Nuriko loves the pretty emperor.
Pretty emperor seems quite oblivious.
It's one of the great unrequited love affairs in fiction. But despite the fact that Hotohori only has eyes for Miaka as far as romantic love goes, he and Nuriko grow closer as the series continues.
As the manga reveals, when Nuriko is introduced for the first time, it's also the first time that Hotohori meets him in the court. (Our innocent emporer has never actually visited the courtesans :) Although his advisors have been urging him to marry and produce an heir, Hotohori is impressed only by the fact that Nuriko is another seishi; he's already in love with Suzaku no Miko (and Nuriko's rather jealous, heehee).
When the fact that Nuriko's a man is revealed, Hotohori's response is not anger for his posing as a woman but astonishment that there could be another man as beautiful as he (hahahahaha!). He's a kind, understanding person, and he appears to simply accept the fact and then ignore it.
And Nuriko is there for Hotohori, supporting him as well as he can through worries over the war and Miaka. In particular, during the time when Miaka left for her world and Tamahome was falling apart, Nuriko was the only one there to keep Hotohori from reverting to the lonely creature he had been before Miaka and the seishi came into his life.
Despite the obvious impediment of gender (Hotohori is, after all, obligated to leave an heir to the throne), Nuriko and Hotohori actually complement one another quite well. Hotohori's thoughtful and introspective while Nuriko is quite an open and talkative, sometimes downright pushy and annoying (in a charming way, of course:) person.
[SPOILERS for 30-something on...]
So does Nuriko really love Hotohori or did he just convince himself he did?
Well, it's easy to say that Nuriko convinced himself that he loved Hotohori because he thought that his sister would, were she alive. But I don't buy that any more than I buy people's rationalizing about how Hotohori only THOUGHT he loved Miaka because he was expecting to fall in love with Suzaku no Miko, that he thought of her as he died only because she was talking to him; Hotohori may have come to love his wife, but I think that Miaka was always the first person in his heart all the way to the end.
Nuriko's crazy about Hotohori from the beginning. When he decides to give up cross dressing, his immediate reaction when Miaka asks him if he will no longer chase after Hotohori (I love Miaka's "You haven't changed that much" attitude) suggests that his emotions aren't superficial. After Nuriko dies, he manages to bring together Hotohori and Houki because he wants him to be happy.
And speaking of Houki, I think that it's quite interesting that Hotohori married a woman who looks exactly like Nuriko but who doesn't seem to have any sort of discernable personality. It does suggest some sort of subliminal interest in Nuriko.
In any case, I think that Nuriko's feelings toward Hotohori are genuine. And furthermore, while we both agree that it's not plausible that anything could happen in the series itself, Hotohori and Nuriko do make a cute couple. Perhaps in their next lives...
©1999 shilpa & priya
the subversive pomegranate
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