In the Final Days of Bleach, I only got two hate letters, one persistent teenager calling me “dumb” and “ableist” and “gross” and I promptly answered her as gently as I could and blocked her on Tumblr because I was sure she was getting her information from one familiar source, a person who for years went on a hate campaign against this site, painting it as a sexist place where Orihime hate reigned and where people were mocked. I knew there was a post made in recent weeks by this person on Tumblr maligning this site—why, I don’t know—there’s so little activity here, but the bitterness is there. Like I said to a new Bleach fan, I never expected the bitterness to go away, no matter what outcome in Bleach. In fact, let me copy what I wrote to her, because I know some of you will be dealing with mockery and hate:
“They don’t deserve your graciousness and intelligence. It bounces right off them. They aren’t being celebratory; they are being vindictive and petty. This sort of drama stirs up like dust storms for a short time (maybe reoccurring dust storms for years, lol) but in the end it’s just dust, never anything to advance real understanding. I’ve only seen it expose people for who they are; believe me, few people I’ve observed in fandom have grown up much or changed in the 12-13 years and of newcomers, there are just more of the same. No single one person in fandom, had the ending of Bleach gone this way or that, had all plotholes been satisfied, had Kubo had a solid grip on his final arc and never quarreled with editors, would be that much different–spiteful people would still be spiteful people, those who spread lies and never admitted to being wrong would still be that way, trolls would still be trolls, the casual fans would still be casual, the nice people would still be nice, hysterics would still be hysterics, the analytical would still be analytical, the accusatory would still be accusatory, the petty would still be petty. I actually admire my friends who had the foresight to leave fandom when the train went off the tracks a few years back—but I guess I don’t regret some of the beautiful moments of the last arc– Urahara’s ban kai, Askin’s whole character, Jugo and Bazz, and any and all Ishida.
Don’t waste your precious mind on spiteful, mean, insecure people. Remember I want happy endings for you. Those who try to engage you to shit on you constantly will never get their happy endings in RL, trust me on that one.”
More than hate, I’m grateful for all the amazing kind messages I’ve received from people who I thought had long disappeared from fandom—I got emails, DMs on social media sites, many of which made me cry because they were so personal and kind. Some bonds cannot be broken. Kubo may have betrayed his story but he can never take away my friends, some of the loveliest people I’ve known, some of whom have travelled miles, one even across the ocean, to meet me in real life. Many left Bleach when they grew bored of it, but our lives were always more about pairings or goings-on in a Japanese story. I’m grateful to all of you, acquaintances, lurkers and friends, who were with me for part or all of this journey. I started bleachness as a reservoir for my own fic and art and meta ramblings so as not to annoy non-Bleach fans on my main LJ blog and it became something bigger---so many people misunderstood that, expected it to be an unbiased newscast for Bleach information and my own blog and cast me, of all people, as an Orihime hater, and an elitist. One of the things I answered a note I got on Tumblr was about the inside joke about the English degrees the mods on bleachness had---we liked lit crit; some of those mods are lawyers now; I was an English teacher off and on; the ones who accused us of elitism wrote their own meta even when they said “it’s only a story for 13-year-old boys.” And I will say now for the record I was wrong in interpreting much of the final arc, especially regarding pairings. Kubo at some point went off track, Rukia disappeared totally, he said that “Ichigo was the protagonist of the human side and Rukia was the protagonist of the Shinigami side,” foreshadowing that Ichigo would stay in the human world, despite the Fullbringer arc being all about Ichigo’s identifying with the Shinigami, being heartsick over Rukia. In the end “I can’t keep up with the speed of the world without you” and “the love and destiny Ichigo inherited” was erased. I was wrong. I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong. I do believe I was misled, though.
Deathberry will probably (I’m not sure) go down in a few months, due to lack of interest from the caretakers and because its expensive to maintain—one of the mods pays for it herself. The IchiHime site FLOL is paid for by ads. Fandoms can’t be killed by any author, no matter what he or she does to the canon story—that has long been my observation. I haven’t seen such an outpouring of fic and art in the last week in the Bleach fandom in years. I swore I was going to move past Bleach, but I even wrote one. It was part of my grieving ritual. I was ready to let Bleach go a year ago, but at the moment all this feels like a bad break-up, and I have a few more steps to process before I can truly move on. I’ll leave this site up—it’s a lifetime account, bought when Live Journal was giving those out, so it stays as long as Live Journal stays, which is not a solid guarantee of anything of course.
I’m going to copy a few reactions I posted (and edited for clarity) from other places while I was avoiding my own blog. Thank you to my friends who posted in the chapter thread. It was difficult for me to come here. I have some issues still about this site, some pain. There are reminders here of some of the worst of fandom as well as the best.
