E-mail: regannfoxx @ yahoo . com
Fandom: Yuugiou aka Yu-Gi-Oh!
Spoilers: Heavy spoilers for the series up through the end of Battle City
Notes: While this draws primarily from the subtitled version of the series, dubbers should have no trouble with it. Both sub and dub friendly.
The Japanese anime Yuugiou: Duel Monsters -- known as Yu-Gi-Oh! here in the USA -- is the story of a high school boy named Mutou Yuugi who, along with his friends, end up in the middle of some great adventures that center around the popular Duel Monsters card game and the mysterious Millennium Items -- relics from Ancient Egypt that bestow upon their owners different powers. Yuugi himself has a Millennium Item: the Millennium puzzle, a gold pyramid-shaped object that he wears around his neck like a pendant. The puzzle contains the spirit of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who manifests himself through Yuugi's body and who helps him in his adventures. They work as partners to do battle with the evil that threatens them and do so by playing card duels that become of paramount importance when the magic of the Millennium Items become involved. Since the pharaoh has no memory of his former life, up to and including his name, they call him "The Other Yuugi."
And where do our two boys come into this story?
Jounouchi Katsuya is Yuugi's best friend, part of his entourage and a duelist in his own right.
Kaiba Seto is a young millionaire classmate of both Yuugi and Jounouchi who also is duelist; in fact, he was once considered to be the best in Japan. He's Yuugi's rival in all things Duel Monster but rarely his enemy and the two have even been known to fight on the same side. Of course, the fact that Kaiba is the reincarnation of the Nameless Pharoah's Ancient Egyptian rival, a priest named Seto, just adds another mystical dimension to his role in these strange events...
Jounouchi Katsuya is Yuugi's best friend and a duelist in his own right. A high school student like the others, he's a reformed street punk who used to mercilessly pick on Yuugi before becoming his best friend and protector. Jounouchi's life has been far from idyllic -- his parents separated when he was young and his mother took his sister away but left him with his deadbeat, alcoholic father. Maybe these problems at home are part of the reason that Jounouchi got heavily involved with street gangs as a young teenager and, through this connection, became a very competent street brawler. This is about the time he met one of his best friends, Hiroto Honda. Wild and unpredictable though he may have been, Jounouchi also had a reputation for only fighting against his equals or betters and never stooping to beating up younger children who he could easily overpower.
Loud-mouthed, quick to temper and rather rough around the edges, Jounouchi is nevertheless a friendly, wide-open kind of guy who is fiercely loyal to his friends and dependable in times of crises. He's also faithfully devoted to his younger sister, Shizuka, who he rarely gets to visit but loves dearly. And though he may seem like nothing more than the goofy but lovable side-kick, Jounouchi has hidden depths: he's sometimes prone to self-doubt and low self-esteem but still tries to be a true duelist, wanting to follow an honor code that's reminiscent of the bushido of ancient samurai. And, at home, he works hard to support himself and pay for his school tuition in the face of his father's neglect and debtor status.
Millionaire Kaiba Seto doesn't share Jounouchi's financial problems, although he has problems all his own. Orphaned at a young age when his parents died and his relatives passed him over, Kaiba and his younger brother Mokuba ended up at an orphanage. While many people were willing to adopt the child-genius that Kaiba was, most were unwilling to take Mokuba as well and little Seto refused to be separated from his brother. One day the rich businessman Kaiba Gozaburo was making a tour of the orphanage and young Seto was prepared: he challenged and defeated the older man at a game of chess, a game at which the businessman was a champion. The price for his loss was that he would adopt both Seto and Mokuba.
Gozaburo did just that but he was far from fair. He put young Kaiba through rigorous -- and some would argue abusive -- training and tutoring programs to ensure that he would be a suitable heir to take over his adopted father's place at the company, KaibaCorp. What Gozaburo didn't realize was that he was breeding a viper in his nest as the young Kaiba not only became a worthy heir but also a worthy rival who managed to wrangle control from his father before he was sixteen years old. After his father's mysterious death, Kaiba Seto took over KaibaCorp and turned it from a weapons company to an electronics and gaming company where he himself created some of its most advanced merchandise.
During his time of trials under his father's "training," Kaiba's only refuge became the Duel Monsters game -- and he became its master. Having in his deck three of the most rare cards of all time -- the Blue Eyes White Dragon -- Kaiba was an unstoppable duelist until he came up against the kind-hearted Yuugi and his partner, the Nameless Pharaoh.
