Favorite Fictional Couples

Goodreads has just asked author’s to weigh in on their favorite fictional couples. I love the question, so here’s my answer on the blog…

Naoe and Kagetora from Mizuna Kuwabara’s boys love light novel series Mirage of Blaze, which is about samurai spirits vying for control of modern day Japan while our plucky group of heroes (also samurai spirits) attempt to thwart them. Uesugi Kagetora, adopted son of Uesugi Kenshin, is the field commander of these defenders of modern Japan (and by extension the world). Naoe is his vassal and bodyguard. (Like most of the characters, both are historical figures.) The two of them have had a love-hate relationship—with both feeling generous doses of the love and the hate—for 400 years.

Why are they my favorite?

Well, Mirage and its main couple just blow everything else out of the water. This is no criticism of any other love story. Mirage is just so huge, weird, and no-holds-barred that it explodes the mind and senses. Naoe and Kagetora have the intense, obsessive, ugly-yet-compelling passion of Wuthering Heights’s Catherine and Heathcliff (who would also be high on my list) but at a length of several hundred more pages with a commensurate depth of psychology, philosophy, and character development. They are an investigation of (and sometime challenge to) Buddhist concepts of attachment and detachment. They are an exploration of trauma and its ramifications throughout life. They are an illustration of the horror of being trapped in destructive patterns and the possibility of growth out of them. They are an intense exercise in self-examination, self-flagellation, a study in how human relationships go wrong (and can be rescued). They are the insanity of intense, prolonged overextension (in this case, the overextension of living for 400 years without proper reincarnation/purification). They do not exist on an isolated story island consisting only of each other but rather widely affect and are affected by other loved ones, family, friends, enemies, strangers, the world. They signify that forgiveness and redemption are always available. They challenge us (and each other) to love brokenness and to find healing.

And they are also a BL/yaoi couple, which means they circumvent, subvert, refract, and otherwise complicate typical gender assumptions: I wrote an essay once arguing that they both represent “woman” (and “man”) in various ways.

I don’t love them for the sex appeal, and I think I’m a little atypical as a Mirage fan in not finding the K/N sex much of a turn-on. Mind you, their sexual chemistry is fascinating, weird, disturbing, intense, and engrossing; it’s just a little too disturbing for me to be turned on by it. I don’t read it primarily for titillation value, but I do read with avidly—they have at least a couple of the strangest, most psychologically incisive sex scenes I’ve read.


Vash and Wolfwood in Trigun—and, no, they are not a “couple.” While they have been amply slashed (very occasionally well, I think), they are clearly non-sexual friends in both manga and anime canon. But in spirit—where it matters to me—I will count them as a couple because they become “partners,” in so many words, and by any reasonable non-sexual definition, they surely fall in love, in the sense that they meet, spark, become engrossed by each other, transform each other’s lives, send each other through emotional roller coasters, fill a void in each other as no one else could, etc.

In contrast to Naoe and Kagetora, Vash and Wolfwood are an example of healthy love, though they surely have their problems. They do each other great good (and significant hurt). They become profound philosophical interlocutors who challenge each other to expand and reconsider their philosophical and moral assumptions. And they just spark tremendously, fit perfectly, and have a dashed lot of fun together, given that their whole relationship (especially in the manga) takes place on the eve of global apocalypse.

No Women?

No… not way up at the top levels. Alas, misogyny has a way of short-circuiting a story’s ability to generate a really compelling male-female couple. (I have never encountered a lesbian couple that has really gotten under my skin, probably, in part, because I’m attracted to men. But the closest has surely been Xena and Gabrielle.)

Some Runner-Up Male-Female Pairings (no particular order):

Catherine and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
Mulder and Scully (X-Files)
Schmendrick and Molly (Last Unicorn and other stories)
Zhaan and Stark (Farscape)

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