So it looks like I just made the deadline. Yes, here is another special editorial because, why would I miss the chance to rant about my Ishida bias? With that in mind, I decided to pick one of his relatively recent otome game roles. Needless to say, there will be spoilers but mostly for Ryuu Bi’s route.
Childish Ryuu Bi?
For starters, just look at Ryuu Bi’s appearance. He is adorable, look at those rosy cheeks of his. What? Okay so many people may hold the first impression that he is the brat of the game, due to his child-like appearance. I say “child-like” as Ryuu Bi is actually 15-years-old, and the leader of the Maozoku community. So yes, for some reason his mentality and body remain that of a kid’s. When he acts clingy, sulks when he doesn’t get what he wants, or is shaken by the sight of killings – he is not acting his age but technically he is also acting his mental age.
But when you consider what happens in the whole game, Ryuu Bi does his best to act as a proper leader. As the leader, he is always held as the hostage (by Sou Sou, Tou Taku, Ryo Fu). He does not complain about this, not even when he was mistreated badly. To him, it is the least he can do as his duty as leader so as to ensure that the Maozoku’s safety. When everyone else has to go out to war, Ryuu Bi is always left behind even though he feels safer with everyone else – though he does act selfish on a few occasions and this keeps in line with his childish personality. Ryuu Bi himself knows that he has limited capabilities. The most he can do is help with watering the plants, show Kan U to a special place with a nice view to cheer her up, or to give Kan U lots of hugs to heal her and smelling like the sun~ While all of this appears trivial, Ryuu Bi is actually a huge source of support for the Maozoku – no one can imagine what it would be like without him. Chou Hi even calls him the 癒し系 (a less literal translation: healing existence) of the Maozoku.
Ryuu Bi does have an innocent outlook of the world. When he first approaches Kan U, who is isolated as a half-human and half-Maozoku, he does not understand why she is hiding. In fact, he does not really understand what a “human” is. But he manages to clear Kan U’s fears and worries with a simple statement:
Then let’s do it like this! If you’re in between Maozoku and humans, isn’t it alright to think of you as both Maozoku and human? It’s great to be able to be both!
Yes, you can call him naïve. But his naïve and pure statement saves Kan U. At the same time, the ignorance can be applied to all of the Maozoku too since they have been isolated from humans all this time. But unlike the rest who think of all humans as hostile and dangerous, Ryuu Bi is the one who comments to the rest on how he believes that Maozoku and humans can get along one day. And when he meets a human kid who treats him hostilely, as his parents have taught him to, Ryuu Bi wonders if he did something bad by just helping the kid pick up his ball. As much as he is innocent, Ryuu Bi also reflects on himself. His innocence holds its merits though. That innocent belief in the good of everyone gives hope in the game. And in the game, this actually happens. Of course, changing everyone is pushing the limits considering all the prejudice and discrimination. Instead, given the time and effort, they managed to create a harmonious community of humans and Maozoku in Jo Shuu. (Though ironic events take place in Ryuu Bi’s route later, I am not here to discuss those.)
Evil Ryuu Bi?
This would be what you gather from Ryuu Bi in everyone else’s route. When you go into his route, you start to get glimpses of a slightly different Ryuu Bi. You find out why his mentality and body remain that of a kid’s – and more. Let me dump all of the spoilers:
300 years ago, Kinme (a youkai) appeared and struck fear in everyone’s hearts with its rampage. Only one man was brave enough to gather all the elite fighters (both men and women) to form an army against it. However, they failed and at a loss, the man decided to pursue the rumours of a fairy living in secluded mountains. He approached her for help. After much persistence, the fairy gave in and cast magic on his weapon – the ability to wield yin energy. If he pierces Kinme‘s heart with it, he can defeat it. Together with the remaining army, they went to battle again and battled for three days and nights before he finally pierced its heart. That man happened to be Ryuu Kou, Ryuu Bi’s ancestor. The army he formed was termed as the Ryuu army, and Maozoku are descendants of them. They were all cursed by Kinme when its blood spilled and poured like rain on the army, causing them to grow ears and become half-youkai-like. In the end, not only did the Han Emperor then not praise their efforts, he chased after them, labelling them as traitors which sold their souls to Kinme. This is totally different from the common legend told – that a Han Emperor defeated Kinme. The term “Jyuuza” was also spread at that time. In the end, the Ryuu army hid in the mountains and probably did not tell their descendants the truth in fear that they would start a conflict with humans. Plus they turn beast-like and go wild at times too, so they thought they should stay away from humans.
