Ai no Kusabi
|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||Reiko Yoshihara|
|Music by||Tetsuya Takahashi|
|Licensed by||Media Blasters|
|Released||January 18, 2012 – April 18, 2012|
Ai no Kusabi (間の楔?)[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 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.
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' social status is determined by purity of hair color, not the commonly misconceived "blond to black" order. It is the purity of the genes that make them elite. Elite redheads are called "Rubies," blackhaired are called "Onyx." Mixed people are called Mongrels. The Elites, genetically engineered by Jupiter, are the highest social class and occupy the capital city of Tanagura. They travel to the satellite pleasure city of Midas, which has an independent slum area called Ceres. 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.
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 create Tanagura as their central metropolis 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 plant's governed capitol.
Tanagura is the metallic city under the direct and complete control of Jupiter, who ruled over Amoï. In Tanagura, Eos Tower is the palace where Jupiter's androids-like elites lived and work while Jupiter itself resident 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 to Jupiter, mainly Iason, and are aware of all of secrets 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 administrators positions and are in charge of government businesses.
- Riki (リキ): Riki, known as "Riki the Black", is the former gang leader of Bison in Ceres. In the audio book, 1990s OVAs, and the first drama CD, he is voiced by Seki Toshihiko. In the later drama CDs and the remake OVAs, he is voiced by Kentarō Itō.
- Iason Mink: Iason is the most superior and powerful Blondie in Tanagura, and the head of the Syndicate, Tanagura's black market for pet trade. In the audio book, 1990s OVAs, and first drama CD, he is voiced by Kaneto Shiozawa. In the later drama CDs and remake OVAs, he is voiced by Tōru Ōkawa.
- Guy (ガイ): Guy is the former pairing partner of Riki's, and second-in-command of the gang Bison. In the audio book, he is voiced by Kozima Takayuki (小島貴幸). In the 1990s OVAs, he is voiced by Kōji Tsujitani. In the later drama CDs and remake OVAs, he is voiced by Kōsuke Toriumi.
- Katze (カッツェ): Katze was a former furniture of Iason, and Iason's right-hand man in the black market. In the audio book, he is voiced by Hōchū Ōtsuka. In the 1990s OVAs, he is voiced by Hideyuki Tanaka. In the later drama CDs and remake OVAs, he is voiced by Shin-ichiro Miki.
- Raoul Am: Raoul is a Blondie, the second-in-command of Tanagura, and Iason Mink's best friend. In the audio book, he is voiced by Ikeda Hidekazu. In the 1990s OVAs and first drama CD, he is voiced by Shō Hayami. In the later drama CDs and remake OVAs, he is voiced by Takaya Kuroda.
- Kirie (キリエ): Kirie is the youngest member of Bison at seventeen years old with his right eye is colored gold to sandy brown and the left eye is colored blue. 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.
- Jupiter: Jupiter, also known as Lambda 3000, is the Artificial Intelligence that rules Amoï.
- Orphe Zavi: Orphe is a Blondie that supervises the parties, security details, and helps appease any trouble that might arise in Eos Tower. In the remake OVAs, he is voiced by Nobuo Tobita.
- Gideon Lagat: Gideon is a Blondie and the chief of information in Tanagura with a wicked sense of humor. In the remake OVAs, he is voiced by Kenyu Horiuchi.
- Aisha Rosen: Aisha is a Blondie that oversees Tanagura but holds little power over Eos Tower. In the remake OVAs, he is voiced by Takehito Koyasu.
- Daryl (ダリル): Daryl was an eighteen-year-old castrated boy that served as Iason's former Furniture, Riki's caretaker and was responsible for the household chores. In the first drama CD, he is voiced by Ryōtarō Okiayu and by Eiji Hanawa in the later drama CDs and remake OVAs.
- Mimea (ミメア): Mimea was Raoul Am's female Pet of the highest breeding. In the first drama CD, she was voiced by Emi Shinohara and by Shiho Kawaragi in the later drama CDs and remake OVAs.
