In the not too distant future, the world has just recovered from a conflict that nearly ended it, and humanity is slowly becoming extinct. All this takes a back seat to the story of Ikuru.
Several years ago, Ikuru and his family had been in a grievous accident (of which he was the sole survivor) and the only way to save him was to transplant a significant amount of parts from someone else. While this was done to save his life, it turned out that in the long run, these transplanted parts were actually killing him gradually.
Thus we come to our hero, who at the story's start comes to terms with his mortality and orders a companion for him to live out his last days in relative comfort - an artificially-created girl who Ikuru names Ai. Ai gives Ikuru's remaining days a surprising amount of meaning - running him through a veritable emotional roller coaster.
This manga is a Slice of Life story set in a dystopian world, which shows off the contrasts between Ikuru and Ai's existence with the state of the world they live in. While the setting is admittedly bleak, many things (Ikuru and Ai's relationship is a significant one) show that even in mankind's darkest hour, meaning can be found amidst the end... and The Power of Love can be miraculous.
All that aside, this is a wonderful manga series that will probably never get as wide an audience as it should, because of its seinen aspects, foremost of which is Ikuru and Ai consummating their relationship, among other, smaller things.
Troper's Note: Because up to now there has been no official English translation of Ai-Ren, all quoted lines are from the Solaris-SVU fan translation.
This manga contains the following tropes:
- After the End
- Artificial Human: Ai
- Bittersweet Ending: Ai and Ikuru do die, but Haruka-sensei is raising their artificially-gestated child.
- Bleached Underpants: Kind of, because this manga has much more plot than it does porn. Tanaka-san's resume also includes Virgin Night and My Lovely Ghost Kana, which ups the plot-to-porn ratio significantly enough for this manga to technically qualify for this trope.
- Can't Have Sex, Ever: Haruka-sensei.
- Apparently, humanity in general seems to have become afflicted with this trope due to the curse.
- Contemplate Our Navels: A lot of the interaction with HITO comes across this way.
- Cozy Catastrophe: Subverted. Japan is shown to be more or less coping with the chaos in a very sedate manner. In some other parts of the world...not so much. And by the end even the Institute isn't spared.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: Carmelo Carmel
- Despair Event Horizon: Humanity as a whole subconsciously undergoes this in the form of HITO.
- Enfant Terrible: The child Ikuru carries outside the dome.
- From Bad to Worse: As the series progresses, the wider world grows increasingly bleak. What starts off as reports of famine and civil unrest eventually turns into global war and the near extinction of the human race.
- Global Warming: The weather is described as being warm and at times unpredictable, with a good chunk of the Japanese coasts flooded.
- Go Out with a Smile
- The Grim Reaper: Ikuru sees a girl's silhouette he feels to be this. It's actually an older-looking Ai. She also saw herself in that form several times.
- Haruka-sensei also sees the silhouette once or twice.
- Hope Spot: The long-lived tomato plant.
- Haruka-sensei mentioning in the end that there are other curse-free children being born around the world.
- Hot for Student: Ikuru and Haruka-sensei. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Ill Boy: Ikuru. Technically, Ai also counts as she has a limited lifespan.
- Innocent Fanservice Girl: Ai, especially in the earlier chapters.
- Ironic Echo: Soon after Ikuru acquires Ai, she strips naked and comforts him with a hug. Not long after that, Ikuru reciprocates when he finds her crying and fearful of her death after witnessing his near-death experience. Both are done in a very tender, nonsexual manner.
- Killed Off for Real: Ikuru and Ai, bordering on It Was His Sled territory.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played straight and possibly subverted with Ai. She's the silhouette of the girl Ikuru sees whenever he's close to death.
- Meaningful Name: "Love" in Japanese is "Ai".
- As is sorrow. (Same pronunciation, different kanji.)
- Mind Screw: Most of HITO's interactions with Carmelo Carmel end up being like this.
- Especially when it's revealed that HITO never existed. In fact, it was humanity's collective consciousness that came to life from a Lost Colony. And it's now basically calling mankind to kill itself for the creation of a new generation of humans.
- Minimalism: It's Tanaka Yutaka's Signature Style.
- Mood Whiplash: Also happens rather often. Chapter 40.5 has a rather jarring one.
- If it has the name Tanaka Yutaka on it, expect lots of whiplash and get some tissues handy. He's the patron saint of the trope.
- Mystical White Hair: Haruka-sensei, as befits her status as one of the Sixes, humanity's elite.
- No Export for You: Not if you know where to look.
- No Periods, Period: Averted. Ai, even though she isn't supposed to have one. Haruka-sensei ends up contemplating on the ramifications and consequences should Ai end up pregnant with Ikuru's child. Which she does.
- Odango Hair: Haruka-sensei fixes up Ai's hair in this manner once.
- Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Death
- Porn with Plot: very, very light on the "Porn" part.
- The Power of Love: It's what rescues Ikuru from despair. It also saves Haruka-sensei from her own despair at Ikuru's (impending) death.
- Punny Name: Not intentional, but "Ai" sounds a great deal like the word for "love" (ai); and the pronoun referring to oneself ("I").
- Real Men Wear Pink: Ikuru is a skilled chef.
- Scenery Porn: Happens a lot throughout the manga, but not to the point where it becomes egregious.
- Slice of Life
- Snow Means Love: Snowy Landscape: Humanity's Hometown
- Someone to Remember Him By: At the end of the series, Ai and Ikuru's child is being raised by Haruka-sensei.