I'm someone who grew up with anime, read a lot of mangas before beginning to read Bleach. At that time, I didn't try to analyze the panels I had under my eyes; the tropes that the writers used, I didn't bother to analyze them, although I did get them, because this is definitely part of the things I learned while growing up with those around.
It's only when I started to truly analyze Bleach for shipping reasons - making points, etc - that I began to notice them in my shoujo. Some people believe that there is nothing going on between Ichigo and Rukia and that Ichigo and Inoue are the 'romantic pair'. I beg to differ. Kubo used a lot of tropes to disprove that.
Now that I've read way more shoujo than you can imagine, I decided to show those tropes. Some are romantic, some are not but are still meaningful. The pic are very numerous and large, so bear with me :/
Edit: I realize that because it was late, I forgot to add the biggest trop of all XD So, I just added it _o/
WARNING: THIS IS HEAVILY SHIPPING-RELATE
1. The girl who can see herself in her beloved's eyes
Kiss/Hug: Lovers who get reunited after 3 years and the girl goes: "I'm reflected in your eyes"
Do NOT tell me that Kubo, the guy who loves shoujo, didn't know what he was doing there. The shoujo page I showed is just an example amongst many, many others. It's widely used as a trope by shoujo mangaka to show either requited love OR unrequited love, depending if they can see themselves in the other's eyes or not.
The fact that Inoue was just saved by Ichigo who IS in control makes it even worst. The panel of her brother is not there to show that she's scared FOR Ichigo, but that back then, it was the same, she couldn't see herself in her brother's eyes.
However, what does this say? It also says that indeed, she is NOT reflected in Ichigo's eyes, her love is still as unrequited as it has always been. I THOUGHT IT WAS OBVIOUS, DUH. Ichigo is fighting, and it's not for her. This is what Kubo is saying. As for me, when I read this, I really went WTF ARE YOU DOING, INOUE? WHAT ARE YOU WISHING FOR? SHe knows, yet she gets her hopes up. It was only the beginning of showing a fucked up love, though, now I reckon that _o/
Common trope is common.
2. More than friends, less than lovers
Shuukatsu!! Kimi ni Naitei: Said guy has kissed her while she was sleeping, and said girl is fully aware of her feelings. And they definitely ended up as a couple. Again, I can't count how many times I've encountered this in shoujo. I stopped counting a long while ago.
Again, why should I miss the clue that they're MORE than friends, exactly? If I see someone say again that it's about guilt >___>
The tension here is a common trope in all media: "what are we? We're friends?" yeah, but not only. Hence the face. "Yeah, we're friends..." What else can they say, when they're not lovers and there's no word to tag their relationship? This trope is certainly the 'more than friends, less than lovers' one, the one that is commonly used to show that there is something more going on there. They both showed hesitation before asking/replying, Ichigo is clearly surprised - she does not fit in that category! she didn't either in ch189 when Shinji talked about his friends - and there's even a little awkward scene at the end. This moment does not concern Renji, who clearly pushes himself out of the chat by looking away, it's only between Ichigo and Rukia, and this is a trope to show the 'more than friends' connection. Not sibling, family, teacher/student, or acquaintances: MORE than friends, not YET lovers. This is how this trope is commonly used, because this is what 'more than friends, less than lovers' mean.
And yes, Kubo also stated that they were more than friends, less than lovers in an interview. Shocking how everything fits _o/ It doesn't mean that their bond will not evolve though; this is how it is right now.
3. Bedroom sexual tension [yes, it's safe XD]
After friends: childhood friends; the girl napped on the boy's bed, got kissed while she was sleeping, and guy asked her to not come in his room anymore. Why? Duh _o/
This trope is commonly used in manga with friends, especially childhood friends. Why? Because it's to show how their feelings evolved into something more mature - there is definitely sexual tension in that. Usually, the line is said by the boy and leaves a very confused girl - why is he suddenly acting like that?
