I encourage fan essays, don't I?
This one appears to be an answer to the "close reading" of a specific part of Bleach that argues against the Ichigo/Orihime ship ( Karenai's essay here) by proposing an "in toto" reading of Bleach and the Ichigo/Orihime relationship. It's got Freud and Joseph Campbell in there!
I thank the author for sending it to me and asking me to post it here. She wants feedback and specifically requested that IchiHime shippers not respond to the essay here (presumably they can respond to it elsewhere--although I have no problems with their responding here as well; my only guess is that Perennial Lurker was hoping to avoid side-battles about the inevitable extraneous shippy stuffs and wanted to keep comments to specifically addressing the points in the essay)
I'm trusting this community to respond to this essay with the kindness and respect it deserves. I know a lot of you will disagree with it--disagree with it without bashing, excessive sarcasm or shipping ugliness. Prove to the fan community that shippers can debate without the fur flying and the neighbors having to call the SPCA.
IchiHime, Monomyth and Freud by PerennialLurker
I suppose I should begin with my justification for this essay. An interpretation of a scene in a book, film, or manga is only valid if it is part of a coherent view of the manga as a whole. No story is a series of unconnected events. Stories have flow. They use characters to move inexorably from event to event, changing the characters as they do so. This is what makes good interpretations so powerful. When Gilbert and Gubar examined female characters in The Madwoman in the Attic, the reason that their interpretation was so influential was because each study looked at the character throughout the novel (or poem). They did not pick and choose their scenes – they argued based on the text as a whole. Now, obviously we cannot do this for Bleach – we don't have access to the whole manga yet. This essay is merely an attempt to look at the narrative of Bleach so far, to see where the flow has led us. I might make some educated guesses at the end, but they will be nothing more than that. Guesses. What I am attempting to do, really, is to present a series of criteria that must be argued against as a whole in order to argue against Ichihime. As Samuel Johnson said of Bishop Berkeley, ''thus do I refute it''. Well, thus do I refute anti-Ichihime arguments.
Bleach and the three arc structure.
The three arc structure is most obviously seen in theatre, but can be applied to any fictional medium with the caveat that it is likely to be less precise in more extended forms like TV shows or manga. The three act structure consists of Setup, Confrontation and Resolution. In the setup, the hero and the other main characters are introduced, the dramatic premise is established and the Call to Adventure takes place. The Confrontation is the longest part of the story – the hero tries to resolve the conflict that was created in the Setup, meets with successes and failures, and the antagonist begins to invervene directly. The Confrontation usually ends with the hero at their lowest point. The Resolution includes the climax, where the Hero recovers from his (look, we're talking about Ichigo, I'm going to use his, screw PC essay writing) despair, challenges the antagonist and wins. The denouement follows, everything settles down, we see how the characters have grown and matured over the course of the story.
Now the problem with Bleach and the three act structure is that as a shonen manga, it is written in a series of Arcs, and each of these contains within it a minor version of both the three arc structure and the Monomyth. In the Soul Society Arc, we can see the Three act Structure played out as Rukia's capture – Setup, Arc itself – Confrontation, and the fight with Byakuya as the Resolution. However, the whole of the manga up to the return to the world of the living can also be seen as the First Act of Bleach as a whole. It introduces all the main characters (and there are so many of them), it introduces the antagonist and the central conflict of the manga – Aizen's rise to power. The Call to Adventure also takes place here (the pre-SS Arc is in its entirety the Call to Adventure, if you're confused, but more about this in Monomyth).
The Confrontation Act includes the Arrancar Arc, the Hueco Mundo arc and the Fake Karakura Arc (not yet completed). It deals with the problems that have arisen from the 'first turning point' (Hmm... The problem is that the first turning point actually encompasses a whole series of actions linked together at Aizen's reveal, including Rukia's capture and the emergence of Ichigo's hollow, but for simplicity's sake I'm going to say that it's Aizen's reveal because that's when it becomes clear that these actions are one narrative rather than many). The second act includes successes (Ichigo's victory over his hollow and his victory over Grimmjow) but also setbacks (Orihime's kidnapping, Aizen's revelation that she was kidnapped as a diversion, Aizen's creation of the Royal Key (Ok, that hasn't happened yet, but I'm getting to that)). Most importantly, it ends with the heros at their lowest point (Ishida has lost an arm, Ichigo has defeated Ulquiorra, but at great personal cost, Orihime is struggling with her guilt and fear and Aizen is about to create the King's Key (This is a necessity. Bleach cannot continue without it. If Aizen doesn't win here he will die, and that doesn't really make narrative sense. So.)). An appropriate comparison to Bleach can be found in many films, but most obviously in Star Wars.
