A manga written and illustrated by Tite Kubo had its anime adaptation launched on October 5, 2004. Since then, Bleach has affirmed itself as one of the crowd-favorite shounen series, airing for a total of 8 years, with the fans currently awaiting the Thousand-Year Blood War arc to be aired. The story is about a high-schooler named Kurosaki, Ichigo who obtained the power of a Shinigami after having met Kuchiki, Rukia – a Shinigami from Soul Society.
Ichigo has no romantic attachment to Rukia. The two bonded through a series of events that required certain decisions and sacrifices to be made, which brought them closer together and they became great friends. She was the person who knew how to get through to him when he seemed to feel discouraged, weak, or beaten, and he is the person who is protective of those he holds dear.
It is his protective nature and the chemistry the two have going on between them that might allude to certain romantic involvement. In addition, remembering the love story between Ichigo’s parents – his father was a Shinigami and his late mother was an Echt Quinchy – it is understandable how some fans wanted to see this kind of fated romance.
However, if we view the entirety of the Bleach storyline, it is clear that there was never an intention of a romantic involvement on Ichigo’s or Rukia’s part. Their friendship was simply made special due to the fact that the two are different entities from two separate worlds which, under normal circumstances, would have never crossed paths.
Ichigo’s Relationship With Rukia
Ichigo shares a special connection with all of his friends, and Rukia is no exception. She was the one who gave him the powers of a Shinigami. The one who followed him down the road pushed him to his limits and on which he faced many adversaries.
Ichigo is a caring person who acts somewhat cold and distant while trying to shoulder the burdens of others on top of his own. He always aims to be stronger so that he could protect everyone and prevent tragedies, much like the one that happened when he was but a toddler left motherless at the hand of a Hollow named Grand Fisher. In many regards, Ichigo actually reminded Rukia of her late superior – Kaien Shiba. Both relationships were of great value to her, but neither was romantic.
From Ichigo’s perspective, Rukia could have firstly been like a superior who, with time, became someone similar to a fellow classmate whom he befriended. They both trained to become stronger, pushed each other, and were there for each other. In her, he saw someone who guided him, supported him, and who he wanted to be there for as a sign of gratitude, which in time, grew into a close friendship. On his journey, Rukia played a role of a friend who could recognize and understand his frustrations, anger, fears, weaknesses, and struggles.
Meanwhile, the person Ichigo treasured and kept safe, was Orihime Inoue. The difference between the two relationships was always clear and distinct. Over time, the romance between Ichigo and Orihime became more vivid. The limits he would go to in order to protect her and the effect she had on him kept progressing in the beautifully written build-up of their romance.
The Romance Between Ichigo and Orihime
Looking back on the story, the moments shared between Orihime and Ichigo indicated their mutual affection towards each other without fail. When Ichigo lost a fight against Yami in Karakura town, he became remorseful and Rukia was the one to put him back on his feet, and motivate him to continue fighting and become stronger. She was also able to read another thing that was on his mind – the painful realization that he was unable to protect and might endanger the ones he loves. He couldn’t bear seeing Orihime hurt or the thought of her suffering.
Orihime was the one he had the deepest connection with and who always noticed if something was off. Just one glance at his eyes or him uttering a single line would be enough for her to be able to tell. Even when Kon posed as Ichigo and managed to fool his friends, Orihime knew that he wasn’t her Ichigo. He seemed to be aware of this, hence her words affected him in such a manner during his fight with Grimmjow in Hueco Mundo.
While on a mission to rescue her, Ichigo was ready to put his life on the line. The very deed Kuchiki Byakuya had committed when he stood in the way of Gin’s Shinso to keep Rukia safe, and when Renji refused to let Rukia be harmed back in Soul Society. Ichigo was the one who was there to lay down his life for Orihime. Even then, his first thought was to always reassure her that he hasn’t lost his sense of self. Thus, with her by his side, he couldn’t go astray, regardless of how much the path he has on affected him.
Therefore, Ichigo’s relationship with Rukia can be characterized as nothing other than friendship. They knew each other’s fears, strengths, and ambitions, and most of all, their personalities were pretty similar in their stubbornness, and desire to fight and become stronger. There was no romance in that relationship. Both Rukia and Ichigo already had people who deeply cared for them, who would put everything at stake to protect them, and for whom they would do the same.