Two of the main characters of Bleach are Rukia and Ichigo, who were able to form a bond as early as the first few episodes of the series. At first, it did seem like the storyline was moving to a narrative where they could end up liking each other romantically but, instead, remained friends throughout the entire manga and anime because they ended up with different people. But was there ever a time when Rukia liked Ichigo?
Rukia only ever saw Ichigo as a friend, and that means that their relationship was always platonic in nature. There was never a time when she showed romantic interest in Ichigo at all, as Rukia was simply drawn to Ichigo because of how much he reminded her of Kaien, a mentor figure that died long ago.
Tite Kubo, the author of the Bleach manga, said it himself that he never meant for Rukia and Ichigo to be romantically involved because Bleach was never a love story. In that regard, Rukia only saw Ichigo as a sworn ally and as one of her best friends. That said, let’s look at the details behind Rukia’s relationship with Ichigo and how she really saw him.
Does Rukia Like Ichigo?
While there are plenty of different characters in the Bleach manga and anime storyline, what we know is that two of the characters that were introduced quite early in the narrative were Ichigo and Rukia. Of course, we know that Ichigo was supposed to be a simple high school student. However, he met Rukia, a Shinigami, when a Hollow attacked him. And that was what forced Ichigo to assume Rukia’s role as a Shinigami because he ended up substituting for her after that entire incident.
As such, throughout the earlier part of Bleach, the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia was beginning to form as Rukia served as the mentor to the substitute Shinigami, who needed to learn how to use his powers. In fact, Rukia actually assumed a mortal form and became Ichigo’s classmate. Rukia became one of Ichigo’s first few friends in Bleach, as he ended up making more friends and allies along the way.
Due to the nature of their setup, Rukia became one of Ichigo’s staunchest allies because he was willing to do anything to help him out. On top of that, the feeling was mutual because Ichigo himself was willing to go out of his way to help Rukia out, especially during the Soul Society Invasion Arc, when Ichigo and the others invaded the realm of the Shinigami to rescue Rukia.
Rukia also went out of her way a lot of times to save and help Ichigo out when he was in trouble. There were also a lot of lighthearted, playful moments between the two characters, especially during the times when there were no enemies. So, does that mean that Rukia likes Ichigo?
During the entire Bleach manga and anime storyline, there was never a point where Rukia expressly showed her feelings towards Ichigo in words or in action. She never said anything regarding how she felt towards Ichigo. On top of that, Rukia didn’t even act like she had romantic feelings for him.
In a manner of speaking, Rukia probably likes Ichigo but not in a way that is romantic. She wouldn’t be going out of her way to help him out whenever he was in trouble if she didn’t like him. But as far as being in love or romantically interested in Ichigo, it is most likely that Rukia never did have such feelings for him.
What Is Rukia’s Relationship With Ichigo?
While fans were wondering throughout the entire Bleach anime what Rukia’s feelings were for Ichigo and whether or not she ever liked him in a romantic sense at all, let’s first talk about the entire relationship between these characters.
At first, Rukia was forced into a mentorship kind of relationship with Ichigo because he took her mantle as a Shinigami and became a substitute Shinigami in her place. As such, Rukia needed to be the one to help him learn how to use his powers and abilities as a Shinigami. But they eventually became very close friends because of all of the different battles they went through together, especially after Ichigo rescued Rukia from Soul Society when she was about to be put to death for giving her Shinigami powers to a human.
However, the author of the Bleach manga, Tite Kubo, said it himself that he never intended for Rukia and Ichigo to have something romantic between each other because that would mean taking the focus away from what Bleach really is.
“I get asked about that a lot!” Kubo told fans at San Diego Comic-Con some few years back. “I don’t want to make Bleach into a love story because there are much more exciting things about their personalities and things that they can do instead of getting into the romance aspect of their relationships.”
Of course, we do know that a good part of Bleach focused on Ichigo harnessing his powers and learning how to become stronger so that he could protect his friends. In that regard, the opportunity for a romantic relationship with any of the characters in the storyline was slim at best. And, of course, while we do know that Ichigo ended up marrying one of his allies, he was never going to marry Rukia because of the fact that they never were romantically interested in one another.
From the very start, the one thing that drew Rukia to Ichigo was the fact that he reminded her of Kaien Shiba, who was one of her mentors and big brother figures back when she was still just learning the ropes as a Shinigami. However, Kaien perished at the hands of a Hollow a long time ago. Even Byakuya, Rukia’s older brother, noticed how Ichigo was so similar to Kaien, and that was when he understood why his younger sister would be naturally drawn to him.
In a sense, Rukia viewed Ichigo as a big brother figure because of his similarity to a person that she admired as a mentor. It was as if the relationship between Rukia and Ichigo was the “what if” story of what could have happened if Kaien did not die. That is why, throughout the entire Bleach storyline, it was clear that there was something similar to a sibling relationship between Rukia and Ichigo, who always quarreled with each other on trivial matters.
This is different from Rukia’s relationship with Renji, who she ended up with at the end of the Bleach manga. From the very start, it was clear that Rukia and Renji were not simply just friends, as Renji had long admired her ever since they were still kids. Of course, Rukia probably knew that Renji liked her but opted not to do anything about it. That’s why there was something awkward between the two, as Rukia was not as childish and as playful as she was whenever she was with Renji in comparison to when she was sharing screen time with Ichigo.
You could think of it as something similar to how you probably couldn’t act like your normal self whenever you were around someone you had a crush on during your high school years. That was the same thing in relation to Rukia and Renji, as the tension between them was palpable. In comparison, the relationship between Rukia and Ichigo was simply platonic in nature because they could be their normal selves whenever they are with one another but were never able to truly become quite emotional in a romantic sense.