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Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 8.95
  • Pages: 141
  • ISBN: 978-1-56970-782-1
  • Size: Shisho
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Ai no Kusabi: The Space Between

Ai no Kusabi: The Space Between Vol. #01 - Stranger

By Danielle Van Gorder     March 18, 2008
Release Date: October 31, 2007

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Reiko Yoshihara/Katsumi Michihara
Translated by:Kelly Quine
Adapted by:N/A

What They Say
In the future, a new society lives on a distant star. Ruled by a computer system named Jupiter, men are divided into classes based on their hair color. The Blondies, genetically altered by Juipter, are the highest class and occupy the capital city of Tanagura. Those with black hair, Mongrels, are forced to live in the slums, Ceres. Iason, the leader of the Blondies, encounters Riki, a mongrel, in the streets of Ceres one night and sets out to own him...

The Review
Can this long-awaited classic BL novel series live up to expectations?


Ai no Kusabi is a compact book, smaller even than a standard manga volume - close to typical paperback dimensions, but slightly wider. The paper is very thick, possibly to give the illusion that there's more content in the book than there actually was. On several occasion I thought I had turned more than one page because of the thickness. It's not a bad thing, just a little unexpected. The print quality is good, and the art reproduction looks clean as well.


Being a novel, the prose is the real focus of this book, and is unfortunately somewhat problematic. This isn't to say the translation is bad - it actually looks to be an accurate one from what I can determine, but the source material is written in a style that's florid at best, and it's a sometimes unfortunate distraction. The sex scenes read almost like a parody of a bad romance novel, and the rest of the novel suffers on occasion from an excess of words - as if the author got so caught up in a frenzy of adjectives that she forgot what she was actually trying to communicate. This isn't high art by any means, but most readers aren't going to be looking for The Brothers Karamozov.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Set against a dystopic science fiction background in a world where females are rarely born and given preferential treatment, Ai no Kusabi is a very unconventional romance. Midas is a hedonistic city of sharp contrasts, and Ceres is it's worst slum, where young gang members battle it out in an attempt to carve out a proof of their identity onto the streets of the city itself. The strongest of those gangs was Bison, led by the beautiful and charismatic Riki. Three years previously, when he was still on top of his game, he vanished mysteriously, leaving Bruno to dissolve in his wake. Now Riki has returned, but he's changed in ways that even his friends have trouble understanding.

While Riki was gone, the young and arrogant Kirie attached himself to Bison, but the two are like oil and water. Riki can't stand the echoes of himself that he sees in Kirie, while Kirie can't stand the current reality of the legend he heard so much about. Standing between them is Guy, Riki's former lover. And in the background manipulating the situation for his own ends is the mysterious Iason, a super-elite Blondie who has no clear motivation for involving himself with a group of kids from the slums.

Ai no Kusabi is one of those legendary titles among fan circles, and it's release has been long anticipated. While it certainly deals with fascinating issues and themes, the execution overall didn't live up to my level of expectation. Once I turned off the critical thinking and decided to just enjoy the ride, it was a much better experience - this is fluffy brain candy in hard-edged sci-fi clothing, and is best enjoyed as such. There's a lot here to like - the cocksure Kirie, badass Robby, the gang politics, and the hints of those missing three years - not just Riki's experiences, but those of the various Bison members past and present as well. There's clearly more to the story than what's included in just this volume, and there are enough hooks that, overdone prose aside, I want to find out what comes next. In the end, that's what's really important.


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