Ai no Kusabi: The Space Between Vol. #03 (

By:Danielle Van Gorder
Review Date: Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 08, 2008

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

What They Say
A Blondie takes a street mongrel as a pet?! The entire city is buzzing with the scandal. And on top of that, if the evidence of his trysts with Iason don't start disappearing from Riki's body... However, Riki, ever the defiant pet, appears to be losing his master's interest. Is he on the verge of being abandoned? Will his pride survive?

The Review
 Finally, the truth about those three years Riki spent as Iason’s pet is revealed, as well as more of the inner workings of Tanagura society.  The pet concept is a strange ones – pets are genetically human but kept and raised as subhuman property, bred as “sex dolls” to enhance the lives of the elite.  But where most stories would have the masters having sex with these pets, Tanagura pets are supposed to sleep only with each other, but only at their master’s whims.  It’s an odd concept that doesn’t seem particularly workable, but there’s a lot about the world of Ai no Kusabi that’s more than a little strange.  In addition to the pets, the elites keep human “furniture” to care for these pets, intelligent eunuchs whose sole purpose for existing is to care for the pets.

As a pet, Riki is totally an outsider, unwilling to bend and unwelcome by the other pets, who feel threatened to have a slum mongrel take their place.  And he doesn’t take to being a pet well, to say the least – Iason’s training was both brutal and humiliating, but never managed to break Riki’s pride.  Without knowing exactly how or why it happened, Iason finds himself becoming more and more obsessed with Riki, developing the sort of human emotions that an elite Tanagura Blondie should never experience.  Riki’s involvement with the furniture Daryl and the pet Mimea sends them down into a spiral of self-destruction that threatens to tear Tanagura apart.  And back in the present, Kirie threatens the life that Riki is working to rebuild in his own desperate, self-serving quest to escape the slums.

With more plot and fewer huge chunks of exposition, this volume felt like a substantial improvement over the first two.  Unfortunately, it also highlighted the weakness of the translation of the earlier volumes, as things that should have already been obvious come clear only now when they’re revisited again and seen from a different angle.  The disjointed story structure doesn’t help, either, as it careens from past to present with little or no warning.  Iason was positively terrifying in this one, forced to deal with emotions he’s not equipped to understand or deal with, and reacting exactly like a person with no coping mechanisms might act in this same situation.  His need for control in the face of Riki’s bone-deep defiance is compelling.  If you were on the fence about this story after the second volume, you’re likely to be pleased by this one as there’s some actual payoff in both the story and in the relationship between Iason and Riki. 

Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 8.95
Pages: 162
ISBN: 978-1-56970-784-7
Size: Shinsho
Orientation: Left to Right
Series: Ai no Kusabi (novels)