This manifesto was written by my late friend Eden for our askbak blog that we used to run together. Since the blog is no longer active, I've decided to copy over this primer to be housed here on my website for posterity and safekeeping. I have edited it a little and redacted information that can already found on the shrine character profiles. It's a long read so grab some snacks and get comfy! You can use the navigation on the bottom left to jump to sections of this manifesto.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR D.GRAY-MAN AHEAD.
"So I’ve been seeing a lot of confusion over Komui/Bak since this blog kicked off, and I feel like I should start by saying that believe it or not, this ship didn’t exactly just spring out of left field."
He’s the current Head Officer of the European Branch of the Black Order, also known as HQ. Every other Branch is subordinate to HQ, which in turn is overseen by Central.
The Head Officer relays Central’s orders to all the Branch Offices, oversees the running of HQ in the same way the Directors do each Branch, and controls the movements of all Exorcists who aren’t Generals.
In other words, Komui Lee is top dog in the Black Order, and if that weren’t impressive enough, his sister also happens to be an Exorcist.
Now, we’re given next to nothing on Komui’s past in the manga, other than the fact that his parents were killed by AKUMA while he was still fairly young and that he raised his baby sister for all of 5 or 6 years until the Order stole her away because she was Innocence-compatible.
He’s a brilliant scientist and engineer, and his breakthrough research on the Innocence was one of the factors that contributed to his being elected Head Officer, but other than that he’s entirely unremarkable.
In the Order you’ve got families like the Leverriers, the Epsteins and the Changs, who are all in positions of power because of their history and lineage. But Komui Lee is, as Bak puts it in the 1st Reverse Novel, just an “ordinary Chinese man.”
The most striking thing about him is that he managed to get into the position he’s in currently through sheer intelligence and hard work alone. People recognize that. They praise him for coming from nothing and making something of himself, and that is where Bak comes in.
He’s the current Director of the Asian Branch of the Black Order, a position that he inherited from his mother, and his grandfather before her. Presumably all the Directors of the Asian Branch have been Changs, because they’re the only ones who can control the Guardian Deity that protects the Branch.
Bak is also incredibly gifted, and according to the statistics in the DGM Fanbook -Gray Ark-, he’s also the only one who has the mental fortitude to match Komui’s intellect.
Unlike Komui, Bak was born into wealth and prestige. His great-grandfather was a German sorcerer who helped found the Black Order. His grand-uncle Zhu Mei Chang forged Innocence into weapons and used to work for Central. His mother Tui created the tattoo seal that gave Kanda Yuu his regenerative abilities. Further unnamed family members bespelled the fabric the Science Department uses to create Exorcist uniforms to make them more durable. Bak himself is a scientist, with skills in pharmacology and the study of Innocence, though he also specializes in blood/summoning magic like his mother and uncle.
There is literally no shortage of Changs who have done great deeds in the Order’s name and this was the kind of world Bak was raised in. He was brought up like a prince but his mother was also incredibly strict with him, because she wanted to raise a son who would grow up to become Head Officer (Komui's current position) and change the Order for the better.
As Komui mentions in the 1st Reverse novel, Bak has the benefit of knowledge and experience from growing up in the Order, in addition to having an excellent education. This is in contrast to Komui, who as far as I’m aware, is mostly self-taught.
The Changs have always been very respected, though less so now that they refuse to carry on Central’s stance on human experimentation, but I imagine Bak still has a lot to live up to both as a Director and the head of his clan. He bears the weight of hundreds of years of history, mistakes, and his parents’ hopes and dreams, so it’s no real surprise he feels like Komui stole something that should have been his all along.
The following information has been taken from the DGM Official Fanbook: Gray Ark.
Again, Hoshino doesn’t give us much to go on with Komui. She simply states that she made Komui tall because he needed to cut an imposing figure when dealing with other tall, intimidating characters like Cross Marian and Malcolm C. Leverrier. He also wears glasses, not because he needs them, but because he finds them useful to hide the sorrow in his eyes whenever Lenalee has to leave on a mission.
Now if we talk about how Bak was conceived as a character, things start to get interesting, because he was literally created to be the complete opposite of Komui. In Gray Ark Hoshino says that she created Bak because she wanted a character who was seeking to dethrone Komui and take his place as Head Officer of the Order. And then to emphasize the fact that he had an inferiority complex, she made him small in stature and gave him a short uniform coat.
