Spoilers: Nagasaki, King of Swords and Kyoto arc (manga/anime); Masquerade arc (manga).
Personal Website: LB*M
Notes: Big thanks to thedemonprist for beta-reading help, and Kage Tsuki for her insight.
Muraki and Tsuzuki are enemies. They argue, attack each other with demons and spirits, grapple and stab each other, and come fairly close to killing each other. And yet...there is also a hint of mutual understanding, a lot of flirting, fondling/molesting, and lashings of unresolved sexual tension (UST).
To appreciate the ambiguity of the Muraki/Tsuzuki relationship, you have to look beyond the events of canon alone. You should see the anime *and* read the manga, for the imagery is what gives this ship its context. Admire the pretty from the official YnM sketchbook. Consider it a form of accessory canon - intriguing scenes that never made it into the official storyline. Scenes which suggest that, under different circumstances, Tsuzuki and Muraki may have interacted in ways less bloody...and more fun.
Eating ramen (40K)
Hugging/groping (55K) - this is canon. Muraki has poor control over his appetites.
Sharing a drink (61K)
Much more fun.
An almost-kiss, while Watari and Hisoka look on (95K)
Together in bed (91K)
Muraki wants Tsuzuki - this is canonical fact. There is uncertainty during the series as to what he wants Tsuzuki for - whether it's supernatural power or sexual gratification/manipulation or experimentation - but there is no doubt about his desire. His gaze lingers over Tsuzuki as if he longs to eat him alive. He freely admits to killing people to attract Tsuzuki's attention - as a Shinigami, Tsuzuki's job is to investigate unexplained deaths, and as surgeon/organ-trafficker/scientist/rapis
His behaviour towards Tsuzuki veers from gentlemanly and polite, to the ardent suitor offering roses, all the way to blatant sexual harassment. At times he invades Tsuzuki's personal space with a bold familiarity more appropriate for intimate lovers than sworn enemies: a hand around his waist and nuzzling his cheek when the mood takes him. Muraki takes great delight in initiating such displays of affection during the most inappropriate times.
There's a fine example of Muraki's seductive menace in the anime version of King of Swords. When Tsuzuki attempts to punch Muraki on the deck of the Queen Camellia, there is no doubting his anger. But Muraki, so smug and suave, evades the punch then grabs his wrist, pulls him into an embrace, and almost kisses him.
Check out these episode 9 caps (from sayonara da LOVE ME; roughly 50K each):
1. Tsuzuki attempts to punch Muraki - note his fury and determination.
2. Muraki evades it, catches his fist and brings him closer...
3. And closer...
4. Tsuzuki resists a little, embarrassed and stunned.
5. Muraki declares his passion and moves in to initiate a kiss...
...which never happens because Tsuzuki comes to his senses and pushes him away. So near, and yet so far.
In the manga, Muraki's declaration occurs after a bloody fight in which Tsuzuki gouges out Muraki's false eye. It's even more bizarre, especially since Tsuzuki is lying on the floor, wide-eyed with shock, as Muraki looms over him (111K).
Yami no Matsuei (YnM) routinely veered from horror to humour, but the abrupt switch from violence to lust left me stunned. I was relatively new to shounen-ai anime at the time. I'd been brought up on the subtext-barren world of TV slash, in which fans see homoeroticism in gestures as innocuous as a touch to the shoulder. So to hear an explicit statement of lustful intent from one male to another was a dream come true! And considering the context, it was absurdly hilarious. To see Muraki turn a violent confrontation on its head into a seduction scene - and pull it off so successfully that I wanted them to consummate their UST and forget about the dying Tsubaki, angsting Hisoka, the other dead people and the exploding ship - I knew I was well and truly hooked.
You can say whatever you like about Muraki but, out of all the characters, he knows how to go after what he wants. He is a man of action - manipulative, destructive, deliberate action. He finished with his angsty introspection a long time ago.
