Ai no Kusabi
Ai no Kusabi (間の楔, lit “The Space Between”)[n 1] 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. This futuristic tale is set in a world where the Elites are assigned various social classes based on their hair color in the city of Tanagura. Iason Mink, a high-class "Blondie", runs into Riki, a black-haired "Mongrel", and 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 Space Between|
The English first volume of the novel, subtitled Stranger
(Ai no Kusabi)
|Genre||Yaoi, science fiction|
|Written by||Rieko Yoshihara|
|Illustrated by||Katsumi Michihara|
|Published by||Koufuusha Shuppan|
|English publisher||Digital Manga Publishing|
|Original video animation|
|Directed by||Akira Nishimori|
|Written by||Naoko Hasegawa|
|Released||August 1, 1992 – May 1, 1994|
|Original video animation|
|Ai no Kusabi 2012|
|Directed by||Katsuhito Akiyama|
|Written by||Rieko Yoshihara|
|Music by||Tetsuya Takahashi|
|Released||January 18, 2012 – April 18, 2012|
The novel was partially adapted into a two-episode original video animation (OVA) by Anime International Company (AIC), with the first episode released in August 1992 and the second in May 1994. In November 1993, an audio drama entitled Erogenous Dark was released focusing on a time period left unexplored in the original novels. A new twelve-episode OVA adaptation, also from AIC, was scheduled to begin releasing in Japan in the spring of 2010, but was cancelled for financial reasons. The project was picked up again and was released on January 18, 2012. However, the series was once again discontinued after four episodes.
The novel is licensed for an English language release in North America by Digital Manga Publishing, which published the novel over an eight-volume series.
Ai no Kusabi takes place on the world of Amoï, which is ruled by a computer named Jupiter. Jupiter has introduced a number of strict social rules to society: Elites of Tanagura, Midas citizens, and Mongrels from Ceres. The Elites are genetically engineered by Jupiter, are of the highest social class, which is determined by hair color, and occupy the capital city of Tanagura. Under Jupiter's restrictions, the Elites are sterile and forbidden from indulging in sexual activities. They keep "pets" (adolescents in their late teens) for about a year, for purely voyeuristic purposes, before discarding them. Further emasculation is seen in the "Furniture", adolescent boys who serve the Elites.
Outside Tanagura's walls is the satellite pleasure city of Midas, which is heavily occupied by rich citizens and tourists alike. Near Midas is an independent slum area called Ceres. The mostly male population of Ceres lives in high poverty; therefore, they are often called "Mongrels" by both Midas citizens and Tanagura elites and are looked down upon.
Amoï is the twelfth planet in the Garan star system and was once a small, barren planet. Amoï was first settled by a group of scientists who sought to make a metropolis society unconstrained by political pressures and religious taboos. They created Tanagura as their central city and made the supercomputer named "Jupiter." Jupiter eventually attained a consciousness of its own and seized power over Tanagura. Over time, Amoï constructed the city of Midas near Tanagura and developed many independent city states, with Tanagura as the planet's governed capital.
Tanagura is the metallic city under the direct and complete control of Jupiter, who rules over Amoï. In Tanagura, Eos Tower is the palace where Jupiter's android-like elites live and work while Jupiter itself resides in its Jupiter Tower. All elites are physically perfect and beautiful, with immortal bodies and long hair, along with strength greater than normal humans. They are sterile and their highly advanced brains are the only organic part of their bodies. Tanagura applied a hair-color caste system called "NORAM" to those who work there:
- Blondie - The "elites of the elite", Blondies are the highest social class and genetically engineered by Jupiter. With only thirteen Blondies, they make up the "Tanagura Syndicate" and are the supreme leaders of Tanagura, with Iason Mink as the foremost head. They have the authority to communicate directly with Jupiter, mainly Iason, and are aware of all the secrets of Amoï and its underworld.
- Platina - Silver-haired elites that hold the highest and various leadership positions.
- Ruby, Jade, and Sapphire - Subdivided by their individual specialties, they are advisers to the Onyx elites.