I will claim to the end I never hated Orihime so let’s get that out of the way first. I wanted the best for her, and my more cynical friends told me I would be disappointed. I did not believe them. I should’ve. The general sexism of shounen and Kubo’s own tendency to write Orihime inconsistently, his rage when audiences didn’t accept her, his increasing trivialization of her should have been a clue. Orihime’s character degraded from the time she was the adorable girl by the river chasing dragonflies with a best friend to the time she was single-mindedly pursuing a boy; it seemed like a familiar character; I actually thought Kubo was making fun of it; it turns out he rewarded that giddy devotion—I could give so many panels where Orihime didn’t “get” Ichigo’s character but persisted in her love, but I don’t think Bleach is worth my analysis anymore. I can just say that I was wrong; Kubo, who has said in interview that he likes to champion characters audiences don’t like, screwed over the giant IchiRuki fanbase (I saw yesterday the horrified faces of the Burimyu actors who play Ichigo and Ruki holding WSJ covers over their mouths) and rewarded Orihime with the main character.
But he didn’t even do it right. He gave her no romance.
I’ll quote some from other places:
“I don't hate Orihime. I just died a little when I saw her in that apron in the Korean scan (still haven't read the chapter). I guess her big character development was that in 10 years she learned to cook. She wanted to be so many things in her five lifetimes speech--which unlike so many IR fans here, I actually liked--I thought it was poignant and representative of a teenage girl's love. It was the gross fanservice--the hotdogs with the mushroom pajamas and that awful dress that got me later. Her not being able to cook was always an endearing quality to me. I can't cook for shit either but I have other strengths. And I've heard that she uses Tsubaki to babysit her kid---her offensive fairy that was teased for the whole manga and which many expected her to use in battle. Used for BABYSITTING. Yes, this is a feminist issue. And so many bloggers and fanbois going OH MY MY KARIN GOT HERSELF SOME BOOBIES AND OOOH WEEEE WTG ICHIGO GOT THE BOOBS is just .... yeah, no. It's not about boobs. I like big boobs myself. One of my longtime gfs in my life before marriage had huge boobs and a very feminine look, I understand the appeal, believe me. I also expect women to be more than just their mammary glands. I expect them to accomplish their dreams independent of what is expected of them by men and a sexist society. So Orihime got her wish finally to protect Ichigo--that was good, I was ok with that, I was more than happy with that. I was sorry we didn't get to see her fire Tsubaki independently in battle (his being used in training with Ginjou was another tease). Never mind Ichigo not really getting a good fight but that was rushed to the end, bad planning and because of many reasons, mainly how WSJ works and how it’s honored Kubo for this last arc despite their disagreements, I believe Kubo had more than enough time to prepare and wandered in the past six months or a year. Orihime gets little panel time in the last chapter and again, not much interaction with Ichigo---there was never that chemistry there--but whatever. The ship itself isn't as heartbreaking as Orihime never getting any character development and being used so blithely for fanservice throughout the latter part of the series. Matsumoto was supposed to get a backstory and THERE was a mature strong woman--what happened to THAT? Orihime--I'd complained about her development forever and still believed Kubo would resolve her in the end. No, I didn't even hold out hope for IshiHime in the last chapters--there was too much one-sidedness (like IchiHime or RenRuki, I thought) and a timeskip would solve that but be awkward as shit. But the sight of her in an apron almost as a parody of Sakura was a real blow.
Like most things in that last chapter were a real blow. I mean, I used to defend Kubo all the time. Yes, he's a sexist Japanese man. What are his worst sins, I would say--shitty pacing and he likes big boobs. Turns out those were BIG SINS. Wow, his pacing was so bad he couldn't tie up dozens of loose threads, not even a few crucial ones that could’ve explained simple things—like who was the Soul King and how did Aizen get back in the bond chair, and omg, the big boobs thing turned out to be a fetish. I will still remember some of the things I loved about the last arc but Orihime went downhill so fast in Bleach and every time I got hope for her development, I was crushed. Kubo could've even developed her relationship with Ichigo. He could've put something dear and touching between the two, even had Ichigo thank her for fixing his ban kai, something, anything---instead there was that comedic panel in which she was humiliated and cried over wearing that dress and thinking Ichigo thought she was a hentai. That was disgusting and IH loved that as evidence of their pairing. No, they have their canon based on that sort of shallowness.
