This post includes a brief plot summary, an explanation about the ending of the anime Ai no Kusabi and a relationship analysis between the two main characters: Riki and Iason Mink. Beware of spoilers.
Ai no Kusabi is a Japanese yaoi novel written by Rieko Yoshihara. The novel was later adapted into a two-episode OVA (original video animation) in 1992 and 1994. Today’s opinions are solely based on the 90s anime adaptation, not the novel.
The World Of “Ai no Kusabi” Explained
The anime adaptation is not as detailed as the novel. Here’s a little introduction to the world of Ai no Kusabi.
There’s a planet called Amoi, ruled by a computer named Jupiter. Tanagura is the capital of Amoi and the Eos Tower is where the elite resides. Midas is essentially a business center. Then, we have Ceres, an independent slum near Midas, populated by Mongrels (people that live in high poverty).
The people of Amoi have a cast system determined by hair colour. The darker the hair colour, the lower the individual’s position in that society. Having said that, the elites have the lightest hair colour and the Mongrels have the darkest.
Blondies are not human. Jupiter created them to govern Tanagura under her rules. In addition, they often keep “pets” (teenagers) for voyeuristic purposes only to discard them a year after. Then, we have “furnitures”, castrated young men who take care of “pets”.
Ai no Kusabi – Plot Summary
During a rival gang squirrel, Iason Mink saves Riki’s life. As a “payment”, Riki offers his body to Iason. After that encounter, Riki disappears from Ceres for three years.
At present time, Riki returns to Ceres to reunite with Guy, his former lover and right-hand at Bison (street gang). However, their newest gang member Kirie is not pleased about Riki’s return.
During a pet auction, Riki sees Iason for the first time since his release. Iason’s best friend Raoul advises him to forget about Riki. However, Iason ignores his advice and engineers a plan to lure Riki back to Tanagura. He uses Katze and Kirie to set up a trap to capture Riki and Bison. Shortly after, the Midas police arrest Riki and the other gang members.
Riki is freed because his pet registration number was still active, but the other members had to remain under arrest. At home, Riki gets a visit from Iason. He wants Riki to return to Eos, it’s either that or his friends will stay in prison. In order to protect his gang, Riki agrees to return.
Back at the Eos Tower, Riki’s return causes uproar among those that live there. Under Riki’s request, Iason allows him to work with Katze in the black market. At work, Riki spots a former pet. Katze explains what’s the final destination of pets: their masters sell them to brothels and they live there for the rest of their lives.
Katze reminds Riki that he’s a special case and that he should be grateful. After learning that Iason is sacrifing his own reputation for him, he schedules an encounter to meet him.
After learning that Riki is still with Iason, Guy kidnaps him. However, Riki lets him know that Iason is “inside of him” (like poison). Enraged, Guy performs a penectomy to remove Riki’s pet ring and uses it to lure Iason to Dana Banh.
Iason meets Guy at Dana Bahn. After finding out what he did to Riki, Iason crushes Guy’s left arm leaving him uncoscious. With Katze’s help, Riki is able to get to Dana Bahn. Due to the eminent explosions, Riki pleas Iason to save Guy. As they were slowly moving out, an explosion takes place and Iason sacrifices himself to save Riki. He loses his two legs. Incapacited, Iason tells Riki to take Guy and leave.
Outside, Riki gives Guy to Katze and after recovering his senses, he returns to die with Iason. Before that, Katze offers him some Black Moon cigarettes to ease the pain. Together, Iason and Riki smoke their last cigarette, share for the last time a “deep kiss” and die together.
Ai No Kusabi: Riki And Iason Relationship
First of all, can Ai no Kusabi be called a love story? In my opinion? Yes. However, it’s not a good example of what a healthy relationship should look like. Iason Mink is not a saint. Yes, he did sacrifice himself in the end but he also pushed Riki (and Guy) to the edge. Let’s not forget he used Riki as pet for three years. In other words, he made Riki his sex slave for three years! In addition, the pet ring was the thing that made Riki unable to resist to Iason’s sexual advances. Although, Riki enjoyed having sex with Iason, it wasn’t out of his of free will. The pet ring played a huge role in Riki’s attraction to Iason.
What about their last sexual encounter? That was maybe the first time that Riki reached out to Iason (sexually). After that small conversation with Katze, Riki realized that a lot of the things that Iason does are for him. In addition, he understood that he wasn’t the only one facing prejudice at Eos. The elites were talking ill about Iason too. Having said that, Iason has more things to lose by keeping Riki than letting him go.
