Posted on | April 5, 2009 | 3 Comments
In light of the recent events in Bleach (up to ch. 352), this has been an interesting journey for Ichigo and his current form will probably have its consequences on his character and story. In a strange way, his monstrous appearance right now could be said to have resulted from his intense desire to protect his nakama and a whole ‘mountain-load of people’.
The need to rescue Rukia led to his training in the Shattered Shaft, which became the moment of his Hollow’s birth. Although Shirosaki’s presence wasn’t as menacingly prominent in the beginning, a few of Ichigo’s first lessons in the art of combat have surprisingly featured his Hollow. One could argue that Zangetsu taught him how to appreciate the zanpakuto (and I don’t disagree) but it doesn’t change the fact that it was Shirosaki who had to lay down the facts for him. Zangetsu taught him the Getsuga Tenshou but it was Shirosaki who unleashed the first Kuroi Getsuga Tenshou (later noted by Ulquiorra as being similar to a Cero), which became Ichigo’s signature release of raw force whenever he was in bankai. Even the idea of spinning the zanpakuto originated from Shirosaki.
The apparent imitation of his Hollow’s moves eventually progressed to an actual tapping into his Hollow powers after his training with the Vizards. And this was so that he could maintain his original self to prevent his friends, family, the people around him, etc from getting hurt, once again highlighting the protective nature in his being. The cessation in the development of Ichigo’s shinigami powers is most noticeable here. His bankai remained as it was when first revealed in the fight with Byakuya and the Getsuga Tenshou, his primary attack. This can very easily be explained by the fact that Zangetsu was no longer around and Shirosaki wasn’t going to simply become his new mentor. Although usage of the mask granted Ichigo with increased strength and power, it didn’t teach him any new fighting techniques since his Hollow was being suppressed, neither did it nurture a correct mindset for approaching a battle. If anything, the presence of his Hollow seemed to push him to aggression, ironic considering that he wanted to restrain his Hollow so that he could have full control of himself.
Ichigo went to Hueco Mundo with mixed focus. His desire to protect was attenuated with his desire to fight, and the environment of Hueco Mundo would only serve to strengthen the Hollow-like qualities of his being, both physically and mentally. Despite the gaping hole in his chest, Ichigo still stood up as always in response to a cry for help. However, this wasn’t the re-emergence of Shirosaki out to save his ass, this was Ichigo still spurred by his mantra to protect but without a heart, Ichigo, technically a soul in Hueco Mundo, has become a full-fledged Hollow. He was using Sonido instead of Shunpo, firing Ceros instead of Getsuga Tenshous and in ch. 352 throws his sword into Ishida’s abdomen. Never has Ichigo let go of his sword during a battle as long as there’s still an ounce of strength in his hands, but here he discards the last visible feature of his shinigami self.
Ichigo’s current form is almost like a morbid manifestation of his protective complex, the twisted result of his hunger for power to preserve all that is important to him. And I wonder where Kubo will take Ichigo from here.