While Ichigo's line is slightly different, I'm also remembering an old manga where the guy totally freaked out because the girl was sitting on his bed. This is exactly the same, and while used in a very humorous tone, there's not doubt about the setting: Ichigo freaks out [why? He was fine before when Rukia sat on his bed!], and Rukia is confused [stingy!]. Kubo is portraying a change in behaviour from Ichigo that is very interesting to note - at the same time, I don't think that he's really conscious of WHY he is freaking out ;)
But yes, Kubo used very stealthily this trope to show how the IchiRuki relationship was progressing.
4. The boy carrying the girl
Kaichou wa Maid-sama!: Usui strikes! Go Usui XD A tad jealous boy takes away the girl he has a deep connection with from a boy who's loved her since forever [dang; that reminds me of something you know? XD].
OMG! Kubo used a shoujo trope for IchiOri! We're doomed!!
Or, are we? In the shoujo I showed for the sake of example, the guy is shown as being overly confident and CONSCIOUS of what he's doing. He is presented in a king of 'heroic' way - and all the shoujo that use this trope are the same, really: guy "saves" girl, taking her away from something/someone dangerous [here, the other guy is dangerous because he's a potential love interest LOL; yes Usui is that simple XD].
In Bleach, we have Ichigo taking Inoue like this because it's the fastest way to get down - there's no danger anymore. He's having her BUTT near his face and he's not fazed at all by it [sexual tension=0]. Plus, he bluntly says to Inoue that he thought she was FATTER? I think that this scene is cute, you know. Yes, it definitely is cute. However, romantic? Kubo KILLED any romantic vibe it could and SHOULD have had.
On the other hand:
We also have this scene to compare with it: we have a very conscious Ichigo picking up Rukia in slow motion, telling her he won't leave [her] and that he came to save her. Not only that, but Kubo took care to draw Rukia smaller than usual to make Ichigo stand out and look like a true hero, in a full page [and what's more, this scene is redrawn in the next chapter]. If any pick up scene has a very romantic vibe, it's definitely that one.
Tropes are tropes, and Kubo definitely knows them. He could have made the IchiOri scene very romantic, but he CHOSE not to. Instead, he showed that a very shoujo-ish scene used with IchiOri wasn't romantic at all!
5. Bickering party!
Warau Kanoko-sama: guy and girl are bickering; people expect it to be a lovers' spat.
People who say "I don't think IchiRuki will happen because they're always bickering like siblings" really, really make me laugh XD It's a cultural thing, in Japan, that the bickering shows how close two persons are. And if they're of the opposite sex, people expect that something is going on between the two. Why? Because it shows that they can talk freely to each other, without the walls one usually builds around him/her in this very strict society. This gets reflected a LOT in mangas. Space once told me that there also was a saying in Japan about how one should marry his/her best friend, and I guess that this also stems from this kind of thinking.
Beside, it's also a very common trope in shoujo/shounen to have the girl abusing the boy [more or less]. In IchiRuki's case, you'd be surprise: she hit him 4 or 5 times in the whole serie, and the two last times, I think everyone will agree that the idiot needed it [ch196 and 247].
6. Hiding faces, showing backs
Venus Capriccio: the girl carelessly takes a shower at the boy's house because she's angry at her brother, and said boy is arriving at his limits XD
This trope is commonly used by Kubo and EVERY MANGAKA out there. It is not necessarily romantic, but it does mean that either it's because the boy [or the girl] is hiding his intense feelings, or that he's very troubled. Either way, the feelings are those that they don't want to show.
Now, let's have fun with this one: what is Ichigo feeling? Is it something intense, like, possible romantic feelings for Inoue? The reply, for anyone who doubted, is showed during the little sketchs in the tankoubon: we have Ichigo being held back. Why? The guy always fears to lose his friends, and right before, he had Inoue being scared OF him. Yes, she HELD HIM BACK WITH HER FRIGHT. That's not romantic feelings, but undoubtely, that's very IC for Ichigo to fear to lose his friends - as you can remember the banter between him and Shinji in ch189.
Maybe this scene then?
