_debbiechan_ (_debbiechan_) wrote in bleachness,

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IshiHime Shipper Essay Revised

I rewrote the sucker for ship_manifesto

I am now concerned that this essay may start a ship war of massive proportions. I could rewrite the essay and make it more bland, but I'm also a BIG chicken when it comes to internet drama.
I sent the essay to the mod to see if it would pass: even if it does, my worrying has begun.
In any event, I can post HERE because this is my comm and I'll cry if I want to.
I am very stupid always in considering what fan responses will be. Hence, my being on fandom_wank three times.  I seriously can not understand why some people get furious if you question their ship. I don't even mind silly insults against my favorite  characters. I mean--someone called Rukia a "cockroach head" the other day and I just laughed.

There All Along: Reasons I Believe IshiHime Might Happen

by debbiechan

Pairing: Ishida Uryuu/Inoue Orihime
Fandom: Bleach
Title: There All Along: Reasons I believe IshiHime Might Happen
Author: debbiechan
Personal Website:  debbiechan.com

This essay contains spoilers for the manga Bleach up to chapter 254.  It presumes the reader has a little knowledge of the storyline. For a more thorough run-down of the early plot, go to the shipper essay here:
IshiHime Ship Essay by Electra Torch

Because of irrefutable fact that Orihime has a crush on Ichigo Kurosaki (and not Ishida Uryuu) this essay also looks at Ishida and Orihime (IshiHime) in context of the Orihime and Ichigo relationship (IchiOri). The two couples are inseparable from the plot. It makes no attempt to belittle or provoke those who ship Orihime with Ichigo, and because I love the character of Kurosaki Ichigo almost as much as I love Ishida Uryuu’s, no character-denigration is intended here. IchiOri shippers may want to be forewarned that this essay will predict a positive outcome for IshiHime.

Because Orihime’s crush on Ichigo is almost entirely absent from the anime, this essay will only reference the manga.

Destiny, foreshadowing, or merely pretty pictures for an adventure story?

Behold the only time in the Bleach manga (thus far) that a girl has been shown being carried in a boy’s arms (chapter 91):

The boy saves the girl and holds his hand over her shoulder protectively while danger threatens. Pretty damn romantic, wouldn't you say? Except that these two are nowhere near knowing that they might share a romantic destiny, and that's how all love stories begin.

Many Bleach fans ship Ishida and Orihime because of their much-lauded “chemistry.” Romantic chemistry tends to arise from a magical, indefinable, just-right mix of similarities and differences, and our pair seems to have that. Both members of the Handicrafts club at Karakura high school, Ishida and Orihime seem polar opposites at first: He is detached and doesn’t speak much. She is bubbly and babbling. Throughout the story, readers discover their common touch-points. Both are smart (Ishida is first in his class, and Orihime is third). Both do not take the head-on, aggressive approach to combat and prefer to think themselves out of tricky situations. Even though Bleach is full of characters whose wives and parents have died, Ishida and Orihime have childhoods in which their most beloved and sole caregivers died. Other characters in Bleach were left with support after family deaths (Ichigo, for example, although devastated by his mother’s death, still survives with his family), but Ishida, estranged from his cold father, and Orihime, utterly orphaned, live alone in apartments. How Ishida and Orihime have dealt with their absence of family is profoundly different, though: Orihime reaches out to people with friendliness and humor. Ishida, while usually not passing the opportunity to perform a kindness for someone, puts on a serious face and distances himself from others.

This couple’s charm also comes from the fact that they are both dorks (Let’s assume here the popular definition of a dork as a clumsy, socially inept albeit intelligent person). Already a fan of the mysterious, haughty side of Ishida, I was enthralled when he threw a plushie in to the air and sewed it up in a nanosecond. Ishida’s façade of coolness cracks when he holds up a Sunflower Seams shopping bag or a “spare cape” and becomes just another awkward fifteen-year-old. Orihime’s friends are not surprised when this sweet girl, unaware of her beauty yet incapable of hiding her dorkiness, misunderstands simple social cues or walks into traffic. So, from the very first scene shared by Ishida and Orihime in Bleach, I thought: oh yeah, these two would NOT make an excellent couple. If the rest of the world doesn’t quite understand them, how could they possibly ever understand each other?

