Hello and welcome to the beginning of our Touching Tales site event. This week we’ll be taking a look at some of our favorite heartbreaking moments across entertainment. Before we officially start, a friendly reminder to check back in each day this week for our remaining entries, with our weekend poll opening on Friday (12/16/2022) and closing Sunday at midnight. Now with that out of the way, let’s kick things off with our first entry.
Touching Tales – The Moment it all Fell Apart
Heartbreak is something that can be hard to describe. When we experience it, there is this sense of dread that becomes so overwhelming we struggle to pick up the pieces. I may be cheating here, because I will be talking about the events leading up to what I consider to be a very pivotal and heartbreaking moment in my favorite anime/manga series: Bleach
Some quick catch up: Ichigo Kurosaki (our main character) has lost his supernatural powers that allow him to not only see spirits, but also wield spirit energy. Because of this, he is not able to exercise the evil spirits that have been invading his home town. This in itself isn’t an issue, because his friends have picked up the slack. This all changes when Ichigo’s sister Yuzu is attacked by one of the evil spirits (Hollows) and he is helpless to save her. Because of this, he seeks out a man named Ginjo to help him regain his powers so that he can protect the ones he loves. This entire story arc is a very small scale, and personal one for Ichigo. The world is not at stake, there isn’t some big bad evil guy threatening to destroy his family. Instead we get to witness Ichigo grow and change as a character.
However, there is evil on the horizon. One of Ichigo’s friends, Uryu, is attacked and hospitalized by some unknown assailant. Ginjo and his team come to the conclusion that it is by one of their former members, Tsukishima. As the story progresses we learn that Tsukishima has an ability to insert himself into the memories of the ones he cuts with his sword. Ichigo learns this when he comes home to find that his entire family and friends regard Tsukishima as a close friend, and when Ichigo lashes out and attacks Tsukishima, everyone rushes to Tsukishima’s aid instead of Ichigo’s. It’s at this point in the story that dread begins to set in. If everyone close to Ichigo has been affected by this ability, who can he turn to? How can you try to stop this person when your closest allies are no longer your allies?
This truly comes to a head during the final act of the arc when Ginjo, the person who had become a mentor and basically second father to Ichigo, is cut by Tsukishima. Another member of Ichigo’s support group had fallen under the spell of Tsukishima. Or that is what we were meant to believe. During the confrontation between Ichigo and Tsukishima, Uryu returns to warn Ichigo that the man that attacked him and sent him to the hospital was actually Ginjo. And without warning, Ginjo stabs Ichigo quite literally in the back, and unleashes his Machiavellian evil villain speech, explaining how when Tsukishima cut him, he didn’t place himself in his memories, he returned them. Ginjo had made this plan with Tsukishima (as well as all the other members of their team) to return Ichigo’s powers to steal them for themselves. And without warning, the powers Ichigo spent blood, sweat, and tears to regain, were ripped away again.
We see the havoc this wreaks on Ichigo, as he essentially goes through all the stages of grief in the span of 30 seconds. Not only had he lost his powers, he lost the means he had to protect those he loves, he lost his friends, he lost his family, and the one person he had looked up to and confided in turned out to be the mastermind behind it all. What’s worse is that Ichigo in his rage gets stabbed again through the back, but the one appearing to hold the sword is his actual father. With tears in his eyes, he realizes that he’s lost everything. He lost everyone. Now this is revealed to be a ploy to restore Ichigo’s powers with said sword, but in the moment you can see his heart break into pieces.
This moment shocked me when I first watched it. Bleach is no stranger to sad tones and twists, but this one truly hit different. There is something meaningful that author Tite Kubo did with this arc. Following the crazy, world ending events of the previous arc, taking the time to tell this close to the chest and personal story for our protagonist was a bold move. Funnily enough, this was the arc that ended Bleach’s popularity with the public. They never gave it a shot for this slow burn to fully take over. But like a fine wine, I think this arc gets better with time. The more I think about it, and the more I go back and experience it, the better it gets. This heartbreaking tale stands the test of time as one of the most meaningful growths for a character that I truly love. For that, I am grateful.