While the first page is certainly powerful, I think that there is some worry for Ichigo; and not only for Inoue, but also for Ishida. Because this page is exclusively shared by the three of them, it's hard for me to say that he's worrying about one more than the other. But more importantly, there's not only worry for his friends, but also... excitation for the fight. In the second page, Ichigo is definitely grinning in his shaded panel, so I definitely think that it's a mix between fear and excitation. Still nothing romantic, sorry _o/
So, has Ichigo ever be drawn like this in a romantic setting? With intense POSITIVE feelings for the character?
He definitely has _o/ And ohhh, surprise, this was for Rukia XD It's not about worry, or walking away calmly: obviously, Ichigo wasn't calm, he was agitated, because the thoughts he thought his were shared by Rukia - even away from the other, they still connect in a deep level, don't they? XD
This scene pumped him up to save her, so it was very intense and definitely very positive. The way Kubo hid his face, showed only pieces of clothes from him or showed his back is very telling - those emotions that Ichigo is feeling, he doesn't want the others to see them, but they're definitely very strong. I was very surprised when I first read this chapter in a mini-marathon to read Bleach, because to me, this seemed very straightforward. Even now, years later, I still think of this scene as a very powerful one, a setting stone for IchiRuki.
However, it can also be a great, great fear:
These very intense feelings from Ichigo; they can also be fear. In that case, Ichigo wanting to go back to Rukia [even in ch271, and I can prove it if needed, meaning yes, him lashing out at Ulq didn't mean he forgot about Rukia for his new true wuv Inoue], refusing a fight, ready to flashstep [in the first pic], and showing this shadowed face with this heavy back [while chatting 'hey guys I'm terribly OOC, don't y'a think?'] is definitely an indicator of Rukia's position in Ichigo's heart and how these emotions were running through him at that time.
What's interesting with the page from when Ichigo entrusts Inoue to Ishida is that his face is nearly entirely black. Somehow, I've read it many times, but I can't find this to be a good omen. I remember Ichigo, in ch03, saying that looking at her wore him out, because you'd start worrying for her. I think that she truly did that during the Lust arc, she wore him out until she broke him, and somehow that seems to be a bad omen. So I've been wondering if he didn't want to leave her in Ishida's care to not have to worry about her anymore and focus on Ulq instead.
Speaking of the Lust arc...
7. The girl will always put her beloved's safety before hers
Hanatsuki Hime: the girl has the devil's heart, and, to prevent him from turning into a monster, kills herself to give him back his heart.
While Hanatsuki is certainly a tad extrem [XD], it represents very well this idea that the girl will always put her beloved's [and even friends, but even moreso the guy she loves] safety before hers. I stopped counting how many times, even the worse heroine would step in a guy fight, or even take a hit or a slap to protect the guy.
This is why, when you see Inoue crying out for help to a dead body is certainly not a good sign. The fact that he's dead makes it worse, but usually, heroines, even shoujo girls who don't know how to fight, don't shout for help. They try to find a solution by themselves. And Inoue IS a shoujo girl, so the fact that she cried like this was really foreign to me. I was like WTF? WHY? The fact that she reckons later on that it was a mistake is certainly a timid step, but not enough. If anything, it says a lot about her 'love' for Ichigo - isn't it more like hero worshipping at this point?
If you compare this with the scene where Ichigo rescues Rukia, even though she's about to die... she begs him to go back, because she can't bear the thought of having him being hurt because of her - or worse. This is how you expect a girl in manga to act, especially towards the boy who is special to her - not saying she's in love or remotely aware of her feelings, but Ichigo IS definitely special to her. See ch196 for further details _o/
8. The guy resting on the girl's lap
Kiss/Hug [again, because it's such a nice shoujo XD]: obviously, guy is resting on the girl's lap, with a very romantic setting.
The lap scene is one of the most common tropes in shoujo manga. I have something like dozens of example just for this one >__>' I don't even have to look very far, because it's often used in chapter covers pages. Because the guy is able to be at ease with the girl, he likes to rest on her lap - I think that's the idea behind the trope.