Now, we haven't seen Act Three yet, but I would guess that it will, like the others, take up at least two arcs and that Ichigo will defeat Aizen at the end (also, if the Royal Key is made, Orihime will reject it and restore Karakura)
Bleach and Psychoanalysis.
Bleach and Psychoanalysis are not perhaps the likeliest of bedfellows at first glance, but a simple examination of both will reveal a stronger link than might be expected. The first piece of evidence we receive is Rukia's description of hollows in Chapter 28– ''The hole in a hollow's chest is the sign of its lost conscience. A hollow is a mass of raging instinct. And the white skull mask shields its naked is from the outer world'' (Link: http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/28/10/ and http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/28/11/). Admittedly, this is from the early volumes of the Viz translation, which was unreliable in the early volumes. However, strong corroborating evidence is found in Volume 25, where Ichigo's inner hollow discusses their relationship. To follow the psychoanalytic reading of Bleach, this is a conversation between the Id and the ego. In Freud's work, he describes the relationship between the Id and the ego as one where ''The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the Id, which contains the passions ... in its relation to the Id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces''. Wikipedia further summarises this by adding ''The horse provides the energy and means of obtaining the energy and information needed, while the rider ultimately controls the direction it wants to go. However, due to unfavorable conditions, sometimes the horse makes its own decisions over the rocky terrain''. Then Ichigo's hollow, in Chapter 220, gives the following speech – ''Ichigo, what's the difference between a king and the horse he rides? Don't worry, it's not a riddle or some stupid guessing game. It's an important truth. Is it shape, ability, strength? When two beings are exactly the same How do they decide which of them will be the king and lead them into battle and which will lend its strength to the other, like a horse? What allows one to dominate the other?'' (Link: http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/220/11/).
These speeches provide the most convincing piece for this reading of Bleach. Not only are they linguistically similar, but they contain similar dynamics, particularly that which points out that the Id may in certain cases dominate the ego. On the whole, I don't believe that this similarity could be coincidence, because on its own, the metaphor of a king and his horse is not a particularly good one. Ichigo's hollow specifies that the two beings under discussion are exactly the same, whereas a king and a horse are not hugely similar. Kubo is allowing the Id to express its relationship to the ego through Freud's own words, so this can only be to reinforce for the reader his use of Freudian symbolism.
There is also circumstantial evidence to support the theory. Rukia says that hollows are missing their conscience, which Freud assigns to the superego (the superego frequently uses guilt as its tool). This fits with their description of hollows as the Id – it also relates to the power of the soul reapers themselves. In terms of power, and were we to draw terms from D&D, alignment, shinigami see themselves as the opposites of hollows; they are lawful good, hollows are chaotic evil; they are the superego to the hollow's Id. This fits with their rigid and law-bound society, and the fact that the seat of their power is the chain of fate, the place where a hollow's hole forms – the missing superego.
Bleach through the Monomyth
Keeping this in mind, let us examine Bleach more closely using the Monomyth, a tool for textual interpretation developed from Jungian pychoanalysis. Monomyth is the basic pattern of the Hero's journey as described by Joseph Cambell. It starts with the Call to Adventure and the Refusal of the Call. The Call ''signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land (...) The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, (...) or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon. The adventure may begin as a mere blunder''. Let's break this down. The Call itself is Rukia's transferral of her power to Ichigo and her request that he undertake the work of a shinigami while he is weakened. What's interesting about this is that it takes place over several chapters – I'll be referring to this again, because the serialised form of Bleach means that symbolic events are often extended, with humorous or dramatic interludes (or simply fights) intermingled. Leaving that aside, how well do these events match up to Cambell's description. ''Destiny has summoned the hero'' – this is interesting. In The Sand and The Rotator, Ichigo calls for ''a blade to shatter fate'', while Rukia says that shinigami believe that fate is ''guided by an infallible power'', implied to be the shinigami themselves. In asking Ichigo to undertake the work of a shinigami, she asks him to become an agent of fate. This matches nicely with the description Cambell gives. The key difference is that Ichigo uses his power over fate to fight against fate, which is a recurring theme in Bleach. Note that although Bleach deals with Ichigo's mythical journey, we can also read the mythical journeys of other characters within the story. In the first six Volumes of the manga Chad, Orihime and Ishida also receive the Call to Adventure.
