Jounouchi + Mai
To me, this pairing is like the Miroku+Sango equivalent in Yu-Gi-Oh! You keep waiting and waiting for something to happen between Yugi+Anzu/Yami Yugi+Anzu/etc but the only romance stirring is the chemistry between Jounouchi and Mai. It’s far more easier to find evidence for this pairing in canon than any other.
Contrary to how many fanfic portray her, Mai is not the same age as Yugi and the rest (she’s 24 when we first meet her). She is sufficiently older than Jounouchi. Mai has lived on her own for a long while and became self-sufficient out of necessity. Trust was a commodity to her and not one easily afforded. When she and Jounouchi first meet, they clash over the defining ideologies that rule over each of their lives. In some small way, Jounouchi shows her that it’s fine to depend on others sometimes. Jounouchi does appear to develop some attachment to Mai and often goes out of his way to help her.
Evidence / Rationale
Episode 80 – Ninja Master, Magnum: This episode focuses on Mai’s acquaintance with a well-known action hero, Jean-Claude. Mai once defeated Jean-Claude in a duel and he fell in love with her independent streak and fierceness. He proposed to her after the duel but Mai rejected him and said she would marry him if he ever got strong enough to defeat her. Jounouchi is actually a big fan of Jean-Claude and is excited to meet his favorite actor. The admiration soon turns sour because of Jean-Claude’s condescendence, and perhaps even because of Jean-Claude’s unjustified possessiveness over Mai. When Jean-Claude kidnaps Mai even after he loses, Jounouchi rushes to save her.
When Mai lost to Malik on Kaiba’s blimp, she paid the price for losing a Game of Darkness. Jounouchi becomes completely devoted to beating Malik in a duel so that he could wake Mai up again.
Episode 104 – Deck Master Judgeman’s Judgment: The lawyer of the Big 5, who challenges Jounouchi to a duel for his body, used the illusion of Mai’s awakening to try and lower his guard. The only reason the illusion fooled Jounouchi, even if it was only for a bit, was because he wanted it to be true very badly.
Jounouchi made a promise to both himself and Yugi that he would face Yugi in the championship to win back his Red Eyes Black Dragon and to show his strength as a true duelist. This was all before tragedy befell Mai. In the four way Battle Royale in Duel Tower to determine the line-up of the finals, Jounouchi forgoes his chance to battle Yugi as promise to face Yami Malik instead. To him, it was more important that he be the one to face Yami Malik and defeat him to save Mai.
When Mai turns to the dark side in the DOMA arc, Jounouchi finds it hard to believe she would do that of her own free will. In the end, he becomes determined to free her and keep her away from Varon. He constantly reaches out to her time and time again. When he saved her soul after the second time they dueled in that arc, Mai decides to finally break away from Dartz and DOMA.
It’s practically the only pairing apparent in the canon.
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