Riki and Iason on the 4th volume Tokuma Shoten edition cover.
Ai no Kusabi is a Japanese novel written by Rieko Yoshihara. Originally serialized in the yaoi magazine Shousetsu June between December 1986 and October 1987, the story was collected into a hardbound novel that was released in Japan in 1990.The story takes place on the planet Amoi, ruled by a computer called Jupiter, which has imposed a number of strict social rules on its population. The Elites, humans that are genetically engineered by Jupiter, occupy the capital city of Tanagura and travel to the pleasure city of Midas, which has a slum called Ceres. They are ranked amongst themselves by hair color with the Blondies being the highest. Under Jupiter's restrictions, the Elites are all sterile and forbidden from indulging in sexual activities. Blondies and other elites keep "Pets" (adolescents) purely for voyeuristic purposes and they are kept for about a year before being discarded. Further emasculation is seen in the "Furniture," adolescent boys (that were all once mongrels) who serve the Blondies.Iason Mink, a high-class Blondy, runs into Riki, an unusual black-haired Mongrel, makes him his "Pet" which Riki resents being. As Riki learns of the dangers Iason faces by keeping him, he finds himself developing feelings for his master. Focusing on the relationship between Iason and Riki, Ai no Kusabi also explores issues of caste systems and social exclusion.The novel was partially adapted into a two-episode anime OVA by Anime International Company, the first episode released in August 1992, and the second in May 1994. In November 1993, an audio drama entitled Dark Erogenous was released focusing on a time period left unexplored in the original novels. A new anime OVA adaptation, also from AIC, was scheduled to begin releasing in Japan in 2009 but it was delayed due to financial problems. The first OVA of four announced for the remake titled Ai no Kusabi ~ petere Kanju ~ was released on Jan 18, 2012. The second OVA ~ pardo Setsuyoku ~ was released on Feb 15, 2012 with volume 3: ~ congressus Kaiko ~ released on March 21st and the last announced volume 4: ~ retino Inbaku~ on April 18th.The 2012 OVA series has been licensed by Media Blasters and released in April 2013 in the US.
All of the Other Reindeer: The other Pets of Eos look down on Riki and treat him poorly for being a mongrel from Ceres. They are filled with hate and envy that although Riki is low born, he is higher ranking as Iason's Pet and guaranteed a better life than they ever will have despite being purebred Pets. Status and rank is everything to a Pet and the higher the status of the master, the greater the status of the Pet.
All There in the Manual: It's much more complicated to understand some characters' motivations without having read the novels. If you watch the anime and listen to the CD drama you will understand the story much better, because the CD drama contains parts of the story that the anime doesn't show. Like the fact that Iason is no ordinary human but an Artificial Human but not an android, which explains why he is so disturbed from having feelings for Riki. It also explains why he has minor blood loss or emotes little pain when he loses his legs (Iason seems to have a high tolerance for pain).
Angst: Riki so much due to how his life turned out and the state of his love life. First he's stolen away from his "pairing partner" that he very much loved, then Made a Slave, stripped of his freedom hurting his pride, is consistently sexually assaulted (he did not choose to be a Pet), secretly desires his captor that he should legitimately hate but can't express how he feels to his ex-lover and best friend who wants to save him due to aforementioned pride. It's complicated.
Bigger Is Better in Bed: Covered only in the novel, Riki had trouble going to the bathroom for 3 days after the first time Iason has intercourse with him when he had been a Pet for 6 months. Iason also has the ability to make his member even larger at will and has terrified Riki with it.
Black Market: The people of the Ceres slums largely survive by relying on goods from the Black Market. Unbeknownst to them save a key few, it is actually run by Iason.
Brains and Bondage: Iason is the smartest, most superior of the Blondies and viewed by Jupiter as perfect. He also really enjoysdominating and "disciplining" his Pet. While it's not actually BDSM, Iason's games with the Pet ring are all about making Riki submissive since Riki constantly rebels against him.
Brainwash: Apparently common practice in Tanagura. Iason threatens to do this to Guy and turn him into a docile sex doll. Raoul pleads to Iason to dump his Pet since he refuses to have to resort to do this to Iason. In the novel, Riki suggests this be done mercifully to Guy so he has no memories of his awful actions. Lastly, this is done to Kirie to teach him "the ways of Tanagura" and turn him into a mindless and submissive Pet.
Broken Bird: Riki was this after he returned back to Ceres. Others noted how subdued and quiet he had become having lost his spark and charisma.