The Refusal ''may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy''. In Ichigo's case, his refusal is due to the last - inadequacy. When we meet Ichigo he has been powerless for so long that he has lost belief in his ability to protect others. This is evinced by Chapter 17, wherein he thinks ''That's the reason I decided I would protect them till I die. That's the real reason.'' (Link: http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/17/03/), though we are carefully deceived beforehand into thinking that he refuses the Call because of apathy - ''I won't protect strangers'' (Link: http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/2/13/). As Ichigo faces fight after fight, he gradually sheds his selfish reasons for fighting (his first two fights are to protect friends, in his third he takes into consideration a crowd nearby, in his fourth he fights for revenge and in his fifth he fights to protect his town). As he says in Chapter 47, ''I'm not superman. I can't protect everybody in the world. But I don't just want to protect the few who I can hold in my arms, either. I want to protect as many people as I can'' (Link: http://www.onemanga.com/Bleach/47/11/).
The Call and the Refusal end when Rukia is arrested by Reji and Byakuya, and Ichigo resolves to save her. At this point he is no longer fighting for selfish reasons but for the sake of duty, friendship and loyalty. He casts aside his doubts and assumes the true mantle of a hero. At this point, Urahara emerges to provide the next stage, Supernatural Aid.
I want to pause here. Urahara's training, and his advice, which Ichigo remembers at various critical junctures during the Soul Society Arc, clearly constitute supernatural aid. However, there is some question as to where the Belly of the Whale is situated. In terms of SS, it's when Ichigo is chased through the dangai (which is in and of itself a wonderfully appropriate visual rendition of the darkness and danger that accompany this stage). However, in terms of Bleach as a whole, the Belly of the Whale overlaps with Spiritual Aid – it's the moment when Ichigo is trapped in the shattered shaft, when he faces his inner hollow for the first time, when he arises from the mist with a shinigami's robe and a hollow's mask (I'll talk more about that later). It is in this moment that he becomes truly of the other world, having symbolically left his earthly form and gained a form of the spiritual realm. Furthermore, it is the point where he moves beyond the known, where the powerful creative forces of the world begin to act on him (more on that later too).
Now, back to Supernatural Aid. If you read Cambell's description, you will notice two important lines ''What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny'' and '' And in so far as the hero's act coincides with that for which his society is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process''. The first quote is interesting because, as I said before, one of the themes of Bleach is fighting against fate, against overwhelming odds that seem unbeatable. Aizen could be very easily associated with fate too – he wishes to assume the role of God, and God is often seen as the administer of fate, and his zanpakuto's ability is to reorder the world of his victim as he wishes it, which is the control of an individual's fate, or at least the illusion of such control. The second quote is interesting because again it seems to echo Ichigo's effect in both SS and HM. Both realms are paralysed in one way or another – Soul Society by turgid laws and a cruel council, and Hueco Mundo by enforcing a life upon its inhabitants that, as Hobbes might have put it, is ''nasty, brutish, ugly and short''. In both cases, Ichigo's interaction with the realm is a catalyst for change.
I mentioned before that while SS and HM are part of a complete Monomyth – each is a trial on the Road of Trials – they are also complete Monomyths in and of themselves. I will discuss each separately, therefore, looking at the ways in which they are similar and the ways in which they contrast one another and why these contrasts are so important to the resolution of the shipping argument.
