I knew I was in love with the idea of love from the time I schemed to kiss my best guy friend in kindergarten. I was consumed, compelled, with the idea that I needed to be with someone; to have someone who was my “other half”; who would love the things I loved, intuit my wants, and magically fit with me.
The other thing I loved as a kid was pop culture. For as long as I can remember, I have forced my way into comics, even when I couldn’t read; into movies and television shows, even if I didn’t really understand them; into music and art and anime and more. These were the things I sought.
I had plenty of male characters I was interested in, but none really captured my fancy. I liked Ash Ketchum, but only because he was associated with Misty, who was an awesome tomboy, just like me. I liked Tuxedo Mask, but mainly on the merit that he was the only male character in Sailor Moon. I could create a girl he would like more than Serena. I liked Oliver Wood, but only because my best friend, whom I was madly in love with, related to him most of all the Potter characters.
There was never a character I loved.
At least, not until Kurama.
When Yu Yu Hakusho first started airing on Toonami in 2003, I was on the precipice of puberty. Almost a tween, I watched entranced as boys close to my age battled monsters, saved maidens, and fought in tournaments for friendship. I loved the supporting female characters. I looked up to Yusuke’s no-nonsense mom and his weathered mentor, Genkai; I saw strength in Keiko and Yukina, who were both initially portrayed as weak damsels in distress, but came to fight for themselves as the series progressed; I related to the bubbly Botan, the goofy Koto, and the sexy Juri, who were all uniquely designed demon girls with their own perspectives, personalities, and jobs. But more than that, I fell in love with Kurama.
He was everything that other people seemed to love about Disney princes and fictional bad boys: brave, chivalrous, handsome (but in a softer, non-threatening way), kind, charming, and with a dark past, but trying to make up for his mistakes.
Kurama’s story fascinated me. An impossibly powerful demon thief, forcibly trapped in a weak, human body, yet he was willing to remain with his sick human “mother” because he had grown emotionally attached to her. On some level, I realized that was the love I desired: someone who was with me because they cared for me, because they saw the worth I had.
Kurama’s appearance was often regarded as feminine in a lot of the proto-fandom. He was usually paired with another lead on the show, Hiei. While my friends bought Kurama x Hiei hentai dojin at our first anime con (and used it to mercilessly mock me, because I had no desire to look at the naughty comic), I was more interested in the purity of my love for Kurama. It wasn’t about sex, but it was about hugs and kisses. I bought a Kurama plush at the con, my first plushie ever, and slept with it clutched to my chest at night, dreaming of him.
His long hair was soft in my mind, and his weapon, roses, were not just used to hurt, but also to woo me. I imagined he left me roses on my window sill, a token of affection. He read books quietly sitting next to me, and played video games with me, but didn’t let me win.
My parents recently moved out of my childhood home, and brought some boxes to me in my new apartment; one of those boxes was filled to the brim with notebooks full of sketches and writing…much of it about a fabricated relationship with Suichi (Kurama’s human identity).
I used Suichi as a way to dissuade the other boys in my grade from pursuing me. I had hit puberty and suddenly become much more voluptuous than most of my classmates. Frankly, I didn’t know how to process the attention that came from almost every boy in my grade except the one from whom I wanted it. (I was still madly in love with my best guy friend.) So I turned to the fictional Suichi, who was kind and sweet and ever attentive. He was always there for me with my favorite food or book or tv show, just to show me that he cared.
My next door neighbor and I wrote a shared perspective piece about Yoko Kurama and his love for my original character, with each chapter alternating perspectives between the two protagonists. We played in an imaginary world where her character was in love with Link (from the Legend of Zelda) and mine was in love Kurama, both as a human and a demon.
My search history in the early internet was mainly focused on finding fan-drawn pictures of Kurama. I would save some pictures in folders, and others I would print and cut out and paste on my school agendas and paper covered books.
My long-deleted Xanga journal featured long form shared stories between my best friends and I, creating an imaginary world where we and our bishies happily coexisted. Doodles of our adventures were shared by scanning and downloading them to Photobucket or DeviantArt.
In a way, I needed Kurama to survive. I was a happy, outgoing young woman, and yet a piece of me felt lonely, as if I might never find the love I imagined. He filled the imagined romantic emptiness, a safe place holder for what I knew was to come.
At 17, dating my second “real” boyfriend, I still fell asleep dreaming of Kurama. He would come to my window to whisk me away into the magical realms of YYH. As I drifted to sleep, he took me through a portal where I would use my above average archery skills to tap into my spirit energy. Also, we would sometimes kiss.
In truth, I was in a relationship where I was being emotionally abused by my boyfriend. I daydreamed of Kurama because I felt constantly judged for my appearance, how I presented, if I was pretty enough, if I was smart enough, if I was satisfying my boyfriend enough, if I was doing the right thing or giving him enough or proving to him that I was good enough.
Somewhere in my heart, I knew Kurama wouldn’t do that.
So I dreamed of my demon-turned-human prince, subconsciously wishing for him to rescue me and take me into his fiction.
Fictional crushes often become a form of escapism, and a form of safety. Fictional characters won’t act, or act towards you, without your consent. In fiction, you can look and act however you desire. And however you look or act, your fictional love won’t judge you.
Kurama was there, in the back of my mind, whispering that I needed to get out.
When that finally happened, when I finally escaped that relationship, it wasn’t with my hand in Kurama’s, running away to the Spirit World, but it was through my own words and choices, and my own determination that I deserved to be treated better. I deserved to find someone like Kurama.
I’m finally in a relationship that is formed of mutual respect, shared interests, and not need for affirmation or a lack of control. He’s not Kurama. He doesn’t have long hair and he doesn’t give me roses every day, but he listens to me talk about comic books he doesn’t care about, makes me dinner, spontaneously buys me a donut once in awhile, and holds me when I’m sad.
No one will quite live up to my imagined relationship with Kurama, but I now value a healthy relationship far more than a “perfect” one. I no longer need a fictional escape, and though I know Kurama will always be there for me, I don’t think I will ever need him again.
Who was your first fictional crush? Do you want to write about them for Rogues Portal? Email pitches to Samantha! (Submissions are unpaid at this time.)