I was proven wrong; as the manga progressed, Ishida and Orihime got along as well as miso and noodles and had a superb understanding of one another.

The couple has no significant interaction until they crash-land together in the Seireitei.  At this point in the story, the author Kubo Tite deliberately zeroes in on the fact that Orihime is crushing on Ichigo and that it’s not Ichigo but Ishida who is there for her.

First, Orihime reaches for Ichigo in the attempt to link a human chain in the sky (chapter 85). Their hands just miss. Orihime falls with Ishida instead. Is her fate with someone other than the person she’s reaching for throughout the manga?

Later, Orihime, unconscious, thinks that it’s Ichigo who is kneeling over her but in fact it’s Ishida who is taking care of her wounds (chapter 86). This motif is repeated throughout the manga--Orihime being oblivious to how much Ishida is doing for her while she crushes on Ichigo.  I love Ishida’s sarcastic expression here when he says “Sorry. I’m not Kurosaki.”

Orihime, though, isn’t completely callous to Ishida. Realizing that Ishida feels bad about her being injured while protecting his landing (chapter 86), she makes some ditzy attempt to console him, and thus begins their odd, funny, and poignant alliance in Soul Society.

The acts of derring-do Ishida performs to defend Orihime are memorable enough for me not to post pictures of all of them. He sweeps her into his arms to save her from Jirobou and he steps between her and lascivious Shinigami suitor (chapter 119). He sends her away, kicking and screaming, when he prepares to fight Mayuri, and he mentions her name just before entering into that battle (“I’m glad Inoue-san isn’t here to see this,”chapter 122). In all these moments, Ishida is presented heroically enough that a reader would believe he’s going to get the girl no matter how much she talks about Ichigo. There are seven panels in chapter 91 alone showing Ishida, from different angles, with his arm protectively around Orihime. She appears impressed but doesn’t swoon and sparkle with hearts and roses as a shoujo heroine might. She does, nonetheless, figure in the composition of many of these Ishida-kicks-butt panels.

My favorite Ishida gesture of protection is this one, where after bombs explode (chapter 121), he holds up his hands and body over Orihime, even after her shield has gone up. He stays positioned over her until Mayuri directly threatens her and then he summons his bow and distracts Mayuri.

One has to wonder why Ichigo, Orihime’s love interest and the one whom many Bleach fans ship with Orihime, does not have moments like these with her. So far in the manga, the one time Ichigo attempted to protect Orihime, she was severely injured (chapter 196).

Rukia brought Ichigo to Orihime and made him swear to protect her, but Ichigo did not initiate this act on his own. Orihime barely speaks to Ichigo during the scene. Because Ichigo had mentioned how he failed to protect Chad and Tatsuki in the previous chapter, Ichigo’s desire to protect here appears generalized. He once swore to defend “mountains of people,” and Orihime seems to one of those he failed to protect at a crucial time.

Heartbreakingly, Ichigo fails to protect Orihime “the next time,”and she is kidnapped by the Arrancar (chapter 236). Ishida is AWOL at this time, but the differences between Ichigo’s interaction with Orihime here and Ishida’s interaction with her during the Soul Society are plain: Ishida paid attention to Orihime and saved her life at least three times.

