Hey! I know this is old but I have this question: what do you think the chapter 436 means? I'm talking about the scene where Ichigo is thinking about his moments of "pride" and then he thinks about Rukia. I know that there's a lot of essays about this, but I really like the way you analize things, so I wanted to know what do you think about this scene.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the definitive analysis of that moment. I really have nothing to add to it, because it covers it all relatively clearly.
I guess I can try, although I’m mostly reiterating and condensing: Rukia embodies Ichigo’s ideal of the Shinigami. She gave him the power to protect in Chapter 1, and she gave him the values to use that power with in Chapter 2 (it’s no coincidence it was called “Starter”). The post points out in exacting detail that she’s been the one to motivate him every time he’s strayed from the course, and he’s always been adamant that he considers himself to be, or is trying to be, a Shinigami.
The conclusion is pretty obvious: he’s always striving to match the example Rukia set for him, because she’s his savior. (Rukia, meanwhile, considers him to be hers, as can be seen when she considers Hitsugaya’s speech about how he changed things and elsewhere.) And this is really their dynamic: they provide one another with an upward spiral that continuously lifts each of them up, which they both believe in with absolute certainty.
To digress, this doesn’t overtly exist anywhere else in the series. We’re given plenty of examples of romantic love (Isshin and Masaki, Ryuuken and Kanae, Kaien and Miyako, and Byakuya and Hisana) but the important thing to note is these were all relationships of comfort. None of them inspired any of the participants to grow significantly stronger.
Renji gets stronger to surpass Byakuya, out of a desire to make Rukia happy, but that desire had no real origin in Rukia herself. (And, frankly, he fails, even in the end.)
Chad and Orihime both resolve to get stronger to stand beside Ichigo, but those desires have no real origin in Ichigo himself. (And frankly, they repeatedly fail, particularly within the Lost Substitute Shinigami arc, as the article points out.) The strongest moment that Orihime has in this capacity stems from seeing Tatsuki get hurt by Numb Chandelier, and gaining her powers and finding the resolve to use lethal force—the only time she does so.
Other examples exist, like Gin embarking upon revenge for Rangiku, which she never truly wanted anyway.
Ichigo and Rukia are the only characters who share this mutual-savior dynamic, which as is pointed out, is not really about saving but honoring and reciprocating what’s already been done. (I feel it prudent at this point to yet again point out that Ichigo and Rukia were, if not suicidal, then absolutely fatalistic when they met one another, and Renji, Chad, Orihime, Tatsuki, etc., had no impact upon that whatsoever.)
Ichigo and Rukia lift one another up from the very bottom to the very top, from the equivalent of depressed foot soldiers to the equivalent of among the strongest of the Captains.
No other set of characters achieves anything even remotely similar and the next greatest advance (Renji’s) is achieved through direct exposure to seeing the dynamic in action, i.e., watching Ichigo do what he himself could not.
This completely unique dynamic was, in my opinion, going to be instrumental in changing the status quo.
To digress a little farther, this is why IH and RR do, respectively, nothing and very little for me, personally. Orihime and Renji don’t really develop much in response to Ichigo and Rukia, and Ichigo and Rukia don’t develop at all in response to Orihime and Renji. I can see there being some comfort in RR, but not really in IH, for reasons I won’t go into here, but there is certainly nothing of drawing out the best in one another. It simply isn’t there.
To return to the point, Ichigo has modeled himself upon Rukia, which is why he’s so adrift without her, and why the notion of her—yes, his love for her—activates his Fullbring, which is merely a step on the way back to becoming a Shinigami again to him, so he might continue on her path, which is what he’s been craving during the time skip (and indeed, throughout the series).
Meanwhile, you might say that what Hitsugaya is later articulating to Rukia about how Ichigo changed Soul Society, is proof that he had begun to reform it in her image, with the values she had herself professed to him.
This is in large part why later events were such a travesty. We were supposed to see this vision, this ideal of what Shinigami could be, as embodied in Rukia and then Ichigo as well, become the standard reality. The old guard of the Gotei 13 with all their failings (e.g., Mayuri, Yamamoto, Kenpachi, yes, even Shunsui, Ukitake, etc.) were distortions of this ideal. (Don’t forget, to pick just one example, how quick Nanao was to suggest killing Chad.)
Anyway, I don’t know that I really answered the question that well other than to point at the essay, or that this is well-organized, but those are some of my thoughts on the matter.