I don’t think I need to list all their defining features, but it’s pretty obvious just by looking at the characters standing side by side that they are meant to be similar but different, from the berets on their heads to the colours of their clothes, down to the way they style their hair. She even gave Bak a gross crush on Lenalee to parallel Komui’s sister complex.
Hoshino also mentions in Volume 8 that she fleshed out Bak’s character together with Kaya Kizaki, who wrote the DGM Reverse Novels. The 1st Novel is particularly important to mention, because the 3rd chapter of that book is written in Bak’s POV, and tells the story of how he goes about trying to dig up dirt on Komui becoming Head Officer.
The novels in this case are relevant to this ship, because the characters interact face-to-face there far more than they do in the manga. In fact, they contain the only known instance of Bak acting out the role Hoshino initially created him for, trying to take Komui’s place as Head Officer.
Even their actual characterization is a study in contrasts, especially in the way that they are each introduced to the protagonist (Allen).
Komui is introduced in a light-hearted, whimsical manner. Given that Allen is nearly skewered by Kanda because Komui misplaced the letter Cross sent him, one of our first impressions of him is that he’s a bit of a goofball; the kind of man that has brief moments of seriousness but otherwise spends most of his time causing nothing but trouble for his subordinates.
Bak is introduced in almost the complete opposite manner. He’s sitting in the shadows for almost the entire time that Allen is standing before the Door of the Guardian and he initially comes off as cold and unfeeling in order to test Allen’s resolve. He seems practical and hard-working; the kind of man who might occasionally find his good humour, but is otherwise straight-laced and serious.
Of course, this preconception is more or less obliterated immediately.
We are shown on multiple occasions that Komui’s silly smiles and ridiculous behaviour are just a front. He cares so much for his sister and the people of the Order by extension that he goes out of his way to make HQ feel like a home as much as possible. In Gray Ark, the only standard statistic that Komui beats Bak at is “Work Ability”. He’s incredibly hard-working and dedicated, but he does his best to be cheerful for the sake of morale.
Honestly, Komui is far from being a frank and open person. He keeps a lot of his own feelings bottled up and acts like everything is going to be fine because he can’t cope with the fact that it might not be.
Given his position as Head Officer, this often means enforcing the rules first and putting his emotions second, regardless of how he feels about the laws he’s got to lay down or how others may curse him for being “heartless”. He can’t even grieve in the public eye because he’s got to be a pillar of strength for the rest of the Order to rely on.
He spends so much time trying to look after everyone that he forgets to look after himself. He more or less functions on cups of coffee, forgets to eat (and he’s been forgetting to eat for as long as he’s been in the Order, according to Jerry), barely sleeps and skips his medical check-ups. That’s more or less the gist of the notes scattered all over his desk in that one image in the History section below.
He’s gotten so good at hiding how he really feels, and at heaping so much blame and guilt on himself for things beyond his control that Lenalee spends years thinking Komui sacrificed his whole future for her sake. All because he never finds it in him to tell her that he joined the Order so they can be together as a family, and Kanda literally has to kick his ass to make him realize this.
Of course, that’s not disregarding the fact that he’s still a troublemaker who likes to run away from his work (and he’s got a hell of a lot of it so can we blame him?) and create dangerous inventions that no one’s going to thank him for, but I guess everyone needs an outlet for their frustrations.
Now let’s take a look at Bak. Keeping with Hoshino’s theme of contrasts between these two characters, if Komui’s default mode is “serious” and “bottled up”, Bak’s would be “overzealous” and “needs to control his damn emotions”.
Quite the opposite of Komui, Bak’s front is that of a serious and well-mannered individual whose brains have been praised as the pride and joy of the Asian Branch. Given his social standing in the Order, you’d think that be the case. And yes Bak is brilliant, but he’s also a huge dork who runs so highly on emotion that it’s a wonder he doesn’t explode.
He works himself up into such a state of emotional distress that he breaks out into hives at the drop of a hat. He clearly got his mother’s strength of character but the crybaby tendencies were all inherited from his father.