- Onyx - The "face" of Tanagura, the black-haired elites are the lowest of the caste with external responsibilities. They take administrator positions and are in charge of government businesses.
- Riki (リキ, Riki)
- Voiced by: Seki Toshihiko (1990s OVAs, Audio Book & first drama CD), Kentarō Itō (2012 OVAs & later drama CD) (Japanese); Darren Mitchell (English)
- The primary protagonist of the series. Due to his dark hair and eyes, he is known as "Riki the Dark" and is the former gang leader of the Bison gang in Ceres. Considered the "charisma of the slums", Riki was once proud, rebellious, fierce, and defiant, but after his three years of being Iason's pet, he became more mature and quiet. Before becoming Iason's pet, Riki was once the lover of Guy, the second-in-command of Bison, but their relationship ended once Iason forced Riki to be his pet for three years, which had a crushing effect on his human pride. Throughout the story, Riki is torn between his pride and the feelings he has for Iason that he is unwilling to acknowledge.
- Iason Mink (イアソン・ミンク, Iason Minku)
- Voiced by: Kaneto Shiozawa (1990s OVAs, Audio Book & first drama CD), Tōru Ōkawa (2012 OVAs & later drama CD) (Japanese); Todd Haberkorn (English)
- The most superior and powerful Blondie in Tanagura, and the head of the Syndicate, Tanagura's black market for pet trade. Iason has an elegant and calm demeanor that hides a passionate, ruthless, manipulative, and unforgiving nature. He is in love with his pet Riki, a mongrel from the slums, which casts a dark shadow over his seeming perfection. At first, Iason is interested in what it would be like to have a gang leader from the slums as a pet, instead of one of those non-thinking pets bred by the Academy, but slowly he begins to love Riki to the point of obsession.
- Guy (ガイ, Gai)
- Voiced by: Kozima Takayuki (1990 drama CD), Kōji Tsujitani (1990s OVAs), Kōsuke Toriumi (2012 OVAs & later drama CD) (Japanese); Ricco Fajardo (English)
- The former pairing partner of Riki's and is second-in-command of the gang Bison. Much like Iason, he is in love with Riki, although their relationship became strained after Riki's disappearance from the slums. Once he realized the connection between Riki's disappearance for three years and Iason, Guy attempts to do whatever he can in order to retrieve Riki from Iason.
- Katze (カッツェ, Kattse)
- Voiced by: Hōchū Ōtsuka (1990 drama CD), Hideyuki Tanaka (1990s OVAs), Shin-ichiro Miki (2012 OVAs & later drama CD) (Japanese); Michael A. Zekas (English)
- A former Furniture of Iason, and Iason's right-hand man in the black market. A computer genius, he almost uncovered what he calls the "Secrets of Tanagura" during time as Iason's Furniture, but was caught in the act by Iason, who punished him by slashing his left cheek, which earned him a scar that he usually covers with his hair. Although he respects Riki, he is willing to take part in Iason's plans to make Riki return to Iason by manipulating Kirie. Despite his cool, seemingly uncaring nature, he cares for both Iason and Riki deeply and tries his best to look after both of them.
- Raoul Am (ラウール・アム, Rauru Amu)
- Voiced by: Shō Hayami (1990s OVAs & first drama CD), Takaya Kuroda (2012 OVAs & later drama CD) (Japanese); Chuck Huber (English)
- A Blondie who is the second-in-command of Tanagura, chief scientist of Tanagura, and Iason Mink's best friend. He serves as the voice of reason, concern and societal pressure as Iason's infatuation with Riki becomes more obvious. Raoul possesses the ability to tamper with minds, which he does not want to use on Iason in case his relationship with Riki worsens. In the audio book, he is voiced by Ikeda Hidekazu.
