We open the chapter with Rukia's overdone shoujo act, and Ichigo's horror of same.
We haven't seen this since waaaaaaay back before the Soul Society arc and the reminder is refreshing. Through Rukia's dramatic act, KT satirizes the sweet shoujo schoolgirl cliché, and reminds us that our heroine (for lack of a better term) is not that girl. And Ichigo knows she is not that girl. In fact, seeing her act like that girl freaks him out.
Okay, so the fact that he's bringing a girl home to his family, whatever the reason, probably has something to do with that face, too. And the fact that it's Rukia has to make it worse.
I love that she thinks her story is brilliant and he can't believe they bought it, though of course he would be glad they did. But Ichigo always seems a little surprised and vaguely horrified when people buy Rukia's schoolgirl act -- it has never looked like anything but an act to him, even when he'd only known her for a day.
That understanding, and acceptance, of exactly who and what Rukia is (and is not), is critical.
And of course then, then we get this fabulous scene with Orihime, which you will probably think I am a terrible person for loving, so let me quickly mention that I love it for Orihime, because it shows us how much her crush has matured, that it can now cause her to experience perfectly normal but unpleasant human emotions like jealousy. And I think (but let's face it, I'm biased) that this is a necessary stage if she's going to get over Ichigo. It shouldn't be easy.
"Kuchiki-san is... really amazing, isn't she? I mean, she even went as far as to restore Kurosaki-kun back to himself. She did it so easily too... just by seeing him one time."
No small feat, KT reminds us, just in case his gorgeous art in the previous chapter didn't make it clear. Rukia's influence over Ichigo is tremendous, and she knows how to get through to him, to use her influence. That understanding I was talking about is mutual.
But Orihime understands Ichigo too, in her own way.
This is a lovely echo and reversal of the scene in chapter 17, the first chapter in the Memories in the Rain arc: when Ichigo greets Orihime more cheerfully than usual in school, and she immediately wonders why he's so tense. Tatsuki confirms how good Orihime's perception is then, and it's that moment that tells us, now, that as we see a serious-looking Ichigo, that Orihime knows what she's talking about when she says she could see "the happiness that filled [his] eyes."
And it's Rukia that makes him happy. *squish*
But that's not the end. We see Ichigo and Rukia one more time, among the glimpses of people Grimmjow is sending his minions to kill.
They're yelling at each other. We don't why. We don't know what they're yelling about, we don't know who started it, we don't even know where they are. All we know is, she's been back for what, an hour, maybe two? She's kicked him out of emoville, he's "incredibly happy" to see her, and they're arguing. It's beautiful. It's them.
It's the way I see them, anyway; how do you see them? What did I miss, what's not in this chapter that leads you to like their relationship? What did I get wrong? This is meant to be a place for thoughtful (and yes, fangirly too) discussion/debate of Ichigo/Rukia, so: discuss!
And keep an eye out for a big ol' recs post in the near future.