It’s a beautiful day, and I should be taking advantage of that, so this will be a brief post. I just had a few thoughts regarding new chapters of Bleach and xxxHolic released this week.
So, Bleach. This week, we come to the end (presumably) of Yumichika’s fight with Charlotte Coolhorn. Now, generally, I get a bit bored during the endless fight-sequence portions of Bleach, at least when reading them week-to-week, but I especially like Yumichika for some reason (he’s not my usual character-type at all), so I’ve been reading this fight with interest. This week, Yumichika reveals to Charlotte what we already know about his zanpakutō, which is that it is a kido-type sword, and that Yumichika will rarely display its true abilities, for fear of being scorned by the other members of the 11th Division, particularly Ikkaku or his captain. We’ve known something about this since the Soul Society arc, when Yumichika used his zanpakutō’s true shikai against Shūhei Hisagi.
The thing that really got to me this time, though, was that Yumichika admitted to Charlotte Coolhorn that, had it not been for Charlotte’s attack, which obstructed their fight from view, he would have chosen to be defeated, even to die, rather than risk having the true nature of his zanpakutō found out. This sent me down several different paths of thought.
First of all, I have a hard time believing this is about his captain. I mean, Kenpachi has never shown particular respect for him, and it seems to me that the only reason Yumichika cares about being in 11th Division particularly, is because it is where Ikkaku wants to be. Ikkaku follows Kenpachi, and Yumichika follows Ikkaku. This is how things are, right? So, then, my second thought is really? And that “Really?” goes off in all kinds of directions.
Would Ikkaku really hate Yumichika if he found out about Yumichika’s sword? I mean, these two go way back. They’ve been inseparable since their days in the Rukongai, fighting together both for fun and for survival. Would that bond really be so easily destroyed? Supposedly the 11th Division believes that those with kido-type swords are cowards, but surely Ikkaku has known Yumichika long enough to know that isn’t true. Is Ikkaku’s devotion to Kenpachi’s leadership so blind that he would truly despise his closest friend simply for the type of sword he wields? I’d like to think not, but I suppose it’s possible.
Then I can’t help wondering if Yumichika’s fear is really about Ikkaku and the others hating him, or if it is actually fear of being more powerful than Ikkaku. Let’s face it, if Yumichika used his zanpakutō’s true ability on a regular basis (an ability he can awaken simply by calling his sword by its proper name, instead of the apparently insulting “nickname” he uses to keep it feeling cranky) he would easily defeat Ikkaku, and probably anyone else he ever met in battle. We’ve only seen Yumichika use this ability twice so far (and only now have we actually seen it in action) and I have to say I’m hard-pressed to imagine who could defeat him. Certainly not Ikkaku, even with his bankai. And speaking of bankai, can you imagine how powerful Yumichika’s would be? This is just his shikai. It seems to me that Yumichika has been very careful over the years to remain in Ikkaku’s shadow, which I find astounding for someone as narcissistic as Yumichika. Then again, I suppose Yumichika’s narcissism drives him to create an image he thinks is attractive. Does he believe, for some reason, that this image includes keeping himself subordinate to his best friend? Is this fear, or what is it? Love? Is he so devoted to Ikkaku that he’s happy spending his life supporting him? Or is he afraid that he’d crush the most important person in his life if he admitted that he could easily pass him? I keep thinking about how Ikkaku doesn’t want people to know that he’s achieved bankai, because he’s afraid they’d try to make him a captain, when he only lives to serve with Kanpachi. Is Yumichika the same? Does he only live to stand behind Ikkaku? I have to say I find it all kind of sad.
[edited to add] On the other hand, am I just projecting my own ambition on someone else? If Yumichika is happy being in 11th Division with Ikkaku, who am I to say he should be trying to do something else? If he would lay down his life to keep this version of himself intact for those he loves, who am I to say he’s wrong to do it? I keep going back to to the panel where he says that he would do that, and he is so serious, and I’m reading in sadness, but I think it is just me. I just keep thinking about being someone like Yumichika in 11th Division. He already does not fit in with the others there in very obvious ways. Without Ikkaku, he’d have no place there. Who am I to say that fulfilling his “potential” is more important than keeping someone like that in his life. Though I do think being himself might not actually result in losing Ikkaku. I could be wrong. Heh, now that I read back all of this, I wonder if perhaps Yumichika may be my usual character type after all, standing by Ikkaku the way he does. That’s a bit surprising.
Tite Kubo likes to reveal his character’s backstories and true motivations over time, and that’s something I really enjoy about Bleach, so I’m sure we’ll find out more about Yumichika eventually, and I’m happy to wait until that time comes. Still, I can’t help pondering on what is really behind Yumichika’s deliberate suppression of his own potential.
Heh, I said I was going to be brief, didn’t I? Oops. Anyway, on to xxxHolic, chapter 163. You may recall my recent squee over the spoilers for this chapter, which one translator referred to as “Chapter 104” and the real thing does not disappoint. We find out this week that Doumeki is not a guy who will eat anything, as Watanuki assumed all this time, but that he is actually extremely careful about what food he will eat, and will only eat, as Yuuko tells us, “what he can trust.” I’d had a moment of similar squee a few chapters back, when it was revealed that what made Doumeki decide to stand by Watanuki was a moment when he watched Watanuki standing in the rain, holding a dead animal and telling it that he too would one day die alone. That was an incredibly touching moment in the manga, but it did strengthen the argument that, though Watanuki obviously needs Doumeki in his life, Doumeki does not actually need Watanuki at all. This week I’m getting a different impression. If it is only Watanuki’s food that Doumeki will eat (which was the implication), and only Watanuki’s food that he trusts, there is something that Doumeki needs and only Watanuki consistently provides. It suggests, further, that their relationship is symbiotic in some way, and perhaps many ways.
CLAMP, too, likes to reveal things slowly, and there is no such thing as a simple relationship in their multi-verse, so I’m sure there is still much to be revealed here. I really enjoyed this week’s revelation, and as always, it left me hungry for more; hungry literally, too, since that is what xxxHolic does. Heh. Also, Haruka can never have too much “screen time” so any chapter involving him is a winner in my book.
The end of the chapter is a bit disturbing, no? I’m always happy to see Mokona, but his presence in these types of situations usually signals great danger in store for Watanuki, so I’ll be nervous as we wait to find out just what that is.
Okay, now I really am going to go outside and enjoy some of this day! Later!