Cannot Spit It Out: Riki's stubborn refusal to admit to anyone but especially to himself that he loves Iason. When Guy confronts him so he can confess his real feelings, Riki instead tries to Break His Heart to Save Him. Guy misunderstands thinking Riki's being held captive solely due to the Pet Ring and resolves to remove it and proceed with his plan to kill Iason.Much could have been avoided if Riki wasn't ashamed to tell his ex he became a Pet and wanted to be with the Blondy despite hating his life as a Pet. Furthermore, Iason never directly tells Riki why he's so determined to keep him.
Character Development/Dynamic Character: Ai no Kusabi is a character driven story about how people change for the better or worse. Sometimes these changes can't be accepted by the person experiencing them.
Chains Of Love: Various official artwork depict Riki bound in chains to Iason or surrounded by them.
Conspicuous CG: Parts of Eos, Jupiter and Iason's car are a few examples in the 2012 OVA.
Crack Pairing: Invoked by everyone that see Iason and Riki together. A Blondy and a mongrel just walking down the street together in Midas is quite an unfathomable spectacle that stops onlookers in their tracks. Riki and Mimea also to a lesser extent.
Crapsack World: Amoi is definitely this for many humans where one can be equated to furniture.
Curiosity Is a Crapshoot/Curiosity Killed the Cast: A few examples. Two being non-lethal. Katze hacking classified files on Tanagura, Daryl wanting to see if Riki would escape Eos, Kirie and Manon snooping around Guardian, and last but not least, Riki and Iason both being so curious of each other that Riki offers sex and Iason actually accepts well knowing it's not allowed. This act sets off the plot and their eventual deaths.
Curtains Match the Window: Riki has a very distinct and striking appearance with pure black hair and eyes that are quite unique for a mongrel (they are Elite traits) and make him stand out in a crowd. For some reason, Riki's eyes are brown in both OVA adaptations.
Cyberpunk: Many themes of the Cyberpunk genre are touched upon here. The ruling class is controlled by a Master Computer and people are Genetically Engineered to fit their social class in Tanagura. Even exhibiting certain human characteristics is disgraceful among Elites.
Dark Secret: Riki absolutely didn't want anyone to know he not only had an intimate encounter with a Blondy but also became that Blondy's Pet. Darker yet is the fact he loves the Blondy. There is also the fact all furniture are from Ceres.
Dramatic Wind: Each depiction of Iason setting Riki free and watching him run back to Ceres has this.
Drowning My Sorrows: Riki tends to get himself drunk or high on Stout when upset. In the CD Dramas, Riki drinks heavily when he laments being a pet and misses Guy. He even cries himself to sleep with bottle in hand.
Downer Beginning: The prologue starts with an unknown slave being sexually tormented by his angry master.
Explicit Content: One major reason Ai no Kusabi stands out amongst many other Yaoi Genre titles with a high level of explicit content is due to the intricate story and how the setting drives the motivations and actions of the characters. Sex plays a major role but is ultimately not the point of it.
Fanservice: Seems to be the point of the OVAs' and CD Dramas' existence.
Mr. Fanservice: Iason but Riki really defines this trope being scantily clad or nude often.
Fantastic Aesop: Class discrimination and treatment of slaves as inhuman in a setting where unfeeling idealized machines rule the world. Interestingly, homosexuality is never brought up as a societal issue but as the norm here.
Fantastic Caste System: In Tanagura, Blondies and other elites are genetically engineered to be the elite and naturally born humans of people that once rebelled are treated as "mongrels" that are the lowest of the low (even furniture are treated better). Furthermore, the birth rate of humans in Ceres is manipulated to keep their population under control. These humans are also deprived of citizenship and therefore have no official identities.
Fantastic Racism: Discrimination not only based on class but where and how you were born as well. Rank is everything in this society and people without citizenship to even be ranked are not even considered human. It's a wide misconception that people were discriminated on hair color. Only the Elites are ranked by their hair. Note there are also pure dark haired elites called "Onyx" as well as other hair colored elites.
Fate Worse Than Death: Kirie's comeuppance and Guy having to live the rest of his life knowing he got Riki killed. Katze believes that Guy deserves to live like this.
Forbidden Fruit: As the highest ranking Tanagura official, Iason is fully aware that having a mongrel for a pet and keeping him past a certain age is frowned upon. Actually sleeping with him is strictly forbidden. Iason is warned but insists on keeping Riki anyways.