The SS arc, however, is not all about Ishida protecting Orihime. Ishida and Orihime prove that they work together as a team. Here’s where Bleach fans fell in love with this couple. Their “chemistry” is comparable to Ichigo and Rukia’s--only with no kicking and yelling. Orihime learns to summon her powers without calling out her fairies’ names, gathers clues as to Rukia’s whereabouts and plots to steal Shinigami robes--all while Ishida watches, bemused and appreciative. When they disguise themselves as Shinigami, the couple’s intelligence and cautious ways serve them well. They exchange glances, initiate conversations, and seem enjoy getting to know one another. It’s no doubt that because their personalities (Ishida the intellectual introvert who needs drawing out and Orihime the intuitive extrovert who draws everyone out), are well-matched dealing with enemies, they would be also in other situations. At this point, the matchmaker in me was thinking: and they share a common interest! Sewing!  But alas, only Ishida is blushing, looking attentive, and giving Orihime those “special looks.”

It’s clear throughout the story that Ishida knows about Orihime’s crush on Ichigo--not that this realization would require special intuitive skills, but Ishida’s eventual response to it is unique. Unlike Orihime’s girlfriends in earlier chapters (Tatsuki says in chapter 2, “a girl with boobs like yours could do better,” and later pokes fun at Orihime’s crush by saying she should jump him and rub her boobs in Ichigo’s face), Ishida takes Orihime’s feelings quite seriously. He appears to understand the emotional depth of what, on the surface, seems to be a girlish crush. He feels for her. He worries about her when she is fearing for Ichigo’s safety. (chapter 120).

He asks her to move away from the glare of battle during Ichigo’s fight with Byakuya (chapter 164), and then, realizing the earnest devotion with which Orihime prays for Ichigo to be safe, Ishida says, “Win, Kurosaki. Win or I will never forgive you.”An expression of unselfish love if I ever heard it. Ishida’s concern for Orihime’s well-being shows in this tortured face, a rare expression for the usually stoic Quincy.

The Basic Formulation: Ishida-->Orihime-->Ichigo-->Rukia.  What’s Going to Give?

Will Ichigo and Orihime get together? Ichigo has no romantic interest in Orihime, appears to have stronger feelings for another girl (Rukia), and Orihime shows no signs of confessing her love to Ichigo. The purpose of this essay is not to argue these points; they seem obvious to many, perhaps a majority of readers. What IshiHime fans are wondering is if Orihime can overcome her enormous longtime obsession with Ichigo to notice Ishida?

People have suggested that as the manga progresses, as the melodrama swells, and as Orihime only loves Ichigo more and more, Ishida would be a poor second best if Orihime were to choose him over Ichigo. “Ishida can find another girl,” the readers say. Bleach, however, is a closed universe in which only a few teenagers have superpowers, and obviously these kids have a very small dating pool. People outside the Soul Society experience would make unsuitable partners for these kids who have gone through such incredible adventures. I believe that the natural pairs--amidst some plot jittering, clues, and distractions to worry the shippers--all along have been Ichigo and Rukia (a topic of other essays) and Ishida and Orihime. Look at it: Ichigo and Rukia, Shinigami and Shinigami. Ishida and Orihime, human and human. Ichigo and Rukia get along well together; Ishida and Orihime get along well together. With Ichigo and Orihime, there is almost no interaction, and when there is, Orihime is shown to be a less confident, empowered self than she is with Ishida.

If the manga ends with no definitive conclusion as to which characters are pairing up with whom, I suspect that there will be hints. Rukia and Ichigo have an unquestionable bond that would probably interfere with his pairing romantically with anyone else (a topic for yet another essay). No pairings may be necessary by Western standards because the teenagers of Bleach may still be teenagers by the end of the manga, but the Japanese marry earlier. I expect that because sex (with blushing boys, naked Yoruichis, a wisecracking Isshin) has already been dealt with in Bleach as part of the natural growing up process that the responsibility of a committed relationship may be as well.

