When I first signed up for this, my love for this pairing knew no bounds. I bored Penelope for hours talking about them, wrote on and on about Oriya (who is my favourite character), and even tried to convince my brother that their love was so eternal (or not). Sadly, my brother was fed up with my slash obsessions and told me to shut up. But when I started writing it, I realized I couldn't put much into words.
So, I'm afraid that this is a lousy essay. Please bear with me as I try to put things in order here. Please, accept my apologies for everything that's dreadful in it. Probably everything, that is. Also, these are my personal views on the pairing. I know I say it below, but one can't say that enough.
Title: A modern samurai romance
Spoilers: oh, yes! For the Kyoto arc.
Personal Website: http://seacouver.slashcity.net/illuferret/index.html
First of all, this presupposes knowledge of Yami no Matsuei. See Boniblithe's excellent introduction in crack_van: Dead Gay Detectives Strike Back
Muraki Kazutaka: descending from a family of doctors, he followed in his father's footsteps and became a doctor himself. But, maybe because of his dark and tormented childhood and adolescence (his father was a philanderer, his mother was insane, his step-brother killed his parents, or maybe Muraki himself killed his mother) he doesn't respect his Hippocratic oath much. Every now and then he kills people to absorb their energy and if someone sees him, he has no problem eliminating the witnesses as well, in sometimes extremely creative ways. He's also not above sexually harassing his patients, manipulating them into loving him blindly, engaging in human organs trafficking and who knows what else. Also, he has a habit of stalking his beloved, and then trying to kill him.
In other words, he's not exactly a nice guy. But he's very well educated, charming, and able of gaining the trust of people around him, and hides his secrets well. Or, does he?
Enter Mibu Oriya. The son of a restaurateur/brother-owner catering to politicians and bureaucrats, who also followed in his father's footsteps, and who is not above using his good connections for making Muraki's trespasses disappear. Not much is known about him. We know that he was Muraki's friend from college (in the manga, this was changed into 'friend from high school' into the anime), that he has a hot temper, he can be violent, respects tradition to a great degree, practices kendo and the tea ceremony, and he'd do anything for Muraki.
Muraki and Oriya have known each other for more than ten years, according to both the manga and the anime statement for their beginning of their friendship, and they are best friends. That means that Muraki comes and goes whenever he pleases in Kokakurou, Oriya's restaurant, he has his own room there, and feels free to dispose of Oriya's women when they have finished working for him. Not that that makes Oriya very happy, but he doesn't do anything to stop Muraki from killing them. Also, Oriya uses his connections to cover up Muraki's murders. So, one could call them accomplices.
When Muraki sets his final plan to capture Tsuzuki, kill him and resurrect Saki (his evil step-brother) in motion, and goes to Kyoto, Oriya listens to him, covers his tracks, and finally, delays Hisoka, Tatsumi and Watari from rescuing Tsuzuki, in order to give Muraki one more chance to succeed. Then, when Muraki disappears, he's left wondering if Muraki has left (in the anime), or knowing that Muraki will never come back again (in the manga).
Sic exeunt Muraki, Oriya.
The fanon - or, why I think these two are more than friends.
In the canon, it is stated that they are friends. Friends from school, best friends, friends in need. There's no hint of a different relationship, either in the past or the present. Especially when one compares Muraki's behaviour towards Tsuzuki, who is called again and again his 'beloved' to his behaviour towards Oriya. There's none of the teasing, of the flirtation, of the sexual innuendos. On the contrary, Muraki is perfectly polite and proper, and even suffers Oriya's violence on a couple of occasions (in the manga).
(and from now on, I'm making all sorts of statements that can be considered as stretching the canon A LOT)
Writers either go with the idea of friendship, or the idea of a (past, present, on-off) sexual relationship, or the idea of unrequited or mutual, but unfulfilled attraction. And with good reason; since we don't have enough evidence, and since we know they are close, it is easy to make them be whatever we want them to be. And each interpretation of them is equally valid, in my opinion.
Yet, I prefer to see an element of love in their friendship. Not necessarily sexual love at the point where Oriya is first introduced. A past relationship that didn't work, but left them close friends is possible. After all, they are comfortable with each other. And, even more importantly, in the anime, when Muraki tells Oriya that he's leaving, Oriya is so upset as to grab him and ask him how he can make such decisions on his own. And then he cries. In the manga, he asks if all their time together meant nothing. And then he cries. But because we know that Muraki isn't spending the nights in Kokakurou (he's too busy chasing Tsuzuki and killing people and taunting Hisoka) it is obvious that they're not having a sexual relationship at this point.
Or a deep, platonic love that cannot be consummated. Because, only something as deep as love can make Oriya first beg Muraki to stay, and then let him go. Because, only something as deep as love can make Muraki not see Oriya as one of his victims, or his dolls. Again, when he tells Oriya that he'll be leaving, his voice is soft. Oriya's hands are trembling, and Muraki tries to comfort him. And he means it.