Let us begin with SS, with Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, Ishida and Yoruichi leaving the Belly of the Whale and entering upon the Road of Trials. The Road of Trials comes in threes – as Wikipedia (which, academic unacceptability aside is a wonderful resource for the Monomyth) says, ''Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes''. SS consists of two sets of three tasks – the first I will call the tasks of entry, the second the tasks of conviction. The tasks of entry are literally that – tasks through which Ichigo gains entry to the Serieiti. The first task is his fight against Jidanbo, which he technically wins but realistically fails because of Gin, the second is the flight in the cannonball, which is the most literal task of entry. Ichigo passes this, but at cost – his party is separated and will not be reunited for the rest of the arc. The third task is his fight against Ikkaku, which I have defined as a task of entry because on the one hand Ikkaku represents a guardian figure, the gatekeeper who must be defeated before access can be gained to sought-atfter land (a wonderful example of this can be found in a wizard of Earthsea; Ikkaku is a less literal example of the same motif). It is only after Ichigo defeats Ikkaku that he learns where Rukia is being kept and meets Hanatarou, who is the symbolic figure of the Guide.
The tasks of conviction I have so named because in each battle Ichigo brings his opponent around to his perspective. His battle with Renji ends with Renji pleading with Ichigo to save Rukia, after his battle with Zaraki the captain rescues Orihime, Chad and Ishida, declaring that he needs to repay Ichigo, and Byakuya agrees not to pursue Rukia any more after his battle with Ichigo on the hill of the Sokyoku.
Incidentally, lest it be thought that I am making this up, TV Tropes points out that Ichigo faces Byakua, Grimmjow and Ulquiorra three times each, defeating them only in the last of the three battles.
Now we come to the controversial bit. The next step of the Monomyth is the Meeting with the Goddess. In SS, this is Ichigo's meeting with Orihime after the fight with Byakuya. This ''ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World (...) The meeting with the goddess (who is incarnate in every woman) is the final test of the talent of the hero to win the boon of love (charity: amor fati), which is life itself enjoyed as the encasement of eternity''. To this description, Wikipedia adds ''This is the point when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother''.
Now, this description cannot be anyone other than Orihime, for reasons I will elucidate. Firstly, for Ichigo to meet the Goddess in Rukia, the meeting would have to occur when he rescues her from the Sokyoku (it cannot be when he lets her stay in SS, because that is Atonement with the Father), and this meeting occurs before the final trial. However, I myself have argued that events can overlap, so on its own, this is not a valid refutation. However, I have pointed out in my examination of Bleach and Psychoanalysis that shinigami are aligned with the father while Orihime is aligned with the mother, and the goddess is the most feminine of all archetypes. Furthermore, Ichigo's meeting with Rukia at that point does not seem to describe a moment where he ''experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother''. If one glances even briefly at this scene, one will observe that Ichigo looks strong and confident, and that he is giving Rukia strength rather than receiving it. In his meeting with Orihime, on the other hand, his eyes soften and he is absolved, momentarily, of responsibility. This is akin to the love that a child may experience with its mother.
Another strong argument for Orihime being the Goddess is her power. Orihime's healing shield is very much akin to the womb, a protective enclosure which prepares the body to face the external world, and its warm glow seems to conjure up images of nurturing love. Combined with the many other arguments for Orhime's link with the mother and the feminine principal, and the point that it is at this moment that Orihime expresses for the first time to Ichigo something of her feeligns towards him (indicating that he has won her love), it seems unlikely that the Meeting with the Goddess could be any other moment in SS.
The next step, Woman as Temptress, I will not dwell on, suffice to say that it is Aizen's brutal and efficient defeat of Ichigo. Anyone who wants me to clarify this is welcome to contact me.
