The anime season this fall is absolutely bonkers. Like, we are getting some hugely hyped new debuts such as Chainsaw Man. However, absolutely nothing prepared my veteran weeb heart for the Big 3 coming back, almost simultaneously. I mean, we already know One Piece is going on, and Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is keeping the legacy going. But did anyone really expect Bleach, of all things, to come back roaring? So, now is the perfect time to give yourself a refresher, starting with the protagonist Ichigo himself, along with his Quincy powers.
With his mother, Misaki Kurosaki, being a pure-blood Quincy and his father, Isshin Kurosaki, being a pure-blood Soul, it’s easy to see where Ichigo Kurosaki’s extremely rare mixed lineage stems from. He is a Quincy that can simultaneously make used of both his Shinigami powers and his mother’s unique Inner Hollow spirit. It’s likely that Tite Kubo, the creator for Bleach, intended to make Ichigo a Quincy so that his pairing with Orihime Inoue would work better.
The story of Bleach isn’t just about Ichigo becoming this super cool hero that saves the world, it’s also about this intricate world that Kubo-san built around different narratives regarding race mixing. Which, I know, it’s just a Shonen manga, it isn’t that deep. But it’s also not hard to read between the lines and see what the mangaka envisioned. Which, yeah, it skirts some socio-political issues, for sure.
But the idea of life and death being so malleable, with one kid at the heart of it helping maintain it while trying to keep his humanity intact, is so intriguing. I know that, technically, this is exactly why Ichigo is given such a background, but it also goes beyond that. This is why, in today’s Character Analysis, I want to shine a spotlight on Ichigo and why he makes for such a compelling protagonist. Let’s dive in.
Ichigo Kurosaki: Part Shinigami, Part Quincy, All Heart
Ichigo starts off much like every other Shonen protagonist. He’s your normal, average kid until he stumbles upon the wandering Rukia Kuchiki, who is far from her realm of Soul Society. She inhabits his body and awakens his inner potential to be a Shinigami like her, wherein he defeats a Hollow. And the rest is, well, history.
However, things do tend to get confusing when it comes to Ichigo. Initially, you could also just describe him as someone with a really high level of Reiryoku, or Spiritual Prowess. It is this which enables Ichigo to utilize his powers and channel them into his Reitasu, which is the physical manifestation of his spiritual abilities. And thanks to Rukia, Ichigo can take full advantage of all his Quincy powers while being a Shinigami. So, he just never stopped using them.
However, that doesn’t mean his Quincy powers lay dormant. The Quincy are known for being sensitive around spiritual beings, so he can sense them around him. And thanks to his mother’s unique form of Hollowfication, he can take on various versions of Hollows to fight back.
How Ichigo’s Lineage Plays Into The Plot:
I know we have a lot of these sort of ‘Chosen One’ backstories to Shonen protagonists, but it legitimately works super well in the case of Ichigo.
Because of how Ichigo is written, his background brings in a lot of conflict. On one hand, he is a great Shinigami, and they share the same ideals of protecting people by upholding the balance of the realms beyond Soul Society, such as the Hueco Mundo and even the Human World.
But it also becomes strained when Ichigo is revealed to be a half-Quincy, who are the sworn enemies of the Shinigami because they were persecuted by them. To me, it’s what adds layers of depth to his story. That it isn’t just about being a Shinigami or a Quincy and choosing sides. The Quincy is trying to destroy life as Ichigo knows it, the Shinigami are trying to win at all costs and Ichigo is the only one thinking about the Humans.
So, to call him a Shinigami would be inaccurate. Just like his father says, he is not an inherent dweller of Soul Society. He is a human who has the ability to awaken spiritual powers, aka a Soul. Since he didn’t undergo the traditional regimen needed to be a Shinigami, it is more accurate to say that he is human that happens to have Shinigami powers.