- Kirie (キリエ, Kirie)
- Voiced by: (1990s OVAs & first drama CD),
- The youngest member of Bison at 17-year-old with his right eye is colored gold to sandy brown and the left eye is colored blue. Ambitious and sly, Kirie is lured into lucrative deals by Katze as part of Iason's scheme to bring Riki back after his year of freedom. Although Riki harbors an intense hatred for Kirie because he reminds Riki of his former proud and rebellious self, Kirie possesses an obsessive love for Riki. In the audiobook, he is voiced by Taiki Matsuno. In the 1990s OVAs, he was voiced by Shigeru Nakahara. In the remake OVAs, he voiced by Showtaro Morikubo. In the English dub, he is voiced by Bryson Baugus.
- Jupiter (ユピテル, Yupiteru)
- Also known as Lambda 3000, is the artificial intelligence that rules Amoï. Often referred to as a "she", Jupiter places her android-like Blondie "children" at the pinnacle of society, whom she only allows only speak to her, mainly Iason. Although Iason is said to be her favorite "son", Jupiter disapproves of Iason's infatuation of Riki and is willing to have his mind wiped if Iason's obsession over Riki worsens. In the 1990s OVAs, she looks like a silver-colored statue in hologram form. In the remake OVAs, she takes the appearance of a large violet hologram with razor-sharped nails, a long, pointed nose, silted eyes with light violet irises with one on her forehead, a broad grin, and mechanic designs on her arms.
- Orphe Zavi (オルフェ・ザビ, Orufe Zabi)
- Voiced by: Nobuo Tobita (2012 OVAs), (Japanese); John Swasey (English)
- A Blondie and is responsible with supervising the parties, security details, and helps appease any trouble that might arise in Eos Tower. He is known as an "elegant noble" among the Blondies, and takes great pride in his position as supervisor over Eos Tower. Like all Blondies, he has a fascination over Riki, although Orphe also despises him because he was the first person to get past his security details in Eos Tower (due to Iason's former Furniture Daryl's assistance). In the remake OVAs, he is voiced by. In the English dub, he is voiced by
- Gideon Lagat (ギデオン・ラガト, Gideon Ragato)
- Voiced by: Kenyu Horiuchi (2012 OVAs), (Japanese); Marcus Stimac (English)
- A Blondie and the chief of Midas with a wicked sense of humor. Like all Blondies, he has a fascination over Riki and finds the scandals Riki causes as a source of entertainment, but he also disapproves of his actions and Iason's infatuation for him.
- Aisha Rosen (アイシャ・ローゼン, Aisha Rozen)
- Voiced by: Takehito Koyasu (2012 OVAs) (Japanese); Meli Grant. (English)
- A Blondie and is charge of overseeing Tanagura but holds little power over Eos Tower. Like all Blondies, he has a fascination over Riki, but to a lesser extent because Riki and his pet often fight with each other. He openly voices his disapproval over Riki to Iason and enjoys criticizing Iason about Riki's scandals.
- Daryl (ダリル, Dariru)
- Voiced by: Ryōtarō Okiayu (1990s OVAs & first drama CD), Eiji Hanawa (2012 OVAs & later drama CD) (Japanese); Y. Chang (English)
- An eighteen-year-old castrated boy that served as Iason's former Furniture and Riki's caretaker. Like all Furnitures in Tanagura, Daryl was raised in Ceres at the orphanage, Guardian, along with Riki. Despite being three years older than Riki and having never met him in Guardian, Daryl knew Riki by his reputation and admired him. Daryl loved him because of his pride and his will not to bow down, which continued when Daryl met Riki again when he first came to Tanagura. As Riki's caretaker, Daryl tried his best effort to look after Riki, much to Riki's annoyance, while still maintaining his distance. Although Riki never treated with Daryl with a lot of respect, he found a comfortable companion in Daryl, who was dutiful, kind, and taught him the rules of Tanagura. Like Katze, Daryl was skilled at hacking, and used this talent to hack Eos Tower's security system to help Riki escape. Having aided an escape attempt and hacking Tanagura's system, he is executed for his crimes; however, Daryl did not regret his actions, as he was happy that Riki was still himself. Although most of Eos Tower knows of Daryl's fate, Riki never knew that Daryl tried to helped him or that he was killed for his actions. Knowing that Riki will feel guilty for Daryl's death and would keep Daryl's memory in his heart, Iason kept Daryl's death as a secret from Riki and told him that Daryl was replaced by Cal due to rearrangement with the Furnitures.