If the manga definitely pairs couples at the end, it will be because the author of Bleach recognizes how emotions develop and love grows through shared experiences. What does true love mean in Kubo Tite’s Bleach universe? The quiet, happy marriages of the past are sketched briefly--Bleach is a shounen manga, after all. Readers, however, have commented on the “authenticity” of these characters and the unusual presence of shoujo elements in a shounen tale. Many shounen are about the power of friendship. Bleach is also about the power of love influencing will. Ichigo and Renji swear on their souls to save Rukia, and their personal feelings for her inform their quest. Tousen swears to follow justice after the death of his female friend, and Byakuya adopts an entire system of rule-abiding after his beloved wife passes on. Relationships are based on mutual interaction and understanding, and Rukia tells Hanatarou that even though she knew Ichigo for only two months, she feels as if she’d known him all her life (chapter 94)). If mutual understanding is the main criteria for a love relationship, IshiHime appears to be the candidate over IchiOri.

The problem of course, is that with the exception of Ishida’s crush, Orihime and Ishida do not seem aware of this possibility. Their souls are intent on other issues, and their hearts are unrevealed territory. Yoruichi mentions the relationship between heart and soul in chapter 70 when our heroes are about to pass through the dangai. “Just keep going,” says Yoruichi. But if Ishida continues loving Orihime who is loving Ichigo who is loving Rukia, there is no end. Who will love who at the end? Sometimes I think that if Kubo leaves this aspect of Bleach open-ended that he will lynched by fans.

Many IchiOri shippers point to chapter 237 as a definitive factor as to who Orihime will always love. Orihime is saying goodbye to a sleeping Ichigo, and she believes she is going to die or at least never see the human world again. She attempts to kiss Ichigo but can not (those rooting for IshiHime see this fact as relevant). She says “I wish I could live life five times over and always love the same person” (Some IchiOri fans say this is a hint that Ichigo and Orihime may be reincarnated versions of lovers in another time).

Personally, while I found Orihime’s good-bye speech to be incredibly touching, I didn’t take it at face value. Loving someone was mentioned almost in the same breath as astronauts and ice cream. While Kubo has decidedly shown Orihime’s change from the ditzy child in bangs of early chapters (the one who thought two girls liking the same boy meant the girls win!) to the melancholy, beautiful girl who blushes when she enters Ichigo’s room, he still does not skimp on Orihime’s naivete. It’s not only funny to have her be so innocent, it also allows for even more character growth in the story.

So, Orihime wishes that she would always love the same person? Kubo has made his characters turn and do the opposite of what they say many times. Byakuya is probably the strongest example of a character whose eyes are opened to the truth and whose behaviours change accordingly. I think that Orihime’s “I wish I could live life five lives over and always love the same person” line may have no more significance than Ishida’s previous to Ichigo: “The next time we meet, we meet again as enemies.” In both cases, these lines did not reveal anything new in the already developed plot (Ishida is Ichigo’s rival, and Orihime loves Ichigo) but many readers interpreted these lines as pointing to some inevitable plot development. In the first case, Kubo, as usual, surprised his readers. I expect that he will also surprise his readers concerning the “five lives” line. Orihime’s love, while highly romantic and idealized, is not immutable.

Also, knowing Kubo’s love of parallels and opposites, the “five lives” line (just as Orihime interpreted Ishida’s “next time we meet” line to be its opposite) could be there to show that loving someone else is truly possible. As possible as the choice between being a teacher or opening a pastry shop? Orihime is too young and naive to know what real love is.

Ichigo will not end up with Orihime

Kubo has given the “One-sided sympathy” title to a chapter (24) that looks at Orihime’s wanting to be close to Ichigo. Why not the title “Sympathy?” Kubo again and again emphasizes Ichigo and Orihime’s separateness. Unless Kubo wants to bring this separateness to a surprising reunion (many IchiOri shippers will tell you that Ichigo has a subtle “secret crush” on Orihime), Orihime and Ichigo’s interaction is close to nil in the manga. Unless the connection between Ichigo and Orihime is a magical, unseen reality, it is not as strong as the one between Ishida and Orihime (this fact may be visible to readers but not to the players in the drama).