Bak spends much of the 1st Novel wondering why he wasn’t elected Head Officer of the Order, despite the fact that he believes he was more or less raised for the role. Why did they pick Komui Lee, and not him? I think the reason is fairly obvious. For one thing he is far too outspoken. He’s got a short temper, he would question Central at every turn, and despite his massive intellect, he is ruled far more by his heart than his head.
Komui wages a silent war with Central by preventing them from having more to do with the Exorcists than necessary, and that’s part of the reason why he is perpetually doing paperwork. Bak on the other hand, seems to believe that the only way things will change in the Order is by taking direct action.
Bak talks himself and his family up a great deal. We know he is proud of his lineage and that he is proud of his own brilliance both as a scientist and a sorcerer. His ego is so large it could fill rooms.
However he is also aware that his clan has a dark and bloody history. The Changs were the ones who started human experimentation at the Order to find compatible Innocence users, all for status and power, and they have spent many decades since trying to atone for those sins.
Given Bak’s age, he is far too young to have seen most of these projects in action, apart from the Disciple Creation Experiments, which only ceased at HQ when Komui became Head Officer. He has however, seen the results that come from trying to play God through the destruction of Lab 6 and the loss of both his parents.
I have to put this entire page here because I’ve always found the difference between Bak’s and Renny’s approach to the Order’s experiments to be really interesting. Renny clearly blames the Earl for everything that has transpired. If the Earl and the AKUMA didn’t exist, they wouldn’t have to resort to fighting fire with fire. Like Leverrier, she believes that they have to take whatever measures are necessary to come out of this war alive.
Bak on the other hand, has shouldered the responsibility of his clan’s involvement in the Program and all the deaths that Alma caused as though it were his own fault, even though he never took part in the project in the first place.
He’s one step below Komui on the Order hierarchy so maybe that’s why he’s got more freedom to say what he likes, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bak is ridiculously vocal about things that he disagrees with, and he disagrees a lot with Central. He seems to be perpetually one step away from saying or doing something that could get him in trouble.
Where Komui keeps a lot of his personal feelings close to his chest, Bak expresses himself very honestly and openly, sometimes even getting frustrated to the point of tears. And because of this he often throws himself headfirst into danger for the sake of protecting others. He’s been injured in every single AKUMA attack he’s gotten caught up in, first from trying to protect Allen from the Level 3, second from saving Johnny from the Level 4, and third from defending the North American Branch from Alma Karma’s grudge.
That’s not to say that Bak is reckless. Impulsive maybe, but he’s surprisingly level-headed on the battlefield despite not being a combat specialist like the Exorcists or the CROWs, and it is this strength and fortitude that has helped him save a lot of lives.
According to Lenalee’s timeline in Gray Ark, Komui doesn’t arrive at HQ until she was 10 years old, making him 23. They’d been separated for 3-4 years at this point. The book also mentions her meeting Reever and Bak for the first time too.
So where was Komui and what was he doing for those 3-4 years?
I have nothing but speculation to back this up, but I’ve always assumed Komui started his search for Lenalee closest to home, by joining the Asian Branch.
Part of me wonders if he went to HQ straight off the bat, but how? How did he even find the Order in the first place? Not to mention that as far as I can tell, HQ isn’t exactly the kind of place you can just GO to. It seems to be a well-known fact that only the best of the best get chosen to work there, and everyone in Komui’s inner circle of scientists started out at a Branch Office first.
Really, all I have to go on is that he’s wearing the same uniform as the apprentice scientists Rou Fa, Shifu and Li Kei, and the fact that he’s wearing something entirely different by the time he gets to HQ. It’s also mentioned in Volume 20 that Zhu Mei Chang taught Jerry how to cook, and Zhu was living out his retirement at the Asian Branch.
According to Komui's Discussion Room banter in Vol.26, Komui did in fact start out at the Asian Branch. Bak even mentions that Komui was like a completely different person back then, meaning they have known each other since their very early 20s.*
* this information was revised and added by me.
We know from Bak’s novel story that he didn’t even look twice at Komui or give him the time of day until he started rising through the ranks because there was nothing about him that distinguished him from any other person at the Order.