As for Tsuzuki, he most definitely wants Muraki - it's his job to bring Muraki to justice. After all, Muraki keeps interfering with the JuOhCho administration by causing so many unexpected deaths. Tsuzuki also has a personal score to settle, as Muraki was responsible for raping and cursing Hisoka to a painful lingering death. His animosity for Muraki comes through in his thoughts...
Tsuzuki: And furthermore Muraki...! Next time I see you, I'm definitely going to punch you out! (Hokkaido arc - manga)
...as well as in his confrontations with Muraki. When Muraki admits to killing people to attract his attention, Tsuzuki responds with anger and violence:
Muraki: If I had known I would meet you tonight, I would have prepared the roses I promised before.
Tsuzuki: [slams fist on table] I don't give a damn about that! Are you the culprit behind these incidents!? Muraki! Why did you cut the hair of the women you killed? What kind of purpose are you...!
Muraki: I can't answer that.
Tsuzuki: Impossible. You...You did this just to bring me here...!!
Muraki: Yes. The person behind these serial killings is myself, Tsuzuki-san. To bring you to me, I scattered the blood-scented bait of human flesh.
Tsuzuki: ------You... [lunges for Muraki] Bastard!!! (Kyoto arc)
Muraki evades his punch yet again, brings him to the ground, and starts fondling him against his will. Tsuzuki's fury changes to immobile shock and bewilderment, which is identical to his reaction in episode 9 of King of Swords.
Poor Tsuzuki. He is an extremely likeable character - a well-meaning person, burdened with a terrible heritage and angst-ridden past - forced to do a most unpleasant job. I didn't see his temporary immobility as a sign of weakness or a result of Muraki's supernatural power - rather, he was simply thrown into a situation beyond his experience. What would you do with someone you hated who turned around and told you they wanted your body? What if that person looked as gorgeous as Muraki did - tall, broad-shouldered, menacing and smooth in equal measure?
Tsuzuki's conflicted mix of fascination/repulsion hints at the underlying complexity of his character. He possesses an appetite for the voluptuous - he loves food, especially but not only sweets; he drinks alcohol to excess given half a chance; he also freely enthuses over the luxurious surroundings of the Queen Camellia cruise ship. Given half a chance, he will freely indulge his senses to excess without regard for his employer's expense account.
It's quite possible that his appetites also extend to sensual pursuits, but he keeps it under close wraps. At times, he does display a playful flirting with Hisoka and Hijiri, but that is about it. He does not display Muraki's blatant aggressiveness. In his encounters with Muraki, Tsuzuki shows an initial lack of resistance - a temporary moment of inaction - before he wakes up to himself and shoves Muraki away. Remember, Tsuzuki is capable of decisive action when the mood takes him. He is the most powerful Shinigami in EnmaCho. Therefore, his 'helplessness' when Muraki makes his advances could be interpreted as a momentary acquiescence - at least until his conscience kicks in.
In view of Muraki's numerous crimes - particularly his rape of Hisoka - Tsuzuki's actions make a curious kind of sense. By appearing 'passive' he can rationalise to himself that he is the 'victim' and therefore not betraying Hisoka, even as he secretly indulges his lust as well.
So yes, I believe that Tsuzuki wants Muraki too.
Check out the YnM drama CD for evidence. When Muraki jumps on Tsuzuki at the hospital, the scene ends with Tsuzuki screaming like he's in agony (Track 7 - The Worst Reunion). But in the next scene (Track 8 - A Forbidden Moment), there's the rhythmic squeak of bedsprings, and both of them murmur some very suggestive dialogue. Some might see it as non-consensual in view of Tsuzuki's initial horror, but he doesn't fight Muraki. He could summon his shikigami, hurl some attack fuda...but he doesn't. His failure to use his formidable powers in a sexual situation with Muraki is telling enough - it is passive compliance, if not active consent.