- Mimea (ミメア, Mimea)
- Voiced by: Emi Shinohara (1990s OVAs & first drama CD), Shiho Kawaragi (2012 OVAs and later drama CD) (Japanese); Elizabeth Maxwell (English)
- Raoul Am's female Pet of the highest breeding and Riki's only friend in Eos. Unlike most pets, she was kind to Riki and fell in love with him, which led to them having forbidden intercourse. Although Riki did cared for her, he used her as a way to test Iason's feelings and make him jealous and ruin his public image. When the affair went public, Iason punished Riki and forced him to tell Mimea the motive behind his actions over a holoscreen. However, Mimea insisted that it was made just to push her and Riki apart, and she told Riki that she will be paired to another pet named Jena, whom she described as a sex freak with nothing but his looks and that thinking of carrying his children pained her. As Riki was silent because his pet ring was fully activated at that time and he had a hard time speaking and breathing, this led Mimea to think that he had abandoned her and calling him a coward. When Riki returned to Eos Tower after three years, Raoul replaced Mimea with a new pet, and Riki never heard what happened to her.
- Luke (ルーク, Ruke)
- Voiced by: Shigeru Chiba (1990s OVAs & first drama CD), Masahiro Yamanaka (2012 OVAs and later drama CD) (Japanese); Tyson Rinehart (English)
- A friend and member of Riki's former gang Bison from Ceres. Although typically easy-going, Luke is daring and cares deeply about his friends. While Luke is known to prefers virgins as pairing partners, Luke has an infatuation towards Riki and is the only member in Bison to shows his desire openly, but backs off once Riki makes it clear he's uninterested.
- Norris (ノリス, Norisu)
- Voiced by: Kikuchi Masami (1990s OVAs & first drama CD), Makoto Aoki (2012 OVAs and later drama CD) (Japanese); Matt Shipman (English)
- A friend and member of Riki's former gang Bison from Ceres. Much like Luke, Norris is energetic and easy-going, though has shown a thoughtful side at times. Although Norris once had a secret infatuation towards Riki, Norris found a serious and happy relationship with Maxi, a mechanic ten years older than him. In the 1990s OVAs, he was voiced by. In the remake OVAs, he voiced by.
- Sid (シド, Shido)
- Voiced by: Hideyuki Hori (1990s OVAs & first drama CD), Yasuhiro Mamiya (2012 OVAs and later drama CD) (Japanese); Austin Tindle (English)
- A friend and member of Riki's former gang Bison from Ceres. Compare to the other members of Bison, Sid is more quiet and stoic, and is a good fighter. Like Luke and Norris, Sid has an infatuation towards Riki, but he kept his desires a secret out of respect for Guy. During Riki's three-year "disappearance" from Ceres, Sid was the one who recruited Kirie into Bison as the teenager's proud rebelliousness reminded him of Riki.
- Cal (キャル, Kyaru)
- Voiced by: Tsutomu Kashiwakura
- The young castrated boy that serves as Iason's Furniture and Riki's caretaker, replacing Daryl after his death. Much like Daryl, Cal is dutiful and quiet, but wasn't overly attentive to Riki as Daryl was. As Riki met Cal after he learns that all Furniture are secretly from Ceres, Riki treats Cal with more respect than he did with Daryl, and the two established a more professional relationship, as Riki wishes not to get attached to Cal.
