitude for saving someone who should be your friend, much less the love of your life. He's careless with Orihime's feelings here, sending her off with Ishida and starting a fight he says he has to win ... but really, does he? He certainly never says why.
I know there are those who think that Ichigo is in control during this whole fight, but having already established the whole throwing-Orihime-face-first-into-rocks thing, I'd like to remind you of this:
If Ichigo was in control, he would not do this. He's horrified that he has once he wakes up. Seriously, this is his nakama. This is Ichigo's failure crystallized: his shortfalls in controlling his hollow, his instinct to protect turning into a problem: it all results in him stabbing his friend through the gut. And no, Ishida does not deserve it.
So, now, Ichigo's desire to protect has manifested itself as the demonic motivation of his instincts. Once-good feelings turned into fodder for brutal failure.
The thing about Hueco Mundo is not that it's about Ichihime. It's largely about Ichigo and Orihime, but in terms of their separate individual inadequacies, manifested in awful ways. Keep in mind that Ichigo doesn't even know Orihime has feelings for him. The fact that the large part of Orihime's actions towards Ichigo, her thoughts, her desperate crying and catching him - all of this happens while he's unconscious, moments he doesn't remember - it's exactly like her feelings for him in the first place.
On the topic of these feelings, I want to go over why she went up there in the first place. Orihime is not here to protect him. Why do I say that? I can't possibly mean that, can I? Why else would she be there?
There's a famous moment during the Byakuya fight where Orihime will not let herself go, because, as Ishida observes, she knows she will simply get in the way. This is a direct contrast to that scene, but it's not as simple as her going because she thinks she can be helpful now. As I stated at the beginning of this thing, the reiatsu blast that triggered the request was so strong that it brought Orihime to her knees.
It is extremely doubtful that Orihime truly thinks she can be helpful when faced with that kind of power, especially when she doesn't bring Tsubaki out even when she's personally being beaten on.
She left because she was convinced, despite very good evidence to the contrary (like the last several times that Ulquiorra owned Ichigo) that Ichigo would win. That he would succeed. She feels a sudden, horrible blast and decides to go back up. She does not say that she wants to help - she simply asks for Ishida to take her up. That alone doesn't preclude her going to help, right? She said she wanted to help. I was babbling up there about consequences not determining morality; shouldn't I be judging her on her intent?
Sure I am.
To be clearer, let's flip to earlier, when Orihime shields Ichigo from Ulquiorra's attack.
The answer? She herself did not want to intervene.
Orihime made herself a promise that when the time came around, she was not going to be protected by Kurosaki-kun again. She is capable of protection. She turns Sora back to sanity, she protects Tatsuki - they protect and cherish her all her life, and she returns these precious people the favor. To Ichigo, the boy she has declared that she would want to fall in love with five separate lifetimes, this should be the most important person of all that she should want to protect. Who, after all, is more important to protect than the person you love? No one in the world.
And yet, in the end, she wanted him to protect her. She's horrified and shocked by this, but there you go. This is what Ichihime comes down to, in the end. This is what this arc amounts to, this is what Kubo is driving home, and this is how her feelings will be resolved - not in requited love. In fact, not even in unrequited love.
Orihime is not in love with Ichigo. When someone is truly the person you love, the love of your life, the person you think is the half of your soul, your most important person, there had better be nothing you won't sacrifice of yourself for that person's sake. Your powers, your strength, your life - for what purpose are they if you don't give them for the one you love? For all that shippers were saying Ichigo sacrificed his humanity to protect Orihime, they missed the point that Orihime sacrificed nothing of herself for him.
It is the only character in this series who has openly expressed romantic feelings that cannot give of herself to save the man she says she loves. Who is not there to protect him, but to be protected. Who left only because she thought he could win and discovered to her horror otherwise. The fact that she is the only one with open feelings has often been cited as proof that her love is the only real one, that her love will definitely be reciprocated: and in fact, the opposite is true. Hers is the one that's not real.
The last nail in this coffin of Ichihime fail is the presence of Ulquihime.
Frankly, the Ulquihime is overkill at this point. I mentioned that I don't ship Ulquihime, and I am dead serious. But the fact that this business and talk about where the heart is and Ulquiorra finding it in Orihime's hand? Her reaching back to him? It's an Ulquihime moment. #2 most popular heterosexual Bleach ship. You bet your ass Kubo knew exactly who he was catering to here. Rather than Hueco Mundo being the arc of IchiHime love, it ended up being the crystallizing moment of high romance and tragedy for Ulquhime.
(For those of you who are Ulquihime shippers, you may be wondering why I'm not talking about your ship more. Well, because Ichihime fails on its own, even without you showing them up in a lesson titled "HOW KUBO DOES ROMANCE".)
On a different and unrelated note, I know Ichihime shippers were confused by Ishida's presence. "Why is he here? Is he just a plot device? Will this be the moment when he realizes she's only going love Kurosaki forever and ever?"
No. First, he was here as Ichigo, and the reader's, moral compass. You know, "If you do this / You won't be human anymore!" But aside from that, Ishida had a personal reason for coming.
Ishida is here for Orihime. He came here to protect her. It's canon that Ishida likes Orihime romantically, and he's said consistently throughout this arc that he came here "not to fight Espada, but to save Inoue-san". He is the counterpoint to this situation, the one who stays human throughout this whole fight, the one who tries to fight for his friend, and the one injured by that very same friend.
More than that, Ishida was here the. whole. time. Orihime was not alone in seeing Ichigo fall to being nothing more than his instincts. Far more than a plot device to bring Orihime up, Ishida's very presence here, his own witnessing of the killing of Ulquiorra at the hands of the creature his nakama became, his attempt to save his friend's own humanity as best he could - this places Ishida right alongside her. There will be no happenings on this dome that herald in a new kind of era of IchiOri love, because it must include Ishida.
