The last chapter of Bleach came out today. If it's not too much of a bother, if you read the chapter, could you please post your thoughts on it? I just feel so numb...
My thoughts are that I’m pretty darn disappointed and not at all surprised.
To be honest, I began to suspect that Orihime would be endgame the moment we came back from the first timeskip and she still had this unanswered, unaddressed crush. Narratively speaking, if she was going to ever move on from Ichigo, she would have done it after the trauma of the Hueco Mundo arc. That was her big character revelation moment; any major growth she would undergo would happen due to that series of events, and when we came back after the jump and the crush hadn’t changed at all, I figured that meant it probably never would.
Kubo’s also not the kind of author to let major characters he loves be…that kind of unhappy forever, if that makes sense. He can hardly stand to kill his favorites–Hiyori surviving being literally bisected is the most egregious example of this off the top of my head–and to let someone like Orihime be forever pining doesn’t fit his style. If she hadn’t dropped the crush by now, it had to follow he intended to let her fulfill it at the end.
(Rangiku and Gin are the closest things I can think of as exceptions to this, despite that I don’t really consider them an exception; while Rangiku’s personality is roughly analogous to Orihime’s, her heartbreak was written before the comic began, and she as a character has been obviously able to cope with and survive Gin’s loss. The way Orihime developed, she wouldn’t survive without Ichigo, and I couldn’t see Kubo allowing that to happen to her in a story like Bleach. Again, ergo, she would eventually have her feelings returned.)
(Tbh, this is partly why I faded from this fandom. It wasn’t something I particularly wanted to discuss on any boards, but as time went on I felt more and more this was probably how he was going to play it. Which was a bummer.)
Plus, that conversation with Renji right at the penultimate chapter, and the fact that Rukia wasn’t even present at the final battle? I figured that was the beginning of the end.
Along this line, I got the sense pretty early on that Kubo intended for Bleach to have a happy ending. Like, the wife-and-kid(s) and all-the-major-characters-survive-because-the-author-is-incapable-of-killing-anyone happy ending. I also got the sense that Kubo didn’t really have alternate pairings in mind for Renji and Orihime; while I thought he might have been toying with the idea of Ishida back in the very first shinigami arc, he seemed to lose interest in that ship pretty quickly. Without obvious alternatives for their romantic happiness, there was little chance he’d leave them at loose ends when all was said and done.
While I don’t want to get too much into my opinion or step on the happiness of Ichihime shippers, I do think the way he depicted it is a shame. I don’t feel Orihime ever got appropriate validation of her feelings from Ichigo throughout the story; I don’t feel Ichigo even acknowledged her feelings for him in a way that made this development meaningful or satisfying; and I don’t feel that Kubo’s cagey answers throughout Bleach’s run about Ichigo & Rukia’s relationship, paired with his frequent drawings of the two of them alone in not-strictly-platonic poses, were fair to the readers. “More than friends and less than lovers” is fine, but Ichigo doesn’t call Orihime by her first name until the final chapter of a fourteen-year-run.
Seeing that kind of relationship (where Ichigo can barely acknowledge to himself this girl might like him) be placed side by side to the bond Ichigo & Rukia have for fourteen years? It’s not even close to level, and I’m a bit annoyed that I’m expected to believe that somehow, offscreen and during a ten-year time jump, Orihime has suddenly won Ichigo’s heart. (And what a slap in the face to Orihime, too, to name the chapter where we find out they’re married “Death & Strawberry.” She doesn’t even get acknowledged in the title, not to mention she only gets a single glance from Ichigo throughout the whole chapter. It’s such a shame, because the kids are pretty cute.)
Anyway. Like I said, I began to suspect a few years ago that IchiRuki wouldn’t be endgame. My best hopes were that Kubo would at least refrain from making something else explicit canon, and those have obviously been dashed. I’m disappointed, but the thing’s done and put away; there isn’t anything I can do to change that. This is a comic. A comic I read for a long time, a comic I once loved, but a comic all the same. When I look back at myself forty years from now, Bleach will not be the great disappointment of my life.
I still have the fic I wrote; I still have the fanart I drew, and I still have so many links and posts and logs from the community I enjoyed for so long. This doesn’t change that; it never will. In the end the disappointment will fade, life will go on, and frankly, given the choice, I’d rather have those memories instead.