Orihime Inoue as depicted in the anime
|First appearance||Bleach manga chapter 2
Bleach anime episode 2
|Created by||Tite Kubo|
|Weapon||Shun Shun Rikka|
Orihime Inoue (井上 織姫 Inoue Orihime?) is a fictional character in the anime and manga series Bleach created by Tite Kubo. She is a classmate and friend of Ichigo Kurosaki, the main character of the series. Like many other friends of Ichigo, she quickly develops spiritual powers of her own after Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper. Through the series, Orihime learns about Ichigo's duties as a Soul Reaper and decides to accompany him when he goes to Soul Society to save Rukia Kuchiki.
Besides the manga and anime series, Orihime has also appeared in other media from Bleach including video games and animated films. Orihime's character has been highly popular between readers of the manga since her introduction, having ranked high in all of the characters popularity polls of the series. Additionally, various pieces of merchandising have been developed based on her appearance such as figurines and key chains. Publications from manga, anime and other media have also commented on her character with most praising her traits and development in Bleach.
Creation and conception
Along with Ichigo Kurosaki, Orihime has the hardest face to draw according to Tite Kubo. Due to her importance in the manga, Kubo wanted more practice drawing her so that it would be easier to do so. When Kubo was asked to make a cover with a female character during Christmas, Kubo initially thought of using Rukia Kuchiki; However, he later changed to use Orihime as he thought Orihime was more suitable for such a role. She functions as the second female lead after the Soul Society arc, which was recognized when her character was featured along with female leads from other Weekly Shonen Jump series on a special Shonen Jump cover. Stephanie Sheh, Orihime's English voice actress, found Orihime to be a "tricky" character as she noted a challenge to find a balance with her voice as although she sometimes seems ditzy, in other times she is very strong.
Orihime is friendly, humorous, sensitive, and kind. She comes off as naïve and rather clueless, which is at odds with her exceptionally high marks in school. Her cooking style can be described as very bad, disgusting, or, more often strange to the point that aside from Rangiku Matsumoto, no one would think it delectable, and is one of the running jokes in the series. Orihime has a tendency to rush into situations without thinking, sometimes leading to embarrassing or even dangerous consequences. She also tends to have an overactive imagination and gets carried away thinking of implausible scenarios, such as initially fantasizing a date with Ichigo, later ending into her becoming a boxing champion prior to being shot. Her hair is worn long in honor of the promise Tatsuki Arisawa once made to protect her.
Orihime has feelings for protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki. This leads her to be jealous of the relationship Ichigo and Rukia Kuchiki share despite her friendship and admiration of both of them. Through her expanding role in the manga, Orihime was more happy and goofy at the start of the series, but later arcs deal with her feelings of inadequacy and inner turmoils. Orihime lives by herself in Karakura Town, where the story takes place, and is supported by her distance relative aunt provided that she continuously obtain good marks in school, which she does. She and her brother Sora were raised by parents who treated them poorly. When Sora turned eighteen, he ran away with Orihime, who was three years old, and raised her since. For nine years, Orihime and Sora lived in harmony until one day, Sora was wounded in a car accident and died.
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Orihime's power manifests itself as the Shun Shun Rikka (盾舜六花?, literally "six flowers of the shielded hibiscus", translated in the English anime as "six princess-shielding flowers"), six fairy-like creatures that reside in her hair-clips (shaped like six-petaled flowers, each fairy is two points on a given clip) when inactive. Orihime's abilities are shown to be similar to Hachigen's (a Vizard) abilities. For example, when Orihime is looking for Ichigo, she passes through Hachi's barrier as opposed to breaking it. Hachi reveals that he invented the technique after becoming a Vizard, so it would be impossible for anyone to do what Orihime did. Orihime's techniques involve incantations manipulating the Shun Shun Rikka into four different groups.
Santen Kesshun (三天結盾?, literally "triple heavenly linking shield") is Orihime's defensive technique. The incantation arranges Baigon (梅厳?), Hinagiku (火無菊?), and Lily (リリィ Ririi?) into a triangle, forming a barrier capable of repelling anything seen so far. As shown in Chapter 491, she is now able to bend Santen Kesshun into a large dome shape barrier, although it is unknown whether this shield has any other special properties besides being able to shield from all sides since Kirge Opie absorbed it before it's defensive power was seen.
