It feels good to be proved right. One of the simple joys of following a serialized story is getting that “I called it” feeling. Sometimes, in the case of a predictable genre, you and everybody’s baby sister is calling it, and sometimes, in the case of Bleach, you and everybody’s baby sister called it three freaking years ago, and every once in a Las Noches moon, you’re among a special few (high-fives LB7-sensei) who gets to predict something awesomely special like Ulquiorra’s demon release.
We all knew this arc was about Ichigo versus his Hollow. The rescue of Orihime, the long series of Espada confrontations--all distractions from the real plot point of Ichigo versus Ichigo. My friends and I had been clamoring for Ichigo inner monologue since who knows when and finally, in last week’s chapter, we FINALLY got some. Ichigo’s a broken man now. We knew he’d break. We called it. The Lust arc called for it. And so it was especially maddening when some fans took the Lust arc and Ichigo’s transformation there as a necessary even admirable power-up and not a total tragedy meant to break a character in order to rebuild him. Oh man were my teeth gnashing and was my fandom butt a-squirming a couple weeks ago when people were saying that Ichigo was going to one-shot Yammy and finally prove that his new so-called Ultimate!Hollow form was a force to be reckoned with.
Notice how tender Ichigo's eyes look here as he reminisces about IchiThing. Some fans were noting that Ichigo has an especially tender look when he reminisces about Inoue.
Well, yes, he does have the same look. It's the same one--just a close-up of the other eye:
Ah, looks like I cut off that image ... just as well--it would've been bitten off. That page was shipper meat for the sharks. IchiOri shippers saw it as evidence that Ichigo was thinking about his true love during battle; others noted that while Ichigo had flashbacks of Rukia all during the SS arc that this was Ichigo's first of Orihime and it happened to involve her pining for another guy; UlquiHime shippers threw a party I love the fact that the title of their new fanclub at BA is "So Obviously Canon Even Ichigo Knows it!".
To go on with the point of this post, Ichigo is broken. I don't think it's unintentional that Kubo's been drawing him anorexic looking lately--the way Ohana noted at 2ch. Kubo drew a really studly Franken-Ichigo in this week's Halloween spread (got to love that reference to the Monster too). But in the story proper, Ichigo is tired, torn, and naked.
And what's the reason he can't get his mask to work? Like my friend and mod karenai , I wonder why there's even any discussion about this topic. Here's what she made in answer to the question:
Thank you, karenai for the helpful red marks above.
Seriously, folks, there really is such a thing as authorial intent. And it's not a chore to yield to it. After all the world of fanon and imagination is vaster and broader than the singular vision of Kubo Tite and while we're all entitled to our interpretations and good times, he's the one being paid to write this sucker and its been his lifeswork for the past eight years so a little nod of acknowledgement wouldn't hurt ya. Just a "Oh, I see, Kubo-sensei, is THAT what you're trying to do?"
I know. I know. I'm his girlfriend. I defend him soooo much. How's about a link to hard evidence that
KUBO TITE IS A PLAGARIST over at Jenni's LJ? XD
ETA, the week of November 22, 2009, after stirrings in fandom that Rukia didn't "fix" Ichigo the way she was supposed to during her golden opportunity in this very chapter, 379, and that now that Unohana is spending some time with Ichigo in the garganta well yayz it looks like someone else other than Rukia can "fix" Ichigo, I wrote the following post at Bleach Asylum:
EDIT: After reading Kylara's and Lucia's posts, I'm obviously not the only one confused, so I'll just say this: It's not Rukia's job to fix Ichigo's problems. That's not something he would want or she would want. Rukia's mere presence does happen to influence to Ichigo to strengthen his resolve though time after time again.
Rukia is Ichigo's support. Just like all his other nakama, but she has a greater affect on Ichigo to take action.
