[identity profile] elysian-stars.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ship_manifesto
Title: Terror and the Temptress
Author: Elysian
Fandom: .hack//G.U.
Pairing: Haseo/Endrance
Spoilers: Plenty, including a character-related spoiler for the previous .hack games.
Author's Notes: This covers all three G.U. games (Rebirth, Reminisce and Redemption), plus scraps of the anime prequel (Roots) and sequel (Returner).

.startup//Backstory


It was the year 2010, and millions were logging into The World: a virtual reality-based MMORPG that drew some in far deeper than they'd wished. A super-AI named Aura was supposed to be keeping the game in order - but Morganna, the AI designed as Aura's mother, grew violently jealous of her child, splitting into eight 'phases' and running amok through cyberspace. She flooded The World with anomalies, and threw unlucky players into real-world comas that no doctor could cure. In the end it wasn't the admins who set things right, but a group of ordinary players who came to be known as the .hackers.

With Morganna gone, trouble seemed a thing of the past...until one day Aura vanished without explanation. Bereft of her guidance, The World crumbled and was taken offline forever.

In 2017, The World: R2 was created by a new team of programmers. People flocked to try it out, but many were disappointed, as R2 was rife with glitches and PKs (Player Killers, those who maliciously harm and steal from others). A new breed of computer virus, AIDA, began seeking human hosts and inflicting both physical and psychological damage upon them. The eight phases of Morganna reappeared in the form of Avatars - vast, volatile AI capable of binding their power to individuals named Epitaph Users - and once again people started falling into comas...

A fuller explanation of The World's backstory exists in the form of the Terminal Disc files, a series of animation and video clips that can be found here. Viewing them shouldn't be necessary to understand this manifesto, however.

.username//Haseo


Haseo is one of The World's most famous (and infamous) players, recognised by his black armour and bloodthirsty attitude. That's how we're introduced to him at the beginning of .hack//G.U., anyway - when I saw him in the opening movies, my initial reaction was 'that psycho is the hero?!'

In the real world, Haseo's player is Ryou Misaki, a 17-year-old student at a prestigious private school. Bullied by PKers from the moment he started playing, he almost quit before a woman named Shino befriended him. For a while he learned to enjoy the game, until Shino was PKed and thrown into a coma right before Haseo's eyes. Wracked by guilt at his failure to save her, Haseo went on a revenge-hungry rampage and gained the nickname 'Terror of Death' after killing a hundred PKers who'd ganged up on him. Coincidentally, that's also the title of Skeith, a ferocious Avatar that chose him as its Epitaph User.

Haseo was always rather aloof, but now he becomes caustic, short-tempered and obsessed with power, seeing Skeith as just another tool to use however he pleases. When approached by other Epitaph Users, who've united to combat AIDA, Haseo only agrees to help them in exchange for information on the PKer who hurt Shino. He's reluctant to make friends, afraid he'll only lose them again; he'll fight at the drop of a hat, and rarely listens to anyone but himself.

Fortunately, he doesn't stay that way forever. Though he retains a bold, rather sarcastic personality, over the course of the story he manages to lower his barriers - admitting that he cares for others, that he wishes to protect them and work as part of a team. He becomes patient and thoughtful, and uses his power for the good of his friends, not just his ego. Several people who started out as enemies gradually become trusted allies, and amongst these is Endrance.

.username//Endrance


Known as 'Master En' to his legions of fangirls, Endrance is a beautiful but seemingly cold-hearted swordsman, who slices his foes to pieces in a cloud of rose petals.

The player behind Endrance is 20-year-old Kaoru Ichinose, a hikikomori (this is a mainly Japanese phenomenon: the sufferer feels unable to cope with society and becomes deeply withdrawn, refusing to leave their room for months or years at a time). When he was a child he discovered the original version of The World, hoping it would be easier to overcome his shyness online, but in the end he rarely interacted with anyone besides a character named Mia, whom he saw as his guardian angel. Tragically, Mia turned out not to be a real player at all, but a disguised phase of Morganna named Macha the Temptress; she was destroyed by the .hackers in order to save The World's comatose players. Endrance (or Elk, as his old character was called) accepted this, but never stopped grieving over it.