Unfortunately, Hoshino doesn’t say when exactly Komui went from being Section Chief of HQ’s Science Department to Head Officer of the entire Order, but I’ve always headcannoned it happening when he was about 25, because Lenalee clearly remembers the Disciple Creation Experiments and when Komui was elected he put a stop to that.
Bak on the other hand, was born and raised in the Asian Branch. The first we see of him timeline-wise is during the Alma Karma arc (Volume 20), as a 20 year old Section Chief chasing down Noise Marie because of his injuries.
I’ve always found it interesting that unlike Renny Epstein, Bak did not get to work on the Second Exorcist Program, and was in fact barred from going to Lab 6 altogether by his mother. Then of course both his parents were killed by Alma and Bak became the Director of the Asian Branch, though again there is no proof of whether this happened straight away or later on his life.
Fast-forward 10 years or so and we get to the pre-canon novel story, Bak Chang’s Capriccio (Rhapsody). The title alone already makes me laugh, because both a “capriccio” and a “rhapsody” are types of music described as having a free-flowing form, lively character and highly contrasted moods. They are fast, intense and often brilliant, and all these things speak volumes about Bak Chang as a character.
I also want to point out that once again Hoshino has drawn the characters in contrast, as Bak is depicted on the inner cover of the 1st novel in the same way Komui was in Volume 1 of the manga. Both are seated on thrones laughing maniacally, with the kanji above Komui’s head reading “insane” and Bak’s reading “malicious”, though it can also be read as “poison.” Even the depiction of Yoshi on their uniforms seem to confirm this. Aren’t they lovely.
The following is a summary of Bak Chang's Capriccio. If you plan on reading it, you can skip to the next part of this manifesto.
The story takes place before Allen joins the Order by around a few months to a year, and focuses on Bak’s mishaps as he tries to get Komui to spill the beans on how he bullied his way into becoming Head Officer before the Order has its general meeting.
The tale is of course written from Bak’s POV, and right from the beginning we see that he thinks very highly of himself and his family lineage, to the point that he has become resentful that a “nobody” like Komui Lee was chosen to run the Black Order instead. So he formulates a plan to expose Komui for the lying sneak-thief he obviously is by creating a truth serum tea with a recipe that has been passed down through his family for generations. This is why he’s always depicted with a bottle of poison on his person in Hoshino’s earlier drawings.
Of course, as the plot progresses we learn that Bak is only great in his own mind (never forget he sometimes calls himself “ore-sama” aka “my great self”). Everyone he meets on his adventure to get this poisonous tea to Komui drinks some of it by accident, and they all tell him exactly what they think of him, with the comments ranging as follows:
Which of course makes Bak furious and self-conscious, though he tries to play it off as a necessary evil in confirming that the tea works as intended. He even gets offended when he runs into Lavi, who tells him that Komui is hosting a party that evening, and as far as Bak’s aware he wasn’t invited.
So as you can imagine he’s in a right foul mood by the time he finally makes it to Komui’s office, and since the 1st Novel was released before Bak made his appearance in the manga (Volume 7), this is also the first time we see that Komui always calls him “バクちゃん” or “Bak-chan”. It’s supposed to be a play on words in Japanese because of Bak’s surname “Chang”, but because the honorific “-ちゃん” tends to be used as an endearment for small children, close friends or lovers, Bak is understandably disgusted and often tells Komui to stop calling him by that nickname because he’s not as funny as he thinks he is.
I’m assuming that this isn’t the first time Bak’s tried to pull one over Komui though, because he responds to all of Bak’s small talk easily, and still drinks the tea even though Bak was watching him in a very suspicious manner, even teasing him that he was feeling self-conscious because Bak was staring so intently.
I think it’s quite telling that at this stage Bak has all these preconceived ideas that Komui is hiding his true self behind a mask of smiles (and he’s right in a way, though I’ll get to that later), but Komui obviously trusts Bak enough that he has no qualms about drinking obviously spiked tea and telling him the truth. He’s got nothing to hide.
Which is why the only thing that changes when he drinks the tea is that he admits that as Head Officer has has the power to increase research funding whenever he likes, which probably explains why the Science Department is always making wacky experiments.
Bak is getting desperate at this stage, so he inadvertently demands to know what Komui thinks of him as a person, since everyone else he had run into that day had nothing but disparaging comments to make.