That's fairy tale land. The manga I'm reading doesn't have such things happen. Power-ups in Bleach happen within the context of battle and are a combination of experience and belief in oneself. That magical shounen resolve can be inspired by others and in Ichigo's case, he's been inspired by Rukia ("for her sake I gained ban kai") more times that we can count (or rather, everyone has recounted them pretty well in posts before mine! ) The very touching scene where Ichigo was inspired by Orihime to recover his confidence (note that I said recover, because it was Orihime who made him lose it in the first place when she was visibly terrified of his mask just as the guy took ceros in the back for her) was not a case of Ichigo gaining a power-up. I mean, ffs, Orihime told him that he didn't have to FIGHT anymore--what sort of message is that to send to a fighter? Ichigo was just glad to not have been abandoned by his friend and was thus able to get his groove on again.
Rukia's heart speech was another case of cheering up Ichigo (although Rukia wasn't the one who funked him up to begin with) instead of powering him up. Nakama provide emotional support to the hero--they don't magically confer power on him.
The fandom cries of "Ichigo can't get it up for Rukia" when Ichigo couldn't get his mask to work struck me as really inane because clearly it wasn't a matter of a girl's presence or absence that was the source of his power. Orihime wasn't mentioned or present when Ichigo trained with Urahara, Yoruichi, OR Shinji and learned ban kai. Not to mention that the joke missed the point--Ichigo couldn't turn into the monster that he regretted turning into on the dome when he was around Rukia. That privilege was reserved for Orihime alone.
Orihime, though, can't even be directly blamed for causing the power-up that was the IchiThing, the not-Ichigo's conscious self that seemed part Hollow, part human, part Shinigami and roared like the Allon beast and hurt his nakama (first plopping Orihime on her face then stabbing Ishida). Nope, she can't. She did not magically confer any powers on Ichigo. People are responsible for their own emotional states and their actions when all is said and done; the injustices of the world may piss me off after a couple hours of CNN but if I take matters into my own hands and go off on a rampage of vigilante shootings or some other crazy behavior, reckless skateboarding or WHATEVER, the fault lies with my own soul;CNN, like Orihime's "Save me, Kurosaki-kun" was just the trigger, the noise that tripped that central alarms.
(That's not to absolve Orihime either--she is responsible for her own NOT acting, but she is NOT responsible for Ichigo's acting.... is that clear?}
Now I hear in fandom that Rukia was supposed to fix Ichigo during those few moments she saw him before he took off with Unohana into the garganta? Wait--was THAT Rukia's chance to take care of the hero's emotional woes before he charged into the battle of his life? Excuse me while I cough up a kidney laughing. Do people SERIOUSLY think that Kubo-sensei takes lessons from fanfic.net for his plots? I mean LOOK at the dynamic tension we have here--we have Rukia stating very clearly for the sake of the audience that Ichigo's eyes are not the eyes of a victor, that he is not a man ready to take down his enemies, and then we have Ichigo suddenly torn away to face the battle of his life in this state of unpreparation! And people are saying "Oh look, Unohana is going to fix Ichigo's reiatsu! See! Rukia isn't the only one who can take care of Ichigo!" Oh dear dear dear Bleach fans with the short memories and persistent belief in Ichigo as the UNERRING hero (why oh why do I always get the uneasy feeling that some manga fans who can't fault any Bleach characters for anything are sitting ducks waiting to be strung along by married men and con artists and anti-Christs and worse! ), Unohana is going to fix Ichigo's clothes and yes, the boy is going to be at full reiatsu when he faces Aizen but...
don't forget Rukia's words. And don't think for a moment that Ichigo's victory or failure in his next battle has anything to do with a girl--either Rukia or Orihime or Masaki or Yachiru. Ichigo fails or succeeds on his own. But note--it's Rukia who knows what's going on with him. And mark my words, Rukia's predicted Ichigo's failure. This is a man not ready to cut down his opponents.
The "why" is going to be shown later. Maybe Rukia will help Ichigo access that "why." But she doesn't fight his battles FOR him. She is his partner, not his Mommy. She supports him; she doesn't turn him off and on because only one-dimensional triggers, like girlie photos in a magazine, are capable of something so simple. Rukia engages Ichigo--she talks with him. She doesn't just show up and wham, he can fight. I find it really discounting of Kubo's story and any woman in it that people believe this is something that happens in it.