kitsunelover (kitsunelover) wrote in ship_manifesto,
kitsunelover
kitsunelover
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Karasu/Kurama (Yu Yu Hakusho)

Title: “Unparalleled Intimacy”
Author: kitsunelover
Email: darkmoonlessnite@yahoo.com
Fandom: Yu Yu Hakusho
Pairing: Karasu/Kurama
Spoilers: Episodes 55-56 of the anime, and volumes 10-11 of the manga
Notes: metallic_sweet is someone who will not only edit your essay, but also write you fic for that OTP. She will do a good job, and do it quickly. And she’s my beta, not yours. ;)



Unparalleled Intimacy



Trickster, Shapeshifter



Youko Kurama, or if you prefer, Shuiichi Minamino, is arguably the most popular of the four heroes in Togashi Yoshihiro’s Yu Yu Hakusho. With hordes of swooning fangirls (and fanboys) at his feet, his command of pheromones is unprecedented.

In Makai (Demon World), Youko Kurama was the infamously ruthless and cunning leader of a group of bandits for hundreds of years. A bounty hunter from Reikai (Spirit World) fatally injured him, but he managed to survive when his soul fled to Ningenkai (Human World) and entered a pregnant woman’s fetus. Kurama grew up as Shuiichi Minamino, a normal boy to all appearances, despite his advanced intellect and unusual beauty. He learned to love from his human mother, Shiori, but the callousness of his Youko nature occasionally resurfaces, in instances all the more chilling for their rarity.

As a fighter, Kurama uses his unforeseen callousness to great effect against enemies who expect an easy target because of his frail human body and his weakness for Shiori. He overcomes his physical limitations by devising brilliant strategies after observing his opponents for a while. This combat style has its drawbacks, as Kurama can often defeat an enemy outright with his ability to manipulate plants, and Hiei derides his practice of stalling as a “bad habit.”

Kurama is usually cool and composed. He displays great anger or sorrow only when Shiori or his friends are in mortal danger, and fear seems to get the better of him only once—when he meets Karasu.


Thing of Evil: Bird or Devil



Karasu, the enigmatic Quest Class youkai on Team Toguro, manipulates bombs and seems to have the strangest ideas of love. He is an aesthete, first drawn to Kurama by his physical beauty; though he later becomes captivated by Kurama’s fighting spirit. His philosophy is to kill the people he loves before they grow old and die, so that he doesn’t have to suffer the pain of watching them wither and weaken. He doesn’t deny that doing so saddens him, but he also claims that “the intimacy between murderer and victim is unparalleled,” and when someone he loves dies by his hand, “it feels so good that [he] cannot stand it.”

Despite his brief appearance at the Dark Tournament, his sinister personality is forceful enough to make a lasting impression on viewers. His name is usually met with boos and hisses, although you do hear an occasional “huh?” from less informed fans, or fangirlish squeals from a small minority.

While tersely observant as a spectator, Karasu develops a dramatic flair under the spotlight, and his most salient characteristic in the ring is his sadism. The contrast in his demeanor becomes especially obvious when he removes his mask to suck in explosive material, which maximizes his powers and turns his hair blond; his personality is dual in nature, like Kurama’s.

An adept fighter possessing great agility and the power to create multiple types of bombs, he takes great pleasure in prolonging the suffering of his opponents. During his fight with Mido Renja of Team Gorenja, he takes his time, blowing off individual appendages one by one, and taunting him, “Which part shall I blow up next?” before finally delivering a lethal blow to his head.

Karasu’s sadism is by no means limited to the physical, but he appears to reserve his indulgence in the mental variety for particularly deserving recipients—in this case, Kurama.

The Courtship



Those familiar with Karasu know that his closest companion on Team Toguro is Bui, because they were both forced to enter the Toguros’ service after losing to them in battle. Their goal is ultimately revenge against the Toguro brothers, but Karasu gets sidetracked at the Dark Tournament when he sees Kurama.

Their apparent feelings towards each other are endlessly fascinating. It goes without saying that Karasu is highly interested in Kurama, or at least his human form. It's also evident that Kurama, in his human form, fears and loathes him. Nowhere else in the anime/manga does Kurama display such fear and hatred combined.

He shows great hatred towards Toguro Ani for using the Gamemaster, but Kurama is never as frightened as he is when in Karasu’s presence. Kurama actually keeps a very tight rein on his feelings; the level of emotion that he expresses during his fight with Karasu is akin to that which he displays whenever his mother is being threatened. This is unusual—surely, as a millennium-old youko, he's met with nasty, lecherous characters before?

During their first encounter, which takes place in a hallway after the semifinals, Bui smashes his fist into the wall, distracting Kurama so that Karasu can sneak up behind him and caress his hair. Karasu talks about the high he gets from killing loved ones, and how Kurama is his favorite fighter on Team Urameshi.

It’s equally clear that Karasu is the only fighter on Team Toguro that Kurama cares about. Following this encounter, Kurama thinks to himself, “The way I am now, I won’t be able to beat him!” The order their two teams are fighting in has not been established yet, but Kurama appears determined to face Karasu.

