09 January 2011 @ 12:24 pm
Symbolism in the Espada  
I was thinking about possible themes and symbolism associated with some of the Espada's resurreccións. Any additional thoughts on the Espadas I've discussed or the other Espadas are welcome.

With a resurrección named Los Lobos and one particular technique in his arsenal that involves a pack of wolves, it is very clear that Starrk is associated with certain characteristics of the animal itself. The most popular term associated with this animal is the idea of a "lone wolf," which corresponds with Starrk's aspect of death - solitude. A stereotype commonly attributed to the lone wolf is the idea of independence and a rebellious nature however, in actual fact, wolves have a strong social nature and sense of family. A lone wolf is in reality one that has been driven from the pack and, in most cases, will seek to join another pack or seek a mate to start a new pack of wolves. Starrk's character emphasizes a desire for companionship however his high spiritual power isolated him from being in the company of other Hollows, exiled from the "pack" so to speak.

Barragan's resurrección of a skeleton clad in black robes bears quite a resemblance to the Grim Reaper, who is known as the personification of death and harvester of souls. The image of the Grim Reaper is said to have originated from two figures in Greek mythology. The titan Cronus was the patron god of harvest and often shown with a sickle. Cronus is often confused with the incorporeal god, Chronos, commonly depicted as a man turning a zodiac wheel. Cronus and Chronos share one characteristic and that is their association with time. Chronos is sometimes called "Father Time" as he is said to be the personification of time itself while the Roman counterpart of Cronus is Saturn, also called the "Bringer of Old Age" as he is usually linked to death by old age in mythology. This seems very much in line with Barragan's ability Respira and his aspect of death - age. Considering that Barragan can manipulate time to a certain extent, his association with Saturn and "Father Time" seems rather fitting.

Santa Teresa is the Spanish word for the praying mantis. In Japanese, the praying mantis is known as kamakiri where kama can mean a scythe or sickle while kiri is to "cut." This is quite connected to Nnoitra's weapon which resembles a sickle especially in his resurrección form. The praying mantis is often associated with female superiority in Western culture due to the tendency of the female mantis to eat the male mantis after mating. With this in mind, it's quite intriguing for the mantis to be associated with Nnoitra, or perhaps it's a twisted reference to his dissatisfaction with female superiority or being consistently inferior in strength to a female (Nel and Harribel). Also of note is the choice of kanji to describe Nnoitra's resurrección: Sacred Crying Mantis. Describing Nnoitra as a "crying mantis" could be a small reference to his despair.

Grimmjow's character is closely associated with the panther. The panther is generally a symbol of ferocity, aggressiveness and power. Panthers are also mostly solitary, being more comfortable by themselves or in their own territory although they associate with others. In Greek mythology, the panther was the totemic symbol of Dionysis, the god of wine and vegetation. Dionysus was kind to those who worshipped him but brought madness and destruction upon those who rejected him in contempt. Grimmjow doesn't seem to have much in common with Dionysus but the destructive part of Dionysus is quite similar to Grimmjow's goal to destroy all those who looked down on him. Although his resurrección is called Panthera, Grimmjow's adjuchas form very much resembles a tiger. Tigers have been associated with authority and destruction in various Asian mythologies. For example, in Hinduism, Shiva, the god of destruction and reincarnation, is often depicted wearing tiger skin and riding a tiger.

On the cover page of the chapter The Rising Phoenix, Szayel is depicted as a figure dressed only in loins in a crucified pose suggesting a certain relation to Christ. However, considering the choice of kanji for his resurrección and the Spanish name of Fornicaras, it seems to be more of a subversion of Christ. The Japanese kanji translates into "Lewd Princess" which could be a vague reference to the Whore of Babylon who is described as "the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication." She is also said to be attired in scarlet and purple, which matches the colors of Szayel's resurrección form. The Whore of Babylon is also commonly associated with the Antichrist.

The kanji used for Zommari's resurrección translates to "Bewitching Eyes Sangha." While "Bewitching Eyes" ties in with the idea of witchcraft as suggested by the name Brujeria, the inclusion of Sangha, which is a Sanskrit word that usually refers to an association of monks, suggests a monastic quality to Zommari's power. Furthermore, Zommari is depicted with his hands clasped together like in prayer after his zanpakutou release. The opening of his "eyes" could be a reference to the "Evil Eye" commonly associated with witchcraft. However, the position of his eyes on the extra "faces" that appear on his body also seems to correspond with the traditional position of the "Third Eye." In Tantra meditation (and also Yoga), the third eye is associated with the Ajna chakra. The word Ajna comes from the Sanskrit root which means "to know, to obey or to follow." Ajna literally means "command" or "the monitoring center," which is rather reflective of Zommari's ability to gain control of anything he sets his "eye" upon.

