Oh Ichigo, I remember when you were the star of Bleach, shining so brightly that nothing was impossible for you and even an otherworldly organisation boasting insane levels of power like Gotei 13 couldn’t wall off your desires and conviction. But now Ichigo, truly sadly now, in most situations you are no more the star of Bleach, but instead the darkness in the background that brightens and emphasises the “star”. Throughout this arc, rather than Ichigo grabbing hold of his conviction to get his Shinigami powers back, he has instead been thrown around like a ragged doll, pushed and pulled, manipulated and fooled, Ichigo has become nothing more than a string-puppet being controlled by the new mind-manipulating characters in Bleach – Ginjou and Tsukishima.
Even after facing Gin and Aizen and suffering through the psychological attacks sent his way and eventually enduring through the despair, Ichigo hasn’t learned anything. After 465 chapters (including the minus chapters) Ichigo has hardly developed and learned anything. In fact Ichigo to me seems to have taken steps back…Whatever happened to that conviction Ichigo used to wear so boldly? This chapter Ichigo’s family and friends (the same family and friends that inspired him to attain the levels of power to even take down the superpower Aizen) are in “trouble” and he abandons his source of strength in favour of a pitiful human reaction of turning tail and running away like a scared little girl…sure Ichigo was confused, sure Ichigo was scared, sure Ichigo may not have the same levels of power he had before, sure Ichigo is a teenage boy, sure Ichigo is human, but when did thoughts ever stop Ichigo from facing off a stronger opponent, especially when his friends and family are being targeted? The past Ichigo (before even when he got crushed by Aizen and Gin’s words) Ichigo wouldn’t have thought about whether he was stronger or weaker than the enemy or what their ability was, Ichigo would have faced them with the single thought – “I have to beat them”. Not wavering from that thought, Ichigo would throw everything he has behind it. Now Ichigo has truly fallen, fallen miserably far.
It was an interesting move to have Ichigo loss his powers after the fight with Aizen but the way Kubo has gone about having Ichigo regain his Shinigami powers is mostly distressing. Even if the current actions by Ichigo are logical and reasonable (losing the conviction and experience he had as a warrior over the past 17 months), it’s still extremely uninteresting and unpleasant watching Ichigo struggle so miserably and getting manipulated left, right and center. This arc shows just how easy it is to push Ichigo’s button and how far Ichigo has truly collapsed as the protagonist of Bleach. For example this chapter, Ichigo falls so easily for Tsukishima’s provocation and rather than calmly thinking about the situation and analysing the options he has, he goes straight into reactionary mode and pushes Tsukishima against the glass door breaking it…It’s painful seeing how easily Ichigo loses to confusion and frustration, I just wonder what the hell Ichigo is going to do when he is in a relationship – will he beat his girlfriend or wife out of reaction just because he doesn’t like the situation? It’s ridiculous if you ask me, I have no idea what Kubo is trying to do with Ichigo’s character, the main character of Bleach…
Is Kubo trying to add a psychological spin on Bleach? It’s a nice idea, but the way it’s being handled makes the effects underwhelming. Ichigo is too easily manipulated, there is no challenge to the Tsukishima and Ginjou “mind screw” and therefore hardly any thrill in seeing how they go about manipulating Ichigo. This arc is practically watching Ichigo acting like a total fool – doubting Kisuke, doubting his father, getting sad his friends are trying to protect him and being a puppet to Ginjou and Tsukishima’s intentions (whatever they are). Ichigo’s character is totally getting screwed.
Ichigo could learn a few things from Sado – when Orihime encountered Tsukishima, Ichigo was going to call Orihime to see if she was alright, but Sado stopped him because he knew that calling her would distract her and if she was in battle, it could mean her death (chapter 440). That scene pretty much conveyed that Ichigo never really looked at battle from the point of view of it being “life or death”, he fought because he had the power and because of instinct. Ichigo’s seems to believe in his power rather than himself which expresses just how weak Ichigo is. Regardless of whether you are strong or weak, you need to believe in yourself first and foremost. I just hope Ichigo can get over his ‘power-complex’ and believe more in himself rather than his power. It is said that “circumstances don’t make the man they reveal him”, and clearly Ichigo is still a boy, but that’s alright I don’t mind that, I just want to see Ichigo develop and have more faith in himself and his friends and family.