Koten Zanshun (孤天斬盾?, literally "solitary heavenly cutting shield") is Orihime's offensive technique. The incantation summons Tsubaki (椿鬼?), who forms a thin barrier on either side of himself that cuts through enemies like a sword. However, when Tsubaki is destroyed by an arrancar, Orihime is unable to use this technique until Tsubaki is revived by the Vizard known as Hachigen.
Sōten Kisshun (双天帰盾?, literally "twin heavenly returning shield") is Orihime's healing technique. The technique allows Orihime to reject anything inside the barrier by reversing the flow of time. The incantation summons Shun'ō (舜桜?) and Ayame (あやめ?), who form a half-oval barrier which can be resized into any length Orihime wants and around whatever or whomever she wishes. Aizen states that her ability is "the rejection of events", which is to pick a target and negate any event that has happened to it, restoring the target to a former state. Orihime can even use the technique to resurrect the dead.
Shiten Kōshun (四天抗盾?, literally "four heavenly resisting shield") is a technique Orihime develops after Ichigo loses his powers as a shinigami. The technique creates what at first looks like a triangular shield much like her Santen Keshuun technique, however placing Tsubaki in the back to form a pyramid. When the shield is struck, it returns the attack as a concentrated explosion that is automatically returned along the attack's opposing trajectory. Because the shield will return the force of the attack, and not the attack itself it can be used to return short-range melee attacks.
Overall, Shun Shun Rikka's effectiveness is solely base on Orihime's strong determination and will to make it more real and to cause real damage without regard, since her feelings, perceptiveness, manner, confidence, or anything that involves her heart plays a major role in her abilities. With strong will and absolute persistence in her action, the Shun Shun Rikka is able to reject anything, no matter how extensive or strong the assault. When Orihime lacks confidence in herself and because it is in her nature to protect and to heal rather than to kill, her abilities decline. However, after Ichigo Kurosaki loses his Soul Reaper powers, Orihime undergoes a rigid training regime to increase her powers, later showing her remarkable progress and is able to defend and attack with lack of remorse or doubt, showing her maturity and full competency in using her Shun Shun Rikka to the fullest extent. Even Ginjou perceives her new-found power as sadistic in contrast with her usual bubbly, sensitive and kind-hearted personality.
After Ichigo Kurosaki gains the powers of a Soul Reaper, his interactions with his classmates begin to have unforeseen side effects. Orihime, after being saved from the hollow of her brother by Ichigo, finds herself endowed with the Shun Shun Rikka, six spirits that inhabit her hair pins and help her during battle situations. After Rukia Kuchiki is taken back to Soul Society to be executed, Orihime joins Ichigo and some of her classmates in an effort to save her. Upon arriving in Soul Society, their group is split up, and Orihime wanders the city with Uryū Ishida. Orihime is captured by the Soul Reaper Makizō Aramaki, a Soul Reaper of the eleventh division, but is later freed by the captain Kenpachi Zaraki. After Rukia is saved by Ichigo, the group returns to the human world.
Soon after the Bount are dealt with, arrancar begin to invade Karakura Town. During a battle with the Espada Yammy, the attack component of Orihime's Shun Shun Rikka is destroyed, making her unable to help in the oncoming battles. After sitting on the sidelines for the second arrancar invasion, Orihime has Tsubaki restored by Hachigen Ushōda, and Orihime goes to Soul Society to train for the next attack. While traveling between the two realms, she is met by Ulquiorra Cifer, who threatens to kill Ichigo and her friends unless she agrees to go to Hueco Mundo. Orihime agrees and leaves to Hueco Mundo.
