Fandom: Yu Yu Hakusho
Pairing: Kurama/Yusuke Urameshi
Spoilers: The full anime.
Notes: I didn't have a beta for this because I procrastinate like whoa, so I'm sorry if it gets confusing or just plain stupid. Some of my ideas were really damned hard to put into words. Also, all images were screencapped by me from my DVDs.
Yusuke is the fourteen-year-old hero, a street punk who got hit by a car and is dead when the series opens. He is given the chance to come back to life because The Powers That Be weren't expecting him to die and didn't have aplace prepared for his spirit. Yusuke undergoes a series of trials and assignments, after which he is resurrected by a kiss from his best friend, Keiko Yukimura.
He was immediately offered the job of Spirit Detective, sort of the all-purpose muscle for Spirit World. His signature weapon is his Spirit Gun: spirit energy focussed into his right index finger and fired like a bullet. He goes from hunting down demon thieves in the human world to rescuing a beautiful girl to fighting in a bloody demon tournament. All standard hero fare, you know. He then saves the world from demon invasion, dies a second time and comes back to life as a demon, and organizes a new tournament to choose a king for the Demon World. That's Yusuke's basic story.
Yusuke is the product of a young, alcoholic mother (Atsuko had him when she was fifteen) and an absentee father. He has a bad attitude adn a quick temper, but he's excellent with children. He drinks, smokes, gambles, and rarely goes to school, but he's tremendously loyal to and protective of his loved ones. He lives to fight and is brilliant at it, but he's also honorable and finds a pure joy in fighting like-minded opponents. He's streetsmart, but also strangely naïve at time. Yusuke is endlessly confusing and fascinating.
Kurama (aka Youko Kurama, aka Shuuichi Minamino)
Kurama is a bit difficult to explain. Originally, he was a spirit fox, a kitsune. He attained demon status and grew to be very powerful (A-class, I believe). He was a fierce, ruthless bandit, an expert at breaking codes and seals. He was over 1000 years old when a bounty hunter from Spirit World injured him, forcing him to escape to Human World as a soul. Kurama took refuge in an embryo and was born to Shiori Minamino as Shuuichi. He has since lived as a human and learned to love through Shiori. His father died when Shuuichi was a child.
He and Yusuke first meet when Yusuke is assigned to recover three stolen Spirit World treasures. Kurama has one of them, the Dark Mirror. He returns it and is soon sent to help Yusuke on a case, and they quickly become strong allies, along with the demon Hiei and human Kazuma Kuwabara. Kurama uses his spirit/demon energy to manipulate plants. His signature wapon is the Rose Whip, which is exactly what it sounds like. He turns an ordinary rose into a thorned whip that can cut through steel. He also has the dubious honor of being the show's Captain Obvious—the one who often tells us exactly what's happening as if we're blind and whose thoughts we hear most frequently, second only to the hero's. He is old and young. He is the eye candy and the brains of the outfit, complex and intimidating. He is self-sacrificing and has little regard for his own life when someone he cares for is in danger. He is cool and distant, ruthless in battle, but he can also be warm and compassionate. Kurama is an ancient puzzle.
This pairing is all about the subtext. There are, for example, dozens of instances during the anime where Kurama looks at Yusuke a little too long or in a more than friendly way. One of the first interesting images is just after the first time they encountered one another. That night, Kurama watches Yusuke from a rooftop across the street. A little stalker-y, that. The next day, he approaches Yusuke and invites him to meet his mother at the hospital. He explains that she is dying, and he intends to save her with the Dark Mirror; he also tells Yusuke about his past. It's peculiar that such a guarded person as Kurama felt that he could trust Yusuke so soon after meeting him.
When he prepares to sacrifice his life to the mirror to save Shiori, Yusuke jumps in and offers his own life to spare Shiori the pain of her son's death. The mirror is impressed by their willingness to die for someone else, and it lets them both live and still saves Shiori. Kurama returned the favor to Yusuke the next night by saving him from Hiei's sword, getting himself run through in the process, and by helping save Keiko.
