There seems to have been extra twitching and hand-wringing since the release of 420 (in the West—the chapter itself is released today (Monday Tokyo time) in Japan). I’ve read all kinds of responses, positive and negative, much confusion and speculation and also the usual unsubstantiated rumors about “such and such is happening on Kubo’s Twitter,” lol (more on that later). I went to sleep and dreamed Bleach, which even for a big ass fan like me is unusual. I guess Kubo-sensei hit a nerve with this chapter—maybe the shock was due to the combination of Ichigo’s new snazzy (albeit highly derivative) sexy spooky character design, the sudden fall of Aizen from clever handsome omniscient villain to tantruming bowling ball-head, and to the startling angst of ZANGETSU (formerly a very cool old guy now a United Colors of Bennetton bishie) crying in a shounen. Let us not forget the coup de grace—this chapter gave us the whole uh oh Ichigo is no longer a SHINIGAMGI, that role he so proud of, and wait, didn’t Isshin lose his Shinigami powers too once, and aaaah, the title Deicide now finally makes sense! (The title really did have to do with the first option on an old bleachness poll and not Gin’s ban kai or Aizen’s demise but Ichigo’s tugging his god out, only in a way we could have never imagined—the death of Ichigo’s death god!)
Score for Kubo-sensei the poet.
Then score again for Kubo’s naming of Ichigo’s form as "Mugetsu," which means "moonless sky." Kubo’s been hitting his readers over the head with Ichigo as the moon for years. His attack is Moon Fang Heaven-Piercer. His ban kai is Heaven Chain Slaying Moon. He uses Black Moon Fang against Byakuya, and now…
First thing I noticed is that the IchiRuki fandom, ever vigilant about the Black Sun/White Moon details Kubo-sensei gave Ichigo and Rukia in his famous poems in 2006, started roaring about how “moonless sky” heralded the role of Rukia somehow. I remembered my own version of the poem back in those days—I quibbled with some translator when it came out—the poem for Rukia had been translated as “the moon who eclipses night” and I thought it worked better as “the moon who erases night” and eventually, a lot of Japanese speakers agreed with me (to my credit, I have worked as a professional translator of poetry before—just not in Japanese—in Spanish and Hebrew). I really like the idea of Rukia being the eraser of night in the poetic sense. It makes sense in Kubo’s world to me too and although not necessarily predictive of plot, the scenario of Rukia being the one to banish Ichigo's emotional darkness/powerlessness does make more sense than a lot of other poetic theories floating around out there.
I hear things in fandom that get pulled out of nowhere with no reference to Kubo's culture or what he's said in interviews or even what's been laid out in the manga AT ALL—e.g., someone referred to Ichigo’s final form as being one where there was "no moon needed" and implied that Ichigo was at a prideful, no-regrets ultimate strength now-- because he covered his moon with his “kurosaki” or “his black cape.” This interpretation misunderstood that the Japanese “kurosaki” refers to a peninsula, not a cloak. Also, I’ve heard people refer to Orihime’s name as “princess of light because “Ori” means “my light” in Hebrew whereas Kubo’s likelihood of referencing Orihime’s name to such a language is very slight—not to mention the fact that he’s already associated her name with Tanabata, 7/7 and said in interview that he wants people to think of “hmm” when they hear “Hime” as in “what?” I can understand people hoping that Orihime may jumpstart Ichigo's powers with her own (I even believe it's likely) but Orihime being the light to clear Ichigo's darkness makes no poetic sense. N'uh. Does not follow.
Then there were some people going oh noes, Ichigo gained his ban kai (Heaven Chain Slaying Moon!) for Rukia so now the ship is deaaaaaad. Moon GONE. *teeth gnashing* (I dunno--I was tickled when qwirky pointed out the old matching 2006 poem to Rukia's and noted that the kanji itself referred to Ichigo's ban kai even if the translation didn't make that clear. She wrote:
As an interesting note, Ichigo's poem is: 天を鎖す太陽
"The sun that locks Heaven."
Tensa Zangetsu is written as: 天鎖斬月
"Heavenly Chain Cutting Moon"
You'll see "heaven" (天) ("ten") is the same character in both, and the first character for "locks" in Ichigo's poem (鎖) ("toza") is the same character as "chain" (鎖) (the "sa" in "Tensa"). ("Locks" in Ichigo's poem can also be "chains.")
It's funny, no Japanese fan could miss this obvious connection when Ichigo's poem came out, but I don't know how many non-Japanese fans realized it: Ichigo's poem is also a reference to his bankai XD")
To me, it made the connection between the poems more likely and the resolution of Ichigo's loss of powers coming from the people those poems represent even more likely.
