The first thing that people know about Bleach is that it is a battle and action-based manga and anime, hence a Shounen. It does not center around romance and would be unlikely to focus on romance a lot; even Kubo himself has stated that he did not wish to focus on romantic relationships much, as there were other interesting and exciting things happening.

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Nevertheless, throughout the series, we got many hints of romantic feelings between the now canon couples: Ichigo and Orihime, and Rukia with Renji. How things ended was a point of contention for IchiRuki fans, but with a closer look one realizes that this was how it was meant to be.

Updated July 12th, 2021 By Anthony Mazzuca: While not nearly as intense as the battle of who deserves Subaru between Rem and Emilia, there were many fans disappointed that Rukia and Ichigo didn't end up together. With the show returning sometime this year, it's worth reiterating that both Rukia and Ichigo ended up with better partners in the end. No ones cared for Ichigo more than Orihime, and the same is true of Renji with Rukia.

13 Ichigo Was Always Willing To Set Aside His Own Fears & Wants For Orihime

Tatsuki stops Orihime from doing Don kannoji's bwhahah

One thing always consistent about Ichigo was how stubborn he could be about battle. If someone was in danger, he was going to rush in to try to save the day, and more often than not, that meant going in without a plan.

What's glossed over is how willing he was to set aside his wants and fears outside of combat if it meant helping others. An example is when Orihime invited him to go see Spirit Hunters, the Don Kannoji television show. He's always hated ghosts, a fact Tatsuki had to explain to Orihime, but it didn't stop him from going anyway. He always wanted her to be happy at the end of the day.

12 Orihime Knew Ichigo Well Enough That She Knew Kon Wasn't The Real Ichigo

kon and Ichigo making faces bleach

It takes quite a connection to know when someone isn't acting like themselves. That's what Orihime managed to do when Kon was running wild inside Ichigo's body and being his lustful self.

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He jumped into Ichigo's classroom, made a move on Orihime, and then kissed Tatsuki before being forced to flee. Orihime knew right away that wasn't the real Ichigo, forgiving him of actions that would have got him in hot water with any other girl. It's a testament to how much Orihime cared about him.

11 Renji Admonishing His Friends For Staring Love Struck At Rukia Showed He Had The same Feelings

Young renji in Bleach

Renji's feelings towards her have always been apparent, as far back as when they were kids. One evening, the two of them were unsuccessfully attempting to catch fish when Renji finally managed to snare one.

When he turned around triumphantly, he saw the rest of his friends staring at Rukia longingly. As anyone with a crush themselves would do, Renji admonished his friends for looking at her with love-struck eyes.

10 Ichigo & Rukia Contributed To Each Other’s Respective Romance, Helping Push Them To New Heights

It is interesting to note that both Rukia and Ichigo have worked to bring the respective romantic relationships of each other closer. Rukia was the one who dragged Ichigo to apologize to Orihime and made him vow to her.

Rukia was the initial reason why Ichigo and Orihime came closer together and were more expressive of their desire to protect each other. At the same time, Ichigo was the catalyst for Rukia and Renji becoming close again after decades of avoiding each other. Ichigo was not meant to interfere in their relationship as a third party, but to help them realize the complete range of their feelings for each other.

9 Ichigo’s Resemblance To Kaien

Ichigo looks like Kaien Shiba; Rukia’s mentor, the guy that she viewed as an older brother and friend, but not as a romantic interest. Even Byakuya himself said so and understood why Rukia would feel friendship towards Ichigo. Rukia paralleled Kaien’s last fight with Ichigo’s fight against Grand Fisher, the Hollow that had killed Masaki Kurosaki.

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She views them as similar and so would be unlikely to have romantic feelings for a guy that she viewed as anything but a potential romantic partner. Throughout the Soul Society Arc, she keeps putting the two together.

8 Ichigo & Rukia Are Literally Different Species

It is understandable that within the sometimes convoluted universe of Bleach, with all the different races (souls, hollows, Arrancars, etc) and the complicated ways in which one individual can end up changing race, fans can become confused or forget things. One thing that can be forgotten is that, in spite of his extraordinary abilities and powers, Ichigo is human. Even though he was a Shinigami, he is not a Soul.

He was not born in Soul Society and he never died to go there. If he wanted to be with Rukia, he would either have to wait and die from old age or… die right away and part with everyone else way too soon. Rukia is a Soul who ages extremely slowly and will probably never die. Their families are in different worlds and their priorities are incompatible.

