1. A Sadistic Entanglement by Hunter
Contains spoilers for the first four volumes of the English manga.
Most of us who have been in the fandom for a while are probably familiar with the later volumes of the series--we at least know the general plotlines, even if we haven't read them. However, as CMX fairly recently began to publish the series in English, there has been an influx of new fans, most of whom only have access to this new translation. To avoid spoiling the series for them, I will confine most of my observations to the first four volumes of the manga. Additionally, please forgive the poor quality of my scans. CMX apparently does not understand the concept of gutters, and thus the scans tend to blur at the inside of each page.
From Eroica With Love is a manga by Yasuko Aoike, who began the series in 1976 and has continued to publish new stories to this day, with a hiatus from late 1988 to 1995. As might be surmised from the title, the series is in part a parody of James Bond. It features a group of hardworking (if somewhat incompetent) NATO agents under the command of an impatient, violent, and rather fearsome Major. Also involved are the FBI, the CIA, SIS, the KGB, the Mafia, and the unfortunate police forces of various countries. It might be a straightforward, typical satire of the spy genre, if not for the presence of a gorgeous, hedonistic, and extremely gay art thief and his gang of pretty boys, who always turn up at just the right moment to complicate things and make the Major's life more..."interesting". The series has its slightly dark moments, but is overall comedic.
Dorian Red, Earl of Gloria
I'm always searching all over the world for works of beauty to make them mine. ... And whatever I want, I get. It's my personal policy.
The first question that most people unfamiliar with the series ask when presented with a picture of Dorian is, "Is that a man, or a woman?" And upon learning that he is in fact male (and really, he makes quite an ugly woman), "He's gay, isn't he?" Yes. Yes, he is. Dorian Red Gloria is one of the most flamboyantly gay manga characters I have ever encountered. He surrounds himself with pretty young men who idolize him and aid in his thievery, and he has a great many other admirers, some of whom are very powerful. He is a great appreciator of male beauty, though Klaus prefers the term "pervert".
Dorian's manner of dress can only be called decadent: he favors capes, fur-trimmed coats, puffy sleeves, sheer fabrics, embroidery, low necklines, and very tight pants. Even when donning a catsuit as Eroica, he cannot resist the temptation to dress up with scarves and jewelry. It seems that Dorian follows Oscar Wilde's exhortation to "be a work of art, or wear a work of art." Fortunately, he is attractive enough to make even the most ridiculous outfit look good.
Art is, in many ways, the focus of Dorian's entire existence. He often talks of his fascination with beauty, which has developed to the point that he feels that all the beauty in the world is there for him. He knows what he likes and has no qualms about taking it; he feels that he is entitled. This attitude extends from his career as Eroica the art thief to his personal relationships. In the first volume of the manga, he kidnaps a boy named Caesar Gabriel and attempts to have his wicked way with him. The affair with Caesar is the reader's first indication of Dorian's predatory nature: when he wants something, he goes after it and claims it with very few scruples as to his methods or, in this case, his target's unwillingness.
Dorian is an extremely complex character. He often behaves like a fop or an airhead, then becomes very serious and focused on his work. He can be extremely mischievous and snarky, sometimes outright cruel, but is also very romantic and given to daydreaming and spouting classical poetry. He is manipulative, as well, and very good at becoming what people want him to be in order to achieve a desired outcome. "Multifaceted" does not begin to describe his personality.
Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach
No one who has earned my hate has survived. You picked the wrong fight. You're mine.
Where Dorian is a series of apparent contrasts, Klaus seems fairly straightforward. Known as "Iron Klaus," he has a reputation for being foul-tempered, loud, arrogant, violent, impatient, and driven--and for being able to fire a Magnum one-handed. As a NATO officer, he is very dedicated to his duty, though contemptuous of his chief, and he keeps a tight rein on his subordinates. He has no personal life to speak of. His favorite pastimes include running and reading the newspaper simultaneously, cleaning his gun, and yelling at idiots. He is the farthest thing from politically correct and unafraid of insulting anyone. He is ruthlessly disciplined and practical. He seemingly has no sexuality at all. In short, Klaus appears to be a very extreme example of a military type and not terribly complicated.
There are, however, some interesting quirks to his personality which reveal more depth than is immediately apparent. Klaus's hair, long and flowing and decidedly not utilitarian, is a conceit one would not expect from such a straightlaced, uptight character. Nor would one anticipate that he might condition himself to fall asleep to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," or that he would sing the Panzerleid (in a Leopard tank, no less) to a gay thief and a very confused boy, revealing a lovely singing voice. He notes shortly afterward that to him, "the color of polished steel is beautiful." These are our first clues that there is something more to Klaus, that he does have romance in him, although it is very well hidden. He refuses to discuss it, however, so Dorian and the reader must be content with no more than the occasional hint about Klaus's other side. He even avoids thinking about it himself.