An IchiRuki fan asked me how poems from 2006 could have anything to do with predicting future arcs. I said I didn't think Kubo planned them that way. I think he probably only recently fine-tuned the details of the Deicide ending but has been working on the upcoming arcs for a couple of years as evidenced by his interviews. A couple months ago a friend of mine wrote him to say that his poem about Rukia as the moon who erased the night was her favorite and he faved it in his Twitter. <3 Let's just say that was evidence it was recently on his mind.
The speculation about how Ichigo is going to get his powers back is already at full mast. This and we don’t even know for sure whether or not he’s going to lose them to the point that Ishida and Rukia did or if he’s going to lose his ability to fight, see spirits or what. Some people predict that Orihime may restore him—I’m not counting this out. There seems to be a natural grace to this, seeing how Orihime blames herself for bringing out the beast on the dome. I myself don’t see Orihime consoling Ichigo for any angst that may follow given his inability to protect following any loss of powers. I can’t imagine Ichigo not being angsty given such a sacrifice even though I’ve read a fan or two saying that Ichigo will glady and pridefully give up his powers and others saying Ichigo could use the “break” as a normal person… These sorts of opinions make me go wa--? Ichigo started the story miserable because he couldn’t protect—that’s what Bleach was all about—then Rukia gave him the power to protect. She stopped his rain when he saved her at the end of the SS arc, and speaking of rain, pikeish told me that mugetsu is also known as when the moon cannot be seen because the sky is either cloudy or rainy. So it will be raining in Ichigo’s world again? Another cue for Rukia. Unless someone else (or maybe a whole slew of rain-stoppers like a gang of six nakama? Or maybe Mayuri?) is going to come to Ichigo's rescue this time!
But Ichigo may restore himself—he has instant regeneration abilities from his Hollow being if it can still operate. Maybe Shinigami powers restore over time (did this happen with Isshin?) Who knows? There’s also the hougyoku and it’s magical abilities. I know some people are still predicting that the hougyoku will become the final villain but I’m not counting Aizen out of the running yet. To me there seems something unjust about Ichigo winning a fight with the Big Bad at this point after his failures on the dome (stabbing a nakama, killing Ulquiorra—that is, ceroing an opponent after that unarmed opponent gave up and not using a shinigami zanpakutou to purify him—it’s like our shounen hero has blood on his hands). I suspect we can’t get to the Royal Realm without Aizen as our Unreliable Narrarator of Great Justice somehow and I can’t help but remember his smirk after showing the hougyoku to Orihime and feeling that this needs a resolution in which Aizen will play a part.
Today I’ve been drinking lots of orange juice and catching up with forums and I’m still surprised at how big the reaction to this one chapter has been. I wonder if Kubo will top it this week. I know I’ve missed a lot. Bleach fandom is huge. As I’ve noted before, most of it isn’t even on the internet much and could care less what the diehard esoteric specialized coteries or Akon fans have to say, but I poke around in forums here and there and catch the currents. Been doing it for six years or so now. I was a little startled when a friend of mine big into Bleach RPs told me that fans were bemoaning the END of Bleach because I hadn’t seen much of that on the big forums. Like, what? Didn’t Kubo say there would be at least one another big arc and an Isshin backstory? Another TBTP mini-arc and aren’t there still tons of unresolved questions? Just because the main character loses his powers mid-series doesn’t mean he has to go back to live life as an ordinary Joe like some shounen dudes at the VERY END. I wonder if most Bleach fans are really on the edge of their seats expecting the end of the series? I think that reaction has surprised me more than the one that Ichigo will become the next Big Bad because the hougyoku is going to choose him as its next host (honestly, I can’t see Ichigo going THAT bad, can you?)
Oh and another thing. There was a crazy rumor on Twitter that Kubo recently got another flurry of Orihime hate mail. I went back for days and didn’t see any. (eta: Commenter in this thread did find something--there were a couple tweets on the 16th and 17th, the days of the commotion, neither tweets of which mentioned the name Orihime (so that may be why I missed them) but which linked to the poll of hated female characters abroad) Maybe there was some more Orihime hate on 2ch but as far as I know, Sensei hasn’t responded to Orihime hate on 2ch and he doesn’t read 2ch (or so he claims). The one funny thing recently on Kubo’s Twitter timeline that’s cracked me up recently was a tweet out of nowhere that in typical Sensei fashion did not elaborate. It wasn’t in response to a question.
"I'm colouring panties for the first time in my life, but... well, what is this. I ended up wanting to do them skin-coloured."
Sensei won’t say whose panties he’s coloring. Tease!