- Gilbert (ギルバート, Girubato)
- Voiced by: Keith Silverstein (English)
- Hubert (ヒューバート, Hyubato)
- Voiced by: Patrick M. Seymour (English)
- Marcus (マーカス, Makisu)
- Voiced by: Lucas Schuneman (English)
- Jeek Leader (ジークリーダー)
- Voiced by: Clifford Chapin (English)
- Jeek Lackey (ジーク・ラッキー)
- Voiced by: Jordan Dash Cruz (English)
Written by Rieko Yoshihara, the individual chapters of Ai no Kusabi were serialized in the yaoi magazine Shousetsu June between December 1986 and October 1987. The chapters were collected and published as a single hardbound novel in 1990. The series was later released in a revised and greatly expanded paperback edition from Seibidō Shuppan under their Crystal imprint, however the Crystal edition is incomplete, covering only six of eight books. The series was then acquired by Tokuma Shoten and a complete edition was published in six volumes under their Chara imprint; the first four are semi-omnibus (volumes 1-4 correspond to Crystal volumes 1-6) and the final two are the previously unreleased material. The novel was licensed for an English language release in North America by Digital Manga Publishing (DMP). The English edition from Juné was originally based on the Crystal edition, and will have eight volumes (corresponding to Crystal 1-6 plus Chara 5 and 6). The first volume was released on November 20, 2007 and the sixth on July 28, 2009. After a long hiatus, caused in part by re-negotiation required by the change in Japanese publisher, the remaining two volumes, Volume 7 and Volume 8, were released on August 29, 2012, and on April 24, 2013, respectively. In June 2009, DMP made the first volume of Ai no Kusabi, Stranger, available as an Amazon Kindle e-book.
The first spin-off from the novels was an audiobook released on May 31, 1989.
Five soundtracks were released:
- 間の楔 オリジナル・サウンド・トラック (Ai no Kusabi Original Soundtrack) (10 October 1992)
- 間の楔 SENSE OF CRISIS (10 December 1993)
- 間の楔 AMBIVALENCE (25 March 1994)
- 間の楔 SYMPATHY (10 July 1994)
- 間の楔 Sound Selection of "AI NO KUSABI" 祈り-ORACION- (25 January 1995)
The first drama CD was released in November 1993 under the name "間の楔 DARK-EROGENOUS". Three more drama CDs were later released by a different company throughout 2007 and 2008.
- 間の楔I 〜DESTINY〜 (25 May 2007)
- 間の楔II 〜NIGHTMARE〜 (25 April 2008)
- 間の楔III 〜RESONANCE〜 (25 October 2008)
Original video animationsEdit
Anime International Company created a two-episode Original Video Animation adaptation for the series. The first episode was released in August 1992, and the second in May 1994. Directed by Akira Nishimori and Katsuhito Akiyama, the episodes were based on a screenplay written by Naoko Hasegawa. They featured character designs by Naoyuki Onda and music composed by Toshio Yabuki. The plot slightly differed from the novels' storyline, but kept the main story points intact.
|#||Title||Director||Screenplay||Original release date|
|1||TBA||Akira Nishimori||Naoko Hasegawa||August 1992|
Riki, a dark-haired mongrel from the slums and proud leader of the street gang Bison, is attacked by another gang when Tanagura elite Blondie, Iason Mink, saves him. Not willing to be indebted to him, Riki offers his body to Iason, only to have the Blondie kidnapped him from his home and forced him to become his pet. After three years, Riki returns to Ceres and reunites with Guy, his former pairing partner, and his gang. Easing back into his former life, Riki keeps silent about his time with Iason and meets Kirie, Bison's newest member, who he develops an intense dislike for. While sneaking to Mistral Park to see a Pet Auction, Riki sees Iason again for the first time since his release. Despite his friend Raoul Am's concerns, Iason plans to manipulate Riki back to Tanagura out of his love for the slum mongrel. Iason uses his underling, Katze, and Kirie to set up a trap to capture Riki and Bison.Kirie lures Bison into a bodyguard job to help transfer pets, but Riki is apprehensive and visits Katze. While not telling what Iason was planning, Katze reveals to Riki that he was Iason's former Furniture and gained his scar for finding out the secrets of Tanagura. Katze warns Riki if he wants to be free from Iason, he would have to leave Tanagura, but despite that, Riki decides that Bison would take Kirie's offer. Bison is ambushed and arrested by the Midas police, but Riki is freed due to his pet registration still being active. Meanwhile, Kirie comes to collect his payment for his role in Bison's capture, but is betrayed by Iason and is forced to "learn the ways of Tanagura". At home, Riki is visited by Iason, who gives him an ultimatum: come back to Eos Tower or have his friends stay in prison. To protect his friends, Riki agrees to return to Iason as his pet and cut his ties with Guy, infuriating his former lover when he tells him that he would be a Blondie's pet.