Both characters, don’t really know how to express their true feelings. They communicate mostly through sex. That’s why Riki sets a sexual encounter with Iason. This is when both characters let their guards down a little bit. After the sexual act, the two even engage in small talk and laughter. Major turning point: Riki shows for the very first time some concern for Iason. However, his pride doesn’t let him admit it. And what was Iason’s reaction? Delightment. The prideful Blondie was more than happy to see his object of affection opening up to him.
Did Iason Love Riki?
Let’s get down to one the most important questions about Ai No Kusabi: Did Iason love Riki? Yes, definitely. However, I would say the feelings he has for Riki are somewhere between love and obsession. In the beginning, Iason wants to own Riki. That’s how he interprets his feelings for him. Iason never addresses Riki as his love, but as his pet (his possession). In addition, Iason’s infatuation with Riki also comes from his ego. He wants Riki because Riki doesn’t him (initially). At this point, Riki is more like a trophy to him.
As time went by, his feelings for Riki also matured. Iason knows that Riki is more than just a “pet”. That’s why he let Riki “go free” for an entire year. Iason wants Riki to come back by his own will. He also wants Riki to love him (but not by force). In addition, Iason also defied Jupiter’s orders by keeping Riki. He even confesses to his best friend Raoul that he’s in love with Riki.
In the end, he self-sacrificed himself to save Riki. Iason knew that if he dropped Guy, both Riki and him would be able to escape. But he didn’t. Why? Probably, he didn’t want Riki to hate him even more. At the end, all he wanted was to respect Riki’s wish and keep him safe. It’s never nice to see your objection of affection leave with their former lover. However, Iason didn’t care. His priority was to keep Riki alive. Having said that, I believe Iason did love Riki.
Ai No Kusabi Ending: Did Riki Love Iason?
Riki came back for Iason. He definitely has feelings for Iason other than just pure hate. In my opinion, Riki learned to appreciate Iason (at the very end).
Although Riki has feelings for Iason, he cannot ignore the past. He cannot forget what Iason has done to him. Therefore, he’s unable to openly admit those feelings for that man. It would hurt his pride, you know? Let’s not forget, Iason raped Riki many times to “tame him”. How can you love someone that sees you a mere object of desire rather than a human being? However, those were his initial thoughts. Iason also changed over the years.
When Iason opened the door at Dana Bahn, he didn’t look at Riki with disgust. After finding out about the castration, he was genuinely concerned for Riki (as a person). That reaction, totally caught Riki off-guard because he really thought Iason would let him go after knowing that.
After the structure’s collapse, there was pain in Riki’s eyes when he saw that Iason lost his two legs. In my opinion, he was heartbroken to leave the place without Iason. That’s why he came back (when he recovered his senses) to die with Iason. If he hated Iason so much would he have done that? I don’t think so. Was it a case of Stockholm syndrome?
In my opinion, Riki is a man that always pays his debts. When the two met for the very first time, Iason was the one who saved Riki from some rival gang members. But he didn’t want to owe Iason anything, so he decided to repay him with sex, which he accepted.
Having said that, I believe Riki has feelings for Iason. If he didn’t, he would just let him to die alone. In addition, Riki is a man that has a strong sense of loyalty. He came back for Iason, because he felt he owed him that (after saving Guy). Why did he decided to die with Iason? Why didn’t he try to save him? Well, Iason is a much bigger man than Guy, which makes him much harder to lift/carry. In addition, I believe Riki wanted to have one last peaceful moment with Iason: one last deep kiss. Riki chose to die with Iason. So in a way, he did come back just like Iason wanted. In a very tragic way, the two characters do end up together. So, in a sense, they got the happy ending they deserved.
Honestly, these two would not make it as a couple in the world they lived in. Although, Iason is a powerful Blondie, he still had to listen to Jupiter and abide to Tanagura’s rules. Being in a relationship with Riki, would only put them both in greater danger. As much as Iason tried to go against the rules, he would eventually face dire consequences if he continued the affair with Riki.
Ai no Kusabi is a beautiful work of art. I must say, I never expected such complex relationship from an anime.
I believe Ai no Kusabi is one of those stories that will stand the test of time. The ending will leave viewers sad and happy at the same time. Sad because the two main characters die at the end, but happy because they die together.
By the way, Ai no Kusabi’s soundtrack sets the anime to a whole another level. The music perfectly captures all the tension, sensuality and angst between the two leads.
Ai no Kusabi is not only for sci-fi lovers, everyone should give it a go. The futuristic scenario is just a background to a much more complex story between the two main characters. Having said that, Ai no Kusabi is definitely a noteworthy experience.