Forceful Kiss/"Shut Up" Kiss: Iason's favorite method to calm Riki down when the Pet Ring doesn't. On a few occasions it's just to shut Riki up.
Foreshadowing: Raoul says to Iason "Your vices will be the end of you."
Friend in the Black Market: Katze is literally this for Iason and Katze uses his position very effectively to trap the Bisons and later to give Riki a job.
From Bad to Worse: Guy comes along and kidnaps Riki and does the unthinkable. Then when Riki has managed to keep Iason from killing Guy and it looks like they will all get out alive, the place starts collapsing on top of them. Guy survives but Iason and Riki do not.
Gilded Cage: Riki views Iason's home in Eos as this. It is lavish but still a prison for him. The condo Iason gets him in Apatia is a big improvement yet still a cage.
Hostage Situation: Happens to Guy and this is his interpretation of Iason keeping Riki.
Hot-Blooded: Riki once was but life as a Pet calmed him down substantially. Kirie is a hot head as well.
Hologram: The 2012 OVA has them to depict every screen a character is watching. Even Riki and Mimea's "date by screen" happens via a holographic image of her.
Hypocrite/Hypocrisy Nod: Raoul more or less accuses Iason of hypocrisy for being the Blondy aggressively enforcing law and order in Tanagura yet also breaking laws for his Pet. Iason doesn't deny it as means to end the topic.
I Choose to Stay: With Iason's impending death, Riki had a chance to be free and return to the slums. He doesn't go.
I Die Free: Averted. The novel makes it clear that even though Riki was truly miserable as Iason's Pet, Riki stubbornly endured it all because he pridefully valued his life. He fought for life in Guardian, in the slums and continued so in Eos. Thus committing suicide was out of the question. This makes later events all the more tragic yet very touching when Riki decides to give up his life to die with the man he loves.
I Have You Now And I Will Never Let You Go: Iason says this to Riki when the mongrel walks into a trap set by him about a year after their first meeting. At that time Iason grabs Riki close, declares this and kidnaps Riki to make him his Pet.
I Kiss Your Foot: Riki is humiliated in the novel when he's forced to lick Iason's boot in front of the shocked Bisons.
I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Part of Riki's appeal to Iason is the fact that Riki was a charismatic, strong, prideful, defiant mongrel and leader of a gang that didn't want to be controlled. He really gets a kick out of Riki's rebellious nature so long as Riki doesn't "cheat" on him.
Inherent in the System: Iason himself acknowledges issues with Tanagura's social class system when he determines the only way he can really be with Riki is as Master and Pet due to the structure of laws. A system he helps control but does not try to outright change. Instead he bends and breaks laws to keep Riki fully knowing Riki abhors being his Pet.
Knowledge Broker: Katze has all kinds of useful information serving as an informer for Iason. Robby, an info dealer Riki visits and Zico, another info broker that Guy visits.
Last Kiss: Riki touches the ends of his and Iason's Black Moon cigarettes for a drag as their "last deep kiss" and One Last Smoke before they die.
LEGO Genetics: All over the place. Particularly how top class Pets are bred and Elites are created.
Bio-Augmentation: Elites More specifically their brains which is the only truly human component they have left.
Light Is Not Good: All the Blondies in general that have a penchant to wear white. Not exactly qualifying for Blond Guys Are Evil but all have more than questionable morals and treatment of those that aren't Elites.
Major Injury Underreaction: Twice. Aside from some pain, Riki takes having his penis cut off rather well (he doesn't have any ill will towards Guy and views the incident as Laser-Guided Karma for his previous Jerkass treatment of Guy). Other than a brief look of concern and discomfort, Iason has no reaction at all to losing his legs.note In reality the first injury would leave the victim unable to walk and screaming in pain due to the high density of sensory nerve fibers denoting the penile area; the second injury would leave the victim dead in about... 30 seconds (massive hemorrhage from multiple major blood vessels: would bleed out almost as fast as slicing someone's throat. Iason is an exception since he's not exactly human).
Misery Builds Character: Life as a Pet made Riki subdued, humble and mature. He still remained proud as ever though.
Mr. Exposition: Katze is used as this in the first OVA series often explaining what's going on to Riki (and the audience).
Modesty Bedsheet: In the OVAs. The illustrations in the novels are a bit more explicit yet censored.
Moral Myopia: Where to begin with how the Elites exploit and use the people of Ceres whether it be as Furniture or Pets? Nobody in their society seem to think it's wrong and nobody else speaks against it because they are so powerful and the Black Market sales of Pets are very lucrative. Then there's the fact the system and usage of Pets and Furniture as disposable slaves exists in the first place...
