In Tite Kubo’s hit anime series Bleach, black-robed Soul Reapers are dutied with exorcising evil spirits, and Ichigo Kurosaki transforms from an ordinary high school student to a substitute Soul Reaper. He’s a homegrown hero from Karakura Town, but he’s not the only one. There is also Uryu Ishida, one of the last living Quincy.
The Quincy were humans who used spiritual bows and arrows to exterminate hollows, but their methods put them at odds with the Soul Society. Uryu inherited this rivalry from his forebears, but he fights alongside Ichigo as a friend and ally. In some ways, he is a fine hero, but, in other ways, he’d be more compelling as a villain.
10 Hero: Homegrown
As mentioned earlier, Uryu was born as an ordinary boy in Karakura Town, aside from his latent Quincy powers. He could have taken his father’s route and embraced a mundane life—working at a hospital—but he chose to train as a Quincy with his grandfather.
Uryu started with little, and, despite still being in training and having a high school career, he’s ready to take on the forces of evil and save the day, just like Ichigo. These guys are a lot more alike than they’d care to admit.
9 Villain: Tricks And Traps
Uryu is more clever than Ichigo, Renji, or Rukia, and he knows how to use a wide variety of devices, weapons, and battle strategies to defeat his enemies. He can use explosive liquids, energy-stealing blades, mines, and more to take on his enemies.
He even uses hollow bait to lure enemies close, and that can cause quite a ruckus. If Uryu were a villain, he could use these tricky devices and his clever mind to outmaneuver Ichigo and the Soul Reapers in battle, which would be entertaining to see.
8 Hero: Precious Friends
Uryu is somewhat bitter about the state of affairs, but he still has good in his heart, and he loves his friends just like Ichigo and Orihime. In fact, Orihime is the apple of his eye, and he is wildly driven to shield her from harm.
When Uryu fought desperately against Captain Kurotsuchi, it was in Orihime’s defense, and his adoration for Orihime also drove him to invade Hueco Mundo with Ichigo and Chad when Orihime was taken prisoner in Las Noches. Any friend can count on Uryu.
7 Villian: Bad Blood
Uryu never fully acted on his feelings of revenge against the Soul Reapers, but he definitely resents them, and he easily could have turned to the dark side if he had someone to egg him on. He’s got the potential to be a vengeful villain, for sure.
At the very least, Uryu could act in vengeance for his grandfather’s gruesome death at the hands of the Soul Society, and he wouldn’t stop with Captain Kurotsuchi. If Ichigo tried to stop him, then Uryu would declare him an enemy too, since he’s defending the Soul Reapers.
6 Hero: Great Humor
Despite it all, Uryu is pretty funny, even when he doesn’t mean to. He’s not a goofball like Keigo or Kon. Instead, his humor comes from his reactions to things, mainly to Ichigo and the Soul Reapers whom he meets.
Uryu, as pictured, is willing to do just about anything to win, and he doesn’t care how silly it looks. He’s also good at sewing, and these sewing scenes are always dedicated to comic relief. A funny guy like Uryu is too likable to be a villain.
5 Villain: Blends In
Uryu looks just like an ordinary high school student… because he actually is one. He is special because of his Quincy training and powers, and he can keep those a secret from anyone if he so chooses. Uryu does not stand out from a crowd.
These are good qualities for a villain who likes to hide in plain sight until they strike. Early on, Uryu really did this, when he outed himself to Ichigo as a Quincy and rival. Imagine if he kept that up and took Soul Reapers by surprise as he ambushed them one by one across Karakura Town. No one would see him coming.
4 Hero: Mercy
Uryu is a skilled fighter with eyes like a hawk, and he can strike an opponent’s weak point with ease. He can even do this against s powerful Arrancar like Cirucci Sanderwicci—but he’s merciful about it.
Uryu could have killed Cirucci, and, given how she is a mutant hollow, it seems that he should. Instead, he used an arrow to strike Cirucci’s energy source, and she was rendered powerless. Uryu moved on, stating that it’s his choice as the victor whether to spare an enemy or finish them off.
3 Villain: Critical Hits
On the other hand, maybe Uryu should use his precise arrow attacks to finish off his opponents without mercy. If Uryu were recast as a villain, like a vengeful Quincy on the prowl, he could use those talents to great effect.
The stakes would be much higher if Uryu was killing off the Soul Reapers one by one with those ultra-precise arrows of his, and he could even take out Lieutenants by destroying their energy sources and then finishing them off at his leisure. That would make for some scary scenes.
2 Hero: Overcame Prejudice
The interesting thing about Uryu Ishida is that he could just as easily be a hero or a villain for the same reasons. At the start of Bleach, he stood at a fork in the path, and he chose the hero route over the villain route.
Uryu could have gone on a vengeful rampage, but he chose to make peace with the Soul Reapers and ally with Ichigo, which is truly commendable of him. He is mature and smart enough to figure out who his real enemies are, and he fights for the sake of his friends, not dead Quincy from days gone by.
1 Villain: His Appearance
This is probably the most superficial reason to make Uryu into a villain, but, if all the major reasons are already covered, then a cosmetic one can help tie everything together. Uryu has an ambiguous look, as his appearance doesn’t scream “virtuous hero” or “scary villain.”
He’s on the border, but a few more touches could give him a complete villain look. He’s already got the glasses, princely face, and dark, neat hair of an aristocratic villain, so all he needs are some dark clothes, maybe a scar, and a maniacal facial expression to make the complete package. Imagine if Uryu made the same faces as Szayelaporro Grantz, for example.
Brooding, cold, and uniquely menacing, we think that Bleach's Uryu Ishida could succeed as both a hero and villain throughout the series.