And that’s the point where Komui leaves him speechless, because he more or less tells Bak that he admires his strength and that he’s an amazingly gifted person, which is something he ought to be proud of. He also admits that he has no idea why he was elected Head Officer, and that at the start of his tenure he wished that he could just hand the job over to Bak, who is of a much higher social standing in the Order than Komui is, and so would have been better suited for the job.
He then asks Bak whether he thinks it’s alright for someone like him to be Head Officer, and Bak is so stunned by the words coming out of his mouth that he agrees. Honestly he pretty much just stands there for the entire minute the tea is in effect trying to refute Komui’s words as lies, even though he knows he’s telling the truth, because he just can’t believe his ears.
And then the heartfelt moment is broken by Komui demanding to know why Bak was flirting with Lenalee and Bak having to escape with his life because Komui starts firing off a machine gun and crying over his sister meeting a man and falling in love.
It later transpires that the party Lavi was talking about was a surprise birthday party Komui had organized for Bak, despite getting the date completely wrong (the party was thrown on the 4th of January), because as Lenalee points out, Komui thought Bak looked unhappy recently and wanted to cheer him up.
This of course only exasperates Bak and further cements the idea in his mind that Komui Lee is an unbelievably frustrating man. A man who gives as good as he gets, because he then gives Bak a bottle of hair tonic as a present (the one that later reappears in the Zombie arc), and Bak ends up having to attend the general meeting with a head of long beautiful hair. It’s also implied that Komui was the one who started the rumour about Bak using his beret to hide a bald spot.
Bak then realizes the hair tonic was revenge, because Komui more or less hints to his face that he knew the tea was spiked all along. He also can’t stop smiling about it, which flusters Bak even more, because he’s STILL trying to convince himself that there’s no way Komui meant all the nice things that he said, and that his words did not boost his self-esteem in any way. The novel then ends with Bak trying to get a handle on himself by swearing that he’ll one day make Komui kneel before him.
During the events of D.Gray-man
As I mentioned above, Bak doesn’t make an appearance again until Volume 7 of the manga, where he meets Allen Walker after the Suman Dark incident and helps him restore his Innocence.
Truth be told, he’s much less antagonistic towards Komui than he was in the novel, so either their relationship has improved since that time or Bak puts his personal grievances aside when he’s working. Either way, there’s not a lot of face-to-face interaction at this point, considering they’re an entire continent away from each other, but Bak does spend a lot of time on the phone communicating with Komui and seeking his professional opinion on Allen’s Innocence.
Say what you want about Bak, but he knows that Komui specializes in Innocence research and he’s not so proud that he lets his feelings get in the way of doing his job. If nothing else, I believe that he at least respects Komui as one of the few scientists in the Order whose intellect is on par with his own.
Though it’s interesting to note that Komui doesn’t only refer to Bak as “Bak-chan” when he’s teasing him. He literally calls him that all the time, even when they’re having a very serious work-related conversation because hundreds of Black Order personnel have just died at the hands of the Noah. Bak-chan is perpetually Bak-chan.
After the Level 3 AKUMA attacks the Asian Branch, we don’t see them interacting again until the very beginning of the Level 4 arc (Volume 14), where Allen opens a Gate to HQ and the first thing Komui does is bar Bak (and everyone else but himself) from entering Lenalee’s hospital ward.
He also expressly forbids anyone from traipsing around the Ark until the Science Department studied it properly, so Bak boards it out of spite and proceeds to generally make a nuisance of himself until he’s called away to a meeting, much to Reever’s exasperation.
It’s at this meeting, which is made up of the Branch Directors, the Generals and a representative from Central (Leverrier) that we see that they have very similar ideals about how the Order SHOULD be run, but that Bak, unlike Komui, has no self-preservation whatsoever and is forever jumping to do the right thing without thinking about the consequences of his actions. He’s clearly got no qualms about using the Ark himself but he won’t expose any of the Exorcists to danger without making sure that it’s 100% safe first.
Komui wants to protect the Exorcists. Bak wants to protect the Exorcists. But the difference between them is that Komui doesn’t try to start arguments with Central over their morally reprehensible behaviour. He keeps his head down and only fights back when doing otherwise would put an Exorcist in danger, such as when he overrode Leverrier’s decision to keep the AKUMA egg because destroying it would be a better decision in the long run.
