Author: Becca Abbott
Spoilers: All of the anime
For me, AnK is the quintessential yaoi anime. I've seen a bunch of the classics, (e.g., Bronze, Fish in a Trap, Boku no Sexual Harassment, etc.), but so far, this is the one that pushes most of my buttons. Bishonen fill the screen every second; there are chains, and leather harnesses, kinky sex and, of course, a tragic ending. The angst is so thick you can feel it. AnK begs for fanfiction, yet, alas, there's relatively little out there.
Ai no Kusabi first appeared in the 1980s as a novel by Rieko Yoshihara syndicated in the popular shonen-ai magazine, Shousetsu June. A radio play followed, and an anime OAV which, alas, is only available in fan-subs. The version subbed by the Lupin-Gang is pretty good and includes notes about the story background that the viewer is assumed to already know from the book and play.
The Ai No Kusabi universe is set in the distant future on a terra-formed world called Amoi. Sometime in Amoi's early history, its government was overthrown by a powerful computer intelligence known as Jupiter, which proceeded to order the society according to its own limited ideas of stability and productivity. There was an uprising early on, but it failed, with disastrous consequences for the rebels.
Using genetic engineering, Jupiter created a population top-heavy with males and initiated a rigid caste system. Each caste was identified by hair color. The lighter the color, the higher the caste's social standing and political power.
At the summit were the Blondies, genetic supermen endowed with superior intelligence, great beauty and strength. The darlings of Jupiter, they exhibited almost as much emotion as one would expect from the AI itself and were unswervingly loyal to it. Although anatomically complete, they did not indulge in sex. What release they did permit themselves was apparently restricted to voyeurism. Blondies could, and frequently did, keep stables of pets for that purpose.
Pets were drawn from the lower echelons of society, where there were otherwise few avenues for advancement. They were always young and exceptionally beautiful. Laws guarded their well-being and the length of their service. While the Blondies who owned them did not use them sexually (with a few notable exceptions), it's unclear whether non-Blondie owners were as restrained. Once a pet outgrew his attractiveness, he had no marketable skills and usually ended up as a whore.
Castrated males, called Furniture, were employed to guard and care for pets. Furniture were not considered pretty enough to be pets, but were still decorative and reasonably bright.
Finally, at the very bottom of Amoi's social order were the mongrels, outcast descendants of the failed uprising against Jupiter. Mongrels were nonpersons, despised and persecuted, unable to get jobs, unwelcome wherever they went. They survived mainly in the criminal underworld of Ceres, Tanagura's notorious slum. The implication is that they alone reproduced "naturally," although, given their pariah status and the rarity of women, it was unclear how they accomplished this.
Iason Mink is not only a Blondie, he is theBlondie, Jupiter's golden boy, brilliant, powerful, remote. All Blondies are controlled, logical, untouched by emotion. Iason is no exception.
Disaster comes in the most unlikely of packages: a mongrel named Riki the Dark, natural-born, outcast and despised. Iason is in his limousine, driving through Midas' dark streets, when he passes a group of young men beating someone mercilessly. Iason interrupts their fun and sends them running. Their victim is the mongrel, Rikki. Far from being grateful for his rescue, Riki resents being under obligation and insists on repaying Iason with the only thing he has -- his body. The idea is so droll that an amused Blondie agrees to accompany Riki to a sex hotel.
There is something about this particular mongrel, aside from his considerable good looks, that raises unfamiliar feelings in Iason. Tiring of the boy's prickly impudence, he pushes Riki against the wall and takes matters into his own hands (as it were).
Riki finds himself rewarded for attracting Iason's attention: he ends up wearing Iason's pet-ring, the standard identifying mark of a Pet. For three years, Iason keeps him, a length of time both unheard-of and illegal. So obsessed does he become with Riki that even his friends are scandalized by it.
But, alas, mongrels do not train well, and Iason, frustrated by Riki's continued defiance, tries giving his mongrel a little rope. He takes the pet ring off Riki and releases him back into the streets.
Before falling into Iason's clutches, Riki had been the leader of Bison, a gang of young toughs that lived in Ceres, a squalid, dangerous slum on the edge of Midas. Now he heads back there and is reunited with his friends. Leading the group is Guy, another mongrel who had been Riki's lover, or "pairing partner," before Riki had disappeared.
Guy wants Riki back. Most of his gang are ready to follow him again. Keeping secret his last three years, Riki tries to pick up his former life, but it is not to be. All too soon, as disasters befall his friends at every hand, he realizes that his freedom is a sham. The harder he fights to get away, the tighter Iason's net wraps around him. Worse, the longer he's away from Iason, the less sure Riki becomes of his own heart.
The canon pairing is Iason and Riki, but there is a collection of lovely bishonen with whom to play. There is Guy, angry at the world and hopelessly in love with Riki; Raoul, the closest thing Iason has to a best friend(and is also Jupiter's chief psychologist and "behavior modifier"); Katze, Iason's ex-Furniture and (one suspects) more than a little in love with his master; and Kiri, the obnoxious, ambitious, young street punk who runs afoul of Iason. All are great characters.
My favorite ship has turned out to be -- quite by accident -- Raoul/Guy. In writing a fanfic with Rikki and Iason in mind, I went looking for a sub-plot. I really like the dynamics between pet and master, so I decided on Guy and Raoul. What would happen, wondered I, were Guy to fall into a Blondie's clutches, especially a vengeful Blondie -- say, Iason's best friend? There would be fireworks, savage love, dominance, defiance, and submission: all kinds of delicious stuff. By the time I'd finished the story, I'd written myself in love with the pairing.
About Ai No Kusabi (summaries, image galleries, etc.)
Fanfics, Recommendation Sites, etc. (not necessarily Raoul/Guy specific)