on love, in sadness
Twisted as it may be, there is no denying that there is love between Seishirou and Subaru. Sure, it's not normal or healthy, but it's there. This isn't a relationship where love conquers all — on the contrary, love is the worst thing that ever happened to them.
This section covers Subaru's feelings for Seishirou; you can find Seishirou's feelings for Subaru over here.
- odi et amo
odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
I hate and I love. Why do I do this, perhaps you ask? I know not, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.
Yeah, uh. That's Subaru.
Let's start at the beginning. It takes Subaru a long time to realize his feelings for Seishirou — those declarations of love Seishirou keeps spouting off? Yeah, they just embarrass the hell out of him. As I wrote about on the emotions page, Subaru has a difficult time understanding his own emotions. He simply doesn't understand how he feels about Seishirou until after the man loses his eye protecting Subaru.
There's more to it than Subaru simply not processing his own emotions, though. It's that he doesn't feel worthy of it. Let's look at what he says at the end of the "Pair" chapter, when he comes to realize his feelings.
Subaru: I was afraid... you would hate me. That's right... I was... afraid Seishirou-san would hate me. I've met many people in my life. And I've had many happy moments and sad times. But I never thought about... what I wanted them to do, or how I wanted them to feel about me. It's impossible to control another person's feelings. But in the end, if someone hates me or I cause them trouble... I have no one to blame but myself. I may be useless, and there isn't much to like about me... but still, I... That day, as I was banging on Seishirou's operating room door... I was crying... because I was afraid. I was so afraid that he would hate me... and that I might never see him again. I... I'm in love with Seishirou-san.
At first glance, this is simply a realization of love: Subaru realizes what his feelings have built up to, and acknowledges that yes, he's in love with Seishirou. But what shape does that love take? Look again at how he describes himself: "I may be useless, and there isn't much to like about me." Look at why he collapsed when Seishirou got hurt: "I was afraid you would hate me." Subaru simply has no self-worth. So, for him, love is wishing that someone else thinks he's worth something. That's the form his love takes.
The rest of his realization here feeds into this. The reason Subaru was so terrified when he went to apologize to Seishirou in the hospital was that he was afraid Seishirou would make his deepest fear come true: that he was, in fact, worthless. I don't think Subaru realizes this on any conscious level, incidentally — he's so used to giving so much of himself to other people that it simply doesn't occur to him that he has any value of his own. Loving Seishirou is the first time that he realizes that he doesn't just want to accept someone else's feelings as-is because they are "another person." He wants to mean something. For the first time, he wants.
Naturally, as soon as he has this hugely important realization about himself, Seishirou breaks his heart and betrays him. No fucking wonder Subaru withdrew into his mind.
Subaru: Sei... shi... rou... san... I... loved... you.
Of course, Subaru doesn't get over him. How could he? Seishirou is the one person who Subaru wanted to mean something to. Yes, he's the Sakurazukamori, yes, he's heartless and emotionless and claims to care for Subaru as much as a glass cup. Let's remember that Subaru was emotionally fucked up before Seishirou broke his heart. He touched many people's lives through the course of Tokyo Babylon, but Seishirou is the one person who truly meant something to him. The one person who he didn't want to hate him. So Subaru spends the rest of his life hung up on Seishirou.
(Yes, even despite the fact Seishirou killed Hokuto. That's where the guilt complex comes from.)
He does, it should be said, try to forget about Seishirou. He tried to erase Seishirou's existence from his mind and move on with his life. But even as soon after as the "Annex/Start" chapter, which takes place sometime after the main storyline of Tokyo Babylon, he's still fixated on Hokuto's death and on finding Seishirou again. It's obvious that even that early, his wish is certain: he wants to find Seishirou and be killed by him.
Let's talk about that, because all of Subaru's actions in X really come down to that wish. Given, as I talked about above, that Subaru really just wanted to matter to Seishirou, to be worth something, and that Seishirou ended up being the cold, unfeeling Sakurazukamori, Subaru figured that the only way he could ever get any kind of closure would be for Seishirou to kill him. If he mattered enough to Seishirou to be worth killing... well, that would be enough for Subaru.
Personally I think therapy would have been more productive.
Anyway. Subaru knows that his wish is selfish: he says as much to Kamui, when they first meet inside Kamui's mind following Kotori's death.
Subaru: If I... wanted to make the thing I wished for a reality... I had to keep on living. I know... that my wish will make the people who love me very sad. But even so, it's impossible for me... to give it up.
Kamui: Because that man... is so special to you?
Subaru: ...I suppose so.
This is hugely important: Subaru's love for Seishirou is, by this point, more important than his responsibility other people. Through the entirety of Tokyo Babylon, Subaru puts his job before his own well-being and his own feelings, but after he falls in love with Seishirou and is summarily betrayed, Seishirou becomes the only thing he cares about. It doesn't even matter that he's a Dragon of Heaven and has a duty to Kamui. His wish takes priority over everything.
As he says to Seishirou in X 16:
Subaru: No. I've changed. You know that. Because you were the one who changed me. You made me... Never mind. It doesn't matter to you anyway.
So Subaru tries to make his wish come true. He fights Seishirou and tries to get him to kill him. And Seishirou eventually obliges, but thanks to Hokuto's spell, Subaru's arm ends up in Seishirou's chest. Whoops.
I get into this in more detail on Seishirou's side of things, but I really do feel like the tragedy of their ending here is that Subaru had no fucking idea the entire time what Hokuto's spell was. Which, of course, parallels the bet — he had no idea that was ever happening, either. Maybe if he'd known about the spell, he would have had something other than a death wish, because obviously the last thing he ever wanted was to kill Seishirou.
It's important to note that Hokuto's spell was never something meant to hurt Subaru — she wanted the best for him, even in the end. She wanted Subaru to live, no matter what happened, and cast her spell on Seishirou to ensure that Subaru wouldn't end up dead. Unfortunately, Subaru's happiness either required him to be dead, or both him and Seishirou alive, so, uh. That didn't work out so well.
At the end, though, Subaru does at least find out how Seishirou felt about him. This speech bubble is blocked by debris, so the reader never sees what's in it (which I've always felt to be a fantastic device), but from the context, what Seishirou says is obvious. In the original Japanese, Seishirou's lines on the preceding page translate to "I... Subaru-kun... you..." followed by this blocked speech bubble. (In Japanese, the verb comes last in a sentence, making the sentence gramatically correct and the last bubble's ommission quite convenient!)
In the 2013 reprint of X in English, this page is translated to "Subaru... you should know... that I..." I've seen three different versions of this page: this version; fan translations, which tend to translate it literally, as described above; and the 2004 publication of the manga, which makes it far more obvious that Seishirou is telling Subaru he loves him ("Subaru, I... I hope you know how much I..."). I think this most recent version is the most natural in English, because even if it does lack honorifics (for some reason, while the 2013 reprint included a complete retranslation, they neglected to include honorifics) it conveys the point of the original while still sounding like a sentence in English.
Anyway, all of that aside, Subaru is shocked by this admission, and it's clear that he doesn't fully believe it. But as he says to Kamui, he can't exactly ask Seishirou anymore. I do think Seishirou did love him, in his own (fucked-up) way, and that that love didn't stop their fate from being any less tragic.