|2||TBA||Katsuhito Akiyama||Naoko Hasegawa||May 1994|
Riki's return to Eos Tower causes an uproar to the elites and pets who live there, forcing Riki to endure their contempt for him. While remembering his first time in Eos, where he suffered pain and humiliation, Riki accepts his place with Iason as their relationship continues. On Riki's request, Iason allows him to work for Katze in the Black Market, prompting the latter to question his boss if he truly loves Riki. At work, Riki spots a former pet of Eos failing to run away from being sold to a brothel. Katze informs Riki that all pets were to live the rest of their lives that way once their masters lose interest in them and asks Riki if he realize just how lucky he is compare to the others, shocking him. Blinded by jealousy, Guy decides to take Riki back and kidnaps him to Dana Bahn, but Riki tells that he would never be free from Iason. Enraged, Guy performs a penectomy to remove Riki's pet ring and uses its tracer to bait Iason to Dana Bahn in order to kill him. Before Iason leaves for Dana Bahn, he and Raoul talk about how if Iason's love for Riki were to worsen, Jupiter will have Raoul temper with his mind, which he refuses to do to his friend.When Iason and Guy confront each other, Iason crushes Guy's left arm after discovering what Guy had done to Riki. With Katze's help, Riki is able to get to Dana Bahn just as Guy sets off the bombs he planted. Pleading with Iason to save a beaten Guy, they slowly make their way out, but the explosion causes debris to fall. As the gates collapse, Iason manages to get Riki and Guy through it at the price of his legs and tells Riki to take Guy and leave him. Outside, Riki gives Guy to Katze and goes back inside to die with Iason. Smoking a poisonous Black Moon cigarette to lessen the pain, Riki and Iason share their "last deep kiss" and perish together. While Jupiter, Raoul, Katze, and a one-armed Guy mourn their deaths, Katze voices how Riki and Iason did love each other in the end while Guy reflects about the grief that he had caused.
A second, twelve-episode anime OVA adaptation, also from AIC, was scheduled to begin releasing in Japan Fall 2010. Due to financial issues, production was cancelled for a period of time, but has now been taken up again and was scheduled for January 18, 2012 instead. Akiyama directed again and Onda provided the character designs. The screenplay was written by Yoshihara herself. The Blu-ray release of the OVA included a new short story by Yoshihara.
Since the eight minutes preview, the first four episodes have been released. Anime licensor Media Blasters announced they licensed the remake first four OVAs for North American release in December 2012. However, on November 28, 2012, they notified retailers that it will be delayed until April 23, 2013. On October 11, 2017, Media Blasters announced they will be re-releasing Ai no Kusabi on Blu-ray with English dub, which was released on December 19, 2017. On September 20, 2018, Toku adds Ai no Kusabi to its streaming service, allowing viewers to watch the OVAs in Japanese with English subtitles.
Since the fourth episode's premiere in 2012, the remake have been discontinued for unknown reasons.
