You know what I love even more than a good plotline in anime? A good plot line involving an anti-hero style character. You know exactly what I’m talking about here, right? I like to call it the Sasuke Uchiha effect, where a character that was shown to be an ally at first, became an enemy and then went right back to being an ally right when we needed them most. Sadly, I feel like Bleach missed out on that memo with a certain character known as Uryu Ishida.
Look, on the surface, I know why Uryu Ishida betrayed Ichigo Kurosaki and the gang. He did it to avenge his mother’s death by getting right under Yhwach’s nose and killing him when he least expected it. But while it sounds pretty standard in theory, the execution of this plot line left much to be desired. There are plenty of loops and holes here that made fans feel like the mangaka, Kubo-san, wasn’t handling his character arc well.
And I get why. I bring up Sasuke again because he had somewhat of the same reasons. Maybe not initially in Naruto Shippuden, but later it does become that with him trying to destroy Konohagakure to avenge his brother, Itachi Uchiha’s death. But the journey taken here is more layered and he never really posed as an undercover triple agent. With Uryu, it leaves a lot more up in the air and doesn’t really end up going anywhere meaningful. In the end, even his sudden redemption feels empty and not earned.
But now that we are finally getting a conclusive end to the anime through the Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War adaptation, I guess it’s a good time as any to discuss where the ball was dropped for Uryu Ishida. Because it wasn’t like his character arc was anything out of the blue, just mismanaged. But breaking it down is the goal for today’s segment of Character Analysis – where we take a closer look at individuals across anime. So. Let’s dive right in!
Table of contents
Uryu Ishida: The Unassuming Traitor In Soul Society
When we first meet Uryu, he and Ichigo are not friends. Like, they do not hit it off, whatsoever. However, a friendly match of fighting and seeing who can slay the most Hollows in one go and, well, they become much more relaxed.
However, their bond runs even closer. It turns out that his father, Ryūken Ishida, was originally going to marry Masaki Kurosaki. However, that didn’t pan out and he ended up marrying Kanae Katagiri, who was a Gemischt Quincy employed at his household. However, she affected by the Masaki infection and lost consciousness to it the day Masaki died. And three months after that, Yhwach came over to absorb every Quincy he deemed impure. This included Kane.
After that, Uryu was never himself again. He trained hard to become stronger and was eventually recruited by Yhwach into the Wandenreich’s Sternritter, made easier when he saw his grandfather die to the Hollows that the Shinigami never came to protect them from. Eventually he rose up the ranks, to the point where he was even slated to be Yhwach’s heir. Of course, that was all a ploy on Uryu’s part, who was biding his time and gaining trust to get his revenge.
Why Uryu Ishida’s Arc Feels Like Such A Waste:
So, you have a solid motive here. However, that isn’t enough to carry a good betrayal plot line. It turns out that, no matter how much Uryu planned for it, Yhwach somehow always knew Uryu was going to betray him?
But then why induct him into the Sternritter, knowing that he was a possible weak link? You could argue it’s about keeping your enemies close, but that specific faction literally knows when Yhwach is vulnerable. From any point of view, that is too big a risk to have, especially if he has growing ties with people in Soul Society.
Even his lineage as a Quincy isn’t enough to fuel the ‘traitor’ in him, considering that was never even brought up until the very last moments. And then Yhwach could’ve used that to build his trust back, utilize him as a ‘common goals’ type of scenario. But none of that happened.
In the end, his revenge went to waste because he ended up helping Ichigo defeat Yhwach. So, I guess all’s well that ends well?