Muraki's unwavering obsession with Tsuzuki has multiple facets. He desires Tsuzuki's spiritual power and physical body with a passionate hunger that can only be described as vampiric:
Muraki: Shall I tear apart your body before the boy's eyes? I would like to see your dear partner trembling in fear when I drink your fresh blood with your boiled heart. Ah, look, we need to hurry. The red moon demands a sacrifice. (Nagasaki)
Muraki: But still...your spiritual energy is the very best. Thick and sweet...even just a little makes my body rage. Ah, I remember our first meeting by the skyline of Nagasaki's Mount Inasa, in that beautiful foreign city. I thought watching you was enough. But since seeing your beautiful hair, body - I've wanted to touch them. So even though I do that now...I want you. My desire keeps escalating, driving me crazy. You, a man. Your power and body. Everything... (King of Swords)
The imagery in the manga establishes the link between sexual lust and lust for power. We see Muraki loom over Tsuzuki's supine body, lips hovering over his throat, cannibalistic and seductive. In the anime, there are many near kisses as well, all of which leave Tsuzuki confused and flushed with embarrassment and anger.
Some fans have argued that Muraki's sexual interest is merely an act, a ruse designed to unsettle Tsuzuki. However, there is also an element of compulsiveness in his behaviour. Muraki admits that his desire is irrational, driving him mad...yet he can't help himself. Even when he decides to use Tsuzuki's body for experimentation in Kyoto arc, he is still tender with Tsuzuki - kissing away his tears before attempting to decapitate him. The sensuality is interwoven with the violence to creepy and disturbing effect.
I suppose such an act of wanton violence would end any hopes of a relationship, loving or otherwise. But in supernatural anime/manga, the dead are never truly dead. After all, Tsuzuki has miraculous recuperative powers even for a Shinigami - we see him risk his body to a degree shown by no other character, living or dead. Throughout the manga, we see him shot with arrows and bullets, strangled and punched, ripped apart with bolts of energy...so losing his head? No big deal. And yes, so Tsuzuki does attempt to incinerate himself and Muraki later on - but it's still not the end. Muraki survived thanks to divine/demonic intervention, and Tsuzuki was saved by Tatsumi's shadows and Hisoka's selfless devotion.
As an aside, I want to clarify that, as a Mu/Tsu shipper, I do not hate Hisoka. This seems to be a common misconception about Mu/Tsu fans - that we all see Hisoka as the annoyance preventing Muraki and Tsuzuki from consummating their love. This is grossly unfair to Hisoka, and it ignores how Muraki and Tsuzuki have been shaped by their past experiences. The Mu/Tsu relationship, sensual and violent and conflicted as it is, centres on two attractive and mentally unstable individuals. They are perfectly capable of screwing up their relationship without outside help.
Repeated exposure to death, and the associated loss and grief, have profoundly affected them both. Tsuzuki, who kills for a living as a Shinigami, cycles through intense guilt and shame - to the point of inaction/paralysis - followed by suppression i.e. 'putting on a happy face' to alleviate the concern of his friends. His ability to put on different 'faces' for particular occasions is what makes him such an enigma. He can be bouncy and puppy-like one moment to win the favour of Tatsumi or Hisoka, then switch to hot-headed rage when challenging Muraki. It's as if he keeps different sides of himself hidden, only revealing certain aspects when it suits his purpose.
Muraki's method of coping with the losses he experienced - as a child with the deaths of his parents, and later as a surgeon with the deaths of patients - is ironic. He becomes a killer as he hunts for the secret to defeating death, and learns to find pleasure in the destruction of others.