Kaiba is cold and ruthless -- he's rude, arrogant and usually a bastard to everyone he meets. He refuses most overtures of friendships and instead chooses to trust and rely on no one -- a fact that puts him in direct opposition with Yuugi, Jounouchi and the gang. Brilliant and calculating, Kaiba nevertheless tries to follow his own sense of honor and justice most of the time, but he's the last one to show mercy or accept failure. But, like Jounouchi, there's more to Kaiba than meets the eye: he is clearly devoted to his younger brother Mokuba who means everything to him. He pushes himself to be the best at everything and, if failure is unacceptable in others, it's inconceivable in himself. There is darkness lurking in him, put there by his tragic past and it's part of what shapes him into the man he appears to be. He, with all the darkness in his past, cannot believe in the basic goodness and decency of the world -- something else that makes him fundamentally different from Yuugi and Jounouchi.
JOUNOUCHI AND KAIBA: THE CANON INTERACTION
If we only have canon to go by the simplest way to explain them would be thus: Kaiba and Jounouchi cannot stand each other. As I said before, Kaiba's is Yuugi's rival and Jounouchi is Yuugi's best friend. By virtue of that fact alone, they stand on different sides of an important division in the Yuugiou universe. In one of the series' first episodes, Jounouchi tentatively extends a chance of friendship to Kaiba which he snidely rejects. This sets up the original tension between the two of them that continues to grow throughout their encounters.
Now, let's look at some important scenes of character interaction in canon --
In Episode 16, Kaiba finally arrives at Duelist Kingdom and encounters the gang. Jounouchi is angered by his superior, self-centered attitude and rashly challenges him to a duel -- after he gets up in his face and bodily threatens him and Kaiba throws some insults his way. Of course, as Jounouchi is very new to dueling and Kaiba is the former best duelist in the world, Jounouchi loses badly.
The fallout of Episode 16 for Jounouchi is seen in Episode 17 where we are given a glimpse of Jounouchi's dreamscape. This particular dream features Kaiba looming quite prominently, snidely calling Jounouchi a "make inu" (loser dog) and then Jounouchi is suddenly there wearing a lovely dog suit. Of course, the fun of this scene is magnified in the US dubbed version where Kaiba's line is "Bow before your master!" Great stuff, yes?
Now, by the end of Duelist Kingdom, everything is fixed up nicely -- Mokuba is saved, Yuugi's grandfather is restored, Kaiba goes on his (not-so) merry way and Jounouchi has the money for his sister's operation. The gang heads back to their hometown (after Jounouchi bids the Kaibas goodbye, no less) and they soon find Mokuba on their doorstep, asking for their help to rescue his brother from the clutches of the Big 5, a group of uber-evil businessmen after control of KaibaCorp. Yuugi and Jounouchi then spend several episodes risking injury in order to save Kaiba from a much-too-real virtual world. Sure, Kaiba's not appreciative and Jounouchi's not exactly nice but he does care, right?
For the next big Jounouchi/Kaiba interaction, we turn to another one of Jounouchi's dreams in Episode 89 which is right in the middle of the Battleship arc. During the duel against Rishid, Jounouchi is felled and suffers through another dream -- this time he's surrounded by his friends as well as Mai and Kaiba. He's looking like his usual arrogant self and he only says one thing -- bonkotsu na duelist ("mediocre duelist"). Later when Jounouchi comes out of it, the importance of the dream is addressed in that everyone he dreamed of in that sequence are the people who are the most important to him in the world.
Later, after both Kaiba and Jounouchi have been eliminated from the Battle City Finals by Yuugi and Malik, respectively, Jounouchi challenges Kaiba to a duel. Although Kaiba wins the duel, Jounouchi makes his point quite eloquently -- Jounouchi is better off because he has friends, one must enjoy the duel to really have it matter and he is on the path to being a true duelist. Kaiba counters with his own philosophy of victory being everything and the fight isn't about enjoyment but it falls flat in the face of Jounouchi's truer words.
Now, let's sum up some of the basic dynamics of Jounouchi and Kaiba's canon interactions --
They make all the noises of disliking each other and go through the same rituals every time they meet. Kaiba makes snide remarks and calls Jounouchi all kinds of names and Jounouchi reacts by getting angry and snarling back. The sparks, angry though they may be, fly between them. But, really, more than angered when it comes to Kaiba, Jounouchi clearly feels out of depth when it comes to him; he's never quite certain how to act and so reacts with anger.
And Kaiba's not any better. Despite all the names he calls Jounouchi and all the times he professes to think nothing of Jounouchi, he spends a great deal of time focusing on Jounouchi. In fact, as we've seen, he duels him twice even though he thinks he's as terrible duelist -- this is very significant. Usually when Kaiba encounters someone he thinks is beneath him, he ignores them. He doesn't actually waste any time on them. But with Jounouchi, however, he says that Jounouchi is a waste of his time but then he proceeds to spend his "valuable" time on him. The fact that Kaiba is willing to spend so much time simply interacting with Jounouchi is a clue to the fact that there's something else going on beneath the surface.