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 animations
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.
|1||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, saved him. Not willing to be indebted to him, Riki offered 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 returned to Ceres and reunited with Guy, his former pairing partner, and his gang. Easing back into his former life, Riki kept silent about his time with Iason and met Kirie, Bison newest member, who he developed an intense dislike for. While sneaking to Mistral Park to see a Pet Auction, Riki saw Iason again for the first time since his release. Despite Raoul's concerns and reminding him of the rules of Tanagura, Iason planned to manipulate Riki back to Tanagura out of his love for the slum mongrel. Iason used his underling, Katze, and Kirie to set up a trap to capture Riki and Bison.Kirie lured Bison into a bodyguard job to help transferred pets, but Riki was apprehensive and visited Katze. While not telling what Iason was planning, Katze revealed to Riki that he was Iason's former Furniture and gained his scar for finding out the secrets of Tanagura. Katze warned Riki if he wants to be free from Iason, he would have to leave Tanagura, but despite that, Riki decided that Bison would take Kirie's offer. Bison was ambushed and arrested by the Midas police, but Riki was freed due to his pet registration was still active. Meanwhile, Kirie came to collect his payment for his role in Bison's capture, but was betrayed by Iason and was forced to "learn the ways of Tanagura". At home, Riki was visited by Iason, who gave him an ultimatum - come back to Eos Tower or have his friends stay in prison. To protect his friends, Riki agreed to return to Iason as his pet and cut his ties with Guy, infuriating his former lover when he told him that he would be a Blondie's pet.
|2||Katsuhito Akiyama||Naoko Hasegawa||May 1994|
Riki's return to Eos Tower caused an uproar to the elites and pets who lives there, forcing Riki to endure their contempt for him. While remembering his first time in Eos, where he suffered pain and humiliation, Riki accepted his place with Iason as their relationship continued. On Riki's request, Iason allowed him to work for Katze again in the Black Market, prompting the latter to question his boss if he truly loves Riki. While Riki was working, he spotted a former pet of Eos failing to run away from being sold to a brothel. Katze told Riki that all pets were to lived the rest of their lives that way once their masters lose interest in them and asked Riki if he realized just how lucky he is compare to the others, shocking him. Blinded by jealousy, Guy decided to take Riki back and kidnapped him to Dana Bahn, but Riki told that he would never be free from Iason. Enraged, Guy performed a penectomy to removed Riki's pet ring and used its tracer to bait Iason to Dana Bahn in order to kill him. Before Iason left for Dana Bahn, he and Raoul talked about how if Iason's love for Riki were to worsen, Jupiter will take action and have Raoul temper with his mind, which he refused to do to his friend.When Iason and Guy confronted each other, Iason crushed Guy's left arm after discovering what Guy had done to Riki. With Katze's help, Riki was able to get to Dana Bahn just as Guy set off the bombs he planted. Pleading with Iason to save a beaten Guy, they slowly make their way out, but the explosion caused debris to fall. As the gates collapsed, Iason managed to get Riki and Guy through it at the price of his legs and told Riki take Guy and leave him. Outside, Riki gave Guy to Katze and goes back inside to die with Iason. Smoking a poisonous Black Moon cigarette to lessen the pain, Riki and Iason shared their "last deep kiss" and perished together. While Jupiter, Raoul, Katze, and a one-armed Guy mourned their deaths, Katze voiced how Riki and Iason did love each other in the end and Guy reflected 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 but has now been taken up again and was scheduled for January 18, 2012 instead. Akiyama will direct again and Onda will provided the character designs. The screenplay will be written by Yoshihara herself. The Blu-ray release of the OVA will include 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.