Muraki: Being a surgeon only brings me suffering every day. The limits of medicine, human's fragile existence... The lives I couldn't save - this is my regret, my remorse, my anger. No matter how many I save, I still lose to 'death.' Just what is the reason for a doctor's existence? I don't know anymore. Since that time, I've gone mad. Since I understood the limits of human life, I've changed into a murdering killer desiring the power of darkness, craving human flesh. (Nagasaki)
With such common ground, it is inevitable that they see parallels of themselves in the other (this is explored more in the manga - but there are flashes of it in the anime version of Kyoto arc). Muraki implies a shared 'ancestry':
Muraki: You are forever mine, my brother Shinigami!! I am you and you are me. (Nagasaki)
Yet even though Muraki speaks of an affinity with Tsuzuki, he doesn't hesitate to use Tsuzuki's guilt and fear to destabilise his mental state. Such manipulation is typical of villains...and yet, I suspect it also implies a deep vein of self-hatred within Muraki's own heart. After being stabbed and left to die, he reveals a surprising degree of insight into Tsuzuki's character:
Muraki: We are the "same kind." As a consequence of the genetic manipulation that went against natural reason, we were born with an imitation "life." If you trace the path of things living in chaos's darkness, it's just more darkness. We can't run...you and I. We are the proof of the sins that people committed. We are the sons of one who wore the detestable brand on its forehead——BECAUSE WE ARE THE "DESCENDENTS OF DARKNESS." (Kyoto)
Tsuzuki, in turn, out of all the characters in YnM, is the one most able to empathise with Muraki's decision to kill:
Tsuzuki: You might say that I who have become a dog to Meifu am the same as him. The reason vampires have been hated and feared since the distant past is because they live by eating other humans. It is the association of eating one's own kind.
Tsuzuki: Those eyes. As a doctor he was too idealistic. The end of those people who despair over their own weakness until insanity takes hold. With such a pitiful deep-rooted delusion, it won't end with death.
Tsuzuki: In this world...there are many 'Dracula' who can easily 'devour' other people for their own desires, Chief. It has been said that Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was modeled after real humans. Any person has the seed to become a vampire. Any one.
Tsuzuki: In this world, how many people have the right to criticize Muraki's actions?
Tsuzuki: There is even one right here.
Tsuzuki: Inside myself lives a vampire- (Nagasaki)
In the course of the series, their relationship is marked by much property damage and dead people whose only crime was to cross paths with Muraki. A lot of sparks and fizzle. Tsuzuki summons Shinigami, Muraki calls on demons and human cohorts, even using his friend Oriya to assist him. There is also bloodshed and stabbings (you see more in the manga). Their relationship was initiated with violence, and by Kyoto arc, we see it 'conclude' with more violence. Not much of an evolution, I guess.
Yet I feel their relationship is still a work-in-progress, although some would prefer to see it dead and buried. Unfortunately, Muraki hasn't made an appearance since his illusion popped up in Masquerade arc (manga volume 9) - armless, angsting, still wanting Tsuzuki. Some believe this is a sign that Muraki is now powerless - but since the Castle of Candles is a place where one's nightmarish thoughts are given life, I see it as a sign of Tsuzuki's ongoing guilt over the way he stabbed Muraki and left him to die. Muraki is lurking in Tsuzuki's thoughts - as another stain on his conscience.
My fascination with them comes down to my frustration with canon. The series left so much unexplored between these two conflicted and perplexing characters. I wanted to see them interact: argue, fight, fuck...because we learn more about them from each encounter. As adversaries, they have no reason to hide their inner darkness from each other - the animosity brings all the ugly truth out.
They also have the capacity to challenge each other and stimulate some much-needed introspection and self-examination. Muraki forces Tsuzuki to face his past, something Tsuzuki has to do if he is to ever leave his state of perpetual adolescence. As his nemesis, Tsuzuki is in a unique position to challenge Muraki too. Unlike Oriya, who has given up, Tsuzuki - as a fellow 'descendant of darkness' - is still searching for redemption. He has nothing to lose by confronting Muraki about his hypocritical actions. He has also not fallen into the trap of demonising Muraki - because he recognises the fine line between killing for pleasure vs killing for work.
As for those who see Tsuzuki as weak and helpless because of his catatonic inaction during Kyoto, note that he did regain his senses to stab Muraki. It is an extremely deliberate, brutal and cold-blooded act, worthy of an individual who traces his ancestry to demons - an indication that he may be willing to take on his destiny rather than seeking refuge in denial. This possibility isn't explored in the manga post-Kyoto, which is a shame.