JOUNOUCHI X KAIBA: THE REASONS
So why, if they seem to dislike each other, do so many of us slash them together? Well, because there's so much potential between them. As I said, there's sparks there and, even though they might seem to different on the surface, they're actually quite compatible beneath all the bluster.
For one thing, both Jounouchi and Kaiba are extremely attached to their siblings. For Shizuka, Jounouchi tries to become a duelist and win the money to pay for her to have an operation to save her eyesight; he's the only family member he's close to. For Kaiba, the same is true when it comes to Mokuba. He's spent his entire life since they were orphaned trying to protect him and take care of him. Their bond is almost indestructible and its loss could well destroy both of them. In fact, Kaiba's obvious devotion to Mokuba is one of the few redeeming qualities that Jounouchi attributes to him.
Another trait they share is their supreme survival skills. Although Kaiba has had to make his way in the cut-throat world of business at a young age, Jounouchi survived street gangs and violence without getting himself in too much trouble and was much better for the experience. They both know how to fight tooth-and-nail when they need to.
Related to this is the fact that they both survived very traumatic childhoods. Kaiba was orphaned and then put under his adopted father's sadistic rule. Jounouchi, too, had a rough life with his estrangement from his sister and having to deal with his alcoholic, deadbeat dad who's so badly in debt that Jounouchi has to work to keep the debtors off their backs.
Other ways that Jounouchi and Kaiba compliment each other? They both hide a great deal of their emotions beneath the surface. Although Jounouchi is usually very open, he sometimes keeps his doubts and insincerities buried deep until he's forced to face them -- usually, in typical Yuugiou style, in a duel. Kaiba, too, hides most of his emotions and only Mokuba is really ever privy to the full gamut of Kaiba's emotions.
Add all this to the fact that they seem in canon to pay each other special attention and that they have a relationship lit with sparkage and the reasons that people put them together begin to become clear. They're both headstrong, feisty guys who complement each other but who are different enough to make their clashes intensely fun. Their relationship in canon is already one of intense emotion; it's easy to cross right into intense attraction from there, especially when we're talking about two teenaged guys.
JOUNOUCHI X KAIBA: THE RELATIONSHIP
A lot of people who follow this pairing like to focus on the seme/uke differences in the relationship -- that is, emphatically decide who's top/bottom, dominant/submissive, etc. Personally, that's not what I like to focus on when it comes to Jounouchi/Kaiba.
What I find most appealing about the two of them together is the dynamics they'd bring to it. The whole relationship would be a fight for dominance -- hell, it'd just be a fight period. Given their personalities, I can't imagine either of them actually giving up control indefinitely. Their relationship would be a series of negotiations, of stand-offs, of fights that probably would make no sense to anyone else. In some ways, Jounouchi would clearly be more dominant -- he's better at showing his emotions, at expressing himself, at taking chances; he is, after all, a gambler at heart. Kaiba, on the other hand, is definitely the more intellectual and controlled compared to Jounouchi and that gives him an advantage. Both of the guys are strong and can be fierce; the other is well-suited to weather the proverbial storms the other might conjure.
As for how I personally imagine the relationship -- as I said, it would be one full of stormy emotions from Jounouchi and icy control from Kaiba and I think they'd have to do a lot of negotiation to get it to work in any sort of healthy way. But I think those differences are what would draw them together. Kaiba, fascinated by Jounouchi's foreign ways of acting, drawn to this so-called loser dog that should be beneath his notice but is far from being so. And then Jounouchi, frustrated by Kaiba's cold facade and interested despite the fact that he'd probably want to hit him as much as he'd want to kiss him. The anger could be seen as a cover for all these strange feelings and one day -- it'd just have to explode. Hopefully, in a good way.
Like many others, I first came to Yuugiou and Jounouchi/Kaiba when I tuned in to the 4Kids dubbed version on television. One of the first episodes I ever saw what the one with the "Bow before your master!" dream and my kinky little brain was already working overtime. I loved the way the characters played off one another even in those few bits we get in the dubbed version of the Duelist Kingdom arc.
When I discovered the Yuugiou online fandom as well as the not-so-great subtitled version available on the 'net, I was caught off guard by the popularity of the Jounouchi/Kaiba pairing but pleased that the pairing I liked was so popular. However, I was soon dismayed because, as popular as the pairing is, there are some definite ways that they can be viewed that don't always mesh with mine, especially in writers' portrayals of Jounouchi. He seems to be a favorite to be emasculated in the relationship and, as Jounouchi is my favorite character, I find that hard to take in a fic. Jounouchi is, first and foremost, a tough 16-year-old street punk from the wrong side of the tracks. He's physically very capable of kicking ass and he certainly doesn't like to roll over and play dead. This side of him has an alarming tendency to be minimized by some writers, to the detriment of the pairing and the fics. As I've said before, it's the conflict and power relations at the core of Jounouchi/Kaiba that appeal to me. Without it, there's no pairing, in my opinion. I think they work best together because of it.
