For the record, I'm not a Orihime basher, but I'll make fun of her as if she were my own sister. She's my 2nd favorite character and she's been enduring some rough times (oh...being kidnapped, witnessing gruesome dismemberings, getting beat up.... and looking stunned and helpless (and rather pretty in her princess dress at that). Now, at last in this chapter, Orihime's character appears to snap out of it. I was smiling so much from the raw sneak peeks of 283 that I made a banner today:
This chapter 283 seems to be a prelude for some serious plot fulfillment. We see Orihime trying to be stronger. We see Ichigo... oh well, look under cut.
Ichigo has turned ... um... Shirosaki-handsome looking but with Hollow Mask strength in the final panel and he says verbatim "Grimmjow, you're a bad person" and announces the fight will be over (please, powers that be, let this fight be over). Ichigo seems to get the last little push necessary to make this transformation after Orihime--still hesitantly, still fearfully--calls encouragement to him from her high tower.The chapter is titled "You Don't Hurt Anymore," and it echoes a title from a previous Ichigo/Grimm battle (help me here, I can't remember).
Foreshadowings were realized in this chapter and the previous one. Three off the bat--1)Shinji's telling Ichigo that the more Hollow he became, the more apart from his friends he'd get until eventually he'd lose them. Ichigo's hurt that needed salving in this chapter was from Orihime rejecting him in the previous. 2) Matsumoto telling Orihime that Ichigo needed both her and Rukia. 3) Orihime wanting more than anything to be able to help Ichigo. In this chapter, Orihime's mattered to Ichigo and made a difference in battle (albeit she had to hurt Ichigo first by being scared of him).
I hope that my favorite prognostication (Orihime will use her offensive powers in this arc. Go, Tsukabi!) comes true soon. (See above banner). Orihime wanted more than anything to be strong, to help Ichigo, and to not need his help. She vowed to herself in chapter 228: I'll be able to fight on my own. So far, her infidelity to this vow, despite opportunities, has been causing her fans to tear out their hair in frustration and her haters to have fuel for the enternal chant "she's weak, she's weak, she's weak."
And what's this about character development? Flashbacks usually signal that someone is about to have an epiphany. From the raw, I've seen Orihime think about her brother Sora and Ulquiorra while Nell is goading her to not be afraid of Ichigo. She sees the human behind the mask? Unlike some fans, I question whether Orihime was worried right away about Ichigo going Hollow like her brother. Her immediate reaction, as Kubo presented it looked like pure fear. Maybe afterwards, when Ichigo flew away hurt and she looked down guiltily did thoughts write-over the feelings. Orihime does seem to have been in a trance-like state for many chapters--and Kubo, in his wickedness, wouldn't give us thought bubbles or inner monologues. It's as if he wanted to show her as a girl stunned out of thought and feeling.
Then, lo and behold, we have panels of Orihime being shaken out of her stupor by Nell, and at last, remembrances and brain activity from Orihime.
Now that one of her doubts was shown to be nothing, will the others fall away too? Her insecurity about herself and her lack of faith in her friends (she didn't trust them to take care of their own battles and so--oh very wrong move--followed Ulquiorra to Hueco Mundo) may be the next to go. She also, from a translation I've seen, has to be told by Nell that Ichigo is bleeding for her sake. After Orihime tentatively (you can see her hands held up without resolve, her eyes still scared) cheers on Ichigo, she bursts into tears and says she doesn't want him to get hurt anymore for her sake.
Did she not know that? Why was she so stunned when she found out her friends were in Hueco Mundo? Why did she ask Ulquiorra why? Does she value herself that little? Many fans dislike Orihime for this reason alone, that she's an emotional mess. I like her precisely because she's a girl who has a lot to learn. I'm big on the redemption story and I cheer the self-realizations. Orihime's doubts and fears and tears and flaws make her real to me. She's not just a big boobed kind beauty--she's a real 16 year old girl.
And what about the deliberate spotlight on the archetypical scene--the princess from her high tower watches the hero fight? I knew that Kubo had a reason for having her stand there (instead of making her get out of the way of shrapnel and ceros or risk her life--as she was prone to do before she had this breakdown--to run and help her friends). I thought it was that she had to be an audience for Ichigo's super new cool moves. I was wrong. How interesting that the princess was afraid of the hero and that a little child had to jostle her out of her shock. And furthermore, that Orihime's change would affect Ichigo. That's what the girl has always wanted (besides a big smooch from the guy), right? Not your average fairy tale scene. And I'm expecting further twists. Kubo's always been one to play with audience expectations.
There's been a connection made between Ichigo and Orihime in this chapter. The shippers are crying "go team!" and I understand. Taken out of context, this one chapter looks very IchiOri. I consider it promising for their relationship, period. And if a romance were to develop, it would start here--with Ichigo's finally noticing the girl and that he needs her (oh bad Ichigo--he's ignored so many of his friends for so long). But I didn't see a drop of IchiOri before this chapter--I saw Ichigo's back to the poor girl in so many panels, and even a few chapters ago, he addressed his new Hollow friend Nell before noticing Orihime. I also saw Orihime's love as an obsession (yes, I'm one of those who thinks Kubo knows a thing or two about obsessive women).
Skies are looking clearer. (Well, for Ichigo and Orihime, but not for Grimmjow, alas). I'm very happy for my girl. GO ORIHIME!