Friday’s Feature: What Does Orihime Really Contribute To Bleach?

There’s no denying that I’ve been a massive Bleach fan for a fairly long time now. It was one of the first anime I watched as an adult and it really contributed to my ongoing love of anime. However, despite finding Bleach hilarious, entertaining, exciting, and just fun to watch, the flaws of the series are pretty much open secrets not just to those who endured all that filler to get to an ending that ultimately went about sixty episodes past where it should have (though that’s debatable) but also to those who just listened in to the discussions about Bleach.

So why am I picking on Orihime?

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I’m going to put it out there, that in the first season of Bleach I really liked Orihime’s character. Then she kind of became mostly useless either sitting on the sidelines or wringing her hands in fear as everyone else contributed for a few seasons. In season 7, she had few moments of genuine cool. Really, the start of season 7 actually gave her a little bit of agency as she made her choices and worked at becoming stronger. Then she became a Princess in a cage; worse, just bait to lure in everyone else. She wasn’t even actually valuable as a hostage.

This actually isn’t a problem just for Orihime. Bleach suffers from an extraordinarily large and frequently underutilised cast. Regularly the various Shinigami are prevented from acting by the most arbitrary of reasons just to ensure Ichigo and company can actually be the ones who swoop in and save the day. Then even amongst Ichigo and his friends, the others are almost always sidelined by the final battle. They might get their match up and few moments to shine with in a fight but ultimately the show is all about Ichigo and they aren’t allowed to steal his thunder (even when it seems like they’d be better suited to take on the current threat).

However, I’m going to pick specifically on Orihime for three reasons.

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01. The show expects us to take her seriously as a love interest eventually and while we know Ichigo loves saving Damsels in Distress he isn’t the Captain of the Enterprise sweeping them off their feet. Why is Orihime unique compared to the other characters or the other girls he rescues along the way?

Part of the answer to that lies in season 1 where we see that Ichigo has some genuine feelings toward Orihime as a human being. He remembers (after some prodding) the death of her brother and how she cried. He also works to remind the brother of his love for his sister (given he empathises with the older brother’s plight). While this might not seem overly significant, Ichigo’s character is pretty insular and doesn’t have a lot of genuine connections. Other than Chad, the guys he hangs out with at school are just there. He talks to them but shows little human warmth toward them. Same with most of the girls. Ichigo even remembering Orihime (vaguely though it may be) was a pretty stand out moment.

However, the show then drops this line of thought for a lot of seasons. And I mean, a lot. While it is clear Orihime is fixated on Ichigo, he’s just doing his thing swinging his sword around and other than treating her like every other person who tries to help him out, there’s really not a lot there. Realistically, if it weren’t for Orihime’s ongoing friendship with Rukia, you might have forgotten she existed at all.

Then, we get Orihime’s farewell after she gets given 12 hours to say goodbye. For all that it makes sense for Orihime to feel the way she does as she has remained stuck on Ichigo, Ichigo’s reaction to Orihime being missing seems blown way out of proportion given how little attention he’s paid her in any of the previous arcs since the first one. The end result of this is that you often aren’t sure if this is a relationship developing or merely a girl making puppy dog eyes at an indifferent guy.

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02. The second reason I’m going to pick on Orihime is the severe underutilisation of her power. Not only is she not used well as a character, she has quite possibly the coolest power in a show full of characters with crazy powers, and other than the healing (which isn’t actually healing so much as rejecting past injuries right out of existence) Orihime almost never gets to do anything. She shields occasionally but either gets blown back anyway or just gets stuck standing and holding a shield. But that’s about as far as it goes.

Let’s imagine the fight between Grimmjow and Ichigo for a moment where Orihime is standing on the pillar looking on all frightened and concerned. She’s occasionally shielding herself but mostly she’s just standing their looking worried though her inner monologue tries to convince us she knows Ichigo will win (and hey, plot armour certainly agrees with her). What if she’d actually thrown the shield in between them as Grimmjow had tried to land a hit on Ichigo and then, after Grimmjow’s momentum was lost, she dropped the shield allowing Ichigo pretty much a free hit. Think how much faster that fight would have been over.

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Okay, Ichigo would have been ticked off at the cheap stunt, but who cares. Life or death situation people. But no, Orihime will stand quietly and wait because Ichigo asked her to. She may as well be a golden cup waiting to be claimed for all the good she’s doing as a character in this sequence and this isn’t the only time Orihime is given a similar role during a fight.

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03. Finally, worse than simply not being an empowered female character (we get that it is a male action anime and while there are some tough women in the story, it isn’t exactly the champion of equal opportunity) Orihime makes the fatal error of losing any sense of a personality. Season 1 introduces us to a girl who has had tragedy in her past but makes up for it by smiling brightly and throwing herself at whimsical fantasies. She makes creative food choices, laughs with her friends, and liberally interprets school assignments. At no point does she succumb to simply being an air-head as she is a keen observer of those around her and is one of the few that notes Ichigo’s change after Rukia arrives and one of the few who notices Rukia’s disappearance.

By the end of its run, Orihime may still be the one who consoles others and has a word of encouragement but all of her other personality traits have been diminished to almost nothingness. Other than the occasional silly line, she’s mostly a flat character who is almost impossible to differentiate from any of the other supporting cast members.

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So what does Orihime contribute to Bleach? She’s a plot point, a trophy, a get-out-of-jail free card with her healing ability, and an occasionally remembered love interest but what she isn’t, at least not consistently, is a character.

Again, that criticism could probably be levelled at over half the cast of Bleach, but for Orihime, who started out so dynamically, it seems like such a shame that she was reduced so much over the seasons.

What are your thoughts on Orihime or any of the characters in Bleach?


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30 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: What Does Orihime Really Contribute To Bleach?