7 Ichigo & Orihime’s Romance Was Built Up From The Very Beginning

Orihime’s crush on Ichigo was evident from the first few chapters; she even had trouble being articulate in front of him, although part of her character development was how she gained confidence in herself. As for him, he was ready to sacrifice his life for her from the first arc, when he put himself between her and her Hollowified brother, Sora.

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He almost always singles her out, speaks up for her, and he defends her. Ichigo and Rukia's relationship fits best as best bud dynamic with teasing, joking around, and faux fighting.

6 Ichigo & Orihime Go To Extremes To Protect Each Other

Ichigo literally came back from death for Orihime during his fight with Ulquiorra while in his second Hollowification, all because she cried for him not to die. Orihime also places her body between Ichigo and Acidwire to protect Ichigo. Ichigo puts himself between Grimmjow’s Ceros and Orihime without hesitation.

Orihime more than willingly went to fight Yhwach alongside Ichigo to be his defense, knowing they were about to face a godlike Quincy. Fans should remember that many of Ichigo’s enemies noticed this; Ulquiorra, Grimmjow, and Nnoitora all mocked him for wanting to protect her that much and underlined how she was the motivation for him to fight more fiercely.

5 Rukia & Renji’s Mutual Backstory Showed How Much He Cared About Rukia

Rukia and Renji grew up together as orphaned Soul children in Soul Society. They shared the same experiences and together they discovered the gift of Reiatsu to be accepted in the Shin’ō Academy. Their mutual goal was to become Shinigami, gain higher ranks, and grow stronger.

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When Rukia tells Renji the Kuchiki clan wants to adopt her he acts happy but is depressed inside because he predicts they will grow apart. Still, he tries to repress his sadness, thinking that Rukia finally has a family, falsely believing that he was not important to her.

4 Renji’s Was Willing To Sacrifice Everything If It Meant Keeping Rukia Safe

Renji sacrificed everything to save Rukia. Ichigo may have gone to Soul Society to save her from execution and put his life on the line, but that was out of strong friendship and gratitude that Rukia gave him the means to protect his family. Renji almost lost his life and put everything on the line for Rukia.

If things had taken a different turn and Ichigo hadn’t managed to save Rukia, maybe he would escape and he’d still have a home and family to return to. But such an outcome for Renji would be devastating; he’d have lost Rukia, as well as his position as a Shinigami, his standing in the Seireitei, and possibly his life since he unashamedly defied his superiors.

3 Rukia & Renji’s Romance Was Foreshadowed, Too

The earliest moment for Rukia was when she announced her potential adoption to Renji. She was crushed upon thinking he was happy, because she expected a different reaction as she wanted the separation to sadden him and make him fight for her. But he only reacted in the way he believed was best for her, and that ended up making him feel he put her on the path towards death.

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Chapter 98 was devoted to how Renji considered Rukia an unattainable “star” that he, a “tramp,” could never reach. If he just wanted friendship, why did he feel he had to stay out of Rukia’s way? If she just wanted friendship, why did she expect him to protest? The answer is simple: Her adoption didn’t get in the way of friendship, but in the way of the “something more” they wanted.

2 Both Renji & Rukia Grew Overly Emotional When It Came To Helping The Other

These are some other examples of Rukia and Renji showing their devotion to each other. There is the time Renji swallowed his pride and begged Ichigo to save Rukia. The moment when Rukia was ready to give up and follow Aizen so that Renji would be spared.

Renji's extreme reaction upon Szayelaporro telling him that Rukia and Aaroniero had killed each other, a reaction that seems very similar to Ichigo’s reaction for Orihime? And finally when Renji confessed to Ichigo that he helped Rukia and himself become close again and he would always be by Ichigo’s side for it.

1 When Orihime Confessed Her Love To Ichigo

This must have been the most obvious and blatant foreshadowing ever. When the Espadas allow Orihime to say goodbye to one person before she is taken to Hueco Mundo, she picks Ichigo (even though he is still unconscious from an earlier fight). She underlines how she could have picked one of the others, but Ichigo was the person she just needed to see one last time.

She says how there were so many things she wished she had gotten to do and how she would like to live five times to try multiple different things, but she'd always fall in love with the same person: Ichigo.

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