Upon her arrival in the arrancar base in Hueco Mundo, Orihime is introduced to Sōsuke Aizen, a former Soul Reaper and current leader of the Arrancar. Aizen explains that he intends to use Orihime's Shun Shun Rikka to restore the Hōgyoku (崩玉?, "breakdown sphere"), though she decides to use her powers to destroy the Orb instead. Before she can act on her plans, Ichigo and a group of others arrive in Hueco Mundo to save her. When Ichigo is defeated while facing Ulquiorra, Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, wanting to battle Ichigo at full strength, frees Orihime from her confinements so that she can heal him. Ichigo battles with Grimmjow and ultimately claims victory. They are then attacked by Nnoitora Jiruga, but after Nnoitora's death at the hands of Kenpachi, Orihime is captured once again. Ichigo rushes to her location, and engages Ulquiorra in battle, but is once again defeated. During the aftermath, she screams for Ichigo to help, causing him to transform into a new hollow form that mortally hurts Ulquiorra. Ulquiorra starts to turn into ashes as he asks Orihime if she is afraid of him. Orihime, after saying that he is not frightening, tries to reach his hand but Ulquiorra finally disappears. As Ichigo returns to the world of the living, Orihime remains behind to heal an injured Uryū.
After Aizen is defeated, Orihime returns to living a normal life until Uryū is attacked and badly injured by a human with supernatural powers. She is told by Uryū's father that the human is likely targeting others with powers and warned that she or her other friends could be attacked next. She is later confronted by Tsukishima, the one who attacked Uryū, and his subordinate Shishigawara, and Tsukishima stabs her with his Fullbring before leaving. When Ichigo and Chad arrive to help, Orihime denies the incident occurred. Later, when Ichigo attempts to fight Tsukishima, Chad and Orihime defend him, as it is revealed that Tsukishima's Fullbring has altered their memories. Later, as the Soul Reapers arrive to assist Ichigo in the battle against Ginjo, Tsukishima, and the other Fullbringers, Tsukishima attempts to alter Chad and Orihime's memories further, causing mental anguish that distracts them long enough for Kisuke Urahara to render them unconscious and take them back to his shop to recover. At the end of the battle, Orihime is shown shedding tears for Riruka, glad that she is alright. Later, Orihime and her friends fight off the Vandenreich, a group of Quincys seeking to destroy Soul Society.
Appearances in other media
Her character has gained additional fame even among non-fans thanks to a short looped animation of Orihime twirling a leek (specifically, a negi, or Welsh onion) played to "Ievan Polkka". Known as the Loituma Girl, the five frames used in the flash cartoon were taken from the second episode in the anime. Orihime appears in the Bleach: Memories of Nobody, Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion and Bleach: Hell Verse, albeit in a minor role. She also appears in the Bleach video games such as Heat the Soul as a playable character. Orihime also stars alongside Rukia Kuchiki in the Bleach Beat Collection Season 2 with solo song "La La La" and duet song "Holy Fight."
At the first Seiyu Awards in March 2007, Yuki Matsuoka was one of the winners in the category "Best Actresses in supporting roles" for her role as Orihime. The character of Orihime has been well received by readers from the manga, appearing at No. 5 in the first characters popularity poll. She did not appear in the top ten from the second (having ranked 12th), but returned in the two followings; in the 3rd poll she ranked 10th, and was 8th in the most recent, surpassing Izuru Kira by 123 votes. Various types of merchandising have been released based on Orihime's character such as plush, key chains and figurines. Pins based on her hair clips have also been released for cosplaying.
Various publications for manga, anime and other media have commented on Orihime's character, adding praise to her traits and development. Mania Entertainment writer Jarred Pine liked Orihime's development in the first volume of the manga as her encounter with the hollow from her brother added "more dimension" to her character rather than her portray of a "big-breasted bimbo" in which she was initially introduced. Although Carlos Santos from Anime News Network (ANN) found her character to be stereotypical due to the way she uses her powers, he noted that (like each character) she was very interesting due to the personality she has. D. F. Smith from IGN complained on Orihime's appearances when she joins her friends to rescue Rukia Kuchiki since most of them were only comical and they were very repetitive. Stephanie Sheh was praised as one of the best voice actors from Viz Media's dub by Carl Kimlinger from ANN. Carlos Alexandre from popcultureshock.com also praised Sheh's work, noting that she makes a good interpretation from Orihime's character. In an Anime News Network poll, Orihime was voted as the fourth worst cook in anime.
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