Yuki's life is filled with oddballs. They're in his family, in his school, in the student council ... they're everywhere! (Trust me, life is better with oddballs than without.) And then there's Machi Kuragi, treasurer of the student council who perhaps is the most odd of them all. Yuki's love interest, she is a girl a few words who sees him for who he really is.

Sorry to disappoint anyone who ships Yuki/Tohru ... I know a part of me still does, the part that bawled like a baby watching the anime in middle school. Anyhoo, the first time we see Machi is the first time we see Manabe as well - Manabe comments on how beautiful Yuki is, but Machi starts to say something in disagreement, before the chapter ends. This sets a pattern for her later interactions with Yuki - she doesn't see him as a prince, like everyone else does. One of Yuki's greatest struggles is that he wants to be seen for who he really is. Buffeted by his fanclub and the image he projects to everyone, everyone has an idea of him as this ideal, gorgeous guy, but this isn't what he wants or who he is. Of course, he doesn't want to be nasty to everyone, but wants someone who will see him for who he really is and recognize him for his faults. Even Tohru, his surrogate mother, idealizes him more than he would like, as probably most mothers do for their children. Even Kyo, who hates his guts, idealizes him and wants to be him. Machi is totally different, which is incredibly refreshing.

Yuki ~ Chapter 86 It's so ... it's so damn lonely. (Even I want someone who lives on my level. I want to need someone, and be needed in return. I don't want to just sleep. I don't want to just receive. I want to give something only I can give.) I want to find it. And this time, I want to do it by my own strength. (Fueled by the many kindnesses and all the warmth [Honda-san] gave me. I want to start walking again. I don't want to lose to the darkness. I want to go forward. I want to believe, this time, and not waste what I have.) It's not that I’m giving up. I'm bad at giving up. Really, I am. I'm a greedy human being. (I want to find my own proof. My own proof ... that I'm alive.)

Finding his own proof of existence? Fnding someone who needs him just as must as he needs her? Look no further, Yuki ... you'll find it in Machi. Machi is someone who is quite like his old self - when he reaches out to her, it gives her the strength she needs to grow and discover herself, much in the way that Tohru did for Yuki. However, the difference is that not only does Yuki help Machi, she also helps him by being critically honest of him - something that Tohru can't do, as she thinks Yuki is wonderful. (Which, of course, HE IS.)

Aaaand then the first time Yuki actually meets Machi, he finds her in the mess that has become the student council room, and papers are everywhere. When he tries to ask her what happening and if anything's wrong, she rebuffs him. At that time, he doesn't get to talk to her much because of Manabe, but afterwards he thinks to himself how she is odd. At subsequent meetings, she never looks anyone in the eye and hardly speaks, if at all. One time, he asks what her favorite color is, but she can't (or maybe doesn't) reply. Despite her silence, though, Yuki doesn't forget about her, and brings her a red leaf as a present from their class trip, and though she still doesn't say anything, she accepts it and is touched by the gesture.

On multiple occasions, Yuki finds Machi in the student council room in a mess. Naohito mentions her tendencies as a "destructive witch," throwing books, breaking classroom supplies, and rumors that she wants to cause trouble for other people. Manabe ends up telling Yuki some of her background that gives insight into these habits - they're half siblings pitted against each other in a competition to be their mutual father's heir. While Manabe withdrew from the running, he speculates that Machi might still be in the same confines set by her mother, who is their father's legitimate wife. Later, Machi promises not to make a mess again, but Yuki, who's the master of bad habits, tells her that merely saying so won't solve anything and that she needs to ask herself why she does it. Later, Yuki finds out that she hates "perfection", because she was forced to be "perfect" to compete for the inheritance. This ended up in her losing the chance to become her own person and develop individuality, which her mother lamented and was thusly thankful for the birth of her second child, Machi's younger brother. She didn't know what her favorite color was, so she didn't know how to answer Yuki when he asked.