The primary feature of Aaroniero's resurrección seems to be the large mass of tentacles presumably for the absorption of his prey. In this interesting analysis of the etymology of the word "tentacle," a link between the Greek myth about Tantalus and cephalopods such as the octopus and squid was made. In the story, Tantalus was forced into a position of perpetual hunger as punishment for offending the Olympian gods, which is rather interesting considering that Aaroniero's aspect of death is gluttony. His resurrección also bears a resemblance to the octopus, an animal known for camouflaging itself as a means for trapping an unsuspecting prey. This seems reflective of Aaroniero's ability to change his appearance as seen in the way he disguised himself as Kaien in order to lure Rukia.

Current Mood: awake
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helliongoddess: Bleach - Aizen - Approach the Pimp Thron[personal profile] helliongoddess on January 12th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely fascinating. Thanks for writing and posting it. I have bookmarked it to come back and refer to later as I am thinking about the series, and contemplating fics.

I hope somehow that Kubo finds a way to bring at least some of the Espada back at some point - they are such great characters, it seems a shame to have completely lost them all so quickly. It feels like just as we were getting to know them, they were gone.
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quaint_twilight: ichigo[personal profile] quaint_twilight on January 13th, 2011 03:13 am (UTC)
Glad you found it interesting.

I share your sentiment on the Espada. I do believe that we'll be seeing more of Grimmjow and Nel at the very least since their fates were left unknown at the end of the HM arc.
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helliongoddess: Bleach - Yoruichi -stop in the name of l[personal profile] helliongoddess on January 13th, 2011 04:54 am (UTC)
Yes, I suspected that about Grimmjow and Nel (and her pals) myself. The one that really frustrated me as far as being an all-too-brief acquaintance was Harribel - right as we get the biggest reveals about her, Aizen offs her! She was such a wonderful character.

So far, I am not all that impressed with this current arc in the manga. I hope it either improves soon, or turns out to be a short one. I almost get the feeling KT was sorry I used the device of Ichigo giving his powers, and that this current arc is simply a means of rectifying that...
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helliongoddess[personal profile] helliongoddess on January 13th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
Argh! I meant "sorry HE used the device", not sorry I used! It's been a long day...
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quaint_twilight: masamune[personal profile] quaint_twilight on January 13th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
Yes, I agree about Harribel. I was expecting some form of backstory (which was attempted in the anime but I found it a little unoriginal) and was disappointed at the abrupt end of her character. Harribel was the only Espada to demonstrate a real sense of concern for her subordinates.

I haven't decided if I like the current arc but I find the pacing somewhat better. I never doubted that Ichigo was going to regain his powers so I guess this arc serves that purpose. And this is just blind speculation on my part but it could also be a prelude to the next arc which is supposedly going to be focused on Isshin. I'm still wondering if there's any connection between Ginjou and Isshin...
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Ashleigh[personal profile] cothurnus on August 26th, 2012 06:42 pm (UTC)
I hope somehow that Kubo finds a way to bring at least some of the Espada back at some point - they are such great characters, it seems a shame to have completely lost them all so quickly. It feels like just as we were getting to know them, they were gone.

I must say though, I really agree with this assessment - it's the main thing that began to put me off the symbolism of Bleach, which was sad really, given how evocative it was. For, no matter how well done it was, it never really seemed to pay off, and this also applied to important character points, especially those of Orihime, Ichigo and Ulquiorra. Ulquiorra's epiphany I thought was extremely well executed, but the ideas that Orihime might have contracted a sort of Stockholm Syndrome (I really can't stand the theories of Ulquiorra/Orihime shippers), or that the hollow aspect of Ichigo had been brought more and more to the fore, by his need to be more and more ruthless in battle, but that he somehow still manages to keep a hold on the goodness in his soul, never really paid off. (Yeah, actually, why do we never get a really good evaluation of Orihime's feelings on returning home after her trauma?)

I'd love some of the Espada to return - especially Ulquiorra and Grimmjow, not just because they are some of the most heavily characterised and, therefore, most interesting, but also because they would be the most likely to return. For, we've never seen Grimmjow dead and Orihime resurrecting Ulquiorra from dust would be the logical conclusion of her Stockholm Syndrome (although, I would say it's a stretch). But, to be honest, I don't think it'll happen, even without the recent announcement that the series is ending. I think that maybe Kubo was just a bit over-ambitious and didn't keep a tight focus on heading for his end-game.

By the way, though, was anyone else annoyed by the fact that we never heard any of the former Espada's aspects of death? I really thought that Nel's should be 'mercy'.
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Ashleigh[personal profile] cothurnus on August 26th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
I love your research and analysis. It really is a more rewarding way to look at the art of Bleach, and a testament to the effort which Kubo always put into characterisation. I'd have liked to see some research on Ulquiorra too, though, especially as his second resurreccion looks a lot like Mediaeval conceptualisations of the devil, but I'm not going to criticise such a great effort.
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