The next really significant event between Yusuke and Kurama is in the Dark Tournament. Now, let's face it—these guys get hurt a lot. All of them do. Yusuke is protective of Kuwabara, obviously, and Kurama worries about Hiei pulling out moves that he really shouldn't use. But Yusuke and Kurama worry most about each other. When they fight, there's a lot of worried name-screaming, and they do tend to carry each other around after particularly rough fights. In their third battle, Kuwabara can't fight because of severe injuries, and Hiei and Genkai are pulled out of the round. This leaves Yusuke and Kurama to take on all five members of Team Mashou. Kurama fights the first two opponents, at one point being covered in magic paint and prompting Yusuke's line, "Kurama, take your clothes off!" When his second fight is over, he loses consciousness; the third fighter, Bakken, abuses him while he can't fight back. Yusuke almost disqualifies Team Urameshi to save Kurama, then he gently sets Kurama beside the ring. He nearly kills Bakken as payback and checks on Kurama again before he starts his next fight.
I see a lot of subtext in the Chapter Black arc. It's there in the looks and the body language and the conversation. Yusuke and Kurama often stand very near to each other when they're in scenes together, suggesting that they're both comfortable letting the other into their personal space. Their stances also usually show unspoken support. I consider the next important event between them to be Kurama's game with Amanuma. It's the first time that Yusuke really has to question the image he's built of Kurama. He knew from the beginning that Kurama was part demon, but he never displayed that rougher nature outside of battle with obviously evil opponents. When he goes up against Amanuma, the Game Master, he knows that he must kill the child to free their group. Yusuke finds it difficult to believe that gentle, compassionate Kurama could rationalize killing a child for any reason. It unsettles what he thought he knew about his friend.
Barely hours later, Kurama, Hiei, and Kuwabara are forced to watch helplessly while psychotic ex-Spirit Detective Shinobu Sensui fights Yusuke and then kills him. Their grief pushes each of them to greater levels of power, and the sudden spike makes Kurama's body revert to Youko's appearance. What I think is most important about this battle, however, is that it shows a lot of parallels between Yusuke and Sensui and between Kurama and Itsuki. Actually, it always ends up sounding like a bad talk show when I think about it: Spirit Detectives and the Demons Who Love Them. Yusuke and Sensui have both been Spirit Detectives, they have similar physical features, and their strong point is decoding their opponents' fighting styles. Kurama and Itsuki are both demons, they have similar personalities and are very complex, and they both care deeply for their Detectives. To me, the SensuixItsuki relationship is a potential dark future for a KuramaxYusuke relationship. It's what could happen if Yusuke lost his humanity and Kurama became obsessed with him. After that fight is resolved and the group returns to the Human World, Kurama cuts Yusuke's hair back to his normal style. Maybe not so important, but it's a very intimate thing to me because it's them.
There's a bit of subtext in the Makai Tournament arc, as well, but what stands out for me is Kurama's automatic willingness to side with Yusuke over Yomi or himself. The rest is, again, in the looks and the body language and the conversation.
So what does all this crap mean? Well, it may not add up to a whole lot if you don't see the potential. This is, after all, a subtext-based pairing, and some people will see it where others won't. (Like I don't see KuramaxHiei ever.)
The way I feel about the boys, though, is that they're complementary opposites. Two halves of a whole, if you'll excuse the cliché. They have similarities to pull them together, such as the fact that they were both raised by single mothers and that they both increase their powers when they let go of their emotions (Yusuke represses and Kurama controls). They're both more than willing to give up their lives for their loved ones. They have similar senses of humor. The biggest of their similarities is that, by the end of the series, they are both part demon and part human. They have to live a balancing act between the worlds and can never fully be a part of one or the other until their human friends and family have all passed on. There probably aren't many other people in existence, if any, who lead this same kind of life. It's an important issue that they can bond over, because they have no one else who can truly understand what it's like to be trapped like that.
There are also plent of differences between them to keep things interesting. Yusuke is streetsmart where Kurama is booksmart, and impulsive where Kurama is meticulous and a strategist. Yusuke has an innocence to him, and an enthusiasm for life; Kurama is jaded and worldly after his 1000+ years alive. Kurama's complexity and Yusuke's unpredictable nature provide stimulation for the other. It's also important, though, that Kurama has an unbelievable amount of patience for Yusuke. He doesn't lose his temper where almost anyone else would, and it's this calm that keeps Yusuke even-tempered. Yuskue also listens to Kurama. The only other character he consistently takes orders or advice from is Genkai, but he talks back to her about it in a way he never displays when dealing with Kurama. Kurama would be able to work past Yusuke's reluctance to commit himself to things for fear of being hurt.