I feel like the Chang clan has often used their clout as the descendants of a Founder to make their dislike of Central known, and that’s why Central has now turned to other families like the Epsteins instead to carry out any morally questionable work that needs doing. This has been hinted at in the DGM Character Book: CharaGray. This is also probably why the fragment of the AKUMA egg was given to Renny Epstein and why she was charged with running the Third Exorcist Program.
Of course it should be noted that to openly defy Central would be to defy the Vatican, and it is made perfectly clear during this meeting that all enemies of the Church will be tried as heretics.
So yes, Bak may have trouble keeping his mouth shut in a lot of instances, but that’s only because his heart is in the right place, and I think the fact that his moral compass is pointing in more or less the right direction is why Komui considers him a person he can trust.
And then of course Lulu Bell turns up to steal back the egg for the Earl. Bak is injured in the Level 4’s attack on the Science Department after saving Johnny from its evolving mass of dark matter, and Komui comes to terms with the fact that neither he or Lenalee are sacrificing themselves to keep the other safe, but are each trying to do their best to stay together.
I’m including this panel because in the novel Bak more or less considers Reever an unwashed layabout with no dignity to his name. Nothing like a life-or-death situation to bring people closer together, I always say.
After that Bak presumably goes back to the Asian Branch with Wong to recover from the battle because we don’t see him for a while, though he does kind of show up as a footnote at the end of the Zombie arc in Volume 17 to make an antidote for the Komuvitan D virus. After presumably getting chased by zombies and peeing his pants that is. Save him.
He does however appear as a character in the 3rd chapter of the 2nd Novel, “The Black Order’s Reunion Party”, in which Komui throws another party at HQ, though this time it’s for the express purpose of flushing out Lenalee’s so-called “boyfriend”. This story’s a bit weird because there’s nowhere I can place it on the timeline that makes sense, because Krory’s out of his coma, none of characters from Central make an appearance, and Bak seems to have brought a small contingent from the Asian Branch with him, so I’m going to assume it takes place after the Zombie arc but before the move.
Of course, every time Bak appears in the novels I feel Hoshino’s comment in Volume 8 about how fond she and the author are of him rings true, because there always seems to be a description about how he’s got such a cute face that no one can take him seriously as the head of the Chang clan.
It’s actually pretty hilarious because people express surprise to see him at the party at all. Some start whispering that he often finds himself involved in Komui’s mad schemes because he keeps finding excuses to come to HQ now that the Ark exists. Another person points out that maybe he gets lonely. Komui then turns the party into a “wipeout” kind of competition, which makes Bak start lecturing him, though he’s staunchly ignored.
Since this story is just meant to be for the sake of humour rather than plot, I’ll just note the important parts regarding these two:
Speaking of which.
Bak’s next major appearance is in Volume 19, when he calls Komui demanding to know if Renny Epstein had come to see him yet, because a former subordinate had just tipped him off on the Third Exorcist Program.
As we learn in Volume 20, human experimentation to create Exorcists is a very personal issue for Bak, who lost both his parents the last time a project like this went down. Honestly, ignoring the fact that he just spilled tea all over Komui’s paperwork because he has all the emotional subtlety of a lit firecracker, I think it’s incredible that at this stage in the story Bak clearly trusts Komui enough that he wants him there when he confronts Renny.
He needs Komui to understand that approving this project will only result in more tragedy, because Komui heads the entire Black Order and could put a stop to it. Bak has gone from wanting to dethrone Komui to placing the utmost faith in him, because as we have seen they have very similar morals and beliefs, but unfortunately that’s not enough.
Bak is such a danger to himself. He’s got all these brains but he runs perpetually on high emotion. As Fou points out, the Second Exorcist Program was shut down because it ended in slaughter and they only had Kanda Yuu to show for it. The Third Exorcist Program on the other hand has been nothing but successful to date, so Komui can’t raise any issues with Central other than the fact that it’s unethical, and we know for a fact that Central doesn’t give two shits about ethics.
Though on a lighter note I think I should point out that ever since the Ark came along, Bak’s been coming up with all sorts of excuses to go to HQ for no reason, though what he does there is anyone’s guess. The novel DID say he tends to show up because he’s lonely so my guess is that he alternates between taking covert pictures of Lenalee and nagging Komui on some work-related matter or another.
