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Song of the Week: [Chemical Prisoner] by Falling in Reverse
This week, we will be touching on Hollows. Hollows are the result of a soul's refusal or inability to pass on to the Soul Society upon dying. Should a soul remain on Earth for too long, their heart will become corrupted and their Chain of Fate will corrode; the soul will then metamorphose into a new being, one that hungers for souls.
Hollows have been portrayed as the villains of Bleach for much of the story. This begins back in Chapter 1, when the monstrous Fishbone D attack's the Kurosaki household and tries to devour Ichigo's sister (which sister varies based upon media). From then on, Hollows were depicted as violent, brutish, sadistic beings. However, I would argue that that is not as applicable as it may seem. For the most part, Hollows have been animalistic beings, acting primarily on instinct. So, just as a lion is not evil for killing and eating a gazelle, it may be said that a Hollow is not evil for seeking out its prey. To be fair, certain Hollows do seem to act with both sntience and malice (i.e. Grand Fisher) but most just use their natural powers in an effort to survive.
Why, then, are Hollows depicted as evil?
The answer to this is twofold. One factor is the perspective from which Kubo chooses to tell his tale. As mentioned previously, the narrative focuses on Shinigami as protagonists, and Shinigami are traditionally opposed to Hollows. Therefore, Hollows become antagonists by default, for better or worse. Ichigo, the primary protagonist, follows this line of thought until he sees peaceful or even friendly Hollows during his adventures in Hueco Mundo; at that point, the perspective of the story has shifted from pro-Shinigami to pro-Ichigo, anti-Aizen, so Hollows no longer appear as a major threat.
The second reason lies in the fact that Hollows, for much of the story, are lead by a decidedly evil character, Sousuke Aizen. Just as animals can be trained or coerced to behave in a certain manner by people, so too can Aizen force Hollows to bend to his will. Aizen takes this a step further, creating Hollows like a dog breeder, selecting for certain traits or abilities. Of note, though, is that even these manufactured Hollows still act according to their manufactured instincts. For example, Metastacia, though he seems evil and sadistic to us and to Rukia, simply does what he is bred to do in an effort to survive, rather than out of direct hatred of the Shinigami. So, it may be said that Hollows are not evil, just tools of the story and of evil people.
Of course, there has to be an exception. Arrancar are Hollows who have gained sentience, as well as a facsimile of Shinigami abilities, including a Zanpakūto. They almost always have complex minds, humanoid forms, and free will, and are identifiable b the fragments of their Hollow masks, broken upon their ascension.
Sentience seems like it explains away the above points made to vindicate Hollows. By not acting on instinct, Arrancar would likely be held liable for their actions. Again, though, there is evidence to contradict even this statement, for one thing, removal from Sousuke Aizen's influence has demonstrated that Arrancar can be civil, or even friendly and good, as displayed by Nel and Co., or, more recently, Grimmjow. Arrancar also tend to have the same tendency to obey charismatic leaders; they follow Aizen because they believe in his ideals. With this taken into account, the individual Arrancar is no more evil, on average, than the individual German citizen during the time of the Second World War.
It is also noteworthy that Arrancar typically follow complex honor codes. The best examples of this concept are Dordoni Alejandro del Soccaccio, who died protecting Ichigo and Nel; and Grimmjow, who passed up an opportunity to kill the defenseless Orihime to settle a debt. While honor is not necessarily synonymous to goodness, these examples show that Arrancar are not universally cruel as Shinigami would have you believe.
When referring to Arrancar, one must look through the same matrix one views Shinigami: an individual must be judged on his or her flaws and successes, his or her actions, and his or her character. Sentience implies choice, which leaves the Arrancar as free to be good as it does Mayuri to be sadistic. As in all things, it becomes a matter of reader perspective (see how I went full circle there?).
That's all I've got on this one. I welcome any comments or opinions you may have, and I hope you'll check out next week's entry, which will focus on Orihime Inoue.