Another of Klaus's idiosyncrasies is his extreme dislike of being touched. He tends to freeze up and to take on an expression reminiscent of a deer in the headlights when touched by a woman...or by Dorian. While he generally has no problem initiating physical contact with others, he hates being on the receiving end and apparently doesn't know what to do with himself when it happens. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the (in)famous bathtub scene:
"Iron Klaus," normally so capable and self-assured, allows a surprising amount of groping to go on before he acts-and even then, when one would expect him to hit Dorian, all he does is run away. It is interesting that a man who has been involved in combat situations is not capable of dealing with close physical contact with another man.
Klaus's sexuality is up for debate. While he is clearly irritated and sometimes repulsed by women, he shows no attraction toward men, either, and strongly resists any advances from people of either gender. He does not appear to think of anyone in a sexual way, or to give any consideration to his sexuality-except in his strong denouncements of homosexuality. Klaus is amazingly homophobic, to the point that some would say the Major doth protest too much. Especially when Dorian is present, Klaus is so paranoid that he often hears gay innuendo where there is none, and he always reacts to it with extreme disgust. While this might lead one to assume that he is straight, his intolerance of women throws that into question. Probably even Klaus himself is unclear as to his sexuality...but as with his "softer side," he avoids thinking about it, as it seems to repulse him. It is quite possible that he is asexual in canon.
Finally, it is important to note that despite his off-putting personality, many people are strongly drawn to Klaus. His men both love and fear him-Machiavelli would be proud. Although his shouting and threats frighten them, the Alphabets (as his agents are called) trust him absolutely and even feel affection toward him; some keep his picture at their desks. His superiors and adversaries, even as they personally despise Klaus, cannot help feeling a grudging admiration for him and his abilities. And, of course, Dorian is in love with him.
Klaus: Where your preferences run is none of my business, but I hate what I hate.
Dorian: Well, I like what I like. And what I like, I always make mine.
The first thing one should know about Klaus and Dorian's canonical relationship is that they never actually have one. Instead, they have sexual tension that spins itself out over thirty-some manga volumes but is never resolved-some fans find this extremely frustrating, but for others, it's the best thing about the pairing. I'll come back to this later.
Although the two men working together is a common theme in Eroica fanfiction, Dorian only works for NATO once in canon ("Hallelujah Express"). He does interfere with Klaus's missions in other ways, and sometimes runs into him unintentionally, but they are not actually a team. Aside from everything else, NATO could never afford Mr. James's astronomical fees.
An analysis of a few key moments early in the series will give a good idea of the way Klaus and Dorian interact.
Their first meeting immediately establishes them as opposing forces. Dorian arrives at Schloss Eberbach unannounced, wanting to view the family art collection. He is met with outright rudeness by Klaus, who refuses to shake his hand and makes disparaging remarks about his flamboyant style. Dorian responds with innuendo about men in uniform and open contempt for Klaus's attitude toward art (concern with monetary rather than aesthetic value). By the time Dorian leaves-is ejected, really-they thoroughly despise each other and are glad to part company.
They are soon thrown together, however, as Dorian finds himself interfering in one of Klaus's missions for the first time. Eventually we see them sitting in Klaus's Leopard tank, holding each other, ostensibly with the purpose of sheltering young Caesar Gabriel from the cold. (Never mind Caesar. It doesn't matter why he's there; he disappears completely after volume one.) It is there, in the tank, that Klaus sings the Panzerleid and Dorian begins to realize that the uptight German might not be such a lost cause after all.
After this initial encounter, Klaus cannot seem to get away from Dorian; the thief turns up absolutely everywhere. And Klaus makes it very clear just how much this irritates him. He frequently manhandles Dorian, calls him all sorts of rude names, and behaves as though Dorian is going to jump on him and rape him at any second. But in contrast to all that, we see the occasional moment like this one, in which Klaus has just cleared out a room full of men who were busy beating Dorian:
Here, Klaus's reactions to Dorian's flirting are basically instinctive; he is not actually angry. Weary, if anything, but not as defensive and reactive as he might normally be. Suddenly, close physical contact with Dorian isn't a problem, and they are actually getting along. Not for long, of course-but if nothing else, it shows that they are not entirely incompatible. When Dorian reduces his innuendo to mere joking and Klaus remains calm, they do fairly well together. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen very often.
During a later meeting, after a car chase from which Dorian narrowly escapes with his life, he puts into words his own feelings about their relationship...from a romantic point of view, of course:
Predictably, Klaus is angered by this suggestive metaphor and calls Dorian "sick". This stands in marked contrast to a later incident in Rome:
This scene is far more powerful in the fan translation, in which the dialogue in panels five through six read as follows:
Dorian: "By the way, Major, I happen to be an atheist."
Klaus: "So am I."
In other words, Klaus asked Dorian to "swear to God" that he wouldn't molest him, Dorian swore...and neither of them believes in God. I don't read Japanese and can't tell you which version is more correct, or if both are equally valid, but I certainly prefer the fan-translated version of this page.
