Ai no Kusabi in a Russian Way
by Juxian Tang
Ai no Kusabi, yaoi classic and the ultimate tragic love story, has generated surprisingly small amount of fanfiction in English. One of the reasons might be that it is rather difficult to find the anime itself. But also, perhaps the story has such a complete feeling that it might seem unnecessary to add anything to it or difficult to create something that would be on the same level as the original.
In Russian yaoi fandom the situation is curiously different. In fact, Ai no Kusabi is by far the most popular, widely written and controversial anime fandom, except Sailor Moon, which had been shown on Russian TV for years. Well, getting *any* anime in Russia is quite a problem. To be a specialist in a fandom like Gundam Wing, you need to watch over fifty episodes (all right, some authors manage to write without watching even one :-)) But with AnK, you just need a tape, two hours of your time and some ideas and here you go.
Curiously ideas don't seem to be a problem for anyone. One can say, there are even too many of them. Everyone has something to say about the story. Currently there are three AnK fiction archives in Russian and they are steadily growing with every month. As someone noticed, only lazy-bones haven't tried their hands in AnK fandom yet and even they are apparently going to do it in the nearest future.
Actually, the fandom canon pairing, Iason/Riki, causes little interest; the characters chosen for exploration by Russian writers are secondary ones the ones with whom you can use as much of your imagination as possible.
The first story that broke in the fandom about two years ago, and should be credited for it if for nothing else, is Pale Fire's fantasy epic Sidh Vede Elle Dragon's Nestlings. Having gotten rid of her least favorite character, Riki, Pale Fire's Iason has an epiphany and recognizes his wrong ways. The author brings him and Katze into the modern world, makes Iason a descendent of an ancient powerful race with supreme magic abilities and gets him into the business of saving innocent people a la Superman. With every sequel the story cross-overs with another fandom first Gundam Wing, then Weiss Kreuz, where the author picks her favorite characters, lets Iason rescue them and later they join a big and growing family living together happily in a big mansion in California: Duo, Wufei, Quatre, Schuldich, Nagi, Omi, etc. Perhaps soon we can expect another sequel there are still unexplored fandoms out there and so many bishounen in peril. :-)
The owner of AnK biggest archive in Russian, Robin Puck, has her own version of happy-ever-after for the characters also giving Iason a chance of salvation, redemption and changing the world. In her universe Iason and Raoul end up as a couple raising two adopted children who are reincarnated Riki and Katze.
Iason/Raoul is the most obvious and well-explored pairing, where Raoul is usually considered 'the true love' of Iason, while Riki was just a mistake. Much scandalous Dis in her fix-it Love and Hatred has a wizard from another world saving Iason and Riki right before the explosion of Dana Bahn and giving Iason new legs all for the sake of a possibility for Iason to realize that Raoul was much worthy partner than Riki.
The most popular character in the fandom i.e. the one who gets hurt most is definitely Raoul. While in AnK, at least in the movie, Raoul is a rather token character who voices the common view of the society at Iason's actions, in Russian fanfiction he becomes a permanent 'damsel in distress'. Gone is cool, composed, perfect Blondie. Raoul is uke... no, UKE. Sweet, green-eyed the only green-eyed Blondie out there (makes him special, ne?) covering his doll-like face with golden tresses (hiding behind them from the world, obviously what else? :-))
Nothing is easier than to dominate Raoul he was a bottom to nearly every character that can come across: Iason, Riki, Katze, Guy, Sid (one of the Bizons), even Hazall (the new owner of Killie). Over the course of the stories he gets tortured, shot, mind-wiped, gang-raped, drug-addicted, enslaved, nearly fed to wolves and has a good time all over. Probably writing Raoul as a seme would be considered out-of-character in Russian fanfiction. :-)
Since I'm the Raoul/Katze author of the fandom, I'd rather skip commenting on this pairing. They are my two favorite characters and I just can't resist seeing them together. :-) Besides, as some reader said: "Finally someone gives this helpless Raoul to someone who can find his way in life."
Obviously the most controversial and ill-famed AnK story in the fandom is Notre Dame de Amoi by Sephiroth (translated into English, can be found here: http://juxian.slashcity.net/notreeng.html). Breathtakingly cruel and twisted, it takes the relations between the torturer and the victim to the new heights, all set in an anti-utopian world of Amoi wrecked by a revolution with Raoul suffering through hideous things and Guy being in control control that slips away from him when Raoul applies his psychological knowledge.
I'm twenty-three. My name is Guy. My life is over. My death lies in the chair behind me and looks at my back.
My death has the hair of pure gold. And eyes like... like... Fuckin' funny... Green like peas? No good...
...Guy. You'll curse the day when you saw me, mongrel. You'll curse the day when you were born.
I'll drink your soul. You'll forget the one you loved. You'll betray everything you believed in. And I don't care what will happen to me but you you won't survive me.
...Iason. We lost without you. But you, Guy you'll lie down into my grave.
Jasherka Kat's exquisitely gothic Museum is a story of obsession turned into madness cured by love. Devastated with Iason's death, Raoul searches for a way out of his misery through gathering those who was ever connected to Iason Guy, Kirie, Katze, Enif, Daryl (Iason's furniture) to keep them as living exhibits of his collection. In Akira Kurosawa's highly amusing Beauty and the Beast Raoul becomes a victim of mind-wiped and revengeful Iason and later is rescued by the most unlikely hero, Hazall, who turns out to be a mastermind behind the events on Amoi.
"Here he is," Raoul pointed at Riki who leaned against a bike and talked happily to his buddies. He had a smoking cigarette in one hand and the other lay carelessly on the shoulder of a tall mongrel with a long ratty ponytail of hair.
"But he is *old*!" Iason curved his mouth in disgust, looked at the dark-haired youth for some moments and then turned to Katze. "Let's go!"
Another interesting example of AnK fanfiction is Alone Together by Anna Voroncova, Russian classic gay romance author. This time it is Katze and Guy romance, developing from mutual hatred to dependence to love, all done in the style of romantic novels.
The fandom also brought up quite a number of parodies. In non-yaoi fiction by Anhesenpaaton Ra and Klod, humor comes from obscene situations and dialogue in Pulp Fiction style. Black Cat by Alena plays with the idea that pets in AnK world are considered equal to the pets as we understand them. So, Riki becomes a black stray cat picked up in the street by a boy-Iason and torn between his desire for freedom and attachment to his new master. Katze stars as a ginger cat who keeps the market place clean of rats and the neighborhood under his control.
Ginger lived at the market place for a year and a half and was almost considered a staff member. The administration appreciated his skill of catching huge rats while other cats knew and respected his fame of a great fighter: if you started a fight with him, you ended up either defeated or dead. But the most peculiar was that Ginger was the only castrated cat who ever managed to keep the territory of such size for himself.
Killingly funny Wedged in Love (to Motherland) by Captain Angel re-writes AnK story using the cliches of the old Soviet 'industrial' novels. In Club 'Blondie' by Verochka Blondies are a group of extremely emancipated modern women who divide the male world into mongrels to be ignored, pets used for pleasure, and furniture used for services.
All in all, the fandom seems to be less about a love story but more a playground for trying political and social ideas and expressing the authors' view at 'ideal' relationship. With Russian typical obsession with politics and hatred to a totalitarian society the authors turn every character into a rebel, making them try to disrupt the imperfect world, sometimes creating something better, sometimes much more uglier. It often takes the characters obviously further than it was intended in the canon but creates endless possibilities for plot and character development.