Allyship in Anime: What Chad from Bleach Taught Me

by Briana Garrett,

The world is messy and with the social climate we're in, a lot of folks are waking up to that fact. Eager to address and end systemic racism, newfound allies are popping up like Pokémon but what if I told you that it is exactly in anime that we find some of the greatest examples of how to be an ally?

In Tite Kubo's Bleach the character Chad/Sado is a prime example of an ally. He is the protagonist Ichigo's best friend, and their relationship is vital to the show. But more importantly, Chad's story as a supporting character illustrates what is necessary in allyship right now.

Chad is an aloof guy, whose imposing height and tan skin always made him stand out, as he was targeted by bullies since childhood. He fought every day until it physically and emotionally drained him. It wasn't until his grandfather encouraged him to use his fists to protect rather than harm others that his path and narrative changed.

Chad's narrative is so important to the show because it strengthens Ichigo's purpose as a soul reaper and protector. Chad and Ichigo's friendship is birthed from courage and the recognition of injustice. Ichigo was getting the crap beat out of him by some bullies who targeted him because of his vibrant, orange hair. However, Chad had been on the scene and interceded on Ichigo's behalf, helping him get out of the scuffle. He could've walked by or said everybody gets bullied but he recognized the urgency in Ichigo's case. He knew that action was needed, otherwise Ichigo would've been left looking like a Hollow (they're really ugly).

As we move beyond statements into action, allyship is essential because collective recognition of prominent issues encourages collective reconciliation and reform. This job requires energy that's over 9000.

Conversely, in a seperate instance in episode 37, there's a flashback to the life-changing event that confirms Chad's role as Ichigo's ally. Bullies yet again target Chad for his aloof demeanor and size. They take his treasured medallion that he received from his late grandfather and use it to lure him in a trap. While constrained by ropes, he endures every blow thrown his way, desperately honoring his promise to his grandfather to be intentional about his strength, protecting rather than harming (IDK what institution needs to hear this). Things are looking fatal as a bully prepares to knock Chad out with a rock but Ichigo suddenly intervenes. Though outnumbered, Ichigo defeats Chad's assaulters and as the two catch their breath, Ichigo says something monumental to Chad.

“How about you just stay the way you are and never throw a punch for yourself? Instead you throw those punches for me. And I'll throw the punches for you. If there's anything so important, you protect it with your life, and I'll protect it with mine as well,” he said.

This was the pivotal confirmation and permission that Chad needed to further become the ally that he is in the Bleach series.

Active allyship is about #rihanna pulling up in the face of tomfoolery, lending strength without being overpowering. Chad PULLED UP on his promise to Ichigo when he followed him to the Soul Society. Ichigo wanted to save his friend Rukia from execution after she was unfairly tried. Chad knew the dangers of this mission: Going to another world? Fighting people 10 times stronger than yourself? Risking your life for a girl you barely knew? In his battle with Captain Shunsui, this discrepancy surfaces.

“I don't know very much about Rukia…That's not the point. I might not risk my life for her but Ichigo wants to save her life and that's all I need to know,” he said.

As Ichigo's ally, Chad didn't hesitate. He offered his strength and platform without a second thought. Chad's strength and support helped make Ichigo's misson a success and after the gang saves Rukia and returns home Chad spits truth, having understood the difference between a moment and a movement. He and Orihime reflect on their time in the Seireitei and they think about how to better support their friend Ichigo.

“We can only keep fighting,” Chad says.

And that's the point. Allies can only keep fighting.

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