Orihime Inoue (井上 織姫 Inoue Orihime?) is a fictional character and major figure 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 Inoue has Brown Eyes (which seem to change color at times) and long caramel hair with bangs behind her ears. She does not remove her hairpins, except when sleeping, as they are worn in memory of her brother, and the manifestation of her spiritual energy power, the Shun Shun Rikka. Her hair is worn long in honor of the promise Tatsuki Arisawa once made to protect her. Her eyes are brown in the manga, but grey in the anime.
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. Additionally, according to Tatsuki, Orihime has the fighting skill of a black belt. 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. Aside from Rangiku Matsumoto and possibly Tessai Tsukabishi, no one shares Orihime's tastes. Her favorite food is red bean paste, and she likes putting butter on sweet potatoes. She enjoys cheese and butter most of the time, especially butter on baked potatoes. She also likes Cake (sometimes but not always) rice and ice cream( as seen eating in the anime) She tends to zone out with her mouth open and loses track of what she was thinking or dreaming about.
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 relatives living elsewhere. Previously, she had lived with her older brother, Sora, who was fifteen years older than her. She and her brother were raised by parents who did not want children who were different. 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.
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.
The fairies are separate manifestations of Orihime's spirit, each with its own unique appearance and personality, and each named after a flower. Orihime's techniques involve incantations manipulating the Shun Shun Rikka into three different groups. Though Orihime initially needed to chant an incantation to use her techniques, further training has rendered this unnecessary. Her incantation consists of voicing the names of the members involved, followed by the technique name and the phrase "I reject" (私は拒絶する watashi wa kyozetsu suru?), a reference to the nature of her powers. Since Orihime's power is fueled by her emotions rather than spiritual energy, the only limit that has been shown to it is her own confidence; any self-doubt weakens her abilities and can cause them to fail.
Santen Kesshun (三天結盾?, literally "triple heavenly linking shield") is Orihime's defensive technique. The incantation arranges Baigon, Hinagiku and Lily into a triangle, forming a barrier capable of repelling anything seen so far. Although it is shown that it clearly has its limits such as when one of the espada, Yammy shatters it with a single punch.
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. Koten Zanshun is the least effective of Orihime's abilities, not because of any lack of power, but because her own pacifist nature. Since the technique is invariably lethal if effective, Orihime is conflicted about whether she truly wants it to work, and thus any powerful foe can block the attack.
Sōten Kisshun (双天帰盾?, literally "twin heavenly returning shield") is Orihime's healing technique, though it goes well beyond simple healing. The incantation summons Shun'o and Ayame to form a half-oval barrier around whatever or whomever Orihime wishes. While active, the barrier repels all negative events inflicted upon anything within the barrier. No matter how extensive the damage may be (whether used on living beings or inanimate objects), the barrier can restore it to full working order by reversing space and time around the damaged area, making it as if the object was never damaged in the first place. This is the aspect of her power that piques Sōsuke Aizen's interest in her since, in Aizen's words, she "violates the realm of gods."
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.
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 both Bleach: Memories of Nobody and Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion, 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 Seiyū 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.
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