The next three steps are Atonement with the Father, Apotheosis and the Ultimate Boon. Atonement with the father is Rukia's announcement that she will stay in SS and Ichigo's acceptance of this decision. Not only does it show that he has matured to the point where although he values Rukia, he must no longer quest after her, but it is his resolution of the battle with his superego. He has moved beyond his inhibiting weaknesses (literally, he is much more powerful) and he has . Apotheosis is his goodbye with Rukia. Although Ichigo has let go of her as his quest object, he still values her highly and their goodbye is an emotionally charged scene. However, as they say goodbye, Ichigo receives the ultimate boon – the rain in his heart stops and he is freed from guilt. In his description of Atonement with the Father Campell says ''It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic (pollen charms or power of intercession) he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father's ego-shattering initiation.'' Note that Orihime is present at the meeting between Ichigo and Rukia – she plays the goddess while Rukia draws on her regained role as a shinigami (and this is the scene where she announces her intention to resume her shinigaimi duties) to act as the patriarchal archetype. Furthermore, Rukia does indeed shatter Ichigo's ego in this meeting by informing him that although he saved her, he is not the center of her world – she will remain in Soul Society and continue her duties (again, duty is strongly associated with the superego). Campell also states that in this moment the two (father and hero) are atoned, which is true of Ichigo and Rukia. Ichigo has overcome the pain in his heart, while Rukia has let go of her guilt. (If I were to write an essay on Rukia's Monomyth, I would point out that Renji is her goddess – he is the one who allows her to forgive herself.)
The Ruturn brings the SS arc to a close. Ichigo leaves SS, free of debt and guilt, returning to the mundane world that he left but, transformed by his experience, able to see it in a new light. (Terry Pratchett expresses this concept fabulously in A Hat Full of Sky, which is highly recommended.) He passes through The Magic Flight quite literally, ''the final stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron'' as Urahara flies them home. His shinigami badge and his mortality grant him the status of the Master of Two Worlds, but he does not yet have freedom to live. Aizen is still on the loose, and with this the cycle begins again.
I covered the stages of the Monomyth in detail for SS so that the reader would clearly understand my arguments for reading Bleach through this form of textual analysis. With HM, it is no longer necessary to do this, so I will focus instead on the differences between them. However, as a quick rundown, The Call to Adventure is Ulquiorra's arrival, The Refusal of the Call Ichigo's self doubt, Supernatural Aid the support team from SS, the Belly of the Whale the entry to HM, and the Road of Trials has just finished (it was a long road). Still to come is the Meeting with the Goddess, certain to be Orihime again, Atonement with the Father (I'm guessing Ichigo mastering his new form, though I can't be sure), and his achievement of the Ultimate Boon.
Now for the differences. HM is the arc of the Id, and one major difference between it and SS is that in SS we hear Ichigo's thoughts while in HM we do not. In another post I argued that this was for dramatic effect, because Ichigo was thinking something that the reader was not meant to know, but a supplementary reason might be that Ichigo, in entering the realm of the Id and confronting his dark self, begins to move beyond words to a more primal reality.
HM is a difficult arc. It's been critiqued by many as a copy of SS, and by others as too long. In general, it seems that readers are discomfited by it. And yet it does echo SS. Ichigo enters HM in a team of three, there are three privaron espada, Ichigo defeats three enemies in total (Dordonni, Grimmjow and Ulquiorra). So why is it so divisive? SS and HM are separate arcs, each of which incorporates a full cycle of the Monomyth. However they are also two trials on the road of trials within the superstructure of the Bleach Monomyth. Having presented all my information, it's time to link one to the other – psychoanalysis and Monomyth. At the end of the last section I asked why Kubo had repeated the arc within an arc structure twice, with a premise that seemed similar but engendered very different reactions within the reader. The answer I believe lies in a psychoanalytic reading of Bleach – each of these arcs represents his confrontation with a different aspect of his psyche – in SS, the superego, in HM, the Id.
Soul Society and the Superego.
Soul Society and the realm of the Superego have a lot in common. Both are rigid and rulebound, to the point of being stifling (note this is the superego on its own – in conjunction with the Id, as Freud describes it, it becomes a force for greater creativity). SS is where Ichigo trains with Zangetsu, who is the personification of his superego and who, speaking broadly, resembles his father. Both induce guilt – in SS, when Ichigo and Rukia talk about one another, guilt is frequently mentioned. Both are connected with the father – Ichigo's father is, after all, a shinigami. Furthermore, Rukia herself is linked to the father principle in Ichigo. She constantly speaks to him of duty, she reminds him of his role in life, she strengthens his resolve – all duties of the superego. Her boon, too, is a gift from the superego – the relief of shame and guilt. Finally, Byakuya is a character dominated totally by the superego, so driven by the rules that he seems unable to comprehend mercy. He is the extreme of the superego.