  1. I only watched Bleach up to episode 100 and I remember Orihime just being so annoying and not actually contributing to the fights except to use her healing powers which aren’t that great. In my opinion, I believe she is added just to be another female main lead as well as Rukia in order to create a balance of diversity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know about her healing power not being great. It might take some time but she can literally heal anything.
      But yeah, she really doesn’t contribute to the fights.

      Like

  2. It’s true, her character steadily declined over the series. She’s an inconsistent character who could have been and done so much more. It’s a pity, really, but that’s how I feel about Bleach as a whole.

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  3. Bleach is one of those animeseries that I still haven’t watched because of the sheer amount of episodes it currently has (same as Naruto and Gintama). That’s not to say that I will never watch it, but a series such as this is quite an investment, and usually when I start a series I want to finish it. That said I heard abd read some great things about Bleach, so there will be a point when I get around to it eventually 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d strongly recommend getting an episode list that identifies all the filler arcs and just skipping them if the length of the show is intimidating. It cuts about half the run time out of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, flawed it is indeed. Endearing and hits me right in the nostalgia…but flawed nonetheless. I try to forget the arcs after Fake Karakura Town exist…the Fullbringers and Quincies just didn’t do it for me. Everything you mentioned is spot on about Orihime and how the potential for several of the characters just fizzles or ends up going nowhere. Yet I still thoroughly enjoy each of these characters even though everything in me tells me I shouldn’t. How do I put it? Bleach seems to have a unique knack for creating appealing, likable characters and frequently inserting them into annoying, Mary Sue-esque circumstances which, from my experience, should by all means detract from their likability…but somehow doesn’t. For example, Ichigo…I didn’t realize it was possible to insert that many species into one character…I’m surprised he didn’t end up being 1/16 Unicorn by the end of it. However, I can’t hate him because he’s one of the most chill, subdued protagonists I’ve encountered in that his cliched, heroic, “gotta save ’em all” tendencies remain in a relatively tolerable range that’s not too overbearing unlike Naruto who was two seconds from catching these hands half the series.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. HA! I’m sure there’s some unmentioned Quincy-Unicorn relations down the line that Tite Kubo just couldn’t quite squeeze into the last chapter.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I heartily disagree. Orihime is a great character; she brings humor, lightheartedness, and a positive attitude to the table. You can argue that her attacks weren’t used for much, but to be totally honest, by the end of the series, NONE of the characters besides Ichigo himself were very useful. Rukia was useless, as were most of the Captains. And yes, she totally deserved to be married with Ichigo. She was the only one who truly loved Ichigo; she and him belonged together. I know it’s cool these days to bash Orihime, but honestly, she’s probably one of the best characters in Bleach if you really think about it. The real problem is why did every character besides Ichigo get shunted to the side? Because you could honestly write this post for any character in Bleach and it would sound the same. Sorry, the IchiHime shipper in me has to defend Orihime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. By all means defend her (just not her taste in food please).
      And I agree I could have written the post for almost any character in the series (I think I mentioned that in the post). I picked on Orihime because she had the most potential early on and I felt it was wasted. I really wanted to like Orihime but by the end just felt disappointed.

      Like

  6. I was only able to watch the first season and I myself liked Orihime then. Too bad that Tite Kubo-sensei wasn’t able to properly characterize her in the following seasons till the end. And I’m glad that I didn’t follow the rest of the series because I really don’t want to dislike her.

    I find it amusing that I’ve been seeing lots of Ichigo X Orihime on my Tumblr dash then this post happened.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Somehow, this sounds like it’s worse than what happened with Naruto and Hinata.

        Actually, I didn’t really ship Orihime with Ichigo during the first season (I’m on the IchiRuki ship tho I accept RukiaRenji too) so knowing the turn of events from this post, I think that would’ve been really helpful in order to accept the pairing. Since it didn’t happen, I think I’m just going to pretend that Ichigo didn’t end up with anyone. lol

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m planning a future post (though a long way away) where I kind of look at why the Ichigo and Rukia relationship never really took off – though I guess the answer is much the same as why Orihime became a nothing character. It is always about Ichigo.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. This post sums up Orihime pretty well to a T and shows one of the biggest problems I have had with Bleach as a whole or most battle shounen in general. The cast has almost no equal distribution, often is forgotten at the expense of focusing on one character who barely grows over the course of an arc until the end of it, and has decent characters become trophies because reasons. Most of the human cast started off with such potential and most of it was thrown away, or tried to have moments of growth only to be shot down by bigger players. It’s why I sadly only look back at the original two seasons of Bleach fondly for the most part. Orihime deserved better than what she was relegated to, most characters do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right in that the human cast of this show were great in the early seasons and had so much potential and were really interesting. And then not a lot happened except a few flash backs and some power ups. Given the massive run time of the series, surely it could have spent some more time on actually developing some of these characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As someone who’s only watched the first season of Bleach, this is unfortunate to hear as I remember really liking Orihime and thinking she was possibly the most interesting character by the time the season ended (and I put it down to pick it back up at some indeterminate point in the future). She was really strong. Guess that is sometimes a problem with long-running shows.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, first season Orihime was ditsy but fun and strong when she needed to be. She had personality.
      As I said, I love Bleach, but the characters do not fare well over the course of all of those episodes.

      Like

  9. I feel exactly the same way. They made such a big deal about her healing/rejection powers at the beginning of Hueco Mundo, but nothing ever came of it. I still remember a scene where she decided to unmake the Hogyoku, but that never went anywhere. She just became a plot device to heal anyone who needed it and motivate Ichigo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And her power was so cool. And versatile. And yet, nothing.
      As I said, we could probably pick on a lot of Bleach characters, but of all of them, Orihime was probably the one who bugged me the most due to how much wasted potential she had as a character.

      Like

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