Machi ~ Chapter 94 When I can't understand "me", how could I grasp the concept of "the world"? I am always empty ... the existence of "me" is empty. There's nothing. I'm like a doll that's missing parts. A broken doll that can't become fully human. A defect. People always pass me and I pass them. Are they invisible? Or am I invisible? Aren't I the one not participating in this world? Am I ... needed? Am I a necessary being? Am I ... needed in this world?

Doesn't this sound familiar? Doesn't this sound a lot like Yuki's own misgivings as a child, until that one day when Tohru was lost and needed him? Believing herself to be "imperfect, warped, a waste," she lacks a sense of individuality because she followed her mother's wishes too closely. Though their circumstances aren't the same, there are strong parallels in their lives. As Yuki says to Kisa, when someone else says they like you, only then can you begin to like yourself. And that's what happens with Machi. She discovers what her favorite color is thanks to Yuki - one day she accidentally brings the red leaf he gave her in her bag and he sees it, and he remarks that she must like the leaf, and because her hair ribbon is red, so her favorite color must be red! Someone's favorite color might not seem like a big deal, but considering Machi's complete lack of identity, it is a big deal - and she's touched, stunned, and flustered that Yuki remembered about her favorite color. Along with that, Yuki commends her for working hard to please her mother, because all her work brought her to be the Machi she is now, who he appreciates. Never expecting to be praised or understood, Machi's further moved by him. To top it all off, knowing that she hates perfection, he makes sure that nothing is too perfect when Machi's around, like breaking new pieces of chalk in the student council room, and promising to make footprints in the snow with her when it sticks.

So now we understand how Yuki affects Machi's life - now for the reverse. To put it bluntly, if he saves her from perfection, she saves him from the same thing - from being a prince. Having probably observed him for some time, she sees his loneliness from being elevated into a prince, and one time, literally saves him from a dark, locked room (where he's falling into a depressive state) by breaking the door down, telling him that "I thought it wouldn't feel good ... being helpless." And that's what Yuki is - helpless to his classmates' unending admiration and his own familial issues from the past.

In his class play, Yuki's cast as the fairy godmother, and most everyone is surprised that he isn't the prince (that part went to Kyo). While still in rehearsals, he runs into Machi and some unimportant girl from her class. This unimportant girl addresses Yuki, describing her extreme disappointment that Yuki isn't the prince and doesn't Machi agree that Yuki is the epitome of storybook Prince Charming? But Machi gives the most surprising answer: "The president isn't at all like a prince." Yuki's stunned. No one's ever said that about him before, and it's not like he enjoys it when people do. On the contrary! He knows he isn't a prince, and here's someone speaking that truth back to him for the first time.

The repercussions of that incident, though it seems minor, are rather severe. In typical Japanese high school manga style, Machi is cornered and harassed by members of his fanclub. Yuki and Manabe are witness to the bullying, and Yuki wants to intervene, but Manabe stops him by saying that he'll only make it worse. As Manabe goes off to find a distraction for the girls, Yuki stays behind to keep watch and overhears their conversation.

Chapter 89 Girls: We heard you, freak. You said Yuki isn't a prince!
Machi: ... well, yes. I said that. It's how I see things. Is that a problem?
Girls: It's a big problem! You're being totally selfish; apologize!
Machi: I'm sorry.
Girls: That's not an apology! This girl is so weird! You know her destruction thing? Yeah, she completely trashed the student council room earlier. What, do you like Yuki? You're probably just jealous.
Machi: "Like" him?
Girls: Don't play stupid, stupid! We're asking what you think of Yuki!
Machi: ... he's a natural. And he makes things ... lonely. He's always surrounded by people and he's known as "Prince Charming." But he still seems lonely and sad to me.

As Manabe says, Machi's pretty astute, isn't she? She sees through his smiling façade and recognizes that he's actually quite lonely, and when people call him "prince" it only serves to hurt him more. Here, in the Tokyopop translation, she calls Yuki a "natural." In scanlations I've read, she says that he's "out of it." In the actual Japanese version, she calls him 天然の人 "tennen no hito." By itself, "tennen" means "natural" or "spontaneous" (and "hito" means person if you're unaware), but this can also be a reference to 天然ボケ "tennen boke," where "boke" means "idiot" or "silly." So, "tennen boke" means "natural airhead," or simply just airhead. Or maybe just spontaneous. Or scatterbrained. GOOGLE-FU GO! I don't really know. Either way, it kind of fits - while Yuki isn't really a prince, he can be quite charming without realizing it, and he's unaware of the effect he has on other people.