The Ryuu line of family was affected most by the curse, since Ryuu Kou had pierced its heart and was soaked in its blood. The curse thickens with each generation, such that the person will have a black and evil heart, and also wield strong powers. The reason why Ryuu Bi is not like that is because he suppressing it as much as he can. This is also why both his body and mind remains that of a kid’s – in exchange for suppressing the curse, his growth is hindered.
In his route, Ryuu Bi himself starts to reveal that other side of him due to Ryo Fu’s provocations. It was especially heart-breaking when you see him locked in a prison cell (under Ryo Fu’s pretence that she’s going to treat his illness) and whipped – yes, freakin’ whipped. But not even that broke Ryuu Bi down. It was only when Ryo Fu made a remark along these lines:
There’s no need to sacrifice yourself, you can’t protect the one you love like this. She’ll get taken away by someone else eg. Sou Sou or Chou Un. There’s no need to endure anymore, you can gain the one you love by just using your powers.
After finally being out of the prison cell for a long time, Ryuu Bi is hesitant to let Kan U hug him. And when she remarks how he does not smell of the sun anymore, he mutters that his heart is not as pure as before now. And eventually, that change surfaces in front of Kan U. Ryo Fu wants to gain that power of his (spilling his cursed blood onto herself) and to do so, she needs to first awaken that black heart of Ryuu Bi’s by making him desire power. Putting Kan U in danger is the quickest way as Ryuu Bi has held a strong attachment to her since young – and Ryo Fu succeeded, but she was killed by Ryuu Bi instead. Yes Kan U is strong, but that does not mean that Ryuu Bi does not desire to protect her either. Even though I said “Evil Ryuu Bi”, it is only because the curse drives him to want to shed blood and at the end of the day he actually only wants to protect Kan U. But against his expectations, Kan U is shaken by this sharp contrast and denies him, asking for the usual Ryuu Bi back. This just tortures Ryuu Bi further.
It’s just as Ryo Fu said. Why do I need to be the only one who endures! I want to be able to protect the one I love! Even so, you wish for me to return to my powerless, childish self again? You can say such a cruel thing? ……But it’s useless already. Touching you like this, I can no longer stop myself. I will definitely not let you go.
Mature Ryuu Bi?
To make things further complicated, there is yet another side to Ryuu Bi. On nights with a crescent moon, the curse weakens and he speaks with his “true” consciousness – though reminding Kan U that all the sides she sees of him is one and the same person. One can say that this is the “true” Ryuu Bi – but so are the rest, just that the balances are different due to the curse’s effects. Possessing a clear mind, Ryuu Bi would always apologise to Kan U since his usual self is powerless and always troubles her. And now with the curse slowly consuming him, he would probably only hurt her more. One can see that he is completely aware of his other sides, and also apologetic that he cannot give Kan U anything in return for all that she does for him. Having always observed how Kan U tends to carry the burden by herself, if possible, he wants to be able to support and protect her too.
He once asked Kan U to kill him, but later felt ashamed of himself that even during the last moments, he still relied on her for such a cruel request. Ryuu Bi always reflects on himself. In the end, this Ryuu Bi resolves to kill himself to end everything as the curse’s seal is completely broken by this point in time. Even though the curse does not actually allow this, at that moment the curse was weakened and he was just a few steps away from the edge of a cliff. Kan U desperately tries to persuade him, saying that she will protect him. While Ryuu Bi thanks her, those kind words are also painful to him as it speaks volumes of his powerlessness.