Orihime was so adorable when first presented. The SS arc was Bleach when Kubo was on a roll. I don't know what happened (well, I actually do know a little but hell if I'll ever tell). The Arrancar arc was spotty and he kept reeling us in with flashes of brilliance and Orihime kept having her moments of fail but her moments like slapping Ulquiorra or realizing that she didn't fear him in the end (one of Bleach's greatest moments, truly) and then the FB arc started and the Orihime jokes like Orihime vision just made me think Kubo was making fun of her. How could anyone in his or her right mind believe she was meant as the "love and destiny Ichigo inherited" after the MITR arc? Ichigo treated her like a nakama whereas Rukia was always more than a nakama... but I've gone on enough--it's really about more than the ship. It's about Orihime being the ideal of the Japanese housewife, and that trope itself is yuck. I have nothing against housewives--I've been one off and on to homeschool special needs kids and I value people who do it, but Orihime had dreams. She had an offensive weapon. Yeah, Tsubaki was used a babysitter. That was.... wrong. Tell me that wasn't a FU.
It’s so much more than the ships–I do believe many people who read Bleach primarily for the ships are projecting their own obsessions onto others. I still believe Kubo had plenty time to wrap up a few key plot details, if given six months or six weeks, but the ending read like a huge FU to his story and fandom–it was so weird. I enjoyed some parts of the final arc even when it was clear it was going off the tracks, but most of my salt is about Mayuri living, SS not changing and remaining the corrupt institution it always was, Urahara–where?, Matsumoto backstory–not necessary anymore but KIRA where? How the hell did Aizen get back in the chair? That could’ve been explained in one line. Was the bro-con with Yuzu comedy really necessary? Wtf was it with her new hair color. Ok, we get it that Karin’s boobs got bigger. Kubo really likes boobs. I was already prepared not to expect an explanation of Rukia’s missing years on Earth or the Soul King backstory or any more Quincy backstory. But I was gutted by Ishida facing away in the CP–I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it would’ve been so easy for him to turn around and smile with his friends or be at the party in the chapter, especially after his nakama speech of all time and after joining the enemy to die and being willing to have everyone believe he was a traitor so he would SACRIFICE HIMSELF to their sake. Ishida alone. Ishida alone. I felt like I’d been personally slapped in the face. ISHIDA SO ALONE.
My grief for Orihime is extreme. People have always called me an Orihime hater. I’ve criticized her character before but I always thought she’d make it. I cheered for her when she was fighting with Ichigo because she’d wanted to do that for years and been sidelined by the plot, but after her initial adorableness is SS arc (the arc that did no wrong) she was used for fanservice more and more and more–and I think I started losing it when she was shown holding a hot dog—and so many people, not just guys oblivious to the concept of the Male Gaze, defended it as “just a hot dog.” Forget the mushroom pajamas. People, her dress in the Arrancar arc had a cut over her crotch and her outfit in the final arc had a boob window. Representations of Orihime’s love in the FB arc seemed to mock her while Ichigo pined for Rukia. Bizarro world. And the sight of Orihime in an apron was gutting–so her achievement was she learned to cook in 10 years? In canon she said she wanted to be an astronaut. A teacher. Is she the ideal Japanese trophy wife? Did Ichigo interact much with her at ALL? Tsubaki, her offensive weapon, who was teased for years, ends up being A BABYSITTER. Oh please. I babysit. I think there’s no holier occupation that picking up a child so a woman can do something else with her useful hands but Tsubaki was supposed to represent Orihime’s KILLING INSTINCT, that which she had to some degree and was used in defense of Tatsuki once and never again to protect the innocent. So Tsubaki is supposed to squash any bug that Orihime’s super-powered baby comes across. No. Doesn’t work like that. We never saw Tsubaki in battle, forget Shinji’s ban kai. Tsubaki had three arcs--no wait four if you count the first time he went down on that roof-top--of build-up.
People have tried to console me with the headcanon that Urahara and Yoruichi went off somewhere because the ending embarrassed them—the sight of Ichigo on his dad’s sofa like Al Bundy. So the tickets being given out to his friends was a tease and Ichigo ended up where he started, sitting on his father’s sofa—what Shounen hero does that? Ends up where he started 13 years later? But it’s the Mayuri still being captain that hurts the most. And Nemu being rebuilt. I heard so many people going “kawaaaiiiiiii” over baby! Nemu and only one dude going OH G-D PLEASE CALL SS CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES. And why was the world, the corrupt SS that Ichigo was supposed to change not changed? And the execution site that he cracked once upon a time rebuilt stronger and bigger? While he’s reset to the very beginning, where he started, back at home—and SS is the same, none of its values changed–Rukia’s speech about he had changed SS completely erased.
I loved Bleach so much once, and that love was erased too."
I'll post a fic later. I still love the characters. More power to all those who are reclaiming them and more power to transformative art, "fix-it" fic and those who love what they love continuing to love. I will always have a special place for Ishida Uryuu and Urahara Kisuke and others in my heart but the canon story--it died for me with the end. I can only liken this end to a divorce. We had some good times, but I have to move on.