Years later he decided to play R2, but again became very solitary. The only time he interacted with others was in the Demon Palace battle arena, which he dominated as Emperor thanks to the power of Macha – this reborn phase of Morganna had sought Endrance out as its Epitaph User. Also attached to him was an AIDA, which had taken a form reminiscent of Mia's and was feeding off his unsettled emotions. Though he acted cool and confident, inside he was wracked by fear that this new 'Mia' would abandon him if he didn't keep winning battles to prove his worth.

It was Haseo who destroyed the Mia-AIDA, when Skeith challenged Macha in the arena. Distraught, Endrance fled and isolated himself even further; Mia had been his only friend, the only one who'd ever needed him, and without her - even a parasitic parody of her – he saw no reason to exist. But eventually Haseo tracked him down, declaring that now he needed Endrance's help...

Here, then, was a perfect replacement. Endrance granted Haseo's request, deciding that he'd been given a new purpose in life and a new person to guide him through it. A surprising choice, perhaps, given their history of conflict, but by this point in the story Haseo was growing calmer and kinder, losing his old rage, acknowledging the value of teamwork. Whether Endrance recognised that, or if he was simply desperate to fill the void in his heart, isn't clear.

His switch from apathy to adoration is swift, but never falters once it's established. Though he's still fearful of being abandoned, he talks constantly about how Haseo is the best thing in his world, a source of joy, a positive influence that's helping him become a better, stronger person. And in that regard, I believe he's entirely right.

.download//Canon


//Rebirth – Endrance is first glimpsed in the heart of a Lost Ground, a deathly silent place beyond the game's normal boundaries. He sits playing with an AIDA, manifested as a bubbling cloud of darkness, like it's a tame pet, then slips away wordlessly as soon as Haseo gets too close.

Shortly after that, Haseo witnesses a battle in Demon Palace. He's stunned and angry to realise that Endrance is not only allied with AIDA, but using an Avatar to win his fights – Avatars can't be seen by non-Epitaph Users, so the rest of the audience is oblivious. After the match is over, Haseo chases Endrance down and vows to defeat him (to which Endrance reacts with languid scorn, caressing Haseo's cheek as he claims Haseo will never accomplish anything of worth).

Haseo enters the tournament, but driven by pride and unfocused rage he's almost beaten several times, and resorts to gaining victories through his Avatar in exactly the same way as Endrance. Only in the semi-final, when Skeith goes berserk and ignores Haseo's screams for it to stop attacking, does he start thinking seriously about what he means to accomplish. Project G.U. – the group of Epitaph Users responsible for destroying AIDA – issue a request to him, to try and communicate with Endrance during the title match.

Haseo complies, and realises how insecure Endrance really is, as he frets about his weakness and the loss of 'her'. Thinking of how he lost Shino, Haseo wonders if the two of them are really so different...but after Skeith defeats Macha Endrance vanishes, so there's no chance to find out.

//Reminisce – Endrance remains missing until he's mentioned by Alkaid, another ex-Demon Palace Emperor. She claims to have seen him stumbling through the streets, begging a nonexistent Mia to return. Shortly after that, Alkaid is thrown into a coma in the same fashion as Shino - but before she fades away, she asks Haseo to track down Endrance and gain his help (she and Haseo had been competing in Holy Palace, a higher-ranking arena than Demon Palace, trying to take down dangerous AIDA-infected players).

Haseo discovers Endrance back in the Lost Ground, locked inside a giant block of ice. At first Endrance morosely asks to be left alone, insisting that his life is meaningless and the worsening problems with AIDA are nothing to do with him. Annoyed by such a self-pitying attitude, Haseo orders him not to give up so easily. Then he leaves, declaring that the final decision is in Endrance's hands.

The next Holy Palace battle dawns, and though Haseo firmly believes Endrance will show up to help, he's left disappointed. He's pitted against an extremely strong AIDA-PC, and though his skills have improved since Demon Palace, the virus overwhelms him. Caged in, seconds away from becoming comatose himself, Haseo braces himself for the final hit...

And a rose petal drifts past his cheek...