Later, while Kurama is practicing in a field, Karasu steals upon him and sneaks in a few gropes again. He’s in and out so quickly that Kurama only feels his hands and sees him as nothing more than a blur. Afterwards, Kurama thinks to himself that no matter how much he’s contemplated this, he can figure out no way to defeat Karasu. Is it only pride that has compelled him to decide to challenge Karasu? The fact that they have singled each other out so early shows that they are drawn to each other on a fundamental level, even if their feelings appear to be nothing like what you’d expect in a run-of-the-mill OTP.

During the actual fight, the first thing Karasu asks is whether or not Kurama will be reverting to his youko form; indeed, he asks several times. When it looks like Kurama will not be transforming into Youko, Karasu gets fed up with his pathetic counterattacks, and prepares to kill Kurama with a single bomb. Youko Kurama emerges from the explosion, eager to fight and unafraid.

Now that Youko Kurama has appeared, Karasu’s demeanor changes abruptly. He displays no more signs of affection or amusement. In fact, he appears almost frightened. He ceases to profess his attraction after Youko Kurama arrives on the scene, limiting his dialogue instead to purely battle-related commentary (i.e., “You’re surrounded!” or “You’re going to die!”).

Karasu’s fear is understandable. Youko Kurama is an A-class youkai, probably stronger than Karasu. So why does Karasu subtly remind Kurama to resume his youko form in the beginning? Perhaps his feelings for Kurama have become so profound that despite his conviction that Kurama must die, he wants to postpone that moment as much as possible.

Youko teases Karasu, “I’m very happy to have met a Quest Class youkai, but you are going to be killed!” After it seems as though his mimosa plant has devoured Karasu, he complains that it ended too quickly, saying, “I would have liked to toy with you another two or three minutes.”

This change in their dynamics becomes even more complicated once Karasu powers up into blond mode and forces Kurama back into his human form with a powerful explosion. His jeering starts again in earnest, and blond!Karasu is like a Karasu overdosed on crack. He laughs maniacally and displays total confidence. Also, he begins to declare his affections again: “I wish I could place you at my side forever. As your reward, I will let your beautiful face remain just as pretty as it is.”

Karasu initially offers Kurama a painless death if he announces that he’s giving up. He is probably impressed by the fact that Kurama has managed to stay alive for so long. After Kurama attacks him unexpectedly with his fists, Karasu tortures him at leisure by detonating bombs strategically placed around his body (avoiding his face, of course). This stands in stark contrast to his previous readiness to kill Kurama with one blow. Now that Kurama’s proven his resilience, maybe Karasu deems him worthy of more attention.

His youki almost totally depleted, Kurama becomes more and more desperate. Up till the end, he has his hands full defending himself, let alone going on the offensive.

In the end, Karasu wins, despite the fact that Kurama kills him by summoning a bloodsucking plant from Makai in a nearly suicidal move. Kurama loses because he remains in the down position for all of Juri’s count. It’s ironic, considering that Karasu waves off Juri’s attempt to determine the winner by scoffing, “I don’t need you to count. It’s who lives and who dies!” The twisted end to their fight is an excellent metaphor for the nature of this seemingly paradoxical pairing.


Where’s the Chemistry?



While Karasu and Kurama can both be considered bishounen by virtue of their fabulously long hair and striking eyes, KxK does not work simply because it is “hot.” Fic where they end up having lots of kinky sex exists in relatively large quantities. While smut is all well and good, one (or both) of the involved parties must be written completely out of character for it to occur. For consensual KxK sex to happen—for that matter, for any kind of long-term relationship to work—Kurama must somehow forget or forgive Karasu’s past trespasses, and Karasu must overcome his impulse to kill everyone he loves.

As evidenced by the fact that the majority of KxK fics involve non-con, Karasu and Kurama could never have a conventional relationship. Karasu is clearly psychotic. From what he says, we can deduce that he has suffered the painful experience of watching his loved ones grow old and weak before finally dying; hence his desire to kill Kurama while he is still beautiful and young. Reading between the lines, it seems that Karasu was at one point capable of loving people without having the urge to kill them.

He may not entirely have lost this ability, as evidenced with his close relationship with Bui. There is at least friendship between the two: they are always seen together, and Bui helps Karasu in the infamous hallway incident by distracting Kurama. Fic writers can explore Kurama gaining the same immunity from Karasu’s murderous urges that Bui possesses. After their fight, as Karasu-chan says in this excellent essay, “Karasu would acknowledge Kurama as someone closer to an equal and someone able to protect himself. Maybe that's the real issue, that Karasu believes whatever he loves isn't strong enough to fight off death.”

On the other hand, Kurama’s hatred of Karasu appears to be a much more difficult obstacle to surmount. Yet he has a dark side, which his merciless fighting style and Youko’s occasional appearances prove—and this part of him might be attracted to Karasu despite himself. Indeed, Youko outright enjoys toying with Karasu during their fight. Furthermore, writers can make use of the fact that Karasu will not have been the first black bird youkai that Kurama has been in a relationship with… maybe the fox has a thing for crows and ravens? (KuramaxKuronue is KxK, too!)