This relationship could end up very dark, if they follow the paths of their dopplegangers, Sensui and Itsuki. But it could also be good for both of them, a stable and safe place. This gives an incredibly broad range of possible fic topics. On a barely-related note: the dub makes a much bigger production over the potential YusukexKeiko relationship than the sub. I don't think that pairing can really work, so I wrote a refutation of the manifesto.
I'd seen "KuramaxHiei blah blah blah" around the 'net for a few years, of course, but never paid it any attention. Then, somehow, I ended up with a FUNimation demo DVD with a few trailers and the first episode of YYH, and I decided to give it a try. The series opened with the hero dead—I was immediately hooked. I bought the DVDs as they were released, and it sucked me in more with every episode. I was uninfluenced by the fandom as I formed my opinions of the characters. I never liked Keiko. I never understood why so many people think Hiei and Kurama are/could be/should be a couple. What I saw were all those looks and the little moments between Yusuke and Kurama, and I started thinking, "Hey, they'd be good together. ...and they're pretty. Bonus." Nothing since has been able to convince me otherwise.
This pairing makes up a pretty small portion of the fandom, but it's growing. I think it's a great place to be because their relationship can be as simple as fuckbuddies or an incredibly complex power struggle; it tends to fall in the middle, but the options are always nice. The only thing about KuramaxYusuke that I hate is that it falls under the "10% good, 90% crap" rule of fandom. I admit, I've got damned high standards for great fiction, but the majority of what I've found for this pairing is pretty dismal. Most of the badfics don't bother exploring the characters or developing a romantic relationship. The standard YusukexKurama plot goes something like this: "I am angsty. I am secretly in love with [Yusuke/Kurama], but he [loves someone else/will hate me forever if he finds out/is too good for me/is a guy, and I can't like other guys]. Cry, cry, angst, angst. I shall staple my hand to my forehead and be woefully out-of-character. Oh, there he is. Whoops, he found out I love him. Now we shall commence with the sexing." Insert tutoring, yentas/family, Hiei/Keiko, masturbation, and denial as may apply. Alternately, there are several that are just (bad) sex for various reasons, and a smattering of established relationship fics. With (bad) sex.
But. Don't let that turn you off to the pairing. There are some good writers out there, people who actually delve into the relationship and write it well. Try these:
Kitsune no Kaori by Quoth the Raven - An interesting Yusuke POV fic in which he muses on scent.
Spaces Between by kahn - "He was a proverbial wolf among sheep."
Perils of Idle Conversation by nightwalker - Demon sex war!" Yuusuke cheered, just to watch the blood drain from Kuwabara's face. It worked.
Fairy-tale Endings by nightwalker - "An (entirely unlikely) epilogue to the Poltergeist Reports."
Home for Christmas by lady_krysis - A bit of angst followed by Christmas cheer.
Reflections by lady_krysis - Mirror!smut that I made her write for me. It is teh yum.
Touch by lady_krysis - Darkfic exploring what would happen if Kurama snapped and became a little more like Itsuki.
Fight Nite by lady_krysis - A bit of nicely in-character fluff.
Blood and Popcorn by flamika - A moment-in-time fic set after Yusuke becomes a demon.
Cherry Red by flamika - A yummy little established relationship piece she wrote for me for a meme.
Red - This is one of mine. I didn't want to rec any of my own fics because it feels vain, but my two best friends insisted I at least rec this one. It was written on request for lady_krysis, who wanted a KxY fic with Karasu.
I haven't found much anything in the way of KxY-specific groups, comms, or sites. The ones that exist are mostly inactive.
http://www.freewebs.com/yusxkur/ - Not much info and a bad design, but decent image galleries.
http://www.geocities.com/scheherezhad/ - My site. Lots of Kurama/Yusuke fic.
http://groups.yahoo.com/ukeyuusuke - yahoo! group for various pairings involving Yusuke.
http://www.geocities.com/ukeyusuke/ - The archive for the Uke Yuusuke yahoo! group.
the_detectives - a Y/K fic challenge comm.
smutyeah - My comm. Technically for any fandom, but we tend to write mostly YYH.
reikaiwriters - A comm for quality YYH writers. (We're fic snobs with high standards.)
I cut it a little close on my deadline, but I hope you all enjoyed it. And I suppose it wouldn't be too much to hope I swayed one or two of you to the Dark Side. (We have cookies!)