|#||Title||Director||Screenplay||Original release date|
|1||"~petere Caged Beast~"|
"~petere Kanjū~" (Japanese: ~petere 檻獣~)
|Katsuhito Akiyama||Rieko Yoshihara||January 18, 2012|
|Riki has a forbidden affair with Raoul's pet, Mimea, and undergoes punishment from a jealous Iason. Reprimanding Riki while sexually stimulating him, Iason temporarily asserts control over Riki. Two years later, a still rebellious Riki goes to the front gates of Eos Tower and reflects on how living in the slums of Ceres had been better than his current pampered prison. Daryl, Iason's Furniture and Riki's caretaker, observes Riki standing at the front gates and wonders if Riki still has the pride to free himself. Hacking the security system and unlocking the gates, Daryl helps Riki escape, though he is soon recaptured by the guards. The security breach catches the attention of Iason and the other Blondies on the security council, who agree Daryl must be executed for the crime he committed and that Riki must be punished. Iason interrogates Daryl, who admits to helping Riki escape and attributes it to his admiration of Riki's strong will. Iason decides to let Riki return to Ceres for a year of freedom, thinking Riki's lapsed familiarity with living in Ceres will force him to return to him.|
|2||"~pardo Broken Wings~"|
"~pardo Setsuyoku~" (Japanese: ~pardo 折翼~)
|Katsuhito Akiyama||Rieko Yoshihara||February 15, 2012|
Arriving to his home in Ceres, Riki goes to sleep on his first night of freedom. Meanwhile, Iason continues his duties as a Blondie and confirms to Katze that Riki is no longer with him, although the latter assumes that Riki was killed. Traveling through Midas, Katze compares the greedy and lustful citizens to the slums mongrels, whom are looked down by others and must steal to survive. Nights later, Kirie is chased down by the gang members of Jeeks, but manages to hide in the same location Riki was smoking at. While Kirie hides, the Jeeks confront Riki, only to have Riki badmouthed them, which provoked a fight. After Riki easily defeats the Jeeks as Kirie watches on in amazement, he is reunited with his former gang, Bison, when they came to find Kirie. Overjoyed to see him, Bison warmly welcomes Riki back, especially Guy, whom embraces his former pairing partner.With news of Riki's comeback spread through the slums, mixed feelings from other slums residents emerge, as they notice how different Riki is from after his three years of absent. Keeping his time with Iason a secret, Riki enjoys his freedom and spends most of his time with Guy, who also wonders what happened to Riki. One night, Kirie mentions how he is willing to become a pet to the elites to get out of the slums, angering Riki. Seeing Riki's current state, Guy recalls one night before Riki's "disappearance" when he that came home with expensive wine. Guy had asked Riki if gotten into any trouble for earn money, but Riki ignored his question and voiced how he will get out of the slums one day. Back to the present, Guy tries to hold Riki's hand, only to have Riki move away, and thinks about how Riki no longer opens up to him.
"~congressus Kaikō~" (Japanese: ~congressus 邂逅~)
|Katsuhito Akiyama||Rieko Yoshihara||March 21, 2012|
Half a year has passed since Riki's return to Ceres, who is easing back into his life in the slums. While Riki participates in an airbike race one day, Kirie suggests that Bison goes to see a Pet Auction that would be held soon in Mistral Park. Although Riki is uninterested, Kirie goads him into going as Guy notes Riki's strange behavior. Meanwhile, Iason, who is still longing for Riki, is carrying out his duties as a Blondie in Tanagura. With the Pet Auction drawing near, Raoul invites Iason since he feels that it is time for Iason to obtain a new pet, and Iason reluctantly agrees to go. Back in the slums, Norris, a member of Bison, advises Riki to settle things with Guy properly since he had never broken off his pairing with him when he "disappeared" from Ceres. Despite feeling guilty for leading Guy on, Riki cannot bring himself to end his pairing with Guy.On the day of the Pet Auction, Riki and Bison rides into Mistral Park discreetly as Riki's dislike for Kirie grows. During their tour, Riki and Guy reminisce about their time in Guardian, leading Guy to comment how Kirie is like Riki three years ago, much to Riki's annoyance. As they observe the pets on display, Riki and Kirie spark an argument about the division between the slums and the citizens on Midas. Having spent enough time in the city, Bison decides it was time to leave, despite Kirie' objections. However, Riki spots Iason's arrival and the two clash eyes for first time since Riki's release, causing Riki to have a panic attack and force Bison to retreat. Kirie stays behind to have an audience with Iason in hopes to find a way out of the slums. Once the auction was over, Iason, who recalls his unexpected encounter with Riki earlier that night, and orders Katze to take Kirie as his underling without revealing his plans to Katze.
