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Literature / Ai no Kusabi

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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.


  • Abduction Is Love: Iason initially kidnapped Riki and made him a Pet to be with him.
  • Alien Sky: Amoi has two moons that were featured in the second part of the 1990s OVA and the 2012 OVA.
  • 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.
  • Animated Adaptation: The two original anime video series. The first being a partial adaptation and the second being closer to the novel.
  • Between My Legs: The first OVA has one shot between Riki's legs of a gang before he gets into a brawl with them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Depending on the viewer since Riki and Iason find happiness and solace in each others' arms despite dying.
  • Brains and Bondage: Iason is the smartest, most superior of the Blondies and viewed by Jupiter as perfect. He also really enjoys dominating 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.
  • 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.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': Riki often caused trouble in hopes he'd be discarded by Iason. He was only punished once when he slept with another Pet.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Elites (particularly Blondies) are not allowed to have sex. And with the way their artificial bodies were designed, Elites are not even supposed to feel true pain or pleasure. So its a surprise to Iason when the first time he has sex with Riki he does feel genuine pleasure from the act.
  • Close on Title: The first 1992 OVA shows the title right before the end credits roll.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Iason flies into fits of rage every time Riki even looks at someone else.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dude Magnet: The novel explains that a lot of men out there want Riki. Even the guys of his gang and Riki isn't aware of his natural stoic charm and charisma attracting them all.
  • 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.
  • Extreme Mle Revenge: After punching Guy in a rage, Iason proceeds to tear off Guy's left arm for the latter withholding Riki and giving him a penectomy. Iason tells Riki that it was justified retribution.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • From Bad to Worse: Guy comes along and kidnaps Riki back 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 lavish but still a prison for him. The condo Iason gets him in Apatia is a big improvement yet still a cage.
  • Hypocrite: 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Loophole Abuse: Iason claims that since Riki is a mongrel, rules concerning pets don't apply to him.
  • 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 
  • Not So Stoic: In the novel and 1994 OVA, both Raoul and Katze shed their stoic facades and Katze cries 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.
  • One Last Smoke: Iason and Riki share a Last Kiss in the form of touching their cigarettes together before dying.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Iason uses Riki's Pet Ring to inflict pain on Riki when he won't behave himself or as a twisted form of foreplay.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Subverted. This is the general belief of Elites but they have enhanced organic human brains making them not count as androids but closer to cyborgs.
  • 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.
  • Shadow Archetype: Kirie is this to Riki. He is very much like Riki before his ordeal as a Pet and serves as a reminder to Riki of what kind of Jerkass he could have become.
  • Shameful Strip: The novel explains that as a way to "discipline" and train Riki to be accustomed to being nude, Iason has him stripped of his clothes and kept naked for a month.
  • 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.
  • Tender Tears: Riki tears up upon seeing Iason's mutilated legs and having to leave him behind to die.
  • Tempting Fate: Guy tells Iason that he won't get Riki back even if it's "Over My Dead Body" to which Iason Immediately Begins To Pummel him to death. Riki intervenes and saves Guy.
  • Time Skip: 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.
  • Tracking Device: All Pet rings have them built in. Riki is easily found after escaping from Eos because of it. Riki also had a knife which had a tracer Katze placed in it.
  • 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.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Guy 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Ai No Kusabi