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Kay ([personal profile] sincere) wrote2008-06-06 09:23 am
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Bleach chapter -99: Aizen and understanding

It's interesting to see that, once again, Aizen's actions are justified with an almost philosophical emotional trigger.

He's a little bit of an oddball -- the compassionate ubervillain, who makes people feel like they're cared about even though he will obliterate without thinking or remorse, whose confidence is so epic that he just compels people to follow him. And he's very consistent about his standards: what elevates people from tools to, well, people.


He gave this speech to Hinamori, and now he's given it to Shinji too. You can't be betrayed by someone you never even really knew. If you'd known him better, you could've stopped him. He was hardly even trying. But the flimsiest of facades was enough to fool you, because people don't understand each other.

Hinamori didn't understand him because she put him on a pedestal. In doing so, she kept him at arms length, and never questioned him, and naively assumed that the surface was the only part of him that she needed to know. She never knew anything about Aizen more relevant than, say, his favorite food. What really motivated him? What did he really want out of his life? Was it to sit at a desk in the Fifth Division and smile benevolently all the time? She was too busy idolizing what he showed her to find out.

Shinji didn't understand him because he was too wary of him to get close. He thought he knew how to keep Aizen from doing harm, and made assumptions. "As long as I watch him" was supposed to be good enough. But the smarter method (what Aizen would have done) would've been to get close, to learn everything about him: what can you do? why are you doing it? why would you want to? Saying "I've been suspicious of you since before you were born, boy!" is all well and good, but he didn't do anything more than occasionally glance over to make sure he wasn't being suspicious at the moment. He was just like Hinamori, concerned only with the surfaces, and not with what lies beneath.

As a master of illusion, worlds where the surface means nothing, Aizen values what's beneath the surface, and the people who can see beneath it. Gin does understand him, Aizen says. Instead of assuming, he made a choice, and he watches Aizen. He learns about what Aizen wants, what motivates him, what he's capable of. In the end, he knows Aizen better than anyone else. We know this, not only because Aizen claims it's true, but because we've seen Gin recognize his feelings far beneath his pleasant surface: when Ichigo et al begin to invade Hueco Mundo, Gin is right there, smiling, observing that Aizen is actually excited about it, even though by all accounts he shouldn't be. He knows. And he feels the same way. They understand each other.

So an interesting thing I'm taking away from this is: Aizen isn't being a hypocrite. He did and does do the things that he takes Shinji (and Hinamori) to task for not doing. He gets to know the people around him that he trusts at his back -- and the people that he would keep at arms' length, if he was anyone else. His encounter with Szayel Aporro proves this to me. He just knows what Szayel is up to by collecting the fallen Privaron Espada, and he basically only wants Szayel to know that he knows. I understand you. It's both a threat and an intimacy in Aizen's mind. Don't think you can hide things from me. But aren't I compelling? Doesn't the way I know you affect the way you think about me?

Of course, since Aizen's motivations are not-good, even someone who had attempted to get to know him better would probably have had steps taken against him. We have never seen an innocent third party attempt to "understand" Aizen: Aizen approached Gin, and presumably Tousen, to invite them to join his grand work. He invited them in. What would he do if, say, Komamura had genuinely attempted to get to know him? What made him tick? Wouldn't Aizen have hidden his motivations?

But I'd like to think Aizen would have had a deeper respect for him for making the attempt. Aizen has made such a big deal out of understanding that I can't help thinking he wouldn't be so quick to throw away someone who had tried to understand him, the way he was so quick to throw away Hinamori and Shinji when they became inconvenient.

So I'm definitely pleased with this turn of events; it deepens and develops a previously established character trait. I am, however, disappointed that we sort of came into the middle of Aizen's plotting. My hopes when we started this segment out would be that we'd get to see some backstory as to why he's doing all this -- what got him started down Revolution Road. But we came in on the middle of it, apparently after Aizen already has a cause to gather people to.

[identity profile] 2008-06-06 05:35 pm (UTC)(link)

Good call on Aizen singing the same old song. I suppose Kubo is saving his backstory and true motives for the time just before or just after his ultimate downfall but I wanted a clue too, in this gaiden.

There were so many other treats (baby!Gin) that I'm not complaining, though. The Shinji and Aizen dynamic was to die for--Aizen revealing Shinji's failing so brilliantly. He destroyed Momo. He transformed Shinji.
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[identity profile] 2008-06-06 06:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Tiny Gin kills me. He's my favorite of all the tiny people, although the brief glimpses of backstory for Shuuhei and Nanao were also interesting -- gave me new ideas about how they tick, essentially.

Shinji-Aizen is positively perfection. You knew right from the beginning that Shinji saw how shady he was, was trying to keep him in line, but they just seemed to click, to work together -- and then this, this, "you never even tried, never understood, you were a fool from start to finish." It seemed like such a good match, and it's perfect that even that wasn't what it seemed. X3

[identity profile] 2008-06-06 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow. Your analysis of Bleach characters never ceases to amaze me.

(It's horrible that I was most excited about the almost Freudian Hiyori/Shinji moment in there. [""])

BUT REALLY, IT'S SO EXCELLENT! Hopefully, we'll get to hear more about Urahara now that he's shown up very ninja!style.
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[identity profile] 2008-06-07 03:54 pm (UTC)(link)
The Hiyori/Shinji moment was -- wonderful, and horrible of course but really, genuinely touching, and I'm usually a skeptic about these things unless I'm actively shipping them.

