If you’re looking for romance in Bleach, you’re gonna be looking for a long time. Pretty much the only canon admission of feelings comes when Orihime says goodbye to a sleeping Ichigo before being taken away by Ulquiorra. But even though Ichigo himself is a whole separate can of worms when it comes to sexuality, today we’re going to look at one of Bleach’s most badass ladies: Soul Society’s Second Squad Captain Soifon.
Apparently-queer characters, are surprisingly a dime-a-dozen in Bleach, (Yumichika, Szayel and Ylforte, Charlotte Cuulhorne, Chizuru, Rose, Lisa, the list goes on) but barring a few noteworthy exceptions, they’re mostly predatory fruity stereotypes.
Soifon, on the other hand, first appears as a proud and hardboiled assassin; after all, the Second Squad are the special forces of Soul Society. And then she fights Yoruichi, and it becomes clear that a lot of her hard outer shell is a side effect of being betrayed by someone she idolized. In a later flashback arc we see that Yoruichi was the first person to help Soifon out of her shell, and easily the first person that she could call a friend.
“So noble, so beautiful and so terrifyingly strong. She was everything I ever wanted to be. I very strongly admired her. No, that feeling was beyond admiration. I worshipped her.”—Soifon, Chapter 159
But when Urahara and the shinigami who would become the Vaizards were framed, Yoruichi chose to stick with Urahara and go into hiding in the human world.
When Yoruichi and Soifon fight that first time, Soifon is ruthless, but when the topic of this abandonment is finally breached, the question Soifon asks, as she breaks down in tears, is: Why didn’t you take me with you?
“I was extremely disappointed in you! I hated you! I cursed you! I swore to arrest you one day with my own hands! Then to surpass you, I struggled.. gained strength… I will never forgive you, Yoruichi! For betraying my respect and trust I will never forgive you! Why… Why… Why didn’t you take me with you Yoruichi-sama?”—Soifon, Chapter 159
She cared deeply enough about Yoruichi that she would have thrown away her honor, and her rank, and her responsibilities just for the chance to stay by Yoruichi’s side.
From that fight forward, Soifon’s crush on Yoruichi is often played for laughs in the anime’s omakes; Yoruichi can turn into a black cat, so you see Soifon cuddling cat plushies, unselfconsciously submitting cat-adorned designs for Shinigami Women’s Association contests, and so on. But it’s pretty straightforwardly acknowledged that it is a crush. Soifon blushes and becomes uncharacteristically emotional around her mentor; she continues to be wildly jealous of and hateful toward Urahara and the fact that Yoruichi still seems to have chosen him over her. And although it may be obvious to everyone except Soifon herself, essential immortality (barring any mishaps or violent death) means she potentially has millenia to work herself up to an actual love confession.
This post sort of became more of a history of the Soifon/Yoruichi ship rather than solely focusing on Soifon’s sexuality. But I think it’s really impossible to talk about Soifon without discussing the most important figure in her life, and the fandom’s justification for suggesting she’s a lesbian. So dear readers, what do you think? Does the Second Squad’s leading lady carry a torch for her former captain, or is it strictly platonic? Let me know in the comments.