What about that “special understanding” and “intuitive connection” many readers see Orihime feeling for Ichigo? She has these same connections to others in the manga. First, Kubo presents Orihime as character with a high ability to sense reiatsu. Even before her powers are realized through Shun Shun Rika, she can sense Hollow (chapter 41). IchiOri shippers will point to her ability to smell” Ichigo (chapter 14) as a fact that supports a “mystical” or “past-life” connection to Ichigo; I argue that Orihime’s smelling ability is no more than her sensitivity to reiatsu. Throughout the manga, she perceives character traits too, is kinder and more sympathetic than your average person, and understands relationship dynamics with a maturity beyond her years. Ichigo isn’t the only person she seems to have some insight into. When Ishida is presented as a rude stand-offish member of the Handicrafts Club, it’s Orihime who says “He would be a good guy if he didn’t say things like that.” (chapter 35). During Ichigo’s battle with Byakuya, it is Orihime who pronounces that Rukia is “more than a friend” to Ichigo. (“She is the one who changed his life.”chapter 164 ). On Urahara’s carpet ride back from Soul Society (chapter 182), Orihime notes that Ishida says the opposite of what he means, and she smiles knowingly. And finally, Orihime’s most telling perceptions occur when she confesses her jealousy of Rukia to Matsumoto (chapter 199) and when she realizes Ichigo’s feelings for Rukia (chapter 213)

Look at the Bleach manga from the beginning to current chapters and you will see Orihime, the 15 year old girl, painted as the longing, unrequited loving archetype of shoujo; meanwhile Orihime, the goddess of legend, lives in name only as the one separated from her lover. If Kubo were to be following the Tanabata myth* to a t, Orihime’s longing would be reciprocated. The fact that the Orihime of legend is a weaver and Inoue Orihime belongs to a Handicrafts Club is, in my interpretation, one of Kubo’s many fun allusions. I doubt it will point to a plot development. To have it do so would mean to unravel already established plot developments. Consider these corollaries: (1) there were no mythological clues pointing to the Aizen surprise twist, and Kubo played a game of red herring with the characters of Hitsugaya and Gin as to who the villain of Soul Society truly was. Many readers expect that Orihime will end up with Ichigo merely because Orihime loves him and because there are some nebulous mythological clues in that direction. Bleach, however, is a character-driven and not mythology-driven manga. (2) Gin was plainly established as an unsavory character from the moment he taunted Rukia on the bridge and to have made Gin a sudden “good guy” at the end of the Soul Society arc would have damaged the story. Likewise, to make Ichigo suddenly fall in love with Orihime would wipe out five years that the story-teller spent in developing Ichigo’s bond with Rukia. There may be surprises in store for readers in the years ahead, but some things can not be undone. Ichigo’s lack of interest in Orihime is one thing, and so is the fact that Ishida and Orihime have already established a natural friendship with romantic undertones. Ichigo and Orihime have no such relationship--to have it come deux ex machina in the form of some reincarnation/Tanabata/Prince and Princess device would be very atypical of Kubo Tite’s narrative style. Kubo-san sets up his tale so that readers may anticipate one of several possibilities but when the truth is revealed, it was there all along.

The answer to Orihime’s love of romance has been there all along in Ishida’s swashbuckling presence and sensitive attention. The answer to Ishida’s contrariness and dislike of being with others has always been there in Orihime’s bubbly, optimistic personality.

