I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
-Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, Act III
Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to the third and final part of my “Crossing the Rubicon” essay. Yes, it is late...so very very late. Dishonor on me, my cow, etc. In part one, (found here) is an introduction to the historical significance of the Rubicon metaphor. In part two, (Ta-Da) I laid out the patterns of parallels Kubo most often uses to structure his story. Now we’ve got all that laid out, it’s time for PART THREE, we will wrap up the Caesar metaphor as it pertains to Ishida, I will make some prophecies, and issue my conclusive proof that we will see a second, darker “Quincy Archer Hates You” chapter arc.
Bleach is THE story of Ichigo. I hope you make no mistakes on this count. He is the moving, driving force behind the plot--the Rubicon river that wreaks havoc and wroughts change.
We know our trusty shounen hero like the back of our hand. Never do we have to wonder, “Why is he acting this way? What’s his motivation in this scene?” Ichigo is straightforward, blunt, likes to hit things and is consumed by a “saving-people-thing.” He is not a man of mystery.
However, Bleach is fleshed out and strengthened by the characters around him. When was the last time Ichigo’s inner soliloquy gave us a fully accurate picture of another character? However, the supporting cast is always ruminating on Ichigo himself--from how he acts, how he looks, seems, feels, even on occasion SMELLS to them. The way these characters picture Ichigo, and by extension compare themselves to him, reveals more about the observer than Ichigo himself.
Since his first big introduction scene, Ishida Uryuu has wrecked precious little havoc on the plot of Bleach. Yes, he has participated in fights and remained a steadfast and true nakama to Ichigo, but our dashing hero in spectacles has not had much of a chance to stand forth and really shine--when any of the OTHER nakama were around to take note (or mentally capable of taking note). Although his personal journey has mirrored Ichigo’s nearly step for step, there has been no one to witness his growth. This is because Ishida’s journey has been a private show just for the audience--something meant purely for us because the way WE see Ishida and Ichigo is much more telling than any other character could point out.
Ishida Uryuu and Ichigo are not enemies. They are not opposites--Ichigo already carries his own dark opposite inside of him. Ishida is not going evil. He’s playing a long con. Guess what, these two boys aren’t even each others complements! (*cough, Rukia’s job, cough*) What Ichigo and Ishida are? FOILS.
Foils is a literary term (an actual one that I did not even make up). A foil is a character in literature that the author uses to contrast with another character. (Usually he or she contrasts with the protagonist.) Typically they have something major in common (history, defining characteristics) but then the foil will have several contrasting (and usually negative) characteristics. Or, they may share many characteristics, but the foil's will be less significant. An author creates a foil to bring out main points in a character, points that he or she wants the reader to notice.
For instance, anyone read "Jane Eyre"? Bertha Mason is Jane's foil. While Bertha is an insane, emotional animalist, Jane is cool, sensible, and (for most of the story) impassive. Jane's rationality and her strong moral perceptions are two staples of her character which made more apparent by the lack of these characteristics in Bertha. The scene where Jane encounters Bertha for the first time drastically shows these two differences. Poor Jane, still in her clean white wedding dress, silent and shocked and hurt by the plot twists of the day, looks on Bertha in a grimy grey gown scrabbling and howling like an animal. Jane comes off as all the more pure and preferable when placed next to the insane Bertha Mason--but she still has the passion and anger inside her.
See, foils are not perfect opposites--and they are not always enemies. The word originally came from the common practice of putting a piece of tin foil under a gem to make it shine more brightly. It is the differences between them that are the most important.
Let’s take a quick moment to talk about the similarities: Their first large fights were in the name of avenging a lost parent figure, Masaki and Souken. These two boys have both suffered through the indignity of losing their powers. Their dads are tied for “crap father of the year” after hiding their shinigami/quincy heritage from their offspring. As children their determination to help others grew out of their abilities to see spirits. Good greif, with these newest chapters we find out the same blood flows in their veins, LITERALLY.
After the “Crossing the Rubicon” story, Ishida suffers a mighty change in heart. He’s been dragged out of his loneliness and solitude. His new found camaraderie with Ichigo comes with additional friends--and these friends easily spot that Ichigo and Ishida are more alike than these two boys are willing to admit. It’s ironic that Orihime’s intuition, specifically pointed out as being “dead wrong” by Kubo when it comes to ANY THING ELSE is always spot on for Ichigo and Ishida’s friendship. He’s no enemy--the boys grow more and more alike as the story progresses.
So what are the Big Differences? Manner of fighting yes, passion and hot headed emotion verses logic and planning. Ishida himself mentions it during the fight with Ulquiorra, that his cool headedness
This is their biggest difference, the core issue: Ichigo fights to protect life. Ishida fights to protect pride. These are only two reasons in Bleach to fight. These boys are punished anytime they have stepped out of their assigned alignments. Fighting for anything else has always ended in failure (this is one of the big reasons Hueco Mundo went down the drain, but I digress)
His every fight, every single one, has evolved into a fight to protect pride. Even mayuri, started as fight for inoue, turned to pride--all of them except one, Ulquiorra on the dome.