Finally, we have one of the most significant moments in the series, and also one of the most disappointing for fans of the Klaus/Dorian pairing:
The scan makes the text at the far right of the page difficult to read, so I'll transcribe those bits:
Klaus: "You do realize I can make life miserable for you."
Klaus: "Why are you always hanging around me? Thanks to you, the police think I work with you."
Dorian: "It is because I love you."
This comes not long after the above incident at the catacombs. This is an extreme example of Klaus's reaction to Dorian-after all, he has just been embarrassed in front of the international intelligence community-but anger and some degree of violence comprise his typical response.
Throughout the manga, their relationship remains basically consistent. Dorian pursues Klaus and delights in pushing his buttons, and Klaus is constantly frustrated and annoyed by his inability to get rid of the nuisance. But there are always those delightful, gratifying moments in which Klaus momentarily relaxes or Dorian briefly forgets to flirt...they are what make the pairing work.
Why We Love Them
Many fans gravitate toward the Klaus/Dorian pairing initially for the simple reason that they enjoy pairings in which "opposites attract"-and the two are certainly an interesting study in contrasts. Aside from this, however, there is a wide variety of ways in which fans view this pairing, all of which are well represented in fanfiction.
One popular view is that, far from being asexual, Klaus is every bit as gay as Dorian. He has chosen to hide it in the interests of advancing his career and not angering his father, and his apparent homophobia is a means of camouflaging his true nature. Klaus has resigned himself to the fact that he cannot openly be who he really is-and then Dorian comes along, as openly gay as one can possibly be, and very fond of flirting with Klaus. His extreme reactions to Dorian, then, come from fear of being exposed rather than from actual disgust. Many stories have been written in which Klaus at last reveals his true feelings to Dorian and they can finally be together. Note that most writers agree this is strictly a fanon interpretation and not really plausible in light of Klaus's canon behavior. But it's fun to think about.
Another interpretation (somewhat similar to the above) has Klaus, who has always simply assumed he was straight, gradually realize that he has feelings for Dorian. This naturally shocks him, and his treatment of Dorian is a result of that shock and the accompanying desire to deny this new development. In fanfiction, he eventually comes to terms with it, either on his own or with help from an understanding Dorian, and they embark on a relationship.
Other takes on the pairing have the two come together after some life-altering tragedy. Still others say that the rumors and disparaging remarks among the intelligence community as to the true nature of Klaus and Dorian's relationship have more truth to them than the gossips imagine-they have been involved almost from the beginning and have cleverly covered it up all this time.
This brief catalog of viewpoints only brushes the surface of the fandom, really. And that fact may well be part of our affinity for the pairing: there are so many ways to interpret Klaus's sexuality, his strong reactions to Dorian, and the ups and downs of their relationship (ranging from despising each other to a sort of camaraderie), that there is something there to satisfy nearly everyone.
My Own Take on Klaus and Dorian
While I read and occasionally write stories in which Klaus and Dorian are involved in a romantic and/or sexual relationship, I generally prefer them just as they are in canon. As nice as it is when Dorian gets what he wants, I find the endless pursuit more enjoyable.
From a Decadent perspective, constantly wanting Klaus and pursuing him means that Dorian's desire will never peak or be sated. For a perfect example of this sort of eternal lust, read Mallarmé's "The Afternoon of a Faun" (in the ballet, I find the faun's retaining the nymph's skirt a nice parallel to Dorian's keeping Klaus's tank). While Dorian certainly enjoys having his wishes gratified (indeed, he can't stand not getting his way), it is not too farfetched to think that perhaps he might enjoy a different, more prolonged sort of pleasure as well. This would explain, as well, why he does not give up even when it is obvious he will not win Klaus over. The Scooter lyric in my icon sums it up quite nicely: "The chase is better than the catch." I find this sort of extended pursuit very appealing.
My Background in the Fandom
I was first introduced to Eroica by Ducky the Loon about four years ago. I read all of the manga summaries at eroicafans.org in one night and was immediately hooked on the series.
I was drawn to Dorian first: I identified with what I saw as his Decadent outlook, his love of art and beauty, and his mischievous and romantic nature. Klaus was almost an afterthought-until I actually got my hands on the manga and saw him in action, so to speak. At that point, I began to see the appeal of a relationship between these two apparently opposite characters, whose interactions couldn't help but be a little bit twisted. I don't 'ship Klaus/Dorian exclusively, but it is my favorite pairing.
eroicafans.org - A comprehensive fansite featuring manga summaries, fanfiction links, and more.
Eroica Resources at belladonna.org - Links to online Eroica resources and a useful factsheet.
EroicaML - A Yahoo! Group for Eroica fans.
Schloss Eberbach - A LiveJournal community for Eroica discussion.
Castle Gloria - A LiveJournal community dedicated to Eroica fanfiction.
Eroica fanfiction at Asylum! (I particularly recommend Kat and Whizzy's Silent Night arc...also Alles Klar and Vaccinia, both by Tzigane and Kat-but please note that the latter two stories are extremely angsty and violent. You've been warned!)
Diversions, by Caithion, found here.