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Ai no Kusabi Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read
This is not a fluffy high school romance story.

Opposites attract.

What They Say:
Set in a dystopian future where the mostly male society on the planet Amoi lives under the authoritarian control of a supercomputer named Jupiter. Since social class is determined by the color of one’s hair, Iason sits at the top of the pecking order as a ‘blondie’. He is given a lot of latitude in his daily life but draws unwanted attention when he chooses to take on a ‘mongrel’ gang leader named Riki The Dark as a ‘pet.’ There are no taboos against those in the lighter-hair classes staking claim to lower class darkhaired citizens but the intensity of their relationship begins to draw dangerous attention. As emotions and tensions deepen, will Iason and Riki escape the fateful consequences of their forbidden romance and for violating the strict caste system?

The Review:
Audio:
The sound is clear and consistent throughout the entire disc.

Video:
The colors are so crisp and bright in this animation. The bold colors come through so nicely in this Blu-ray version. Compared to the DVD version, it definitely has clearer and concise animation lines.

Packaging:
The packaging is basic with the blue transparent case. The front of the case features the two main characters, the back has a summary and stills from the anime, and the back side of the printed insert is blank. There is only one disc.

Menu:
The menu features a still photo of the two main protagonists similar to that is featured on the case. There are three options on the menu: play, set up, scene access and special features. The set up consists of only two language options: Japanese and English with the option to have subtitles on or off.

Extras:
The extras included in this edition are textless opening and closing song and Japanese promotional trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This sci-fi, futuristic story is about Riki, who has dark hair and is from the slums and Iason, who is called a “Blondie” and is an elite. In this class system “Pets”, which are human or human-like, are considered a simple of social status. They are owned and treated as things, as well as the “Furniture” who are castrated servants for the Blondies. Eos is where the Blondies love, which is full of wealth and expectations, and ruled by Jupiter, an AI. The Blondies give their Pets rings as a symbol of ownership. Riki is Iason’s Pet, though not by choice. When an incident happens between Riki and another Pet, Iason ultimately lets him go to protect him as there is severe hatred towards Riki in Eos. Riki returns to the slums, which consists of few women, so same sex relationships are not uncommon. Rik was known as a leader of a gang called Bison, who once a high reputation in the slums. Guy was lover, or pair, before he become Iason’s Pet, and their relationship is not strained upon his return. Guy still cares about Riki, but Riki will not talk about his three-year absence, and it puts a rift between Riki and Gai. Kirie is new to the gang and doesn’t like Riki. The first episode ends with memories of a time that Riki wanted to desperately get out of the slums.

The second episode starts with Kirie suggesting that the gang goes to a Pet auction. Riki quickly declines, but Kirie needles him until he agrees. In the time before the auction, six months have already and, Iason is encouraged to look for a new Pet. However, he doesn’t seem he is really interested in doing so. Meanwhile, Riki remains on edge in the slums, as he feels he no belongs to the slums, yet his pride will not allow him to return to Iason. Someone suggests to Riki to make it clear to Guy if they are still a pair, but Riki keeps himself busy and ignores the situation with guy. The day of the pet auction arrives, and Kirie is constantly picking a fight with Riki. Kirie is hoping to get out of the slums, much like Riki did at one time. Iason arrives, and Riki’s memories resurface of his time with Iason. However, Kirie, thinks this is his chance to get out of the slums and be with a Blondie. Kirie does get an opportunity with Katze, an employee of sorts of Iason’s.

The third and fourth episodes consist all of flashbacks, starting with Iason and Riki’s initial encounter. Riki is caught pickpocketing by Iason, but Iason lets him go. Riki doesn’t like to owe anything to anyone, and to make it up to Iason he offers his body. After that first meeting, Riki, is given an opportunity to work with Katze, and he becomes a courier. Riki starts out rough but is smart and works his way up. By chance he encounters Iason again and follows him, but he realizes he is definitely in a place he should not be. He’s saved by Iason when a monster like Pet goes after him. Iason reveals he knows who Riki is and that he’s been working for Iason the whole time under Katze. From that point on, Riki becomes Iason’s Pet. The story is then considered complete in some sense as it ends where the story loops back to the beginning.

In Summary:
I have a lot to say about this title. This story made a big impact on me when I first learned boys love (BL) many, many years ago. This was one of the first animated BL stories I watched, and it was the two-part OVA that was made in 1992. I also read the novel (series) by Rieko Yoshihara that was released by Juné. After reading the novel, it was quite evident that original OVAs didn’t even begin to touch upon the story as a whole. When I heard this title was getting a remake, I was thrilled to initially hear that it would be a full series and get the attention and flushed out animation it deserved. The pieces of art that were released and the bit of animation shown were stunning. Unfortunately, due to financial issues only four episodes were released. That was a disappointing announcement because it meant something would be cut. Where did those cuts end up? Sadly, it was in the storytelling aspect.

This new version does indeed have beautiful and brightly colored animation. It really brings out the best of this otherworldly setting. The Japanese voice actors are top-notch, and certainly didn’t shy away from this BL title. I prefer subtitles over dub, but I did make an effort to listen to the English dub for some of it. I’m really proud of Todd Haberkorn, who played Iason, and did a very nice job on this title as well. While there were many wonderful components of this remake, there were several areas it missed the mark completely.

As mentioned before the storytelling really suffered in the remake. If the viewer never read the novel, never watched the original, it would probably be a wonderful story as is. However, there is so much lost in this remake to the point that it doesn’t even give the original ending of the story. It also failed to capture so much of what makes this story so impressionable. I’m sure someone will argue that most fujoshis and fudanshis would be thrilled to have something sexual, and that’s all it takes to please a fan. In this case, this version is rated 16+ and there is no nudity, only some implied sexual situations. This is story that seems heavily sexual driven, is actually closer to Romeo and Juliet than anything else. It’s a tragic love story entrenched in shackles of societal rules and regulations.

As far as this “Unchained Edition” version, there is not a lot of difference from the DVD version when it comes to extras. This version is, of course, Blu-ray, which is superior anyways, however it states it’s “The first yaoi-themed anime dubbed in English and released on Blu-ray!” I’m curious if this is actually true and the Blu-ray is the only component in regard to English dub. I actually own the Kizuna DVD from Be Beautiful that was released in 2005 and it had an English dub. It’s not common for the past several years now to have BL anime dubbed and released on Blu-ray. I also noticed in the English dub, that there was a certain amount of safeness in the script translation. An example is that in the Japanese translation, it utilized the word ejaculation, but in the English dub, it was bursting. Two words that are used to mean the same thing, but the latter is obviously more toned down than the first.

Overall, I urge people to look at this story as a whole, and not judge it on the sex that seems to be promoted over anything else. This is not a fluffy high school romance story. This is not a typical BL story in general, and that is sort of what it makes it great. BL is can come in all forms and this is one of many. Also, one last thing. It’s not yaoi. It’s BL. If I could get international distributors, producers, and promoters to stop calling it yaoi and replace it with BL, that would be lovely.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 language, English (yellow) subtitles, textless opening and closing song, and trailers.

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: December 19th, 2017
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 120 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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