Grown-up Ryuu Bi?
When Kan U next meets Ryuu Bi, he has fully grown up and also fully consumed by the curse. So while he is powerful, he also does not flinch at killing others. Once again, Ryuu Bi is tortured when Kan U continues to deny him. He feels as though he is going to be left behind again, just like how all this time he was left behind as a child while she grew up to be the adult now. But now he has grown up too and continues to beg her to not say that “You’re not Ryuu Bi” anymore. Kan U recognises this familiar desperation of his, but also realises that he has lost so many other important things in exchange for that power. As the “childish” Ryuu Bi, he is unable to do anything. As the “evil” Ryuu Bi, he gained power but was constantly denied. As the “mature” Ryuu Bi, he felt powerless. Now that he is a grown-up and powerful, he thought that he had “caught up” with Kan U but no.
Being left behind yet again and later stabbed by her when they are on the war field, Ryuu Bi is first worried about Kan U getting cursed. After all this time, he is still worrying about her first. He then laughs at how ironic it is that that old him wanted to become someone suitable for her and hence became the current him. But now he has lost her love, there is no way that she would love this filthy him now. In response to this, Kan U tries to convey that she was wrong before. She knows that they are all the one and same Ryuu Bi. And even though she said before that she would accept any him, she did not and made him an outcast like this. He is Ryuu Bi no matter what and she loves all of him, and so will accept all of him – even the cursed blood of his.
What happens in the end? Those who have played the game will know, and those who have not – feel free to go and find out for yourselves.
My whole point of dumping long explanations about Ryuu Bi, is to show that no matter how many different sides there may be to Ryuu Bi – he does everything he can for Kan U. His want to be able to be the one to protect Kan U, is his true selfishness. Yes, he may have gone down the wrong path. But that is also because of Ryo Fu’s provocations, the curse, and being denied continuously by Kan U. I cannot bring myself to blame Kan U as the situation is certainly overwhelming from her point of view, and she manages to pull herself together in the end to stop Ryuu Bi from doing further wrong. In the same way, I cannot bring myself to blame Ryuu Bi for everything he did when you learn of his sacrifice, love, devotion, kindness and desperation.
Every time Kan U rejects him, Ryuu Bi desperately tries to find out what is wrong (with the current him) and make amends. Every time he appears to push Kan U to a corner, he actually does not and always gives her the chance to escape. What she desires is important to him. When he pushes her down as his grown-up self he could have easily forced his way with her and “make her his”. But he did not. Ryuu Bi tries desperately to explain himself to her. It is only when Kan U agrees to this, thinking that everything is her fault, does he finally rejoice at being accepted by her (and you get the bad end). When she does not, she pulls free from him and runs away. When they meet again, Ryuu Bi does not harm her and still wants to persuade her. With the curse completely unsealed, Ryuu Bi, who easily killed Ryo Fu (and even Sou Sou), is more than capable of capturing Kan U for himself BUT HE DOES NOT. As mentioned above, even when he gets stabbed by her, he first worries about Kan U instead. I think that all this serves to highlight just how much Ryuu Bi loves Kan U, and wants to treat her as best as possible.
In the end, Ryuu Bi learns through Kan U about his own strengths. While he is not as physically strong as the others, he holds many other merits: the ability to love others and the world, to be grateful for the small things, and his kindness to forgive sins. The Maozoku, including Kan U, also accepts Ryuu Bi for who he really is even after knowing about the curse, and hence Ryuu Bi is able to accept himself too. Accepting one’s own faults is a strength too. Ryuu Bi shows how the “weakest”-looking character is not necessarily weak, how strong emotional strength can be, and how the little things can add up. He may make mistakes, but he reflects on himself too. And this may sound cheesy but above all, he just loves Kan U.
Finally, do not underestimate the healing power of his hugs! (Because he is secretly an angel in disguise. <3)