As they spend more time together in council and out (please see the bottom of this page for more details), Yuki comes to view Machi as a really important supportive force in his life outside of his family, along with Manabe. With both of them, he feels like he's found more strength to deal with difficulties, such as when Tohru is hospitalized after her falling-off-a-cliff episode. Yuki understands her struggles with her identity and works to make it better for her. Machi, too, understands Yuki's struggle with his image, and her honesty keeps him afloat.

Yuki ~ Chapter 125 Even one person being there for you is the greatest thing. Because that "one" is not "zero." I was happy all those times. It gave me such a warm feeling that out of all these other people, it was me that you found. Accepted for being myself, all of myself, thinking of me, looking for me ... it's not an ordinary thing. It's the greatest thing ... like a miracle.

Witness this massive cheesefest of ultimate cheesery. Machi calls Yuki up to give him a gift, and on his way to meeting her, sees and buys a giant Mogeta plush for her. She, on the other hand, has brought him "fresh" fertilizer and a bath set as a get-well present for Tohru. Apparently, she decided to get a present for Tohru despite not knowing her well (if at all) because Tohru protected Yuki, and was thankful for her presence in the world in bringing Yuki as he was to her. Having noticed in the past that he was changing and smiling real smiles more, she knows it's because of Tohru. Though neither of them directly confesses, it's obvious that they've finally found each other, and they walk together holding hands.

Presumably, at this point, they are in a relationship. However, Yuki can't honestly go 100% into this relationship without telling her about the curse. He decides that he just needs to be honest with her and see if he'll be accepted - his first attempt to tell her is foiled by the arrival of others, but later arranges a meeting with her outside of school. During their meeting, though, his curse breaks, and he's overcome with emotion at its breaking. With this, he doesn't even have to tell her, and we don't know if he ever does - but he's suddenly able to embrace her, and with a kiss and permission to call each other by first name, they are 100% Facebook official. They need each other, and in this, Yuki's found his "proof of living."

As an anticlimactic wrap-up, here is a list of some of the disgustingly cute things that they do throughout the series. Yuki and Machi's interactions increase dramatically after the school play episode. Yuki tends to tease her, and Machi simply gets flustered and embarrassed, which Yuki finds endearing.

  • Trying to find him, Machi ends up following Yuki around the entire school because he walks too fast for her, all just because she wanted to say hello and give him a paper flower. Which she basically throws at him, after denying and then admitting that she was looking for him, and then he teases her by saying it was worse than the ones he made. To himself, he thinks, "To say hello? She would've seen me later, anyway, in the student council room. She was chasing me? For that? But ... she didn't go to anyone else. Did she?" and he blushes to himself.
  • After spending a harrowing day with Manabe, Ayame, and his seamstress Mine, Yuki gives her a small paperweight of the fictional cartoon "Mogeta" as a present and apology for having to spend time with them. When asked why Mogeta, Yuki replies that she was obsessed with it at Ayame's place, and thus must like it - and that she does, though Yuki's the only one who can tell by her wondering expression. Pleased, she vows to treasure it deeply.
  • Yuki tells her that he'll be applying to university because he has a lot of free time, and also suggests that because he has so much time, they should spend time over break together. She's surprised (and then flees back to class).
  • After they become a couple, Yuki prepares to go to university and gives her a key to his new residence so she'll know he's being faithful to her. As she meekly says she hadn't really thought much about, he pretends to throw the key away, to which she reacts strongly, saying it was a lie. And then says that Yuki is a horrible person. Teasing until the very end.

Castles In Air is a fanwork © Chrissy 2012 - 2016. No infringement intended.