Eager to see what Urahara brings~ And how this all turns out :3

[identity profile] 2008-06-06 10:43 pm (UTC)(link)
No wonder I was getting that feeling that this chapter was pretty repetitive... but whereas I was a little impatient with it, you dug deeper and connected the threads. This is why I'm so glad I added you to my flist! :D

I love to see Aizen pulling one over on everyone, again. His bit at the end, that the betrayal you don't see is the most fearsome, was pretty chilling. And yet, as much as I love him, this kind of cockiness irks me. He seems almost gleeful at his ability to dupe people, when I would hope/prefer/expect? that he accept his success a bit more humbly. It seems more fitting, if he really believes his actions are so noble. Anyway, his taunting, if not his confidence, should get him in trouble someday.

And finally, squee! Urahara to the rescue?
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[identity profile] 2008-06-07 04:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Haha, happy to help. X3 You're right, the narrative tendency is his one "villain foible" that really tends to put him on shaky ground -- the desire to explain how he did everything to his "victims". But instead of looking at it as gleeful gloating, you might want to look at it from a different angle. [ profile] libekory were just talking about this.

We think that Aizen is kind of... educating them. After all, we know that Aizen's goal is hypothetically to do something good: he wants to ascend to the throne of Heaven because no one is there right now. People pray and scrape and bow to a god that doesn't hear them, isn't even there. He wants to take that throne because, theoretically, he wants someone to actually be there. He wants to lead, not destroy.

So with in mind that Aizen's ultimate goal is "benevolent godhood," this is kind of an educational moment. He is guiding these people in their mistakes, showing them where they went wrong. "This is why you had to die here. If you had done more of this all along, you would have been a better person and you wouldn't have been in this situation." Since we know that reincarnation is canon, even though he plans to kill them right here and now, the lesson could last into their next lifetime -- making them then the kind of person he would appreciate.

Just an idea.

[identity profile] 2008-06-07 12:01 am (UTC)(link)
Before this chapter, I was most interested in see Yamamoto take on Aizen, and that interest still remains. Now though, I'm equally eager to see Shinji take him on.

Nice write up, by the way. Spot on.
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[identity profile] 2008-06-07 04:02 pm (UTC)(link)
I've been interested to see the Aizen-Shinji confrontation since the moment I learned that Shinji was his captain. In my head it's a very, "I created this monster, I allowed it to run loose, and now I'm going to take care of it." And this little blow... ooh. It's gotta sting. X3
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[personal profile] incandescens 2008-06-07 12:28 am (UTC)(link)
Very nice writeup. I think you've got an excellent point there. Aizen _appreciates_ excellence in others. He would have appreciated it if Shinji had tried to understand him, even if he might have had to kill Shinji for it.
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[identity profile] 2008-06-07 04:05 pm (UTC)(link)
That's it exactly, the kind of leader that he is/is aiming to be. I really think Aizen encourages and tries to better others, even if in the end it needs to be taken apart for his goals. As I suggested above, he probably feels like he has a free hand, since the reincarnation cycle justifies it: if he kills someone, as long as he's taught them a lesson, it may still help them become better in the next life.

It's a very interesting dynamic, for a villain so set in his path. Anyway, I'm glad you liked my thoughts. X3

[identity profile] 2008-06-07 11:18 am (UTC)(link)
You nail Aizen right there. His orchestration of the Soul Society arc is consistenly in line with this, the way he pits Hitsugaya, Kira, Matsumoto and Hinamori using Gin. The way he sent Byakuya and Renji to retrieve Rukia. The way he approached Renji outside the Senzaikyuu. He must know all of these people to do this. Ichigo's strength is probably the one thing he don't foresee, and even then he had a backup plan.
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[identity profile] 2008-06-07 04:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, precisely! Aizen would never have done what he did if he hadn't been certain that Shinji (if continued in his current trend) wouldn't notice his absence. It utterly does fall down to knowing people. He knew what Renji would do, what Kira would do, what Byakuya would do, what Kyouraku and Ukitake would do... He knew how people would react to his death. Hell, he even knew that Unohana would probably eventually figure it out even though his illusion was flawless. That's what enables him to orchestrate these incredibly complex plans.

And if other people bothered to know those around him, had attempted to get to know him, he wouldn't be able to do it.

This is also why I'm not in the camp that thinks Gin will betray Aizen. It's not like the understanding Aizen values in him only goes one way. If Gin is going to betray Aizen, Aizen must already know that that's a possibility, and be prepared for it. And surely (knowing that) Gin would then be very, very careful about making that move.

[identity profile] 2008-06-08 08:05 am (UTC)(link)
I really like analysis of Aizen here. I've always been intrigued by Aizen's characteristics, since he's not the typical type of villain. And this chapter shows that it all really comes down to your understanding of those around you.

He was able to use Hinamori's adoration and Shinji's distrust to the fullest, because he knew them more than they ever knew him. People have a tendency to see only those that met the eyes, and never go beyond. They take everything at face value and Aizen takes advantage of it. Shinji's suspicion might have come to fruit if he had heard of the phrase "Keep your friend close, but your enemy closer"