"~retino Inbaku~" (Japanese: ~retino 淫縛~)
|Katsuhito Akiyama||Rieko Yoshihara||April 18, 2012|
While drinking at a bar, a frustrated Riki thinks back to the events that lead to his meeting with Iason three years ago: While pick-pocketing in Midas, a fifteen-year-old Riki is caught by Iason, who allowed him to go free on a whim. Unable to feel indebted to him, Riki invited Iason to a hotel and offered his body to repay him. Iason initially refused, but Riki incited him to accept his offer by mocking his pride. Without removing his clothes, Iason engaged in foreplay with Riki. Three months later, Riki landed a job as a courier in the black market due to his friend Zack, who arranged a meeting with their boss, Katze. Although the other employees treated Riki terribly for being a slum mongrel, Katze and Riki formed a mutual respect for each other and Katze took Riki under his wing. During work, Katze showed Riki illegal pets, which disgusted him, but Katze lectured Riki at how to get ahead in the world, Riki would be forced to do things he won't like.Not long afterwards, Riki encountered Iason on the highway on his way home from his job. Out of anger and impulse, Riki followed him back to his work building. Sneaking in, Riki stumbled in a room that caged an experimental prototype of a pet used for military purposes, which ran away once Iason revealed his presence to Riki. While Riki demanded to know where the exit was, Iason scolded Riki for his excessive curiosity. Shocked when Iason knew his name and that he had a connection to Katze, Riki inquired Iason about his identity for the first time before he is kidnapped and forced him to become Iason's pet. During his "training", Riki was forced to endure deep humiliation at Iason's hands and contempt from the other pets. Although Riki tried his best to remain isolated, he befriended a female pet, Mimea. When the other pets caught wind of their secret relationship, they alerted the police, who barged in after Riki and Mimea engaged in sexual intercourse. Snapping back to the present, a distraught Riki contemplates on his unpleasant memories as he takes a walk in the rain.
Mania's Danielle Van Gorder felt the prose of the first novel was "florid", and criticized the finishing point of the second novel as anticlimactic. She found the characterization of Iason in the third novel to be realistic and compelling, and felt the theme of the fourth novel was power. Jonathan Clements compared Yoshihara's writing style to "Ranpo Edogawa's sexually charged mysteries" and felt Ai no Kusabi shared themes with Shōzō Numa's science fiction.
Patrick Drazen has described the Ai no Kusabi OVA as a "magnum opus" of the yaoi genre, and the setting as dystopian, similar to Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy liken the society of Ai no Kusabi to that of Ancient Greece, where power was restricted to a class and women do not figure significantly. They consider it ironic that Jupiter is a feminine computer, and describe her as being like Ghost in the Shell's Motoko Kusanagi — Jupiter is "a man-made idea of the female in a world run by masculine elites". Anime News Network's Maral Agnerian praised its interesting, well-developed plot and "fleshed out and complex" work. She also praises it for being one of the few series from its time to contain "actual gay sex in it instead of the usual angsty moping and shoujo-esque sparkly kisses", while noting that the scenes are primarily in the second episode. Anime News Network's Justin Sevakis highlighted the OVA as a "Buried Treasure", calling it "one of the best yaoi anime". He described Riki and Iason as both being "alpha-males", rather than a seme/uke pairing, and noted how the costuming was elegant for the higher echelons of society and revealing for the lower classes. He criticized the OVA's adaptation of the story, explaining that it was assumed all viewers would be already familiar with the tale through Shousetsu June.
- Aestheticism describes the title as "untranslatable". Digital Manga Publishing includes the English translation The Space Between on the covers of its release of the series. In its English website, AIC refers to the series as Wedge of Interval. In the first edition of the Anime Encyclopedia it was listed as Ties of Love, which refers to the alternate meaning of "ai no kusabi" as a "pledge of love". Many other fan translations are known.
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