Endrance shatters the virus cage in a single hit. He bestows all his power on Haseo, who manages to summon Skeith, win the battle and destroy the AIDA. Afterwards, Endrance says that both his sword and his heart now belong to Haseo, and hands over his Member Address.

The Member Address is relevant for several reasons. First of all, it allows Endrance to be summoned as a party member, but the card itself is interesting – most characters fill it with a short description of their hobbies or favourite things, but Endrance's is devoted to Haseo (since he never formed a party in his entire Demon Palace career, it's unlikely he's ever given his Address to anyone else). The exact text is...

Favourite Person: Haseo
Treasure: Anything Haseo says
Precious: Time with Haseo
Haseo... I...


Also, owning somebody's Member Address means that Haseo can send them greeting cards, and engage in email conversations that are a fun way of getting to know them better. A complete transcript of the greeting card exchanges in Reminisce is available here, but I'll quote some of the things Endrance says.

Haseo:
What do you usually spend your time doing?

Endrance:
I'm always thinking of you...
There hasn't been a day that I haven't thought of you since you saved me...

I noticed...that I sleep much better at night now.
It's because...I can't wait to see you in my dreams...

---

Endrance:
I don't mind if you never turn my way...
All that matters to me is that you smile happily...

Every time you smile...
Every time you get angry...
Something that had been broken inside of me begins to regrow...
It feels wonderful...

Haseo:
What begins to regrow?

Endrance:
Something I possessed long ago...

I've always been cowardly...and afraid...
I was never able to think of anyone but myself...

But even like that, there was one time when I could feel courageous...
Now, by your side...I feel like I can get that back, that old self...

That's why I would like you to wait for me, Haseo...
Because I will keep walking...
So that one day, I can be someone appropriate for you...
Someone who can see the world from the same place that you do...


Endrance doesn't leave his feelings in any doubt whatsoever, though it's the player's choice as to whether Haseo responds kindly or rudely. There's also a notable exchange that can take place between Haseo and Saku, a young girl with a fanatical crush on Endrance - when she accuses Haseo of stealing him, he can either deny it or declare 'Endrance is mine!'. A second, similar exchange takes place in Redemption.

The last impact that Endrance makes upon Reminisce is after a fight with a character named Hiiragi. Hiiragi is essentially good, but chooses to aid a villain out of love, and insists that he'll endure anything for him, no matter how negative. Endrance steps forward to correct him, explaining that love should be about walking the best path for both people, about embracing truths rather than hiding from them. Personally, I think this shows that Endrance's attitude is already changing for the better.

//Redemption – In the final game, Haseo is once again forced to enter an arena tournament, this time in the elite Sage Palace. Even more opponents have been infected by AIDA, and pulling the strings is a vicious, powerful enemy with administrator's rights over the whole of The World. But when the discussion arises of which allies Haseo will take into the arena, Endrance quietly declines...

Haseo then receives a brief email, in which Endrance says he has to follow his own will, and bids goodbye. Endrance can't be summoned as a party member from then on, and is seen in the company of the villain's own AIDA-infected champion. To all intents and purposes, it looks like a betrayal (and the shock of that seems to affect Haseo more than any of the villain's lies and taunts; he goes from yelling 'I'll make you eat those words!' to murmuring 'No way...').

Though Haseo wins the tournament without ever crossing swords with Endrance, his struggles against AIDA leave him severely weakened and unable to summon his Avatar. Gleeful, the villain teleports Haseo's allies away and swoops in for the kill, raising his sword high – and instantly being stabbed in the back by Endrance.

Calmly, Endrance says that he'd been waiting for his chance to do that, and moves to protect Haseo just as he did in the Holy Palace; again he grants Haseo his power, and Skeith is summoned to save the day. Afterwards, he says that of course he'd never betray Haseo. His heart belongs to Haseo, remember? He even apologises for the deception, explaining that he had to keep his plans secret in order to win the villain's trust. It's one of my favourite scenes in the game, and proof of how seriously Endrance takes his promises to become stronger for Haseo's sake.

From then on, things start spiralling towards the finale, but Endrance is always there amongst the other Epitaph Users, always loyal and supportive. Everything will be fine so long as he's by Haseo's side, he says – and even if he isn't, it will still be fine so long as their hearts are in the same place.

