Many heartfelt characters populate the story of Bleach, and even seemingly background cast members are fully realized with their own hopes and dreams, unique perspectives, and more. This includes the few remaining human Quincy, who know the world favors Soul Reapers even though they're just trying to help too. Ryuken Ishida knows all about that.
Ryuken was once hailed as the "last Quincy" of his time, given his prodigious skill with the traditional Quincy bow and his advanced spiritual senses. In many ways, Ryuken is to Isshin Kurosaki what his son Uryu Ishida is to Ichigo Kurosaki. But his journey to redemption was long and painful.
Ryuken's Bitter Pragmatism In A Modern World
In his teenage years, Ryuken Ishida was comfortable with his lot in life as a Quincy. He had his father Soken, his protector and friend Kanae Katagiri, and his Quincy associate (and potential fiancee) Masaki. All this was turned upside-down when the Hollow known as White attacked, and Isshin Shiba the Soul Reaper and Masaki battled it. Ryuken had refused to fight and was understandably distressed when the Hollow's infection, including the formation of a Hollow hole, took root in Masaki. Despite the Soul Reaper/Quincy feud, Ryuken turned to Isshin and Kisuke Urahara to help, and sure enough, both men saved Masaki's life. Ryuken later married Kanae Katagiri, and they had one child, a son named Uryu.
Ryuken's happiness didn't last. Kanae collapsed on the same day that Masaki Kurosaki was killed by Grand Fisher, as the distant king Yhwach stole the powers of most living Quincy to aid in his resurrection. Kanae died three months later, leaving Ryuken as a widower who realized that the spiritual life was costing him more and more. He eventually decided to cut his losses and integrate more deeply into the non-spiritual world, putting more focus on his medical career and becoming the director of Karakura Town's general hospital. He cared only about finances and his business, seeking to support his son through mundane means and keep him away from Bleach's dangerous world of Hollows and fighting.
This put a serious rift between father and son, since Uryu was eager to become a fully-fledged Quincy like his grandfather Soken. Ryuken bitterly distanced himself from his ambitious son, quietly lamenting Uryu's decision to dive into the world that had caused him so much grief. Ryuken said or did very little as his son trained with Soken, and it seemed his Quincy days were forever over. But not quite.
Ryuken Ishida Returns As The Last Quincy
For years this bitter rift remained in place, and Ryuken was hardly even in the background as Uryu and Ichigo charged into the Soul Society to rescue their friend Rukia Kuchiki. When Uryu returned, however, he had lost his Quincy powers, and Ryuken finally decided to intervene. It's likely that Uryu's sheer grit and stubborn loyalty to Ichigo and Rukia inspired Ryuken, reminding him of his brief alliance with Isshin Shiba/Kurosaki and Kisuke Urahara.
Ryuken gruffly but thoroughly trained Uryu in private, using his expert archery to restore Uryu's Quincy powers to the maximum. He told his son to never associate with the Soul Reapers again, but he was likely just saying that because Uryu would have expected it. In reality, Ryuken silently gave Uryu his blessing as the boy ran off to Hueco Mundo to rescue Orihime with Ichigo and Chad. Indeed, Isshin happened by and shared a few remarks with his old Quincy friend, and Ryuken acknowledged how much Uryu had grown up as both a hero and a person.
Ryuken was largely absent from the story for a while after that, but his final heroic appearance came late in Bleach's Thousand-Year Blood War arc -- alongside his old Soul Reaper ally Isshin. Ryuken was now fully decked out in classic Quincy garb, and he came prepared. He had forged an arrowhead from the blood clot that had killed his late wife Kanae, then granted it to Uryu to help Ichigo finish off Yhwach once and for all. Despite Yhwach's power and the loyalty he commanded from most Quincy, Ryuken coldly defied him, unwilling to see the entire world dissolve into a gray, deathless haze as Yhwach wanted.
This all proved how much Ryuken trusted his son to defy the great Quincy king and save the world. There is no doubt the late Soken Ishida would have been immensely proud of Ryuken and Uryu alike.