UPDATED RENJI AND RUKIA ON POST 9
I hope this is in the right section. I think it is.
The following is part one of the results of a little study that I conducted to find out why particular fan pairings were more popular then others in Bleach. This first post is about Rukia and ichigo and subsequent posts will be about Ichigo and Inoue, Rukia and Renji and so on.
Note on methodology: There are two types of empirical studies; quantitative and qualitative. The first is quantitative. These studies are usually in the form of a survey or another type of point type system, and tend to be more causal in nature. These are the types of studies that you can do statistical analyses on, meaning that you can compare the mean, medium, mode and use other types of analyses tools such as standard deviance, and the bell curve. The second type of empirical study is qualitative . These types of studies, by their very nature, are quite a bit more subjective in content. Interviews is the most common type of qualitative study. My methodology was qualitative in nature. I used the forum and asked the posters for information. I also went through the various forums and looked for peoples personal reasons. This study by it’s very nature is subjective, i had to gather the information, put into a table and try to interpret the information that I gathered. This section is the result of an effort to effectively understand what is so appealing about the different character parings. We’ll start out with Ichigo seeing that he is the main character. In the the study i asked posters from different forums to tell me what they liked about Rukia and Ichigo. This is the result of that question.
I would also note that many fans though very willing to give their opinions in a Rukia vs. Inoue forum were very reluctant to share when directly asked. I think this was the most surprising thing I found.
Ichigo and Rukia.
According to most fans, the Ichigo and Rukia pairing, by far, seems to reflect the natural outcome of the story and the message that is trying to be conveyed. People that don’t instinctively (for whatever reason) latch on to another characters (Inoue or Taskui) seem to feel that this is the best and most natural couple in the series. These were the most common items brought in the anticipation of a romantic relationship between Rukia and Ichigo.
Their relationship is the driving force behind the story.
It was mentioned earlier that a desire of most fans for an Ichigo/Rukia pairing comes from the natural progression of the story. If Rukia hadn’t showed up the story wouldn’t exist. The bulk of the story (the Soul Society Arc) revolves around Ichigo’s desperate desire to save Rukia’s physical and mental well being. (though the second was inadvertent I think) It doesn’t matter what Ichigo’s reasons were because people don’t identify with his words. It’s his actions that matter. And many fans interpret Ichigo’s actions with someone that is in love but doesn’t recognize it.
Rukia’s and Ichigo’s situation has a reverse psychology kind of feel to it. Rukia is the main female lead (there are very few who would argue that) but unlike other anime’s like Naruto, or Inuyasha she is quite popular. (unlike Sakura for instances, Hinata for a long time was far more popular. I am not sure if that is still the case) Rukia is consistently third or higher in the character polls in Japan. This is very odd, one hypothesis is that Rukia’s and ichigo’s relationship have the classic anime mold, but not the classic anime characteristics.
Mold: Boy meets girl (or girl meets boy) girl (or boy) changes boy’s (or girl’s) life. Problems are presented; story ensues.
Characteristics: More often then not. This situation almost requires some type of affection if not romantic affection. In my Love Triangle essay (http://forums.narutofan.com/showthread.php?t=157104) the fourth rule discusses the importance of the Main female/Main Male relationship and that it is something that is so paramount to your understanding of anime as a whole that it’s a component that should always be examined. Never ignore the weight of the main heroine/main hero relationship
However though Rukia’s and ichigo’s situation fits the mold it doesn’t fit the characterization. For example, the two have little or no physical contact and don’t display the classic “blushing because he/she touchs me” act that is prevalent in so many anime today. The few times that Rukia and ichigo do come into contact are often violent in nature and even if they aren’t violent, they arent particularly romantic. (Ichigo carrying Rukia like a football comes to mind) This lack of initial forthrightness in establishing some sort of deeper romantic affection in view of their development as a potential couple has left something missing in a familiar pattern, or for lack of better metaphor, a link missing in the chain. This leaves people who would probably of picked INOUE picking Rukia, assuming the mangka had a established Rukia and Ichigo as soul mates from the get go. Essentially this phenonena causes people to route for the outcome that they deemed more natural, all while leaving their affection in place. (Often people try to fight against fate when it comes to couples Sakura and Naruto come to mind) Essentially Rukia’s and Ichigo’s relationship has become the under dog that everyone routes for. It would have been interesting to see how the fandom would spilt if ichigo and Rukia had the cliche instance attraction thing going on. (See Suzuka for example) In light of this analysis, it's really quite amazing the amount of supporters that ichigo and Rukia have especially since there is no CLEAR indication as to the state of their feelings. It’s not apparent if Kubo intended it to be like this or if he even intends to maintain this status quo, but he’s doing a bang up job nonetheless.
Their realistic emotional intimacy and growth (Relationship Dynamic)
This is probably the most popular answer that was given when it came to research conducted. Even though people may really like other pairings for Ichigo or rukia they just have a hard time getting pass the depth of Ichigo’s and Rukia’s relationship. Their ability to see into each other hearts and the almost force progression that results is something that can’t be easily ignored by fans that don’t have a fixation on another character. Fans see this depth and progression and then look at ichigo’s other potential interest and they just can’t see Ichigo “loving” someone that is not Rukia. (Or loving someone else while Rukia is still around) Furthermore most fans see the realistic development provided and just grow more and more attached as time goes by and as Ichigo’s and Rukia’s perceived affection becomes more apparent.
Fans see that Ichigo and Rukia aren’t people who are shallow when it comes to their emotional complexity. In not so many words Ichigo’s and Rukia’s relationship is so dynamic and so complex that it breaks down people’s emotions to see two people with such obvious attraction ignore their rightful place at each other’s side. Furthermore the perceived, though not often commented on, reasons as why they would be terrible for one another seems to just further the fire of fan’s desire adding oil to the flame as fans try to envision Rukia telling Soul Society that she is staying in the human world to be with Ichigo, forsaking her status as a nobel, her duty as a squad member of the 13th division and her relationship with her brother and Renji. Simply put. Reasons. The fans can see the reasons that these two would fall in love.
An interesting phenomena that should be commented on in connection with this variable is the tendencies of Inoue’s fans who understand ichigo’s and Rukia’s relationship. Many times in forum it seems that those fans who are not blinded by their fanboyism and at least recognize that rukia is very important to Ichigo will often make claims to the true nature of Ichigo’s and Inoue’s relationship placing Rukia in a category with Ichigo’s sisters. This is a very interesting idea which effectively displaces Rukia from Ichigo’s side and opens the path to him. Which of course would be filled with none other then Inoue the only other real contender for Ichigo’s heart. This phenomena comes out of a recognition that a strong emotional bond exists but an unwillingness to confirm the most likely path the bond will lead to. It is not conclusive as to why they do this but it’s probably because of their deep affection for inoue.
People identify with Ichigo, Rukia, or paring itself
This is the most universal of the answers, meaning that it applies to every couple that will be discussed. People like Ichigo, or identify with him and want him to succeed in life and love. They think that Ichigo wants Rukia, therefore Ichigo should get Rukia. The same argument goes for Rukia and the pairing. While VERY unique in some ways, Rukia and Ichigo relationship isn’t that unique in others, especially if you look at the boarder spectrum of anime. Full Metal Panic and Naruto have similar relationships in that the couples are violent to the point of humorous. Many people have this type of relationship in real life. The playful banner, the hitting, the flirting Etc. Many people can identify with this behavior (having a problem expressing their real emotion) and can see themselves in that relationship. They relate to Ichigo or Rukia and want them to be happy, and by extension want themselves to be happy.