Romantic Relations – Thank You For Waking Me Up

Hello and welcome to the start of our site event, Romantic Relations! Thanks for being here and supporting our newest event. This time around each entrant will highlight a romance of their choice and it’s inherent value to either the story, characters, ourselves or some combination. A friendly reminder to check back in each day this week for our remaining entries, with our weekend poll opening on Friday (10/07/2022) and closing Sunday at midnight. I hope you’re ready for some romance because things start now!

– Joel

Romantic Relations – Thank You For Waking Me Up

“No human is ever a one-man show.”

Genkai, Yu Yu Hakusho by Yoshiro Togashi

There’s a lot to be said about the bonds we build. And honestly? I’d argue that there’s even more that can be said about the bonds built in fiction and how we cling to them and what those bonds say about us as people in real life.
For works of fiction to be so heavily relied on for escapism, why do we still keep them grounded so often? I don’t believe that any work of art is meant for full escapism, but to instead hone in on what’s important to us in our day-to-day. Because yeah, watching Gypsy Danger cut an alien in half in Pacific Rim is sick as hell, but there is value in watching what the robots fight the aliens for, too.
Furthermore, there is merit to the exploration of the very real things in life, too. Should movies like Godzilla or Transformers keep exploring their obsessive impulse at including a “relatable” human-centered B Plot? I’d sooner give myself a hernia than advocate that, but trust me when I say that there IS a time and place for the relatable human stuff in fun action media romps.
Like a romantic subplot.
A lot of the time, the romantic relationships we see in our favorite shows and whatnot end up feeling a little ham-fisted, but the ones done right REALLY stick out. After all, it’s one thing to write a fake human being and to do it well at that. But to write TWO OF THEM really well and then naturally DEPICT THE CONCEPT OF THEM GROWING ALONGSIDE EACH OTHER to a degree where they DEPEND ON and SUPPORT each other and would INVEST in each other in mind, body, and soul? Inject that DIRECTLY into my veins, I’ll take as many as I physically can please, thank you. 🙂
So when it came down to picking out a favorite couple in fiction, let me tell you that I thought it was going to be an easy pick. Guts and Casca in Berserk are such an intricate and beautiful case of a relationship done well, and Fullmetal Alchemist, being the literal perfect story that it is, runs laps around other authors when it comes to its romance. But there’s something incredibly comforting and heartfelt in Yu Yu Hakusho with the relationship between its protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi, and his childhood friend, Keiko Yukimura. Something that I would like to hone in on.

To refrain from unintentionally diving into every detail about the story of this series, I’ll boil it down to this: Yusuke is a delinquent-type character who gets drafted (via death) into becoming a detective for the Spirit World, thus bearing a responsibility to fight demons who threaten the safety of both the Living World and the Afterlife. In return for helping to save the world, Yusuke is brought back to life. Got it? Sick.
Now here’s the thing, we instantly get this reputation built up for Yusuke that he’s top dog around his home town. I’d say that all he does is get into fights, but that’s not true. He WINS those fights, too. Though, despite being viewed as a punk and hated by most everyone else for it, the inciting incident of the story comes from the fact that he saves a stranger from getting hit by a bus. A kid, no less. Then he dies, end of story.
No, but this death instead gives him his introduction to the Spirit World. Now unseen by the living, he goes around his town as a spirit, which is how both the audience and Yusuke gets to see that there are people who know him as the kind person he is in reality. Included within the group of people mourning his death is Keiko, who has always been close with him since they were kids.
Over the course of the whole story, as this all gets started off rather quick, we see Yusuke be this ill-tempered smack-talker, a tough guy looking out for #1. But whenever Keiko gets involved, he softens. He still maintains his abrasive personality, of course, but there’s a very sweet, yet at the same time, slightly awkward back-and-forth between them. It’s easy to see that they both know how they feel about each other, and they both know how EACH OTHER feels about them, but in their early adolescent unpreparedness, they’re learning at the same time how to find their footing with what they have.

For reference, here’s how he typically talks to people.
But there’s nothing harsh about how he talks to her, whether (playfully) talking trash or not.

The thing with this series is that its story beats, characters, etc feel like they are celebrations of tropes. Nothing is super crazy unheard of, and rather straightforward, but done in a way that makes them so easy to love. There is a very simple detail about why Yusuke and Keiko are appealing as a couple, and they’re just so damn dedicated. No matter what the situation, how far apart they are, or how much time has passed, it’d be unnatural if either of them had eyes for someone else. Sure, Yusuke loves to fight stuff. He feels that he understands the world and his place in it most when he’s locked in combat with someone. At the end of the day though? He fights to make it back, to keep away the mourning that he watched her go through when he died before.
But issues arise in the early beats of the series’ final act. Yusuke has lost his sense of self worth and identity. Not only that, but he has discovered power within him that scares him. In response, after around 90 episodes of an anime where he’s constantly throwing himself into danger and worrying Keiko, he cannot sit still. All the danger seemed to have gone away for the world, and Keiko was expecting to finally stop wondering if Yusuke was going to come back the next day. But instead?

There’s a whole lot you get from it, you get history on their time together, you get how much they understand each other, you get see two different people cope with things in different ways and view the same situation with different points of view. And all of these things are simple, but they’re genuine. I’m not watching a Nolan movie, but I am feeling the weight of these words, the morose tone is most definitely conveyed. They’re confronting a painful truth together, and yet separate.
Giving the cliff notes here, I can only get my attachments across to you so much. We’re talking about a relationship that grows in little moments scattered throughout a full story. And honestly? Picking this couple to talk about was more just to get the opportunity to do so and less to actively convince anyone this was the best written relationship out there. Because the point is I enjoy how they work together, and I can see something heart warming in it. They both know what they want and they don’t shy away from it.
And once he’s found all the answers about himself that he ran off to look for?

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