Only by self-examination and resolving their guilt will they ever be free from the prison of their past. Otherwise they are doomed to repeat the same pattern of behaviour again and again...as they do in canon. Unconditional support and love isn't really the answer: both men have close friends, but that hasn't stopped them from sinking into anger and guilt and self-hatred at a moment's notice.
Maybe a dose of tough love is in order. The love of an enemy.
A closing quote from Kage Tsuki, a fellow Mu/Tsu fan:
That, perhaps, is why adversarial relationships are so attractive. You share *everything* with an enemy and you don't even realise - your weak sides, your horrific moments, every part of you is naked before an enemy because you *hate* him...so you don't care if you're not powdering up your bad sides the way you would with a friend. That must be why they say an enemy knows you best.
theria.net - YnM translations
sayonara da LOVE ME
drama CD mp3s
Silent Scream Studios
drama CD translations
I also took ideas from the Muraki character essay thedemonprist and I wrote for reflections_2
"Know thine enemy..." quote from The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
"Our friends show us what we can do; our enemies teach us what we must do" quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Mu/Tsu fanfics fall roughly into four categories:
(1) non-con/borderline consensual stories in which Tsuzuki is blackmailed into having sex or marrying with Muraki - these veer from anti-yaoi humour to angst to sizzling smut.
Thy Faithfulness in Destruction by Brigdh
The Bargain by the Bonne-Von Project
Heaven's Drive by Kaz Misaki
Mid-Life-Crisis by koraseru
A High Price by Lizard
The Cake Commitment by Literary Eagle
Seduction by Lethargy by Himoki
(2) stories set during Kyoto arc while Tsuzuki is in a catatonic state. Often creepy and angsty.
Glass Eyes by Leareth
The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Nightspore
Lost by Sleeps With Coyotes
(3) introspective vignettes. Can contain some fascinating insights.
A Flush in Hearts by Amy the Evitable
Abakareta Sekai by Penelope Z
Portrait of the Empath as an Involuntary Voyeur by Phoebe
(4) other fic - post-Kyoto fics, AUs.
Family Heirloom by teno-hikari
Two Daddies by teno-hikari
Two People on Opposite Sides of the River by E. Liddell
Seduced by Moonlight by Ariss Tenoh
Christmas Dolls by Ariss Tenoh
Dark Adaptation by Hickok (recced by archelle
If you have any you'd like to rec, please post them below. I'm always looking for more Mu/Tsu to read, and it's hard to keep track of all the fic that's out there.
Sprencious wrote in an admin post:
I'd like to thank every single person, readers and contributors alike, for making this community a grand success. It started with a single question, (Why do you ship them then?) after chatting with a friend who had grown frustrated and defensive whenever her ship was brought up. You see, her pairing of choice was frowned upon, even ridiculed in some circles. The idea stayed with me and the rest is history.
That frustrated and defensive person is me. The ship is Muraki/Tsuzuki.
When I scroll through this LJ community and check the many essays and comments, I am amazed at the enthusiasm and passion and thought fans have put into their efforts. To think that my whining has played a small part in starting all this - it amazes me. When she put the idea of this comm to me, I remember thinking she was a nutcase. It would never work. Naaaah.
So to see it flourish...well, the joke is on me. I even ended up doing this essay, after turning it down earlier.
I remember Spren asking me in chat why I shipped them. She pointed out Muraki's history as a rapist and serial-killer. Muraki may act like he's crazed with lust, but he's only after Tsuzuki's body for head transplantation purposes, right? Why would Tsuzuki, the flawed angst-ridden hero, be attracted to such a monster? Why did I bother to pair them up?
She had so many questions, and it was very cute. Why this, why that. Like those cute toddlers who haven't learnt how to shut up yet.
This is my answer.