Hueco Mundo and the Id
If SS is the arc wherein Ichigo confronts his superego, HM is the arc wherein he confronts his Id. My reasoning behind this lies in three principal points. Firstly, Hueco Mundo is the realm of hollows, the embodiment of the naked Id. Secondly, the only time we see Ichigo's mother (as a speaking being) in the present is when Grand Fisher creates her image with his lure. Killed by a hollow and re-embodied by a hollow, Ichigo's mother is thematically associated with hollows, which is important because the love of the mother is primary in Freud's notion of the Id. Therefore, there is a connection between Hueco Mundo, the feminine principle and the Id. Finally, Hueco Mundo is a dark, lawless realm, characterised by savagery and brutality. Like the Id, its denizens are ruled by the pleasure principal. The endless night and the ever present moon, traditionally a feminine symbol, reinforce this image. They also echo the yin aspect of the yin-yang, which would itself be associated with the Id. It is also in HM that Ichigo fights with his hollow powers – that is, he draws on the Id for power, culminating in his assumption of the true form of his Id, the minotaur. In the last section I noted that Byakuya is the extreme of the superego – at the same time, Ulquiorra is the extreme of the Id, specifically the death instinct, ''our unconscious wish to die, as death puts an end to the everyday struggles for happiness and survival. Freud noticed the death instinct in our desire for peace and attempts to escape reality''.
I wish to pause here and reinforce one point. The Id is not necessarily negative. It is dark, it is frightening, it contains much that we don't wish to admit about ourselves, but it is, as Lacan expressed it ''Man is spoken by [the Id]''. It is the primal well from which we create ourselves. For Jung, the Id and the Shadow are similar, and the latter is described as ''everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped and denied. These are dark rejected aspects of our being as well as light, so there is positive undeveloped potential in the Shadow that we don’t know about''. All of this needs to be kept in mind when thinking about HM, because Ichigo is confronting his Id, and I want to stave off any assumption that this means that the focus of HM, Inoue, is somehow a negative influence on him. I think it's fascinating that HM provoked such strong and varied reactions in people, because that is in and of itself an excellent argument for HM as the representation of the Id. Unlike the Superego, which is what we tend to think of as the more desirable aspect of our personalities (it is moral, it strives for perfection), the Id contains much that we don't appreciate. As Ichigo confronts his Id, we are forced to confront aspects of him that are not nearly so attractive. I'm inclined to think that HM reads most fluently if you read it as Ichigo confronting and overcoming parts of himself that he has repressed.
HM ends with the the battle of the seven deadly sins (entirely appropriate, because each sin represents a primal aspect of the pleasure principal unchecked by the superego). During this battle, Ichigo assumes the form of the minotaur, a man with the head of a bull. The most famous minotaur of all is the one at the heart of the labyrinth on Crete. The labyrinth is a commonly accepted symbol for the unconscious, and the minotaur that waits at its heart is the Shadow archetype. This certainly sheds interesting light on Ichigo's speech – ''Help you, I'll help you''. On the one hand, this represents what Kubo identified as one of Ichigo's flaws – he protects others even at tremendous cost to himself, and this is certainly a confrontation with that aspect of his personality. However, I am forced to read that passage, as many other Ichihime fans have, as an indication that he does have unacknowledged feelings for Inoue. Now, when Ichigo returns to his normal self, he cries out ''I didn't want to win this way''. In a wonderful essay on the Shadow, Rebecca Eigen points out that ''whenever you catch yourself saying “I’m not like that,” if it gave you an emotional charge when they said it, — you probably are like that, you just don’t know it''. The indiscriminate violence that Ichigo displays as the minotaur is part of himself that he has repressed, and it is called out by Inoue, who, as the link to his subconscious, is able to summon it forth so that he can confront it (Just to be clear, I'm talking about this on a thematic level. I do not think that Inoue intended to call him forth – her Id is also at work in HM), and overcome it(I would guess by the end of HM). This is used as an argument against Ichihime, but that is a fallacy. What Ichigo went through was necessary. Had he remained an unblemished hero, he would not have gained the strength to defeat Aizen. Not only is his minotaur form physically stronger, but Aizen's power lies in the manipulation of the weaknesses of those around him. You can be sure that if Ichigo had an unacknowledged weakness, Aizen would have ruthlessly exploited it.