This void of Ichihime happenings can be seen right here:
For an arc that is supposed to be crowning Ichihime glory, that is the most excruciatingly boring, snooze-worthy reunion on the face of existence. Ichigo barely acknowledges Orihime before cutting to Ishida, not even waiting for a verbal response. Is it because she smiled and that was enough? If it was, Ichigo is still a man who has no idea what's going on in Orihime's head (as Grimmjow commented long ago). She's really not okay right now, and yet he passes by, off to talk to other people, ignorant of the turmoil inside her. That's what his perception of her is like.
An interesting change happens here for all future Ichihime interaction from this point forward. Remember those times when Orihime was his only healer, the one who could heal him, how that was Orihime's special duty that she could always do for him? ...
Here is Orihime, distraught over the (looks like) death of Ichigo. His Allon-like Hollow form is gone. He's reverted to being human, but the gaping hole is still there.
Do you know what's not there?
The Shun Shun Rikka. Forget Tsubaki, I am talking about her healing fairies. This is a girl who knows she can bring people back from the dead, and here, when sobbing over Ichigo's death, not once does she try her fairies out on the boy she professed to want to love for five lifetimes.
All this time, the one thing Orihime has really been able to do for Ichigo is heal him. She's a healer, that's the song that Ichihime people have been singing. A pacifist, so kind hearted that she heals people who abuse her and repay the favor by trying to kill her, she's the healer with powers that defy the very gods themselves.
Oh, and what the hell. How about some overkill? Here's a list of things Kubo Tite should have done that if this was their big arc of love:
- give them a decent reunion. One where Ichigo was awake would be neat.
- a color spread just for them.
- have Ichigo tell Ulquiorra why he was fighting (he never does).
- have Ichigo save Orihime.
What's that last one? Didn't he save her life? That Big Bad that kidnapped and emotionally tortured her, the one she's so terrified of?
Oh, she's quaking in her boots. Looks instead like the only person who scared her in the Lust arc was Ichigo himself.
Ichigo doesn't think he won, and he's right. Yes, he survived and Ulquiorra didn't, but I would call the latter the winner. In the end, Ichigo did not accomplish what he originally set out to do at the beginning of Hueco Mundo. He didn't save Orihime from anything. Ichigo stabbed one of his friends during a psychotic break that he can't even remember, due to powers he can't control, powers he refuses to accept as his, and an overbearing tendency to protect all at all costs.
See that face? This is not the face of a boy who chose to do all this, who made some sort of voluntary sacrifice on a silver platter in behalf of his beloved. He wakes up horrified and not even cognizant of the horrors that he himself had unleashed. As for Orihime, she broke her most important promise to herself; didn't save Ichigo, didn't heal him, didn't protect him. Then she had a tragic moment with Ulquiorra, who promptly died. They have only just begun to pay the heavy prices for their sins in this arc.
I know, I am extremely harsh on Ichigo and Orihime. But I want to say something to everyone who thinks it is mean to criticize a character: they. aren't. real. (Even if they were, criticizing politicians is my second favorite thing to do, so don't think they would be spared.) Additionally, it is impossible to have worthwhile discussion without opening up to the fact that characters are flawed and make mistakes. It's okay. They will get through this. Yes, for those of you who know me, even Orihime. There is hope in the future, but that does not negate the failures of the past.
I sincerely doubt any Ichihime fan got down here (frankly I doubt more than ten people altogether did). But if you did, know this. I'm not telling you to not ship your ship. Ship whatever you like, that's the joy of it. But one day, maybe not very soon, but in the near future, there will come a day when it becomes brutally clear to all that Ichigo and Orihime will never be a canon couple. When it does, don't claim that Kubo is forcing it, that this is an about-twist of him, how dare he convert the Straight Will and Grace, that he's only giving into the money of the popular, obvious ship because he's a shallow, selfish author... you're wrong. Kubo's had this in the works for a long time. This arc was his way of letting you know.
As khyata put it, Kubo could very well change his mind, do a 180, and fuck with everything that he's been developing for over 350 chapters, making all of this irrelevant. But when I consider the kind of author he is, I think the chances of that are very unlikely. It is the way it is.
I am happy to discuss this essay. However, if you're one of those people that posts gigantic walls of text in CAPSLOCK, I'm already planning on ignoring you. Also: I almost certainly will not reply to any discussion pertaining to IchiRuki. I'm not inclined to defend my ship against you because you're hurt about something I said here, and quite frankly, my ship is not related to IchiHime fail.
ETA: 7/29/09: added the c289 Ichigo spread and the hiragana panel of Orihime's Kurosaki-kun from c349.
ETA: 8/18/09: added the exact damn wording of the c350 translation from IchiThing's mind because of some wank.
THANK YOUS: because no woman is a village, and it certainly took a village to raise this creature to adulthood.
- _debbiechan_ for allowing me to post this essay on her wonderful community, Bleachness. I hope this respects the trust you gave me.
- chuuni, who was kind enough to let me reference her great post on translation wank, to provide or confirm all translations used in this essay, answer other questions for me, and is, generally speaking, hilarious and a very talented artist.
- Annie, who told me that she needed this. I didn't forget.
And if it weren't for khyata, this wouldn't have happened at all. Sea, I bet you had no idea how crazy I was. I seem moderately intelligent and sane at first glance, but the more you talked to me, the more you learned otherwise. Ohh, the otherwise. You are a darling, my Bleach soulmate and the best beta ever. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If any of you liked anything in this essay, it is certainly because of her, and anything you didn't like is because of me.