Some have suggested that Kubo-san would be breaking tradition by having the two lead characters, Ichigo and Rukia, not be romantically linked and making Orihime the girl who “finally gets her man.” I say that Kubo, with his emphasis on strong, surprisingly capable women in his manga (Yoruichi, Rukia, Matsumoto, to name but a few) is going to allow Orihime to have a growth and self-realization like the kind that happens in shoujo.  Orihime needs to grow up. She’s the ditzy girl in the clouds who has an uncanny talent for hitting the mark on occasion, but in some ways she is totally clueless. She misunderstands class assignments (“myself in the future” mecha Orihime, chapter 17) and she has no idea that Ishida cares for her (another fact emphasized by Kubo when Orihime flashes on the idea that Ishida has a crush on Rukia and the side panel reads “Far Off,” chapter 280). It would be both groundbreaking for shounen and yet echoing shoujo to have Orihime become self-reliant.  Several times in the manga she has said that she needs to be strong for Kurosaki. She has even said that she would be lonely (ironically, to Rukia) rather than get in Kurosaki’s way. Orihime needs to stop relying on Kurosaki-kun and become strong for herself. I believe she will.

I also believe that Ishida will be part of the deciding factor in that strength. How, I’m not sure. Orihime has been shown angsting over Ichigo’s relationship with Rukia at least twice (chapters 199 and 213), so may her grieving heart will take notice of Ishida’s similar attitude towards her? Perhaps this time there will be “two-sided sympathy?”

In the meantime, there are these two panels in the manga that show Ishida (chapter 86) and Orihime (chapter 62), each on a journey. There are no such “airplane” related illustrations for any other characters. I like the fact that both characters have their eyes closed. Does this mean that a realization awaits both?

* The Tanabata Festival on July 7 in Japan celebrates the myth of Orihime, the weaver girl separated from her lover and allowed to meet him only on this day. 

Recommended Links

The Live Journal Community “The Archer and the Princess”

Bleach Forums Ishida and Orihime Fan Club

IshiHime is sometimes referred to as a teeth-rottingly sweet ship without the high romance and intrigue found in other Bleach ships. I think that in fanfiction, you’ll find a lot of diversity as to how this couple is interpreted. My favorites understand that special IshiHime goofiness or sense the poignancy of the pair. Many of these authors have written more than one or two IshiHimes so check out their webpages, Live Journals, fanfic.net or mediaminer.org sites. Note that these are just a few of my favorites.

“Threat,” by Esotaria

“Figured You Out” by CrazyDiamond/Cinnamongrr1/HardlyFatal

“Interlude,” by Buffybot76

“Happy Holidays,” by memlu

“Looking In,” by Finnigan Geist

“Lost and Found” by Kaeru-chan

“Pride and Unprejudiced” by Kaeru-chan and Miss Ayachan

“The Last War” by Miss Ayachan

“Prison Breaks,” by Stereotype Vamp

“Pop Go the Buttons,” by megaminoeien

“Laughter,” by Raptorix

My own IshiHimes (and I’ve certainly written MANY) can be found at my website.
The more current stories are here:debbiechan's IshiHimes on mediaminer .

IshiHime fanart and AMVs can be found easily by typing "Ishida, Orihime" into the search functions of deviantart.com and youtube.com, respectively, but I can’t conclude this essay without singling out an extraordinarily talented IshiHime shipper who drew these two pictures:

"Meeting Across the Stars" by Dragonboy MT

"Guard Duty in Seireitei" by Dragonboy MT

debbie's ps to Bleachness: Here are the guidelines they sent me: Your essay should include all of the following points: 1. Small character studies that allow the reader to get to know the characters and understand who they are. 2. Canon or subtext evidence for why your characters work in a pairing. 3. Your own interpretation of the pairing and why you choose to ship them. 4. Some background information into how you became involved with the fandom, and why you were first attracted to the pairing. 5. Meta/insight into why the reader should be following this pairing. 6. Short fandom guide (fic recs, sites etc. resources that will help a newcomer entering fandom who may want to write or ship your favorite pairing) Word Count -- Minimum - 1,500 Max. - 5,000 I tried to work that stuff casually into the essay, but I don't think I fulfull the requirements (which sound like pointers I used to give out to my 7th graders before they started a term paper). I'm so scared about the drain of being involved in wankery, though, that my stomach flips over. Why did I have to pick the ONE ship in Bleach that has wankery??

Tags: essay, ishihime, shipping
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