I neither hate nor like Orihime. I have nothing especially against her. Sometimes I feel sorry for her, but I'm indifferent at best, and anyway this is ONLY MY OPINION. I'm perfectly aware that I may be completely wrong, but this is the way I interpreted the manga.Disclaimer 2:
As English is not my first language, please excuse my grammatical errors.
When Bleach started off, I got hooked almost instantly. As it was not my first Shounen Jump series, I was on alert for all the regular tropes and kept thinking Tatsuki was going to be one of the main characters, as she seemed the type to be. I was mightily pleased when Orihime was revealed to be the one with the powers though, it was so refreshing to see! And she was kickass for the first, and (unfortunately?) for the last time in the entire story.
Orihime starts off as a ditzy character who has a crush on Ichigo, and at first she doesn't seem to make this crush the focal point of her existence. She has other interests, friends who she talks to and she doesn't seem to mind Ichigo spending time with Rukia. She likes Rukia as well, and doesn't seem to be affected by the whether or not Rukia likes Ichigo. She even regards it geniunely as some sort of fun game and it was cute to see. It's only when things start changing suddenly, when her powers manifest, when she sees Ichigo fight the Menos Grande and when Rukia gets taken away, that the crush slowly starts taking over. In fact, in Chapter 58[Spoiler (click to open)]
Orihime is tentatively testing the possibility of NOT rescuing Rukia by stating she has friends and family there. I don't think she means that Rukia should die, she just wants to know how important this is to Ichigo. She only decides to go to SS when Ichigo wants to go. All her actions and decisions seem centred around his. Somehow, I never bought her sudden 'Go and rescue her, Kurosaki-kun', it seemed too much like a person trying to make virtue out of necessity. She clearly states that the reason she wants to go to SS is for Ichigo in Chapter 62.[Spoiler (click to open)]
There's no mention of Rukia here, which seemed odd. Ishida does this too, but he only said that to get rid of them so he can train in peace, proved by the fact that he tried to rescue Rukia earlier despite having no reason to. Her character began to sit uncomfortably with me here at this point. I know it might show how much she loves (?) Ichigo, but I don't think so. This single-mindedness bothered me. If, supposing, he had decided not to go, she wouldn't have either.
She didn't do much protecting of Kurosaki-kun in SS, as she was separated from Ichigo most of the time, and her admiration for him only increased when she saw to what lengths he went to save Rukia. There's a sweet moment of perspicacity and understanding of Ichigo's feelings from her here. [Spoiler (click to open)]
Here is where she becomes markedly different from the sweet, easy-going girl she was at first into a more complex, self-deprecating sort. Personally, I think this is when those first traces of jealousy started developing in her, because she never showed any sign of them before. And the normal teenage thoughts of 'I want him to rescue me too!' might have come too, and why not? Unfortunately, Ichigo got beaten to pulp trying to do just that in the Conquistadores mini-arc and to her dismay, he fell into a depression which she couldn't handle. She kept trying to be brave and handle her injuries, but didn't get that that's the WORST possible way of cheering Ichigo up.[Spoiler (click to open)]
And then Rukia shows up, brings back the old Ichigo effortlessly in half a minute, and poor Orihime has to resign herself to the fact that Rukia is important to Ichigo in a way she can never be. Matsumoto is really sweet in trying to console her, saying that Orihime is important to him too, but neither she (nor me, the reader) were really convinced.
Again in Chapter 214, Rukia's statement that Ichigo need not feel guilty for her injuries, and that she's not so weak, and more importantly, his acceptance of these statements is ironic- considering this is the same situation in Conquistadores, and Orihime was not able to convince him about the exact same thing. She even says the same words- well almost![Spoiler (click to open)]
It gets worse in Chapter 225 (Slip into My Barrier), when Ichigo is so surprised, but unemotional about her coming and is only interested in the news she brings. She's then kicked out rather cruelly, but rightfully by Urahara and is consoled by Rukia of all people. This consolation too, seems like Matsumoto's- both of them trying and only temporarily lifting Orihime's mood. But again, her resolution to fight and be strong seems rather forced, considering she positively leaps at the opportunity Ulquiorra gives her. I've never understood Inoue's actions here- does it never occur to her that HE IS THE ENEMY, and not to be trusted? A stronger character would have refused, purely based on his statement 'Aizen-sama needs your powers'. He would then have either killed her, or kidnapped her by force, both of which make better options. By agreeing, she placed herself in his power, with no real assurance of him not killing her friends anyway.
I know, I should cut her some slack- she's just a kid, frightened for her and her loved ones lives. But by actually agreeing to this, a proposition which involved the words 'Aizen-sama NEEDS your powers' she's betrayed her side. Aizen is a master at manipulating people, weak ones in particular. He didn't need her at all, except as bait, knew she would come, and so even gives her a chance to say a tragic goodbye. And she does, exactly as he thinks she would. He even shows her the Hogyoku, as a further bait to keeping her there.
The HM arc is when Inoue completely becomes this needy, dependant, I'll-shut-my-eyes-to-everything-I-don't-want-to-comprehend character. She's happy when people come to rescue her, but everything goes wrong swiftly again. She encounters Ichigo when he's beaten up and unconscious, and is terrified when she sees his mask. Her princess in a fairy tale fantasy is crushed yet again, because she's being saved alright; not by a knight in shining armour, but by someone who looks creepily like her captors themselves. She needs to be told by Nel, someone Ichigo has just met, to trust in him, which completely obliterates the oft-seen argument that 'Orihime understands Ichigo like no one else'.
