Review: Ai-Ren

Live on …

Yutaka Tanaka

5 Volumes – Completed

Plot Summary
Ikuru lives knowing that at some point very soon he will die all because of his “cursed” body. Saddened, jaded and alone he decides to request an AGH-RMS, or also known as “Ai-Rens”. Ai-Rens are special beings given to those who don’t have long to live as comfort. With his new Ai-Ren, Ikuru discovers that life, love, and the moments he took for granted, truly meant something when you share it with someone.

Personal Opinion
This is one of the few manga I would truly consider perfect.

It’s written around a perfectly tragic concept -one in which not only the Earth’s life is fading, but that of the main characters as well. Through this concept, the characters meet an untold level of cruelty and devotion -giving the reader a feel of not only their pain, but also their joy. It brings in a slice-of-life quality as it shows you Ai and Ikiru’s life together, from the regular to spectacular. It runs on a multitude of perfected themes, something quite hard to do.

It is primarily a romance and a drama. It is the compelling chronicle of Ai and Ikiru’s life together, from the utterly tragic to the outwardly hilarious and light. This is probably the purest romance I have seen in any anime or manga – it’s no pious purity, but in the sense that they live for naught but each other. A deep and truly romantic love between the two, the likes of which pull the reader into their world with perfection. The world itself is post apocalyptic, a world in which reproduction is next to impossible, and terrorist attacks ravage the population. It’s a world that is dying.

The concept is an interesting and unique one, dealing with a number of themes. It outlines human reaction and the cruelty brought on through it -the simple decision to kill to preserve your own existence. This is brought on through what may seem like a side story, but what is perhaps the main feature of this manga. It not only wants to show you an amazing romance, but also the beautifully philosophical ideas behind it all. The characters are forced to find a reason to live on, and that is one of the many bases of this manga. Ai and Ikiru find each other which in turn leads to a love beyond love itself. They find empathy in the fact that both their bodies are cursed [i.e. less than one year to live]. Later they find a connection unlike any other. A connection of a kind neither of them could have imagined.

Terrorism has a strong hold in this concept. People who chose to eradicate other humans because of an epidemic that seems to be incurable. A ruthless organization that acts out of whim and fear alone; all the time making calculated moves from the shadows. The philosophy and ideology of such people are explained in length. A race that seems alien to the human eye is brought in -with their own views on our very existence. Hito [that race] is perhaps the most daunting piece of this concept, but one of the most interesting and indulging all at the same time. What is Kilit?

Psychological themes even lurk in the corners of this manga. Physical depictions of the Angel of Death, only seen in the eyes of the dying. Through that, a mental struggle is brought on -one where Ikiru has to question the purpose of his existence. One where he is forced to find a reason to live amid the chaos of his life. He finds peace and love in this reason. There are several lapses in reality and some characters go through past events in a dreamlike state. These scenes are some of the strongest and most powerful in the entire series and are not something to miss.

The art may seem simplistic at first, but in the scenes where more dramatic and dark art is needed, it doesn’t fail to impress. The scenery is brought in with lovely attention to details and many aspects of Tanaka’s simplistic style prove to better themselves. His style improves with the strength of the story. A style befitting any story is used in the more light-hearted scenes, while a style suited only to Ai-ren is used when darker themes are brought in.

The story is unique -like no other story out there. As said above, it is a perfect mix of several themes, a story full of tragedy and unbridled joy. Time passes at no set interval. It goes from regular passage to flashbacks, to a look in the future, and then a return to the past. This is perhaps what makes the climax of the tragedy as tragic as it is -the reader is left trying to deny a fact that has been shown to have already happened. Throughout the story, Tanaka openly reminds the reader of the impending tragedy, and then, when the event is shown in full force, the reader is hit with the full impact.

Ai-ren is a truly beautiful manga, taking the reader from tranquility to pandemonium. From the happy times to the morbid. This is a story full of emotion, philosophy, and depth. It is a manga that must be read by any fan of such things.

Personal Rating
And I mean it.

[Reviewer: Simon A. Blake]


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