"~petere Kanjū~" (~petere 檻獣~)
|Katsuhito Akiyama||Rieko Yoshihara||January 18, 2012|
Riki has a forbidden affair with another "pet" (human sex slave) and undergoes punishment from his jealous owner Iason. Reprimanding Riki while sexually stimulating him, Iason temporarily asserts control over Riki. Two years later, still rebellious Riki goes to the front gates of Eos Tower and reflects on how living in the slums of nearby Ceres had been better than his current pampered prison.Daryl, Iason's Furniture (a castrated, general housekeeper) 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 street living will force him to return, finally broken.
|2||"~pardo Broken Wings~"
"~pardo Setsuyoku~" (~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 continued his duties as a Blondie and confirmed to Katze that Riki is no longer with him, although the latter assumed that Riki was killed. Traveling through Midas, Katze compared 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 managed to hide in the same location Riki was smoking at. While Kirie was hiding, the Jeeks confronted Riki, only to have Riki badmouthed them, which provoked a fight. After Riki easily defeated the Jeeks as Kirie watched on in amazement, he is reunited with his former gang, Bison, when they came to find Kirie. Overjoyed to see him, Bison warmly welcomed Riki back, especially Guy, whom embraced his former pairing partner.With news of Riki's comeback spread through the slums, mixed feelings from other slums residents noticed how different Riki is from after his three years of absent. Keeping his time with Iason a secret, Riki enjoys his freedom and spent most of his time with Guy, who also wondered what happen to Riki. One night, Kirie mentioned how he was willing to become a pet to the elites to get out of the slums, which angered Riki. Seeing Riki's current state, Guy recalled one night before Riki's "disappearance" when he that came home with expensive wine. Guy 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 tried to hold Riki's hand, only to have Riki moved away, and thought about how Riki no longer opens up to him.
"~congressus Kaikō~" (~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 participated in airbike race one day, Kirie suggested that Bison goes to see a Pet Auction that would be held soon in Mistral Park. Although Riki was uninterested, Kirie goaded him into going as Guy noted 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 invited Iason since he feels that it is time for Iason to attain a new pet, and Iason reluctantly agreed to go. Back in the slums, Norris, a member of Bison, advised 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 could not bring himself to end his pairing with Guy.On the day of the Pet Auction, Riki and Bison rode into Mistral Park discreetly as Riki's dislike for Kirie grows. During their tour, Riki and Guy reminisced about their time in Guardian, leading Guy to comment how Kirie was like Riki three years ago, much to Riki's annoyance. As they observed the pets on display, Riki and Kirie sparked an argument about the division between the slums and the citizens on Midas. Having spent enough time in the city, Bison decided it was time to leave, despite Kirie' objections. However, Riki spotted Iason's arrival and the two clashed eyes for first time since Riki's release, which caused Riki to have a panic attack and forced Bison to retreat. Kirie stayed behind to have an audience with Iason in hopes to find a way out of the slums. Once the auction was over, Iason, who recalled his unexpected encounter with Riki earlier that night, and ordered Katze to take Kirie as his underling without revealing to Katze of his plans.
"~retino Inbaku~" (~retino 淫縛~)
|Katsuhito Akiyama||Rieko Yoshihara||April 18, 2012|
While drinking at a bar, a frustrated Riki thought back to the events that lead to his meeting with Iason three years ago to where he was now: 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 takes 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 who Iason was for the first time. Once he did, Iason kidnapped Riki and forced him to become his 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 contemplated 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 eschelons 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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- "Media Blasters Delays, Cancels Releases". Anime News Network. 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
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- Van Gorder, Danielle (2008-03-18). "Ai no Kusabi: The Space Between Vol. #01 - Stranger". Mania. Archived from the original on 27 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
- Van Gorder, Danielle (2008-04-10). "Ai no Kusabi: The Space Between Vol. #02 - Destiny". Mania. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
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- Sleepwalker's World by Gordon R Dickson (2012-01-08). "Authors : Yoshihara Rieko : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". Sf-encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- Drazen, Patrick (October 2002). ""A Very Pure Thing": Gay and Pseudo-Gay Themes'". Anime Explosion! The What, Why & Wow of Japanese Animation. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. pp. 95–97. ISBN 1-880656-72-8.
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