Tite Kubo’s Bleach, while not axed by Shonen Jump, still had an abrupt ending that left fans longing for more. The series’ conclusion saw the hasty, anti-climatic end of numerous built-up plot points and character storylines, and some were not addressed at all. One loose end that often falls under the radar is the fate of everyone’s favorite lion plush, Kon.
Introduced in early on in Bleach, Kon is a Mod-Soul, an artificial spirit meant to weaponize uninhabited bodies. Mod-Souls are housed in the pill-like Gikongan, but these are different from the normal “Soul Candy” that Shinigami use to separate spirits from their bodies. The pill containing Kon was accidentally mixed in with a batch of normal Gikon, a coincidence that allowed Kon to escape the mass extermination of the original Mod-Souls after the project was abandoned because of ethical concerns.
Originally designed to enhance the military numbers of the Gotei 13, Mod-Souls not only able to revive corpses, but also instill them with physical enhancements that manifest upon occupation. In Kon’s case, his lower body was modified, drastically increasing his leg strength, speed and overall mobility when in control of Ichigo’s body. While occupying Ichigo, Kon displayed a vertical jump of over 13 meters, a 3.8 second 100-meter dash, immense kicking power and great combat skill. After receiving his permanent body, the lion plush, Kon still demonstrated similar feats of speed and strength, while – hilariously – also serving as a speaker phone for Urahara.
Despite the original programming of the Mod-Souls and his many useful skills, Kon largely serves as comedic relief. Considering the fact that, after his introduction, he took the form of a plushie for the majority of the series, one could argue that Tite Kubo’s intention with Kon’s character was to create a series mascot. Kon’s…unique interactions with fan-favorite female characters Rukia and Orihime further lend itself to this idea.
Despite his comedic leanings, Kon’s character is nuanced by a serious backstory and motivations. It is revealed that, during his time amongst the normal Gikon pills, Kon was aware of the fate of his exterminated peers. Witnessing and surviving the extinction of his fellow Mod-Souls left Kon traumatized, and he lived his life in fear of being disposed of until meeting Ichigo Kurosaki and company, who accepted him and acknowledged his individuality. Kon’s tragic past has given him a deep appreciation of life, which guides his belief that all life is precious. Kon demonstrated the strength of this virtue when he was willing to sacrifice his life and Ichigo’s body to save a group of ants that were about to be squished by a Hollow.
At the start of Bleach it is undeniable that Kon was popular with fans, as he was ranked 4th on the series’ 1st popularity poll, raking in 2962 votes from Bleach fans. Despite this initial popularity, Kon’s rank dropped to 11th in the 2nd poll, and then to 23rd in the 3rd poll. In the 4th and final character popularity poll Kon’s rank dropped to 40th, only receiving 135 votes. Despite the decline, Kon’s initial popularity is a testament to his charm as both a comedic relief and a tragic character.
However, the main cogs of Bleach’s storyline had barely begun to turn by the first poll’s release, as the series had yet to establish future staple characters such as Renji Abarai, Byakuya Kuchki and even the concept of the Gotei 13. It was only natural that Kon’s popularity drop in the face of these series juggernauts, especially considering his gradual loss of screen-time in the face of the series’ constantly elevating stakes. Simply put, there was no longer a place for Kon in arcs where villains like Aizen or the Quincy army thoroughly replaced the one-off Hollows Ichigo had fought during Kon’s time.
In his last appearance, Kon is seen alongside Ichigo and Orihime in Soul Society following an encounter with Yhwach. After this appearance, Kon completely disappears from the series and, while it is understandable that Kubo could not place as much focus on Kon as Bleach progressed, the complete omission of details regarding his fate is unfortunate and leaves a sour taste.
Kon the Mod-Soul was a fan favorite that disappeared as Bleach's story progressed. What happened to the boisterous Lion Plush?