Finally, Karasu’s preference for Kurama’s human form over Youko should appeal to Kurama. Kurama has decided to remain as Minamino Shuiichi, and Karasu obviously appreciates this choice. This differentiates him significantly from the other two people closest to Kurama: Hiei is too impressed by Youko’s power to really approve of Kurama’s decision, and Shiori is not aware of her son’s true nature. Karasu is the only one who knows what Kurama was, and can fully accept Kurama as he is.

Essentially, the charm of this pairing lies in the tangled web of Karasu’s psychotic tendencies and their conflict with his desires, Kurama’s dilemma of his fear for Karasu and his self-disgust with that fear, the totally reversed dynamic between Youko and Karasu…. I like KxK for the challenge it presents: few other pairings feature such frustration, tension, and convoluted psychology.


Recs

I aimed to include fics that delved into the psychology of KxK, or looked at it from a different angle than the standard Karasu-rapes-Kurama-and-screws-with-his-mind! fare—although that category can be fun too, and I didn’t neglect it. Warning: many of these can be classified as darkfic for themes such as non-con, and most of them have sexual content.


Secret and Strange by Windswift – This is from Windswift’s Karasu vs. the Afterlife series, which I can’t praise highly enough. These one-shots elegantly transcend the obstacle of Karasu’s death as faced by all KxK ficcers; they veer from profoundly moving to irresistibly cute without any effort. Other fics in this series are Over Tea, Onegaishimasu, and The Heavenly Executioner. I’d also recommend No Return.

Koori no Naifu wo Daite by xPockyNoMikox – “I don't think I ever hated you, even after all that you've done… No, I do not hate you; but I love Hiei more.” Rarely in fic does Kurama ever feel more than fear and loathing for Karasu, but his involuntary fascination with—and even attraction to—the crow is skillfully explored in this one-shot. Her chaptered story To Look Upon a Rose is also worth checking out, although it’s more Hiei/Kurama than KxK.

Mine by Bladedream – Another fic in which Kurama must deal with his unwanted, yet undeniable desire for Karasu. This one is less psychological than Koori no Naifu wo Daite; however, it’s also smuttier. WIP.

Unwilling by Villain – Those seeking lemony KxK need look no further. This fic takes a look at the role reversal in KxK when Youko is unleashed—and the consequences of this shift in power make for especially hot sex scenes.

Conquests (of Love and War) by Youko Koenma – A fic with an epic feel, featuring deranged!Yomi. It’s got a dash of everything, from horror to smut to humor. Karasu is rather out-of-character, as he develops a loving and even normal relationship with Kurama, but it’s interesting to see a KxK from the opposite end of the spectrum. Also, the device for overcoming Karasu’s death and reuniting him with Kurama is clever.

Laurel by Viridian Magpie – Short one-shot KxK, with an unusually creative and, er, mythological twist.

Beautiful by darlingfox – Wonderfully in-character ficlet from Karasu’s POV. Gorgeous prose with some lovely imagery.

Red by scheherezhad – Another in-character ficlet from Karasu’s POV. Vividly written and somewhat smutty. A bit of Kurama/Yusuke on the side.

A Devotional Alliance by blueutopiah – “Karasu discovered that there was a special kind of satisfaction in the destruction of not only life, but loveliness as well.” WIP with gut-wrenching fox torture, which is erotic if you’re into that kind of thing (and what KxK fan isn’t?). There’s a side-helping of Hiei/Kurama, and surprisingly, Koenma/Botan.

Beyond the Face of Fear by me – AU in which Team Toguro wins and Karasu requests Kurama as his prize; contains shades of Hiei/Kurama and Bui/Karasu. I tried to cast Karasu in a sympathetic light while remaining true to his character. Written as a gift for my friend Funara. Er, and not to be too self-aggrandizing, but I’ve also written several other KxK fics.

Opium Dream by Funara – WIP set in one of the best-developed AUs I’ve read, in which Kurama is a fallen noble-turned-geisha who must choose between two lovers: Hiei the soldier and Karasu the general. Heavy overtones of Hiei/Kurama. Written as a gift for me.

Don’t Fall Asleep by metallic_sweet – “It's an addiction. And it will eventually kill him.” One-shot that pushes my KxK buttons like whoa, written for me by my beta. Features role reversal, BDSM, and intense psychology. Best of all, there is a beautifully-written, despairing, haunted Karasu who sobs even though he has what he’s always wanted—or maybe it’s because he has what he’s always wanted.


Sites

Youko Koenma’s Shrine to Kurama, Karasu, Koenma, and Kuwabara –The site that started it for me. This was the first time I’d ever seen Karasu portrayed in a positive light. Hosts Conquests (of Love and War).

Yuudoku no Kisu – Possibly the most comprehensive Karasu fansite out there. Contains Karasu-chan’s essay, as well as another KxK justification.

Flowers of Blood – An extremely thorough Kurama fansite that includes music downloads, rare scans, and sound clips, among other goodies. The first picture of Kurama is from this site’s gallery of screen caps.
Tags: #anime/animation, #manga/comic, yu yu hakusho
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