Like not answering the phone despite all the messages Bak leaves him.
And then the Earl revives Alma Karma in order to push forward with his plan to get Allen to awaken as the 14th and I feel like I have to mention that because this is the third damn AKUMA attack Bak’s gotten stuck in the middle of since his debut and it’s a wonder he’s not dead.
Though I think it’s fair to say at this point that neither of them likes the Vatican at all.
And now we come to their most recent interaction to date, at Zhu Mei Chang’s deathbed in Volume 23.
Okay so we know why Leverrier was there; Zhu was his teacher. Bak’s his grand-nephew and Renee has probably known him since she was a little girl, but I why was Komui there? Did he come as a representative of the Order? Because if so I can’t believe he’s walking around the Asian Branch in his damn house slippers. So yeah he’s probably there in an official capacity, but I also like to think he came for Bak’s sake.
Those are all of their canon interactions to date.
Because they were more or less made for each other?
I mean that literally of course, because as I mentioned above a lot of Bak’s character was created with the intention of deliberately making him Komui’s opposite in every way except in brain power. Also their incredible height difference is really important.
They have very similar beliefs and morals, despite the fact that they come from two completely distinct worlds. And the differences they do have complement each other in such a way that if they ever had to work together, they’d be an incredible team.
Komui is a diplomat, while Bak is anything but. They both care a great deal about the people at the Order and especially the Exorcists, but while Komui uses negotiation to deal with Central, Bak prefers to solve problems through confrontation. And perhaps that works for him, given his family legacy and social rank, but Komui doesn’t dare take those sorts of risks without very good reason.
Bak likes to make a fuss about what a slacker Komui is, when the fact of the matter is that they’re both troublemakers who like to run away from their responsibilities as overseers of their respective Branches.
Komui has to work hard at being positive in obviously dire situations, and it does have a toll on him. Bak on the other hand, seems to be naturally optimistic. He always holds out hope that things will get better. However, unlike Komui he is far more likely to get physically hurt while doing his job as a high-ranked Order executive, mostly because of his complete inability to sit still when something offends him.
Komui has surrounded himself with incredibly good, like-minded people. Most of the Order is made up of people who come from the “outside” world; many had no idea what the Earl and the AKUMA even were until someone they loved was killed and they decided to join the cause.
Komui is one such person, and since becoming Head Officer he has managed to shape HQ into more than just a command centre in charge of all the Order’s research facilities. He’s made it into a community of people who care for and protect one another like a family.
Bak on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have many people that he’s close to. He’s got Wong, who probably helped raise him, he’s got Fou, who is both sister and protector, and of course his grand-uncle Zhu (until his death, that is). You could argue he has Renee as well, but she, for some reason or another deeply dislikes him and has since they were both fairly young, though this hasn’t stopped Bak from worrying about her well-being (CharaGray).
For someone born into the Order Bak’s got surprisingly very little actually in it, which is why he was devastated when he thought he was sending Fou to her death during the Level 3’s invasion. He’s already lost so much that he loves that he can’t bear to go through it again. I feel like that’s why he can always be seen wandering around HQ, often for no reason, and people have pointed out in the past that he may be lonely.
It’s really not that hard to imagine them together. Komui clearly likes Bak enough to tease him, though Fou would probably argue that Bak is remarkably easy to tease either way. There’s also a familiarity there that he doesn’t seem to have with the other Branch Heads, despite the fact that before the Ark, Bak only ever travelled to HQ for the general meetings. They also seem to have plenty of phone conferences.
Bak lived for years feeling like he was a failure; he had every opportunity in his life that someone of his wealth and status could possibly have, and Komui Lee still kicked his ass. We know he was already insecure about his height, and then Komui went and made him insecure about his intelligence too.
But then Komui goes and tells him with complete and utter sincerity that he thinks Bak is incredible; that he’s strong and gifted and a natural talent. Bak was so worried about himself that he never stopped to realize that Komui had his own insecurities. He’s had to change his entire personality and outlook to cope with life in the Order, so he thinks it’s admirable that Bak hasn’t changed at all.