More Than Mind Control: Iason did his best to manipulate and condition the ever stubborn Riki into relying on him for help and support as a way for Riki to submit to becoming a pet of Riki's own free will.
Murder by Mistake: Guy succeeds in murdering Iason but indirectly gets Riki killed too.
Not So Stoic: In the novel and 1994 OVA, both Raoul and Katze shed their stoic facades and Katzecries cute, breaking down in tears when they learn about Iason and Riki's deaths. Also all furniture that meet Riki have trouble keeping their composure.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The novel builds the rivalry of Bison vs Jeeks/Zekes gangs coming to a head when Riki and company prepare to take down the other gang once and for all. Only the events that happened aren't told or explained. The Bisons are next seen celebrating their victory afterwards.
Oh, Crap: Riki's expression when the blast doors of Dana Burn start to come down.
Omniscient Morality License: Iason, the top ruling Blondy, kidnapped Riki and basically humiliated, tortured and raped him for 3 years. Iason's actions are never looked at as evil nor just plain wrong. It's just the way things are in Tanagura and the right of the ruling class. This also counts for the other Elites that keep Pets and Furniture.
Open Secret: That Iason is sleeping with his Pet (the hickies on Riki's neck made it obvious since Iason never coupled him with other Pets). Other Elites whisper behind his back with rumors but even Iason admits that it's an open secret due to giving Riki special treatment.
Operation Jealousy: In the novel and expanded on in the CD Dramas, Riki has forbidden sex with Mimea (a female Pet) in an effort to not only to embarrass and ruin Iason's image with scandal but to also test his feelings and make him jealous. Worked too well as a jealous and very angry Iason proceeds to sexually torture the hell out of Riki. This is also featured in the 2012 remake.
Over-the-Shoulder Carry: In the OVA and the revised edition of the novel, Iason carries Guy like this. In the original novel it was Riki that carries Guy by himself while still in pain.
A Party Also Known as an Orgy: For Pets, this is what Free Parties like the one Sir Kyle threw really are. Just a means for them to be displayed. Iason refuses to take Riki to another after concluding that only he alone may touch Riki.
Pride/Fatal Flaw: The major focal point of Riki's character. How he got into this mess, the effect being a pet has on his pride and how it prevents him from acknowledging his true feelings. Iason also has issues regarding his Blondy pride in relation to his feelings for Riki.
Questionable Consent: Much of the time Riki gives into Iason is because he's not given any other choice. It's not like Riki could tell Iason "No!" and fight him off.
Raging Stiffie: Iason often uses the Pet Ring as a Shock Collar to inflict this on Riki by arousing him and having the ring painfully tighten around the base of his erect member to prevent Riki from climaxing as a means to sexually tease him during sex. Other times it's simply to control him and/or punish him when Riki refuses to cooperate.
Rape as Backstory: Inverted with Riki. Aside from the prologue where we aren't told who the man and slave are, when we are properly introduced to Riki, he's depicted as an apathetic drug addict whose behavior worries his friends. Then in the second volume are we shown via flashback what happened as a Pet to make him that way.
Red Light District: The city of Midas is more or a less a large version of this where a lot of discarded Pets end up in brothels and peep shows.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Riki and Iason at the beginning respectively. Also Riki and Guy when they were active in Bison.
Relationship Sabotage: Guy believes Iason essentially did this, ending his and Riki's relationship when Iason stole Riki away. Guy looked to even the score. Iason also puts the breaks on Riki and Mimea.
Rescue Romance: Subverted: In the 1992 OVA, Riki offers Iason Rescue Sex (Iason gives him a handjob) as a form of payment when he is first saved by Iason but there is nothing between them aside of curiosity and physical attraction (and a great deal of lust in the novel). Towards the end, Riki accepts his feelings for Iason because the latter risked his life to save him and returns to Iason of his own volition.
Restraining Bolt/Shock Collar: Riki's Pet Ring works as this when Iason uses it to inflict pain on Riki when he won't behave himself or as a twisted form of foreplay.
Romanticized Abuse: The whole point of Iason's use of Riki's Pet Ring when it's not being used exclusively as a Restraining Bolt to force Riki to obey. Also worth noting that Iason is the only Elite ever to use it that way and as a cock ring.
Satisfied Street Rat: Subverted. Riki acts like one and everyone believes he is save for Guy and Iason.