This panel really did help to explain Ichigo’s current situation – that look Ichigo had in the third panel. Even though Ichigo is the protagonist of Bleach and even though Ichigo has saved the worlds from Aizen, he is still after all a teenage boy and unlike some other shounen manga, there is a bit more realism thrown into Ichigo’s character (though I think there is too much realism spun into Ichigo’s current character). It’s natural in the situation Ichigo now finds himself in that a person would be confused, scared, fragile, and “lost” but Ichigo has something other people don’t have, he has experience, he fought against so many strong opponents and even when things didn’t go smoothly in all his fights, he still overcame himself and faced his opponents head-on with sword in hand and determination in his heart. Ichigo has experience being mind-played from Gin and Aizen, he knows how it feels to fall into despair, to get mentally taken apart and broken down, to lose hope, to become confused, scared, “lost”, so in such a situation Ichigo should believe in himself more and shouldn’t succumb to such situations so easily. Sure this situation is different because Ichigo’s friends and family are “against” him but Ichigo is not inexperienced enough to fall so easily for Tsukishima’s provocation and resort to violence (has Ichigo’s character really fallen so far during the 17 months?).
Also that panel did convey that Ichigo has great friends – Ichigo should believe in and trust his friends more than he currently does and seek their help more often…Ichigo shouldn’t try to take on everything himself, he has a great bunch of friends to share the “burden of hero” with, especially in the fragile state he is now. Ichigo still has Kisuke, Ishida and the Vizards to turn to for help – it would be cool to have the Vizards come in play at this point this arc, but I don’t think Kubo would follow such a logical and exciting development…and man, Ichigo seriously does need his “ray of light”, that light being Rukia (the Latin word from which her name is derived means “light”). But I like how Ikumi is trying to be Ichigo’s support.
Anyway onto the meat of the content in the chapter – Tsukishima. So according to Ginjou, Tsukishima has gotten to other Fullbring users and the residents of Karakura Town. I don’t know, I just can’t get over the fact that Ginjou is so extremely dodgy, that I can’t trust him. Appearing at such a convenient time and adding more suspicion on Tsukishima…it almost seems like Ginjou is trying to get Ichigo completely cornered that the only place Ichigo has left to turn to is towards him – Ginjou already planted the seed in Ichigo that Kisuke and Isshin (Ichigo’s own father!) can’t be trusted!! And Ichigo believes it! Ginjou knows too much about Ichigo and Ichigo knows too little about Ginjou, let alone what exactly Ginjou wants. Also I wouldn’t put it past Ginjou if he had the rest of the Xcution member completely under his control with some mind-manipulating ability and Tsukishima has now removed that – but I don’t believe this since it sounds silly. Even when I say I don’t trust Ginjou, I don’t really believe he is a total bad guy, but there is definitely something dodgy going on with Xcution and their motives.
I actually think Tsukishima isn’t the bad guy this arc – even if I am completely wrong and appear foolish, I seriously don’t think Tsukishima is this arcs villain. He appears to be but to me it seems like he is helping Ichigo in some twisted and absurd way – forcing Ichigo so far into desperation and confusion that all Ichigo will be able to do is fight back and release all that power he has when his desire to save his family and friends erupts through the fear and confusion. Tsukishima is just playing with Ichigo psychological, trying to get Ichigo into a situation where he truly desires his power back – using Ichigo’s family and friends to provoke such a reaction. As for what Tsukishima and Ginjou want, well who knows, it could be anything – from freeing Aizen, to attaining Ichigo’s power, to requesting Ichigo to defeat some new villain, for Ichigo to save them, etc…
Well now that I think about it, Tsukishima, Ginjou and Xcution could be working together in order to drive Ichigo in that situation where he releases his Shinigami powers due to his strong desire to save his family and friends. Tsukishima could be playing the role of the bad guy in order to isolate Ichigo (both physcially and mentally) to the point where he is only able to turn to Ginjou for help and the only person Ichigo can trust. Or Tsukishima could just have Ginjou influenced by his ability (if the assumptions about Tsukishima’s ability is correct – subtle shifts in memory to produce familiarity? Adding a “bookmark” into the subjects mind?). Xcution could want to take down Kisuke? hmmmmm. Or is the Hougyoku the center of it all? Has Ichigo become its “master” (since Ichigo did overpower Aizen)? Or is there some new villain that Xcution need Ichigo’s help in defeating?
Whatever it is, I hope it’s revealed quickly, I’m getting tired of having countless possibilities for developments open and not getting any hints or answers to the many questions I have…
Also Ikumi, she appears to know more than she is letting off. And this chapter running into Ichigo just as he is running out of his house after 1 am is just too coincidental to call a coincidence. I’m starting to think Tsukishima, Ginjou and Ikumi are all in this together helping Ichigo get his powers back. They could be bad guys but I don’t think so…Anyway ignoring the problems I have with Ichigo’s current character development and the lack of pace and hints by Kubo, I still did find this chapter interesting (Tsukishima was great and the artwork was really nice) and am looking forward to seeing how things unfold from here on.