I find it incredible that Bak was created to be the kind of person who was always looking for a way to kick Komui off his pedestal, but that entire premise disappears over the span of a single novel story. Bak realizes that there isn’t an evil mastermind under that sunny smile, but a man who’s just trying to do the best with what he’s given in order to protect the people he loves. Komui sees a self-confident narcissist who nonetheless feels worthless now that his life’s ambition has been realized by someone else, and goes out of his way to make him feel good about himself.
Bak is as much an open book as Komui is a closed one. The former is really easy to read because he wears his heart on his sleeve, whereas you’d be lucky to crack the latter open unless he wants you to get a peek at all his vulnerabilities or he just can’t hold it in anymore. He may be far more controlled than Bak on the surface, but when he snaps he does it in extremes. Plus, we know from looking at Lenalee that Komui would move goddamn mountains for love.
What a breath of fresh air it must have been to a younger Komui, disillusioned about the Order being the good guys, and meeting people like Bak and Reever and his team of scientists who are honest and kind and are in this for the long haul because they care about people and not about winning the war. Honestly Bak would probably fit in really well at HQ, but he has to stay in the Asian Branch because he’s clan head of the Chang family.
Bak definitely finds Komui to be something of an enigma, because he hides behind his mask so well it’s almost impossible to guess what he’s thinking, but I feel like it says a lot that he’s gone from wanting to depose him to trusting him to help put a stop to the Third Exorcist Program in a little over a year. Komui obviously trusts Bak too, else he wouldn’t have taken that spiked tea without fear of what it might do to him. And how long did he sit there I wonder, just staring at Renee Epstein and her Thirds because Bak asked him not to get into any sort of discussion with her until he got there?
To be fair, with all the stress running the Order already takes on them, any romance that happens would be the product of years of misunderstandings, a lack of brain-to-mouth filters and bottled up feelings. This ship doesn’t happen overnight; it would be a long and rocky road. Each knows that the other is putting on a front, but they don’t make a big deal out of it because they understand. Bak knows Komui isn’t really an idiot as much as Komui knows that Bak’s prickly and pompous attitude doesn’t define him.
To conclude, the fact that they are minor characters means there is so much room to build on a relationship; it could literally fit in anywhere and barely have an impact on the plot. And that’s not even counting the fact that, as you can see, they are incredibly detailed and fleshed-out minor characters, so it’s not as though you’re trying to build something out of nothing. I think we’re lucky that Hoshino is fond of the Changs, else we wouldn’t have so much of Bak’s past and family history to go on either.
So why ship them? There’s likely already an intellectual attraction there because literally no one else can keep up with how brilliant they are. I like to think the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang works particularly well here, because they look and act as though they are opposing forces, when in fact they complement each other really well and balance each other out. You’d think they’d bring out the worst in each other, but it’s actually quite the opposite. They already have an interesting dynamic, and given the chance they could probably have really good chemistry too.
The only thing ‘straight’ about Komui Lee is how goddamn tall he is.
What Eden is referring to here is that Komui's robots (AKA: the Komurin series) are 100% him, and in canon, although played for gags, Komurin EX ended up falling in love with Allen, so it doesn't take a far leap to come to the conclusion that Komui is definitely not straight.
As a member of the Chang clan, Bak had to get tattooed to signify his family’s blood oath to the Sealed God (Fou). However he seems to be embarrassed about them because they’re “unfashionable” (this was what I got from the Japanese raws).
The small stone on his hat is also known as a “spirit stone” and it allows him to summon Fou to the battlefield when he drops blood on it. He used to wear it in his hair when he was younger, much like his mother and uncle.
Komui gets seasick. He’s also really skinny.
Bak’s got banging hips and sick guns. This is not a drill. Please consider what a champion this small man is.
Eden and I always headcannoned Komui as being underweight because as has been implied and then confirmed in Gray Log, he skips his meals and considers eating a waste of time. This is an additional interesting point of contrast between them, as Bak, despite his limited time in the manga seems to have a good appetite and perhaps might even be a bit of a sweet tooth. He also works out a fair amount, which would make their difference in physical constitution go far beyond that of just Bak being a whole head shorter.
Congratulations on making it this far and I apologize for the length of this monster. Luckily Andy has provided a very helpful summary of this entire post.