There are a couple of new greeting cards in the third game, which mean more fun conversations.

Endrance:
The person that my soul is attracted to...

That is you, Haseo.

Haseo:
I'm happy to hear that, Endrance.

Endrance:
Oh...!
Today is such a wonderful day.
With this feeling inside, I'd like to disappear somewhere and lose myself in bliss...

---

Haseo:
What's so different about Endrance and me?

Saku:
Hahahahahahahahaha!
That's the funniest joke I've heard from you ever! LOL

From your cuticles to how you take care of your nails, every quality about you two is different!
Let's just say he's an angel drawn by Da Vinci, and you're a father drawn by a child in kindergarten!

Haseo:
Endrance is so cool...

Saku:
That's right!
So you've come to understand how cool Endrance is!

Haseo:
Endrance is mine.
From his cuticles to his nails, every part of him is mine.

---

Endrance:
If I'm together with you, I can go anywhere.
So grab my hand, and lead me wherever you'll lead me to.
As long as I have you, my world that has been tainted in gray will bring back its luster.

I like you, Haseo...
So, please, don't leave me alone.


Finally, I can't forget to mention the marriage. After completing certain criteria, Haseo gains a special greeting card, the Promise Card. This can only be sent to a party member he has the maximum affection level with, and triggers a wedding ceremony with female characters or a friendship ceremony with male characters. Except Endrance, who also gets a wedding (though, er, I don't think his choice to wear a bridal veil left Haseo too impressed). In a pose reminiscent of their first conversation, but with very different meaning behind it, Endrance reaches out to touch Haseo's cheek, giving one of his trademark romantic speeches before the words forever in love appear and the end credits roll.

//Returner – This is a short anime epilogue, showing the characters relaxing after their main trials are over. Endrance spends most of his time searching for Haseo, and eventually finds a festival stall where the prizes are Haseo dolls; he wins a ridiculous number and proudly shows them off when he finds the real Haseo. Returner wasn't released outside of Japan, but the whole thing is available fansubbed on YouTube.

.upload//Analysis


It's true that both characters have their flaws, and Endrance especially has problems interacting with others, either shutting them out or becoming too dependant. But I think they could help each other, more effectively together than apart. Endrance's patience balances Haseo's rashness, and Haseo's no-nonsense attitude won't let Endrance slip off into isolation and self-pity again (but he won't turn away if kindness is needed, and he won't take advantage of Endrance's devotion as others might). Both of them make great improvements during the course of the story, re-learning what it means to have friends, to defend and rely upon others. Both have stated that their dearest wish is to become stronger, to protect the ones they care about and never lose anything again. In that sense, they're already on a very similar path.

Then there's the fact that canonically, Endrance is very much in love with Haseo. While it may have begun amid loneliness and confusion, by the Sage Palace incident I had no doubt that Endrance's feelings were sincere (and no doubt that he was just faking a betrayal in order to somehow aid Haseo). Everything he does is with Haseo in mind, but he never becomes frustrated or jealous, never demands greater recognition; he'll be content to wait for however long it takes. Simply having someone to love makes a huge difference for him: he starts eating better, sleeping better, and says that he'd even venture into the outside world if he could meet Haseo in real life. The very thought of Haseo seems to be a magic talisman to Endrance, blurring doubts and bestowing new hope.

As I mentioned before, it's up to the player how Haseo responds, but the option to respond positively is there. After being thoroughly manipulated by the game's antagonists, it's refreshing for Haseo to be around someone so honest, to have the security of someone who will forgive any mistake, who promises to always be there for him. Endrance will never leave Haseo in doubt about where they stand with each other, or give Haseo less than his full attention. Endrance's calm demeanour might even encourage him to relax a bit, rather than charging towards everything at full speed. He offers something peaceful in the wake of violent times.

Also, I'm grateful that Endrance's feelings aren't just a cheap source of comic relief, as they could have been; instead they're a key part of his character, a point of strength rather than weakness. Without them, Haseo's quest would never have succeeded. Whether or not you see them as a viable couple, the impact they have on each other's lives can never be denied.