Ichigo is not ALLOWED to fight for his own pride. He tries several times. Example, when slighted by Ganju, wants to regain his image, his ‘honor’ until he’s violently reminded he is here to save Rukia’s life (thanks, Yoruichi). When he arrogantly decided he’s gonna whip the Vizards into giving him the hollowfication secret? Yeah, that goes badly. Kenpachi does the same in HM when Ichigo’s like, Karakura town, I must go, my town is my pride, and Kenpachi is all, DUDE YOU ARE FIGHTING FOR THE LIFE OF THIS GIRL, CAN YOU FOCUS HERE PLEASE? Ichigos’ fullbringer was literally a manifestation of the pride he felt as a shinigami and it got him CURBSTOMPED until he got his real shinigami (note: PWR TO PROTECT) ability back.
Same goes for Ishida. His fight to save Orihime’s life from Mayuri in SS morphs into a battle for the pride of the quincies. When he jokes about saving Rukia first, Tousen drops him in seconds. And then we got the dome. We saw how his efforts to avenge Ichigo’s life turn out. And the mercy he shows trying to spare Ulquiorra? Gets him a katana through the pancreas. (oooh, ouch)
They are both punished when they step out of their roles. Why? Seriously?! To explain...
Let’s jump back to Ichida’s Crossing of the Rubicon. Our Ceasar stands on the banks of the river, trying to make a decision...This desire to fight with Ichigo did not spring up overnight. Ceasar didn’t roadtrip back to Rome on a whim. Ishida, the terminal planner, must have had some version of this battle rolling around in his mind since Souken died. He’s been plotting--says so himself that he knew Rukia’s identity, had recognized Ichigo’s power the moment he changed. We know there were Shinigami stationed in KKtown before. Why now?
It’s because no amount of Quincy Pride can absolve the hatred Ishida has for himself. He covers it up just fine, but by the end of this conflict admits to the blame he’s placed on himself all these years--that he’s too weak to stand up to the real shinigami and hollows his ancestors fought against. Outwardly Ishida is fighting the age old Shinigami v Quincy conflict but at the end of the Rubicon fight admits it was for the pride of his grandfather and that he FAILED. There’s one thing he really does not admit--
Ishida does not see himself as a true Quincy.
Distances himself from them, agrees that Soul Society’s destruction of them was the correct decision! That doesn’t seem like someone who strongly identifies with his heritage. Some months later when Ryuuken outright claims that HE is the rightful last Quincy, Ishida puts up no argument. Ishida must know of his parentage, of Katagiri’s half-blood status.
Who does Quincy Archer hate? Himself. He thought stepping across the Rubicon would bring absolution, self-justification, some kind of redemption. Instead Ishida steps into a world of war he could not have imagined. He gives everything he has for the Quincy Pride in his battle with Mayuri--and loses the powers he had built his identity around. His vow to Quincy papa is thrown out the window the moment Orihime is in trouble--the flimsiest of loopholes and he is back with his friends. That doesn’t sound like someone who values Quincy honor and pride. He doesn’t hate Ichigo. He doesn’t hate Shinigami. He hates himself.
Don't mistake me, I don't think he sits around in dark lonely rooms consumed by self loathing. Ishida (like many other Bleach characters) looks down on himself for not living up to the standards he sets for himself. We saw a perfect example of it after the first Rubicon battle--self blame and doubt. He went through another wave of it after losing his powers and (although we haven't seen much of him since Hueco Mundo) I have a strong feeling these negative thoughts have continued. I'm interested to get another glimpse into his state of mind now that his infiltration of the Vanderreich is successful.
Well, as my paralell theories from last part state, both our boys must have the opportunity
to either go through a dark paralell (where Ishida fights for his life and what he wants and Ichigo must defend his own pride) or they must reach perfect absolution--Ishida will reinvent and perfect what it means to have Quincy Pride and Ichigo will save ALL THE LIVES.
And NOW (*confidantly pops her knuckles*) we have reached what the story has told us. I am going to predict some serious awesome shiz.
Let’s take a quick look at Ishida’s Chiasmatic journey
A. He fights Ichigo, Crossing the Rubicon, pride of Quincies long dead.
B. Trains alone with old Quincy relics
C. Soul Society--the battle with Mayuri. What does he want to protect?
D. Loss of power, loss of identity--distancing himself from his friends
E. The central question. Why does Ishida want to be a Quincy?
D. Regains powers, jumps back in with his friends.
C. Hueco Mundo--the battle with Sayazel.
B. KUBO DID NOT SHOW US THIS, but I betcha Ishida has been training on his own, plotting and planning
A. WHAT IS TO COME. Fighting against Ichigo (for certain) but he will ultimately fight alongside Ichigo, back to back like that first fight.