She has no clue about his feelings, and doesn't seem to have any real insight of his character- she just thinks she knows him, or the person she wants him to be. She's put him on this big hero pedestal, not caring that he's the same age as her, has gone through a lot, and has far too many burdens to bear. She doesn't love him, she idolizes him. It reminded me powerfully of Lord and Lady Chiltern's conversation in the 'An Ideal Husband'
Lady Chiltern. [Thrusting him back with outstretched hands.] No, don’t speak! Say nothing! Your voice wakes terrible memories—memories of things that made me love you—memories of words that made me love you—memories that now are horrible to me. And how I worshipped you! You were to me something apart from common life, a thing pure, noble, honest, without stain. The world seemed to me finer because you were in it, and goodness more real because you lived. And now—oh, when I think that I made of a man like you my ideal! the ideal of my life!
Sir Robert Chiltern. There was your mistake. There was your error. The error all women commit. Why can’t you women love us, faults and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals? We have all feet of clay, women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the more, it may be, for that reason. It is not the perfect, but the imperfect, who have need of love. It is when we are wounded by our own hands, or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure us—else what use is love at all? All sins, except a sin against itself, Love should forgive. All lives, save loveless lives, true Love should pardon. A man’s love is like that. It is wider, larger, more human than a woman’s. Women think that they are making ideals of men. What they are making of us are false idols merely. You made your false idol of me, and I had not the courage to come down, show you my wounds, tell you my weaknesses. I was afraid that I might lose your love, as I have lost it now. And so, last night you ruined my life for me—yes, ruined it! What this woman asked of me was nothing compared to what she offered to me. She offered security, peace, stability. The sin of my youth, that I had thought was buried, rose up in front of me, hideous, horrible, with its hands at my throat. I could have killed it for ever, sent it back into its tomb, destroyed its record, burned the one witness against me. You prevented me. No one but you, you know it. And now what is there before me but public disgrace, ruin, terrible shame, the mockery of the world, a lonely dishonoured life, a lonely dishonoured death, it may be, some day? Let women make no more ideals of men! let them not put them on alters and bow before them, or they may ruin other lives as completely as you—you whom I have so wildly loved—have ruined mine!
The infamous dome scene was the nadir of her character. There was no reason for her to go there, yet she went, only to see him dead. When things go so wrong, people either finally stand up and fight or go to pieces. Orihime is one of the rare Shounen characters who goes to pieces- I think it was brilliant of Kubo, in hindsight. It would have been too cliché for her to get a ZOMG!power up then. She needs to a lot of self introspection before she gets to be a strong, brave girl, and using that moment would have been a cop-out. According to me, she sees the world as it is, and the enormity of the situation only then. And does not even think of using her powers, as she is too weak and cowardly to.
Now I realise this, but back then,
I was calling for her head I thought the end of the HM arc, with Aizen's fall, and a few months of peace afterwards to sit and introspect might change her, but she didn't. I'd hoped we'd see her as a girl who's slightly more confident of herself and weaned off her Ichigo worship. Let her have a crush on him, love him, be his friend, whatever. Anything but placing him as the sun she orbits around. She again takes the coward's route out- pretending that nothing has ever happened, and instead upping her airhead personality to the point where she now looks positively jarring- when you see her all hyper and happy, not caring that SS is almost destroyed, her 'friends' are critically injured, and basically all shit has hit the fan. It was bitterly disappointing to me, to see her never develop as a character at all. And then, after my dome!crazy!rage vanished slowly, it struck me that this was the way it was meant to be.
What I'm trying to say is, Orihime is not supposed to be a strong character, or even an (please don't hate me) admirable character. She is nothing more than a teenage girl, someone who's pretty, dorky, cute and has a crush on the bad boy of the school. She wouldn't be out of place in a cute Shoujo series, and no one would hate her this much. An thinking about it, why should she change? Just because all the other characters around her are so strong and brave, it doesn't mean she NEEDS to be. She's just 15 years old- I certainly was an idiot at that age. She's a little self-centred, and likes placing herself in the role of a princess of a fairy tale, without really understanding what she's doing. Sure, she keeps saying she'll get stronger and all that, but they're just words- like new years resolutions. She means them at the time, but doesn't go through with it. But is that really so very bad? She's an ordinary person, suddenly placed in life threatening situations and given powers enough to participate- if she has will and resolve enough. But will and resolve require courage, and she doesn't have enough.
I don't think it's fair to compare her to the other characters, because they're all either much older and experienced (the Shinigami) or more well trained and mentally suited to battle (Ishida). Thinking about it, only Ichigo and Chad have suddenly developed miraculous powers randomly and frankly, these two aren't ordinary kids either. And this is why I feel so sorry for her- She has powers, but either fails to get opportunities to use them, or is held back by fear when given the opportunity. She literally fails EVERY SINGLE TIME she needs to use her powers. I'm sure she's painfully aware of her shortcomings, and this silly cheerleady behaviour is just her form of denial. I'm waiting for the bubble to burst, but after the dome I'm seriously wondering if it ever will.
But for once I'm not going to care. I've made my peace with her. She is who she is, as flawed as she may be.