Say My Name: In the first OVA when police ambush the Bisons. "Riki!", "Guy!", "Riki!", "GUUUUYYYY!!!"
Scenery Porn: Both the 1990s OVA and the 2012 OVA have rich and detailed environments and cityscapes depicting the futuristic world of Amoi.
Secret Relationship: The novel goes into more detail in how Riki never mentioned Iason after their first meeting to Bison and was secretive about where he was getting money from before his sudden disappearance. Riki tries to hide his Pet status when he returns but Iason blows it wide open to the gang. Subverted with Mimea and Riki when Iason thinks Riki meant for it to be secret but that was never Riki's intention.
Seme: Iason is quite a tall and dominating Blondy. In the novel, Riki used to be a seme in his previous reversible relationship (yes, despite being shorter) as he pursued that relationship and Guy did whatever Riki wanted on a whim. This reversal is logically, one of the reasons Riki hates being a Pet.
Sex for Services/Work Off the Debt: How it all started when Riki insisted after he was saved (1992 OVA) by Iason. It was to keep Iason's silence that Riki does this in the novels.
Sex God: Iason so much In-Universe that Riki can't bring himself to sleep with anyone else afterwards, afraid nobody could ever compare. Proving Iason's not just a Memetic Sex God.
Situational Sexuality: Nobody in the cast is outright specified as homosexual but engage in homosexual relationships because women are extremely rare on the world of which it takes place. This is the reason the system of "Pairing Partners" was established.
Slave Collar: Every Pet has one. They can be removed if a master wishes so.
Straw Vulcan: Played with here. Iason acting irrationally out of love for Riki results in showing the logic-bound Elites serious flaws about what they consider to be common sense.
Street Urchin: Most mongrels that never became Furniture are or were this.
The Stoic: The upper echelons of Tanagura all behave like this although certain circumstances create exceptions. Furniture are also expected to be stoic as part of their duty. Riki makes it hard for both Daryl and Cal.
Time Skip: A couple. About a year goes by between Iason and Riki's first meeting and when Iason kidnaps him from Mistral Park. About another 2 years go by between when Riki beds Mimea and is temporarily set free to return to the slums.
Title Drop: Katze does the honor here as a metaphor to describe Riki and Iason's relationship.
Uke: Riki while being a very masculine, feisty, angsty and brooding biker.
Unequal Pairing: Iason, the highest Blondy and the mongrel turned sex slave Riki.
Unwanted Harem: Riki has lots of admirers. Many that he doesn't care for. This is by no means a harem tale.
Unwanted Rescue: Riki does not want to be rescued from Iason when Guy comes to save him.
Urban Segregation: Part of the caste system. Riki is attacked in Midas partly for just being there as a mongrel.
Video Phone: Surprisingly, rarely used by Iason whose office has wireless phones in the first OVA series.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Guy is a lesser example but still went to extreme measures to free Riki of Iason. First he drugged Riki and cut off his penis against his will to remove the Pet Ring and then set off to kill Iason. He succeeded but also lost Riki as a result.
Whole Episode Flashback: Episode 4 of the remake details how Riki met Iason and Katze. Also, it shows how Riki started engaging in a forbidden relationship with Mimea just before the events of the first episode. Riki is shown drinking in a bar before the flashback begins. After the events end, it cuts back to Riki in the bar.
Wild Goose Chase: Iason follows the tracer in Riki's Pet ring believing it will lead him to Riki when it's in fact no longer on Riki and walks into a trap set by Guy.
Xanatos Gambit: Iason sends Riki back to Ceres to save his life from being executed in Eos. It gives him time to sort out his feelings for Riki, give Riki time to see how he no longer belongs in the slums and get intel on Riki's life in general as a mongrel to later manipulate him. This also yielded an...
Unintentional Backup Plan to get Riki back when he discovers Riki is actually sex starved from abstaining for more than a year.
Yank the Mongrel's Chain: Iason does this to Riki after returning to claim Riki back as his Pet. Riki is shocked to learn that he had never really been freed and was only given a breather from Eos for a year. Iason also has literally done this to Riki with his Slave Collar.
Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Sex among normal humans is all too common but taboo to Elites that are forbidden to indulge in sexual activities themselves. Furthermore, Iason choosing a mongrel for a Pet, sleeping with him and even treating him special is downright Sick and Wrong to the other Elites that reject human qualities (especially to his friend Raoul). Yet, Iason doesn't care about any of this.