-Quincy Archer Hates You II: Ichigo and Ishida must fight again. It is inevitable. After finding out that Ishida is a Vadderrich boyscout recruit, Ichigo will try and drag him back to the right side. I think Ichigo is going to make the same mistake he did with Orihime--that he will believe (however subtly) that his friend went to the enemy on their own. Imagine it--Ichigo in full fury mode and Ishida cool as a cucumber absolutely kicking his trash.
And it’s going to end with Ishida shooting him in the heart.
At least, that’s how it will seem. Ishida is going to pull the same move his dad did on him, and GIVE ichigo some quincy powah!! (poor kids inner world sure is going to be crowded) Dear Ichigo has to be the ultimate avatar--it’s part of his destiny to save EVERYONE, literally everyone, so he must have something in common with all of them. Don’t worry though--our favorite substitute shinigami is not going to change to ranged waponry. Ithink the Quincy ability Ichigo will use will be the Reiishi absorption ability.
-Crossing the Rubicon II: Instead of a Menos, these boys are going to team up against Juha Bach. (Yes, I know the correct spelling, please leave me content with the mental image of this guy playing dramatic organ music) Back to back, old buddies old pals. This is the fight where Ishida decides what he finally wants to protect, either his own pride in himself or the life of someone specific. However, these lads are not going to defeat Back on their own.
-Dads: As Ichigo failed to finish off Grande Fisher and Isshin got the final blow, Ryuuken and Isshin will get to defend their wives where their sons fall short. Papas, go preach! (and also, sorry, but you are probably going to die but BONUS you’ll get reunited with wifeys!)
-Maryuri: Ishida is not going to kill Mayuri, the way Ichigo did not get to kill Grande Fisher. As terribly wronged as he has been, there are others who deserve vengeance more. My current theory? Mayuri will create the weapon of his own undoing. You can tell from one of his earliest lines, “Tut tut, a bomb isn’t supposed to come back.” as he casually blows up his squad members. Mayuri has created such horrors and caused unbelievable pain in the name of science. This current FrankenQuincy on his slab is what’s going to do it. The pieces of this hideous golem are made up of bodies who died swearing on the Pride of the Quincies. This creation will remember this. It will also recognize what Mayuri has done and I hope the sicko dies screaming as his creation destroys him.
-Ishida and Ichigo: Where do they go from here? These two boys who had to grow up with terrible, awful fathers. Not because of abuse but because of neglect. To complete the “perfection of the parallel” these two have to become amazing fathers. Not literally (although I would about burst seeing their babies) but Ishida will evolve from the ‘Last Quincy’ to the ‘First Quincy’ and reboot the whole organization. This confrontation with the Quincies will not be the last fight of Bleach--either Aizen is going to kill the king and Ichi has to deal with that OR the King is the final bad and Ichigo and Aizen have to team up. Ichigo is going to save everyone’s lives, save the whole world, but I am afraid he won’t save it for himself. (but that’s a topic for another day.)
Pride goeth before a fall. Ishida, lovely dear boy, your own dome is coming. You will be indeed brought low IF you cannot redefine your Quincy Pride and learn to love who you truly are. The Vanderreich do not exemplify the memory you hold dear -- you must let your pride go and discover what life you want to PROTECT. In Quincy Archer Hates You II (coming soon to a Bleach near you) Ishida must forsake the false Quincy pride he’s clung to all this time. He must fight to discover what he wants to protect.
Caesar was called back to Rome as a trap which he knew full well. Ishida cannot honestly be expecting to fool the Vanderreich. This whole situation is a trap. And, although Kubo blocked the past few months of Ishida’s life from our view, you can imagine how he’s spent his time offscreen. Ishida has a very clear understanding that by siding with the Vanderreich, even in appearance, he has crossed another river, declaring himself an enemy to Soul Society.
Caesar took a gamble crossing the Rubicon. All the planning in the world could not have accounted for this final decision. Some accounts say it was a supernatural event that gave him the final stroke of determination to cross to the other side, throwing him into a war.
44 BC, 5 years after crossing the river, Caesar has everything he wanted. Named Dictator in Perpetuum (RULER FOREVER OF ROME) the five year conflict is over, with him the victor.
Then, on March 15 44 BC, weeks later, he is assassinated by the people he trusted as friends.
So, some other chapter titles leading up to this one: 35, Will you be my Enemy? and 36, They Died for Vengeance. Ruminate on those, dear reader, and cross your fingers that Ishida’s completion of his chiasmatic storyline will not end in death. Ishida, don’t avenge. Protect what you have--do not fight for what is already lost.
And please remember that all your Quincy vows to your father (translation: the last pure quincy, the embodiment of your Quincy Pride) meant nothing to you when your friends were in danger.
LET’S TAKE A POLL, please vote on your choice in comments! Which of these essays would you like to read next month?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Megan Lloyd has a BFA in animation with an emphasis was on storyboarding and screenwriting from Brigham Young University. Her intent is to direct feature films, both animation and live action.
Megan dreams that someday people will write essays like this about her stories.