Who Is Ikumi Unagiya & How Was She Able to See Ichigo’s Substitute Shinigami Badge?
Tite Kubo has introduced numerous characters in Bleach, and we could really find all sorts of profiles in the series. Now, while we mostly talked about the Shinigami and their opponents, we wanted to use this opportunity to introduce one human character from the series, and she is Ikumi Unagiya. Now, Ikumi is a supportive character, but she has been a part of Ichigo’s life in two of the most difficult periods of his life, and we think that she definitely deserves a whole article dedicated just to her, which is why we have written his text for you. Let’s see who is Ikumi Unagiya in Bleach.
Ikumi Unagiya is a human and the owner of the Unagiya Shop, a specific store that specializes in doing the oddest of jobs for its customers. She is a single mother and has a son. When Ichigo lost his Shinigami powers after defeating Aizen, she gave him a job and kept him despite his constant absences and cared for him like an older sister, telling him that he could always come to her for help.
The rest of this article is going to focus, as you’ve probably deduced for yourselves, on Ikumi Unagiya, the most famous shop owner in Kurakara Town, aside from Kisuke Urahara himself. Ikumi played a large role in Ichigo’s life in some important moments of his life, so we have decided to tell you everything that there is to know about her. Spoilers from the manga are going to be present, so be careful how you approach the article.
Who is Ikumi Unagiya in Bleach?
Ikumi Unagiya is Ichigo’s employer as well as the manager of the Unagiya shop in Karakura, which takes on various tasks. Ikumi is very confident and a bit brutal at times. So, without much warning, she beats up several thugs and kidnaps Ichigo so that he won’t skip work any longer. Ichigo is somewhat intimidated by her because of this behavior. In front of her son, however, she turns into a very sensitive and loving woman who cannot harm a fly.
She is also a very proud person, as evidenced by the fact that she refuses to change the name of her business for reasons of tradition. Since she only hired Ichigo as a temp, she seems to be running the shop mostly on her own, which shows her to be a very independent and enterprising woman. At first, she only appears on the phone when Ichigo calls her from school to take a week off. She then yells at him, complaining that he’s only worked one day for the past week and threatening to fire him if he doesn’t show up for work.
However, Ichigo takes the threat very calmly and simply hangs up. A little later, when Ichigo and Uryū mess with a group of thugs who want revenge for a comrade who was beaten by Ichigo, including Yokochini, she suddenly appears in the schoolyard and simply knocks out all the attackers. She mocks that Ichigo is having a good time Ikumi Unagiya appears at Ichigo’s school and finishes off the entire thug squad, telling Ichigo that she would not let him get away with any more truancy before summarily tying and gagging him, packing him into her van, and abducting him.
Once at the Unagiya shop, she removes the tape from his mouth at Ichigo’s request, on the condition that he doesn’t attempt to escape. After another customer calls to order an eel, which is a misunderstanding due to the kanji in the name “Unagiya,” Ichigo asks her why she doesn’t just change the name. Ikumi emphasizes that this name comes from her ancestors, and that’s why she doesn’t want to give it up so easily.
When she wants to give Ichigo more jobs, her son Kaoru Unagiya suddenly appears from the next room. She goes through a complete transformation, quickly swapping her cap and gloves for a heart-printed apron and asking him if anything is wrong, gently admonishing him not to walk around barefoot and taking him back to the other room. Kaoru remarks that Ichigo should keep his hands off his mother, to which Ichigo simply replies that he’s not interested in an older lady anyway, for which Ikumi hits him with a book.
Suddenly, Ginjō Kūgo shows up at the store to offer Ichigo a batch of ramen. Ikumi finally asks Ginjō what he wants from her and serves him tea. Ginjō explains that he wants to investigate a certain person and puts a photo of Isshin on the table. When Ichigo angrily reacts to the apparent provocation, Ikumi abruptly intervenes, stating that the store is now closing, she would keep the photo, and consider the job.
Should she accept him, she would report to Ginjō. When Ichigo comes to her from Xcution HQ after the first training session with Riruka to take even more leave, she becomes irritated. When she realizes that he is keeping something from her and that something is bothering him, she tells him that he can always reach out to her as it is perfectly fine to confide in an adult once in a while.
She reappeared briefly during the final arc after Ichigo was kicked out of the Hōōden by Nimaiya for not being able to pass the Asauchi test. Ichigo, who was not aware of his true nature and his whole story, was sent back to the human world by Nimaiya so he could come back stronger, which he ultimately did, but it wasn’t that simple. Ichigo was sent back to his house, but just as his father was about to greet him, he ran away to Ikumi’s place, where she also works, where she gave him shelter and a scolding for not coming to her when he was in a bad place. Ikumi said that he has been like his older sister and that adults should be there to help children when they need it. Oh, she also kicked his butt.
During that same night, someone rang on Ikumi’s door, but when she opened it, no one was there. Ichigo then saw his father in his Shinigami uniform and then went back home with him, where Isshin told him the whole story. He had forgotten his Substitute Shinigami Badge at Ikumi’s, who saw it and returned it to Ichigo the next day. But how was she able to see it in the first place?!
How was Ikumi able to see Ichigo’s Substitute Shinigami Badge in Bleach?
This is actually a question that has never been properly answered by Kubo, which is probably due to the fact that the final arc of the manga was rushed, so he paid less attention to detail than he did before. Namely, when Nimaiya kicks Ichigo back into the human world because of his inability to pair up with an Asauchi, Ichigo goes to Ikumi’s, where he leaves his Substitute Shinigami Badge by accident.
Ikumi sees it and returns it to Ichigo the next day, which seemingly doesn’t cause any issues with Ichigo (unlike when Tatsuki saw it at the beginning of the story). And while we can explain the narrative tardiness, how was Ikumi able to see it in the first place because the Badge should not be visible to ordinary humans?
If you thought that Ikumi was, like Urahara, a Shinigami in disguise, you were wrong (at least for now; we don’t know whether Kubo intends to change anything later on); Ikumi is a normal human, but like Tatsuki Arisawa and Don Kanonji (but unlike Keigo or Mizuiro), she was able to see the Badge. This is actually fine, lore-wise. We just didn’t get a proper explanation, which is why we at Fiction Horizon are here for you.
Namely, it has been explained on several occasions that Karakura Town is special in so many ways and that the concentration of Spiritual Power in Ichigo’s hometown is amazing, which is why Aizen targeted it for its plans. This actually means that there are a lot of inhabitants of Karakura Town with high Spiritual Powers, regardless of their status. The best example of this are both Orihime and Tatsuki, with Orihime being able to activate her powers at one point, whereas Tatsuki was only able to see things after her encounter with Orihime’s brother Hollow.
Don Kanonji is also a great example, as he can see and fight Hollows, as well as Souls, but we don’t know whether he was born in Karakura or not. But, he is an example that it is possible to have strong Spiritual Powers without being a Quincy, a Fullbringer, or a Shinigami.
This means that Ikumi is simply a human with high Spiritual Pressure, like Don Kanonji, which gives her limited insight into the non-human worlds and entities. It doesn’t seem like she’s aware of that, fully, and from what we understood, she did not see Isshin in his Shinigami uniform (although we don’t know whether he simply used Shunpo or not), so her powers are limited, but are enough to see Ichigo’s Badge, and she would probably be able to see Ichigo in his Shinigami uniform, just like Tatsuki did initially.