Ai no Kusabi

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“Ai no Kusabi” is a two-volume yaoi (male gay) anime released in 1992 and 1994. It is based on a serialized novel by Rieko Yoshihara, who is, like the majority of creators and consumers of yaoi, female. The title seems like a double play on words, with the Ai (間) meaning a space between two things, but also being a homophone for Ai (愛), love; and Kusabi meaning a wedge, which can fill in a space, but can also split something apart. It features great Character Designs by Naoyuki Onda (Character Designer on “Sol Bianca”, and “Legend of the Galactic Heroes”).

In the distant future, on the socially stratified planet, Amoi, mankind has been separated and grouped by class under the watchful eyes of an omnipotent computer system, “Jupiter”. On the top of this hierarchical pyramid are the “Blondies”, who reside in the condominium towers of the city of Tanagura. They have been artificially bred by the computers to be the rulers, genetically superior to the rest of mankind. On the bottom are the natural born, so called “Mongrels” from the neighboring pleasure city Midas’ slums, Ceres.

In an attempt to crawl his way up from the bottom, “Riki the Dark”, from the biker gang “Bison”, leaves Ceres. While being roughed up by his supposed betters in Midas, he is unexpectedly saved by the top Blondie, Iason Mink. Drawn to Riki’s proud nature, and the willful spite he has for those who consider themselves above him, Iason makes Riki, a Mongrel, his “Pet”. Blondies, who are supposed to be above the rest of humanity, aren’t allowed to taint themselves through sexual intercourse. Instead, they like to watch, and the system allows them this pleasure by letting them keep young, beautiful people, “Pets”, to use in demeaning, fetishistic private and public spectacles. However, Riki remains resilient, and no matter how many humiliating sexual acts Iason forces him to perform, he is still never completely “tamed”. In turn, Iason becomes more attached to Riki, even to the point of breaking the taboo, sleeping with his “Pet”. Because Riki asks him, but actually because he fears he is destroying what makes Riki special to him, Iason releases Riki after three years.

Riki returns to his gang, Bison, and to his childhood friend and former “Pairing Partner” (lover), Guy. But, despite freeing him, and being cautioned by his friend, Raoul to preserve his reputation as top Blondie, Iason can’t really let go of Riki, so he manipulates and crushes Bison to get Riki back. Riki, in turn, despite being humiliated and abused by him, is inexorably drawn to Iason, and returns to his “master”. Guy, knowing Riki as a man who would bow to no one, refuses to believe that Riki would willingly submit to a life as low as a lapdog, and also vehemently despises Iason for destroying Bison, a symbolic mirage of an illusionary freedom. Guy seeks to free Riki from Iason; and Iason loves Riki, but only expresses this in ways that are killing Riki’s spirit.

It’s hard to know what to say about “Ai no Kusabi”. For a sexually explicit anime, the characters are well fleshed out with understandable motivations. But there are flaws in the story itself that ghettoize this title. It doesn’t blame all the characters’ problems on their warped, dystopian society; it skillfully shows how the characters’ own actions are wrong, alienating, and self destructive, but then tries to have it both ways, by consistently requiring the considerable talents of the production team to portray beauty and love in sexual man-on-man sadomasochism.

 Ai no Kusabi 01

 Ai no Kusabi 02

 Ai no Kusabi 03

 Ai no Kusabi 04
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Curator: guyvariii
Gallery Created: 1/21/2004

Presentation 8.65/10   Collection 9.12/10   Overall 8.70/10   Votes 65 votes
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