While Bleach is part of the “Big Three” alongside One Piece and Naruto, it’s difficult to dispute that some of its characters could have been handled a bit better.
Some were underused, others were shoved into the narrative simply to be defeated as soon as they were introduced, and most were left with basic characteristics and reasons for simply being in the background without any further exploration or origins to be revealed.
I find this common criticism of Bleach to be understandable — but thankfully not all of its characters fall into this category. Take exhibit A, the one and only Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez. (Ah, nothing like a spellchecker’s nightmare first thing in the morning – Ed.)
The making of an endearing hot-head
There’s a distinct list of typical personality traits of hot-headed characters in manga series: rebellious, abrasive, emotional and always up for a fight — most commonly being the instigator of such violence. I have a type, alright?
Grimmjow fits the bill throughout his time in the series, and it makes for very notable parallels with other characters. Grimmjow is not too far off from being the battle hardened and bloodthirsty Arrancar to Soul Society’s monstrous Kenpachi in terms of attitude and enthusiasm for having a good match-up.
By the time of his introduction, he is set up to be protagonist Ichigo’s rival, and even complements their dynamic through their signature colour schemes, with Ichigo’s orange contrasting with Grimmjow’s blue on the colour wheel. Nice detail, Tite.
But it’s not all complete boisterousness and cockiness that sums up Grimmjow. Underneath lies much more, as he holds a surprisingly commendable amount of respect and honour in his own way — and not only in battle. For example, he returns the favour of protecting Orihime after healing him, and instructs her to heal Ichigo before their final battle to ensure that he is in top form. However, sometimes the very best indication of husbando material is in a great character arc.
His origins reveal a backstory that explains his motivations and why he is the way he is, which is a lot more compared to the majority of what the rest of the cast gets. It adds a necessary layer to an Espada that could have easily been as shallow as the majority of them despite their cool designs — and this is the reason why Grimmjow is as popular as he is.
His past establishes how he got his superiority complex; his Menos’ panther-like form did little to showcase his skills and potential, nor did it allow him to show his worth in battle to his satisfaction. As a Menos who was told of his worth and knew of his strength to become the King of Hueco Mundo, he stops at nothing to achieve his goal of absolute authority and control.
Putting an emotional core into the empty space
His character arc is instigated by his rivalry with Ichigo. While Grimmjow is initially victorious, Ichigo manages to pull off a win in their supposedly conclusive battle after powering himself up with some much needed training.
This moment brings into question Grimmjow’s motives, as it is his first taste of defeat after so long of feeling that victory is certain. And would Grimmjow become King, it would result in him being the only living entity in existence. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking revelation, because the penetrating feeling of loneliness in this statement is fitting to Grimmjow’s character.
His loud mouth and hidden insecurity does more to distance others from him, but it often feels more like a cry for attention or, more fittingly, a cry for affirmation and a reason for existing. The latter is especially suitable as a fitting theme to the existence of an Espada after all.
The themes of Bleach are interchangeable with each arc, and the Arrancar arc is one example of an arc that expands upon previous themes. It was not until this arc that we witnessed the tragedy of the existence of Hollows, and how truly penetrating their sense of “emptiness” really is.
The element of death runs rampant across the show, but it is best exemplified in the Arrancar’s very own arc, with each Espada longing to cling onto something that gives their existence meaning in the Afterlife. So while Grimmjow’s defeat does challenge his one and only motive of living, Ichigo instead proposes that he can fight against him again and grow stronger with their rematches. Could this be yet another friendship masked in a rivalry? Of course it is.
Grimmjow’s attitude stays the same once he reappears in the Thousand Year Blood War arc, and their rivalry continues even in the final arc, though there are a few noticeable changes since their last interaction.
Grimmjow wants to battle Ichigo at the first sight of him despite the ongoing chaos around them. While he is siding for the good guys simply because he dislikes the thought of Ichigo being killed by someone who is not him, there is a certain level of respect shown between the two. This indicates a certain level of consideration for Ichigo — which is further insinuated considering his care for Nel’s safety in the same battle, and how they share a knowing smile with each other. Who knew that once all that temper simmers down it would make Grimmjow even more appealing?
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