Thursday, June 6, 2013

Heroes and Villains from Bleach

Heroes and Villains. They make or break a good story. Today I've signed up for the Heroes and Villains Blogfest hosted by Dani at Entertaining Interests and Jackie at Bouquet of Books which has us listing our favorite heroes and villains. Now, man, that's hard for me to do because there are just so many fantastic heroes and villains I could name. I love the character aspect of story.  So I've decided to limit myself to two exceptional examples. Characters that I pondered long after the story was over and who taught me new things about story and character.


The many faces of Ichigo Kurosaki
Ichigo Kurosaki is the hero and main character of the anime series Bleach, which I've mentioned before because I'm a bit obsessed with it. As a character, Ichigo took some time to grow on me. In some ways he's a typical teenager and I've never much liked that breed. But as the story progresses you begin to see how he's different and awesome. One of the most typically annoying things about teenagers is their overweening confidence in their abilities and in this regard Ichigo is no exception. He tends to go into conflicts and battles assuming that he will be able to handle it, sure that he will win simply because he must. But the difference here is that Ichigo's confidence doesn't come from arrogance or conceit, it's not founded in himself. His confidence and his surety in battle is founded in the strength that he receives from his friends and from his need to protect them. Because of this Ichigo is able to accomplish amazing feats.

 Ichigo Quotes:

"I'm not superman, so I can't say anything big like I'll protect everyone on earth. I'm not a modest guy who will say it's enough if I can protect as many people as my two hands can handle either. I want to protect a mountain-load of people."

"It's meaningless to just live, it's meaningless to just fight. I want to win!"

"The difference... in strength... what about it? Do you think I should give up... just because you're stronger than me...? I've always known you were strong. Nothing I see now will change my mind. I will defeat you Ulquiorra."

"When you cross blades, you can tell a little of what your opponent's thinking. I'm not saying you can read their mind or anything like that, but you can tell what kind of resolve lies behind their blade, whether they respect you or look down on you. That kind of thing, you can tell. When I'm actually fighting, there's no time to think about it, so I don't usually realize until afterwards, but in general, the stronger the opponent is, the more of that "heart" seems to come across."

What Ichigo, and other anime heroes like him (Inuyasha, Natsu), teach me is that heart really does matter. Inner strength makes a difference. I like him not because he's powerful, though he is, and not because he always wins, which he generally does. I don't like him because he's got a tough attitude or because he looks cool in his Shinigami outfit, though that's true as well. I like him because he puts others first. He's able to completely throw himself into a fight without holding anything back because he isn't thinking about himself. He wants to win, he is determined to win not for himself, but for the people he is protecting. He is a real hero.

But a great hero needs a great villain. There are almost a literal ton of bad guys in Bleach, but I want to focus on the one whose conflict with Ichigo was, I think, the most compelling and whose final battle with Ichigo was easily the most epic.


Ulquiorra's normal appearance on the right and his "Resurreccion" form on the left.

Ulquiorra Cifer is not actually a "main villain" of the series. Ulquiorra is not human, but is a member of an extremely powerful caste of creatures that are born of human souls that do not pass into the afterlife upon their death and become corrupted. He is an underling of Aizen, who could be comparable to Sauron on the Dark Lord scale. Nonetheless, he is a formidable opponent. He was responsible for kidnapping Orihime, a close friend of Ichigo, which causes Ichigo and some of his other friends to attack the enemy's stronghold to rescue her.  Ulquiorra is also responsible for Orihime's care and it is in this way that a strange relationship develops between them.

The battle between Ichigo and Ulquiorra is intense. Ulquiorra, an embodiment of "emptiness" reveals multiple forms, each more powerful than the last. Ichigo is really no match against him, but continues to fight. In fact, Ulquiorra actually kills Ichigo at one point only to see Ichigo summoned back by Orihime's screams in a new, powerful and terrifying form.

Ulquiorra quotes:

"Hearts, you say? You Humans are always so quick to speak of such things. As though you carry your hearts in the very palms of your hands. But this eye of mine perceives all. There is nothing that it overlooks. If this eye cannot see a thing, then it does not exist. That is the assumption under which I have always fought. What is this "heart"? If I tear open that chest of yours, will I see it there? If I smash open that skull of yours, will I see it there?"

"Kurosaki Ichigo... Those are the words of a man who does not know true despair. Very well... I shall teach it to you. Now you will know true despair..."

"I see. This. Yes. This thing in my hand is the heart?"

Ulquiorra ultimately dies by Ichigo's hand and his dying words (the last quote above) reveal his secret longing as he and Orihime reach out to each other. Ulquiorra is, to me, a sympathetic villain. Those who live in despair, once knew hope. Those who are empty, long to fill their emptiness.

Since I spent so long talking about these two characters, I'll refrain from listing any more. This has been a fun exploration. And now, a gratuitous image of Ichigo and Renji Abarai, cause they're awesome.



  1. GREAT characters!! My son would like this post! I really love Anime graphics.

  2. Ok. I Am going to need to check out Bleach now.

    The Other Side

  3. I have the whole of the first season sitting on my shelf, I really must get round to watching it :). Thanks for the character breakdowns, they sound really engaging and might just make me get round to taking the cellophane off the dvds.
    Tasha's Thinkings

  4. I actually own quite a lot of Bleach on DVD, BUT I've not watched it yet - I really must get round to it and your post is encouraging me to do that. I like anime villains (well, the few I've watched anyway), they are never simple :), and, neither it appears, is your choice of hero, either.

    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles

  5. Love this! Those are great quotes from both.

    Thanks for joining the blogfest! :)


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