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We are usually told to give it our all in most aspects in life, yet what if fear takes over? What if you’re not able to move on? Those thoughts come to mind when it comes to BLEACH’s Kenpachi Zaraki and his recently-revealed history with fellow Soul Society Captain, Retsu Unohana. Their backstory takes a look at the power restraint places on individuals even if they’re not aware of it.
In an attempt to bolster Soul Society’s forces, Shunsui Kyoraku, now the Captain Commander of Soul Society, decides to have Kenpachi train under the tutelage of Retsu Unohana. It is then revealed that Unohana was the first Kenpachi, Yachiru Unohana, and was previously a warrior that craved nothing but the fight. Unohana met Kenpachi when he was a child while surveying Soul Society for powerful warriors to satisfy her lust for battle. Both fought each other to great amusement, yet Unohana believes that she is the reason why the current Kenpachi is “weak”. She notes that he’s been holding back his power unconsciously ever since he met her. Adding to the drama is the fact that Kenpachi idolizes Unohana. You can argue that the two sound like a couple that had a great connection, but things got complicated and they broke up, yet never getting over each other entirely.
We can talk about how good restraint is, but there are times where your brain decides to use it against you. It has a “switch” that imposes limits to “protect” your well-being. Your brain will tend to ask "Why waste so much energy when you really don’t need to do so?" during certain situations. That’s the mentality you have to fight at times if you are aware of it, which Kenpachi wasn’t doing until he fought Ichigo Kurosaki and Nnoitora Gilga.
If you think about it, we need constant competition in our lives to get rid of restraint. Life is all about competition. A overwhelming majority of Kenpachi’s life (and also Unohana’s) has been non-competitive. If children are taught to have a better understanding of competition, then it provides great rewards for them. And perhaps that is why Unohana curses herself. She didn’t take the opportunity to be a proper “role model” for Kenpachi after they first met. It’s more important to let kids have their fun, right? This kind of thinking hurts them in the long-run more than you think. Being babied does not teach children how to confront problems in an effective manner.
You can’t entirely blame both our violent warriors for their mindsets. They’re both victims to their brains just like we all are during times of sudden change. Our brain often tries to keep us safe and rationalize our beliefs. Even tough guys have fears. Or were both Kenpachi and Unohana pretending to be tough to feel better about themselves?
The edge of restraint sure is a sharp one, wouldn’t you say?