"Because you were cheering for me... because you held out your hands to me... I felt like I could do anything. There was no reason to hesitate. Because I had you." - Ranmaru
Kei Enjouji and Ranmaru Samejima are from the manga and OVA series Kizuna. Kei was the hardworking illegitimate son of a yakuza boss, and Ranmaru was the strong willed kendo star who struggled to find his way after an accident nearly cost him his life. The 11 volume manga series is one of my all time favorites, and I loved how no matter what life threw at these two characters, that they never wavered in their commitment to one another. They both loved each other so much that they would sacrifice anything to keep the other safe from harm, and their relationship gave them both the strength to always always move forward. Kei was such a lovable character and so completely devoted to Ran, and although Ran sometimes acted in... interesting... ways (like accidentally chopping off a chunk of Kei's hair with a kitchen knife or waking him up by holding a pillow over his face), he was also a very endearing character.
Although I thought Kizuna started out a little shaky both in style and story, it grew on me quickly because I loved the characters so much. This series initially stood out to me because it wasn't a story about two characters falling in love, it was a series where they were already an established couple when it began. There were a few flashbacks that showed important pieces of their history together, and I thought that was a pretty effective way of introducing them, by first showing us where they were and then going back and showing how they got there. Throughout their younger years, we were able to see how they added so much to each other's somewhat lonely lives. Ran was always singly focused on kendo, while Kei had to work to help support his mother, but the two found comfort in their friendship. Eventually their mutual attraction to one another could no longer be denied and Kei became not only Ran's first friend and first kiss, but also his lover. Ran was critically injured while protecting Kei from the his family's rival gang, but although he lost much of what he had envisioned for his future, he couldn't regret anything knowing that he had saved the life of the man that he dearly loved.
One thing that was really interesting to watch as this series progressed was the growth of the characters, both individually and together in their relationship. One of the main turning points to me seemed to be when they exchanged rings. At that point, Ran seemed to have made peace with the fact that he needed and wanted Kei in his future, despite what society and his family might think, and started focusing on what needed to be done to keep their happiness. There was a scene in volume 9, where Ran was explaining to Kai that even though he and Kei were not married in the eyes of the law, to the two of them it was real, and as long as he was a productive member of society, no one could look down on him for his relationship. I thought that was an interesting contrast to volume 3, where he was wondering how in the world they could possibly stay together after college. Kei also grew throughout the series, finding his own aspirations for his future, as well as doing as much as he could to always provide for Ranmaru, both financially and emotionally. I have never seen a character as supportive of their lover as Kei was. They were such a wonderful couple and their relationship was strong enough to see them through everything together.
Ran: [thinking] I still remember that moment. My chest was as warm as when we kissed for the first time. You told me you needed me. You said you'd stay with me. I haven't lost anything. There's only one thing that most important to me. I still have you.'
Kei: "Please marry me. I, Kei Enjouji, promise to love you, Ranmaru Samejima, for the rest of my life! Huh? I should have done this before I was hospitalized. I had all sorts of lines planned, but it just came out. I forgot the rest..."
Ran: "Are you... an idiot?"
Kei: "I was being serious!"
Ran: "Two men... getting married...?"
Kei: "...We can't for real... But I wouldn't marry anyone but you. So say yes, or I'll be alone forever. Come on... please, marry me."
Ran: [cries] "Idiot... I've never... heard such a... pathetic proposal..."
Kei: "Sorry about that." [he kisses Ran's hand] "...do you, Ranmaru Samejima, promise to love Kei Enjouji for this rest of your life? Say 'I do'!"
Ran: "...All right. I've got no choice, so I do."
Kei: "What do you mean no choice?!"
Ran: "Just like I said. If I don't take you, you'll be alone forever."
Kei: "You're so stubborn!"
Ran: "And you're easy to tease."
Kei: "Shit - what about my kiss?!"
Ran: "Guess I have to."
Kei: "Well gee, thanks a lot." [they kiss]
Ran: [thinking] 'I swear I'll love you... for the rest of my life.'
Ran: "What I told you earlier was a lie. My hands... are shaking. They didn't shake this much even before my very first tournament. It's not like before. I'm not nervous about whether or not I can win. But how far I can push my body... How long it will last."
Kei: "Come over here. I'll give you a good luck charm."
Ran: "That sounds suspicious."
Kei: "Just c'mere." [holds Ran's hands] "You really are shaking." [kisses the palms of his hands]
Kei: "It's okay. You're strong. It's all right. You can fight just fine. You don't even have to even think about winning or losing. Just enjoy the kendo that you love." [smiles] "I'll be watching."
Ran: "Yes..." [thinking] That's right. You'll be watching me.
Ran: [thinking] 'I guess this is the turning point. Grandfather probably won't understand my relationship with Enjouji. Even if I tell him, he might not take it seriously. But if I don't tell him, there's no moving forward. I've got to tell Grandfather, even if he might not understand... because I love Enjouji - he is my life partner.'
Takashi: "Whether your partner is a man or a woman, to love and care for each other is a beautiful thing. Besides, no one can stop you from loving who you want, right? Not even a parent. What's important to me is whether the owner of the matching ring is one who can make my son truly happy. I'd love to know what kind of man he is, to have driven you to such a level of commitment."
Ran: "...Well... at first glance, he seems like an irresponsible, easily amused, hyperactive loudmouth. But... he's actually a very hard-working, strong, and kind man. And he's always been there to support me through my toughest of times. Above all... I feel at ease when I'm with him."
Takashi: "...I see. I'm a little bit jealous, seeing you look all dreamy-eyed when talking about him. You must really love the guy!"
Takashi: "No, no, it's crucial that you do. After all, he's the partner you'll be facing the rough sea of life with. To love each other is the most important thing of all."
Ran: [grabs Kei's ear] "If you two were already talking, why didn't you tell me?! Don't you know how anxious I was?!"
Kei: "Ow! Okay, okay! I'm sorry!"
Ran: "So - how much about us did you spill to Grandfather?"
Kei: "'Spill'? That's a terrible way to put it..."
Ran: "All right then - how much of the truth about us did you tell him?!"
Kei: "I just said what I honestly wanted. I told Gramps that, as much as I respected him, I had no intention of parting with you. Then Gramps asked me - 'Are you sure you aren't staying with him out of a sense of guilt? For perhaps thinking you were to blame for Ranmaru's accident in high school?' But I said no, that's not it at all. I just want to stay with Ranmaru because I want to. I told him I couldn't even think of a life without you. What a great guy Gramps is. He takes in a total stranger like me, and treats me like his own grandchild. And says to me, 'come home'..."
Ran: [hugs Kei] "Don't... don't call yourself 'a total stranger'."