Jung himself said that ''Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.'' This is why we see Ichigo's inner hollow emerge during the fight with Byakuya – when he tries to fight solely with his superego, his inner hollow becomes a snag. Many detractors argue that Orihime made Ichigo into what he hated most, and it is true that his transformation was in part due to her (and in part due to Ichigo's own issues – I think it would be closer to the truth to say that Orihime was unconsciously a trigger for Ichigo's transformation), but in truth she was the trigger for him to become the opposite of what he was at the end of SS. To put it bluntly, she was the key to his self transformation which was in and of itself, a positive thing. I know this will be objected to. The moment cited will be when Ishida says ''If you do this you won't be human any more''. Ishida, however, is another figure who draws on the superego. Quincys destroy hollows; like the soul reapers, they oppose the Id. Furthermore, Ishida is associated with the father – he was trained by his grandfather, his individual quest is to learn what his father wishes to protect so that he may learn what he wishes to protect, his mother has never been shown or even referred to. My point with this is that it has been argued, using Ishida's comments as evidence, that Ichigo's transformation is a moral one, that his bond with Orihime is immoral. However, I would read it rather as a transformation which is amoral – Ichigo does become a being who relies on the pleasure principle, but through this he will learn what it is that he drives him, and this will make him stronger.
Another key argument often made against Ichihime is that Rukia makes Ichigo stronger while Inoue makes him weaker. This, I think, results from the original misreading of HM that I've been talking about. In truth, both Rukia and Inoue strengthen Ichigo, but in different ways. Rukia draws on the superego – she bosses him, bulllies him, guides him, her influence is asexual, and she focuses on his ideal qualities. Conversely, Inoue strengthens him by allowing him to confront his weaknesses. She acts from underneath – she never orders him, but uses compassion and understanding to support him, her inspiration to him comes in the form of requests and her influence is sexualised.
Inoue is the embodiment of the feminine principal in Ichigo's Id, she is the replacement for the mother (by this I do not mean that she is a mother figure to him but that she is the receptacle for the feelings of the Oedipal complex displaced by the superego), she is the polarisation of his self. In Rebecca Eigen's essay, she states that ''Now a person carrying a light part of our Shadow we will be very drawn to, and may even fall in love with, and this is the ‘Gold’ part of our Shadow''. This person will be acting from one extreme while we act from another - ''Chances are that we are lopsided in our character and we need to learn how to do precisely what they are doing if we want to grow. Not to the extreme that they are doing it, but halfway.'' This holds true for both Ichigo and Orihime in respect to the other – she desires his strength, and though it has not been explicitly stated, I would guess that he desires her compassion. I will be blunt here – it does not hold true for Ichigo and Rukia. They are alike in their methods and in their strengths.
I want to finish this essay by returning to my personal reading of Bleach, and why I ship Ichihime. I believe that all stories have what I call flow. In Changing Planes: Armchair Travel for the Mind, Ursula Le Guin talks about the English language as a progressively restrictive language. With each word added to a sentence, the pool of words from which the next word can be chosen is reduced. A perfect example of this, she says, is ''To be or not to be, that is the -''. Only one word can end that sentence. I believe that stories have a similar flow. They move inexorably to an ending that in retrospect seems inevitable, whether that ending is happy or joyous. To my mind, Ichihime is a part of this inevitable ending, because the flow of the story up until now has been in that direction. That said, I do not believe that my logic could ever convince someone who did not already support the ship, and so I wrote this. Let this be my logic. Let this stand as my argument – a cohesive reading of Bleach that offers a thematic explanation for why Ichihime will happen.
I make no claim to the power of words. This long essay is, as Macbeth might have put it, a tale of sound and fury. It was written for enjoyment only, so please use it to have some fun yourself.
Websites used (I lost some of the links I used, but simple searches of key words like shadow, jung, freud, id, labyrinth, unconscious, etc should find them for you):
All Bleach quotes except those from HM are drawn from the official Viz translation. Quotes from Hm are drawn from Onemanga.