And there is only ONE instance where you can see it in Bleach, and that's in vol03 with Ichigo and Rukia. Ichigo literally fell into Rukia's arms [you have to wonder about the metaphor there] and she let him rest on her lap while healing him. This is one of the most romantic setting, and it's very, very early in Bleach, where Kubo could have easily shove us IchiOri if that was his intent. Apparently though, his intent was to show us deep romantic scenes between Ichigo and Rukia, I wonder why? :P
If you want to comapre the scenes with Inoue [after the Byakuya fight and after the Ulq fight], she never gets to get him, and I think that this metaphor is very telling as well.
9. The hands clutching on the heart
Otogibanashi de himitsu no: I chose this shoujo to show the trope because of what she's thinking right when she takes her hands to her heart [yes, in manga, they show their heart there, right where Ulq's hole is BTW]. "The sound of what one truly feels?" with the hands clutching on her heart like this is telling more than a lot of words XD
In Bleach, it becomes Rukia clutching her hands on her heart while looking at Ichigo, with [again], one of the most romantic settings of the whole serie.
Do I even need to go on about this? _o/
10. The Destiny theme
Sora Log: Girl meets Boy. I'm waiting for you, the man of my destiny.
Bleach: One shinigami. One boy. The accidental encounter. The Story of Destiny Begins.
The Destiny theme is one of the biggest tropes in shoujo EVER. Like: 'it's destiny/fate that we met'. The only time when I've seen it used in a non-romantic way, and even some may argue, it was in FF7, and that's a game with a more western influence. Other then that? I can shove way too many shoujo that have a babble about this.
I've seen people rant about my FC title 'The Story of Destiny Begins'; is it me, or do people really think I haven't got enough cheesy quotes to put as my FC title? I just chose the BIGGEST trope ever :P
Other random things that caught my eyes, but I don't necessarily have any reference right there AND I already have too many pics anyway:
- the looks people can share: this is not necessarily a romantic setting, however, this is also VERY important. Because it shows that both characters are paying attention to each others, are connecting [they also happen a lot between fighters, but that's only because they're paying attention to each other, obviously]. I found it quite funny that the only true look that Inoue and Ichigo share are with him behind a mask, as if even though he was protecting her, they still didn't connect. Meanwhile, Ichigo and Rukia share many, meaningful looks.
- Inoue's near kiss: this is usually really bad, because it shows the disconnection between two characters. People can think whatever they want about how Inoue was feeling, the truth is that she knew Ichigo wasn't hers, thus she couldn't bring herself to kiss him. If she was saying goodbye and he was sleeping, then in any shoujo, she would have kissed him if they were meant to be, connecting, or whatever. Thing is, Kubo chose to show her unrequited love that way. I also found it very telling that in this scene, we couldn't see Ichigo's face: Inoue's love is about herself and only herself, how she imagines Ichigo and not how he truly is. Personally, because of this, I don't think that Inoue will ever confess to him.
- When Inoue awoke in SS and called Ishida 'Kurosaki-kun', I also thought that it was the strongest hint of Inoue --> Ishida. I've talked about it to Annie and she laughed, saying that she didn't think that many people thought like that, but I still stand my point. When I read it, I clearly saw that behind the Ichigo that she imagined stood Ishida. Of course, it was rude of her, and usually in shoujo, it's bad if a girl calls another guy's name in her dream in front of her lover. But Ishida and Inoue aren't lovers, we know since the very start that Inoue likes Ichigo and we also know that Ishida and Ichigo are alike in many points. Which is why I interpretated it that way.
Well, did anyone survive this? XD Thank you for reading and don't hesitate to reply! Just so you know, I only used a few examples: more can be found whithin Bleach. I simply think that Kubo uses tropes that are literally a cultural thing, and since I read so many shoujo, that are often more open about those tropes, it's easier to spot them like that.
PS: I apologize for the possible typing mistakes, but I began to write it on a whim and now it's really, really late XD