In his own way, he cares about Oriya. When Oriya tells him how he hates his job, Muraki points out the various benefits. True, he too benefits from it, but I'd rather see it as Muraki saying to Oriya to look at the silver lining in his cloud. And when Oriya complains about Muraki being such a difficult friend (not in these words), Muraki seems aware of it, perhaps too aware of what burden his presence and activities are to his friend.
But why not consummated, if it's such a deep love? Apart from the very obvious matter of Muraki's infatuation/love with Tsuzuki, which is all consuming by that stage, there are other things to consider. First of all, if it such a deep love, it seems to be mostly from Oriya's part. And yet, Oriya doesn't make any moves to be anything else than Muraki's friend. Why? First explanation would be, he knows exactly how manipulative his friend is. He knows that he's already emotionally attached to Muraki. To be even more attached, to deepen the bonds between them by having an affair with him would be giving everything to Muraki. And Oriya is a practical, proud man who wouldn't give control to another easily.
Another explanation is also possible. The proper way for a samurai to express his love is not to express it at all. And Oriya is trying to be a samurai for some reason (though what that means in this day and age and with his profession? What is a man of honour doing in that burning house?) It would be in character, then, to not express his love for Muraki. And it would also be in character for Muraki not to press the subject, even though he knows how Oriya feels about him. To press the subject would mean making Oriya lose face, and he respects Oriya too much for that.
But is it only on Oriya's part? I think not. Muraki's deep concern and affection for Oriya are obvious. As his warped idea of himself is obvious. Muraki thinks he has a program inside him that makes him act the way he does. He thinks he's a burden to Oriya, a troublesome friend whose absence would make everything better. Such a person could not have an affair with Oriya. He could have an affair with Tsuzuki, since love and attraction connected to murder are within his programming. What I'm trying to say is that, I do think that Muraki's feelings for Tsuzuki are genuine, but at the same time, he has no respect for Tsuzuki as a human being. That is why he can say how much he loves him, how much he wants him, and how much he wants to kill him. I wonder if the reason he loves Tsuzuki is because Tsuzuki is the Holy Grail of his research. His beauty and suffering only make him more desirable. But Muraki respects Oriya and trusts him. He doesn't want to kill him. Therefore, he can't love him in a sexual way, or he doesn't want to love him in a sexual way.
(as I said, lots of personal views here)
But, why this pairing and not another? Yami no Matsuei is full of angsty characters with dark, tormented childhoods, past secrets that ruin their present lives (even in the afterlife), characters for whom one can feel sympathy and understanding. Why choose a psychopath and an enigma and their doomed relationship? Exactly for these reasons. Oriya is an enigma, Muraki is not sane (but manages a good impersonation of a sane man when he has too), and their relationship is hopeless.
What's even better is not only that their relationship offers so many possibilities for angst, drama, pain, misery, self-loathing and introspection, it's that, it once was a normal relationship, full of hope and potential and all the nice, romantic things that one dreams about when one starts a relationship (be that a friendship or a romantic affair). When Muraki met Oriya, he was still a decent person, slightly fatalistic, perhaps, but still with hopes and desires. He was Muraki before the murders and the manipulations. And Oriya was free of his business, and all his hated obligations.
I know, I know, this is getting rather silly; they were young, they fell in love and look where they ended up. But, for me, the great appeal of this pairing is its inherent tragedy. It's the fact that in their relationship, as we see it, Muraki and Oriya stay bound by etiquette, traditions, their knowledge of each other, their mutual respect. The only time Oriya breaks his boundaries, it comes to nothing, and he accepts it with only a little fight.
Then, it's the characters themselves. Oriya is full of contradictions: he does a job he hates, and he obviously does it well. He stays loyal to a friend who is seemingly too troublesome. He tries to be honourable, yet his profession binds him into a life where there is no honour. Muraki knows that what he does is wrong (to some level), and yet he doesn't stop. His own perception of himself (his insanity) makes him even more intriguing to me. The fact that he still clings to his relationships with Ukyou and Oriya at the same time that he dismisses everyone else as less than human, as dolls, are of great interest.
That is why I love this pairing. That is how I see it. I like the fact that one can see them either as friends, or as lovers, or something that transcends both categories. I like Oriya's fatalistic love of his misery, I like Muraki's warped sanity, and I like to imagine that maybe, one day Muraki will come back and be able to love Oriya as Oriya loves him.
The fics - and the essays.
First of all, the character essays in reflections_2:
all about Muraki and all about Oriya, where you can also find recommendations for fics.
Unfortunately, not many write MurakixOriya. Fortunately, there are some great fics about them (though, not necessarily in a yaoi situation).
The First death by Eag.
Also by Eag, Flicker (this one is yaoi).
The bitter taste of tea by Beth Winter.
Tobacco flavored by Quince.