There you have it, then. Those are my reasons, my observations and my theories as to why Endrance and Haseo could be together – and could, I believe, be happy together, an interesting and complementary match. I hope you've enjoyed this manifesto, and would be delighted if you agreed.

.network//Links


[livejournal.com profile] endrancexhaseo: A fairly active LJ community for fans of the pairing.

Styx: She's a very talented fanartist, one of my favourites. As of September 2011, this site is offline, but if you contact me I can send you some of her artwork.
Aoitsukitei: Most of her art is gen, but I recommend it anyway.
Chelate: Some of her work didn't impress me, but most is very cute and full of personality. As of July 2010, Chelate's site seems to have been taken offline, but again, if you contact me then I can send you some of her art.

The Same Thing by [livejournal.com profile] kame_pie
A touching, well-crafted story about Kaoru, and how his friendship with Ryou draws him back out into the real world.

Kaoru and Sky Falls Black by [livejournal.com profile] envy_st
Two short but lovely pieces that switch between The World and real life, again focusing mostly on Kaoru.

Some Kind of Hero by [livejournal.com profile] raburetta
Heart-warming fic charting the positive changes that Kaoru is inspired to make in his life because of Ryou.

Victorious by [livejournal.com profile] elysian_stars
Events surrounding the Sage Palace tournament, and how they change things between Haseo and Endrance.

Date: 2008-02-23 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bohemiancloud.livejournal.com
Wow! I'm impressed on how much detail you put into this!
Very, very impressed in fact! It goes beyond simple fangirlism and puts thought behind the meaning of this relationship. I applaud your efforts!

Date: 2008-02-24 03:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Great job on not only covering all the major interactions, but on explaining why it's such a great couple. ^_^ I completely agree; they both would help each other grow as a person.

I really like how En isn't merely a running gag, and while he's devoted to Haseo, he isn't a pushover.

Thank you for writing this.

-Steeple333
(steeple333@yahoo.com)

Date: 2008-03-18 04:11 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Y'know, I didn't have an lj account for a long time... but you helped me decide to make one. ^_^

[facepalm]

Date: 2008-03-18 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steeple333.livejournal.com
Dammit, this is the fourth time I forgot I wasn't logged in. >_

Date: 2008-02-23 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rail.livejournal.com
I like.

Date: 2008-02-24 03:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansemaru.livejournal.com
Good job! I was waiting for this for quite a while... Every day, I hoped it would be posted. I thanked you for the recs, right? I want to thank you even more for this. Hmm, you have a way with words. I'm glad you were the one who chose to represent Haseo/Endrance here! I guess I'm a sucker for manifestos... I prefer them to fanfiction in many cases. I like strong arguments.

Date: 2008-02-26 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ansemaru.livejournal.com
Aww, but I wanted to thank you. It's seriously good!

Date: 2008-02-29 02:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] penni-ann.livejournal.com
Oh, fantastic! Very nicely done. En was my favorite thing about the games, and to see his devotion to Haseo was awesome. I love the wedding. ^_^ Thanks!

Date: 2008-03-12 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lumiere14.livejournal.com
I love how much detail you put into it! You really researched a lot, didn't you? I think it's awesome, and I agree with penni_ann, Endrance is one of my favorite things about the games! Thanks for writing this, I enjoyed reading it!! :D

Date: 2008-03-23 07:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ryoku-chan.livejournal.com
Very nicely done! I have to admit, I haven't finished the last game, but this has made me want to pick it up!

Thanks for being so detailed! I completely agree with your analysis, you did a wonderful job!

Date: 2008-03-25 09:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ryoku-chan.livejournal.com
Agreed! I did just that last night! I really must thank you! If I hadn't stumbled upon this I definitely wouldn't be enjoying the game right now, so thanks a bunch!!

Date: 2008-04-21 07:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kame-pie.livejournal.com
Hoooly crap. What? You have no idea how shocked I was my oneshot got linked to at the end. [livejournal.com profile] envy_st's writing was what inspired me to write something of my own.

This was a great manifesto. ^_^ The writing is well done and points out a lot of deeper things I think people miss when they glance at Haseo and Endrance. The images/videos made for great aids, too.

I enjoyed the read very much. Thank you. ♥

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