They both need that fight; they're the original irresistible force and immovable object, opposites who attract in the basic sense of the cliché.
So, why should you want to believe in the Jounouchi/Kaiba 'ship?
For all the reasons I've mentioned above.
Because they have what it takes to put up with each other.
Because, outside of Yuugi and Mokuba, nobody catches Kaiba's attention like Jounouchi.
Because Jounouchi can't help but be fascinated by Kaiba even in the face of ridicule.
Because Kaiba needs someone volatile enough to light his icy fire.
Because Jounouchi wanted to teach Kaiba about fun and friendship.
Because Kaiba could use a little spontaneity in his carefully controlled world.
Because Jounouchi dreams about Kaiba entirely too much.
Because their kind of anger is as intense as passion, as fire, as love.
JOUNOUCHI X KAIBA: DUALISTIC (AND DUELISTIC) SYMBOLISM
Okay, now I get to bring up a few thoughts that I have about Jounouchi/Kaiba when I'm feeling particularly deep and symbolic. Funnily enough, there's some symbolic stuff to play with -- if you look long enough. And, in a series about a card game, I had to talk about it sometime, didn't I?
As I've taken pains to point in this essay, Jounouchi and Kaiba play off each other perfectly, opposites attracting. Frankly, Kaiba is the dark yin to Jounouchi's bright yang and this parallel duality is seen in a number of different ways.
This duality is, oddly enough, played out in their most valuable possessions -- their dueling decks. So much has been said of it that any essay about the two of them cannot be complete without a mention of their dragon cards. To both Kaiba and Jounouchi, their most prized cards are two dragons -- the Blue Eyes White Dragon and the Red Eyes Black Dragon, respectively. Both are rare, powerful cards and they, like their owners, are pretty much opposing forces: blue-red, white-black. Kaiba is near obsessive about his and Jounouchi kissed his card, for goodness' sake! This weird connection between their favorite cards has been made much of in fanfiction and so has to be mentioned here.
But what I find most interesting the other ways that their decks and dueling styles point out Jounouchi and Kaiba's dualistic roles. Kaiba's deck is about planning and strategy; he exploits weaknesses and crushes the opponent. He wants to control, to dominate and then defeat. It's all about victory for him and nothing else matters. Jounouchi, on the other hand, is a gambler in the truest sense of the word. His deck is built around some very risky gambling-type cards and lady luck is his favored dueling partner. Jounouchi is on a journey when it comes to dueling; he wants to be a true duelist and to do so he has to be willing to lose sometimes to battle against the best and brightest, to learn what he needs to know.
Jounouchi is the chaos to Kaiba's order, the luck to his skill.
JOUNOUCHI X KAIBA: THE FANDOM
As I said, Jounouchi/Kaiba -- alternatively called Kaijou, Joukai, Kaiba/Jounouchi, J/K, or K/J -- is a very popular fanfiction pairing in the Yuugiou universe and you can find anything your heart might desire: everything from the fluffiest, coma-inducing sweet G-rated stuff to the hardcore, seriously kinky, non-con, bdsm NC-17. If you're like me, you fall somewhere in between and you'll easily find your niche of Jounouchi/Kaiba writers that fulfill your prerequisites. Here are some sites to help you and some recommendations for what I consider to be "must-reads" in the Joukai pairing. What I have here is only the smallest of samplings and believe me when I say this is just the tip of the iceberg.
There is, of course, the livejournal communities jou_loves_kaiba and its sister site i_recommend_jxk a recommendation journal.
And also of interest to any Joukai reader new or old is the Yahoo! Group A Dragon's Lair which has all sorts of goodies that I can't actually list here because it would take too long and I'm no longer a member.
Anything Joukai by Ashes -- my favorite is "La Coeur a ses Raisons" but all of her writings are good. Go here or here for her stuff.
The same goes for Aria Marier. My favorite of hers is Rescue. Go here for her stuff.
You're also more than welcomed to read my Joukai fics which are available here. I have five of them: Momentum, One More Reminder, Subtle Signs, No Questions Asked and Kicking the Habit. I've been told they're pretty good and "Momentum" actually won an award from the TDL Yahoo Group a few years back!
And, last but not least, the amazing Animum has written several Joukai-centered fics that are currently only available through her livejournal archive -- but even it is currently offline. Never fear, I'm sure it'll be back online soon enough. Some of her best Joukai stuff includes Tossed Off, Snowblind and the awesomely angsty Coming Clean -- be warned that CC is the sequel to another story and deals viscerally with the recovery that a major character goes through after having been sexually assaulted.
Now for individual recommendations --
Being Dead Ain't Easy by D. Draggy
Cards by Sempai Tnberry
Chronicles by Artemis Zephyr
Love in Two Verses by Cairnsy
Loving Silence by Chasuka
Thanks for reading!