Ikuru is a boy who doesn't have long to live. Growing up questioning the purpose of his life and the reason for his death, he's constantly confused and lonely. Now, learning that he hasn't long to live, he requests that a special "girl" called a AGH-RMS be given to him. These people are genetically made so that they help heal and ease the mental burdens of someone who hasn't long to live. This manga is cute, sad, and ultimately a story about life, death, and humanity.
Ai-Ren is a Sci-fi, Romance, Drama about a young man (Ikuru) who was involved in a horrific accident but his life was able to be saved. Nonetheless he will soon die, so to comfort him in his final moments he was given an Ai-Ren (artificially generated humans).
From the beginning this manga is easily comparable to other heartfelt romance about a guy falling in love with a cute, not-so-human, girl. However unlike the ever-so-popular Chobits, this manga story is fairly saddening because the main character’s fates are already sealed. So all you can do is see how the story progress, which is great however the back-story
and the side-story (apocalypse) just complicates matters.
The characters may be well-defined but they lack some form of depth to their stale personalities. On the other hand, their developments throughout their mundane lives are able to make up for that. The character designs are pretty good and the artwork used was able to bring forth various emotions. But strangely enough the artwork doesn’t dynamic imagery to portray emotional moments but relies on pure dialogue.
Overall Ai-Ren is an interesting manga that has plenty of happy moments to go along with the sad moments. The manga would have been more enjoyable because of its amazing premise but whenever it deviated from Ikuru’s and Ai’ story it felt more like a distraction than building up to something big. Nonetheless this manga is a good read but it is really meant for someone who feels like reading something different.
Before reading any of my reviews, please keep in mind that I am a VERY harsh critic. I do not hand out 10's easily and anything I rate 7 or higher I consider recommendation worthy.
The main story in itself would get a 9/10 from me, but I found that the cryptic, apocalyptic side story wasn't really necessary and took away from the overall story which is a shame because the main story is absolutely amazing. There were a number of sensual/sexual scenes in the story, but when you are reading you need to keep in mind that they are living in an age where
(for the most part) the activity of sex doesn't seem to exist anymore. So for most of the manga we see the two main characters trying to discover themselves and each other which I found to be a rather interesting topic and moderately well done. From the start of the series I had a preconceived notion of how the series was going to end. Well it didn't quite end that way. I was very impressed how the manga-ka ended the series in a way that was actually quite unexpected for me. I sort of knew WHAT was going to happen, but as for HOW I was completely off the mark. The ending for me gets full marks, 10/10, due to its sheer impact. The human themes were a nice touch as well. The whole questioning of what makes us "human" was a nice touch. Especially considering the story takes place in a world where no one can be considered truly "human" by current standards. The fact that the most human character isn't human at all really drives that home.
A rare 10. I can't help it, the character designs were simple and very cute and attractive. The innocence of the two main characters was really emphasized through the character design. It really helped in enhancing the story. They were very well done and very appropriate for the story. The background art was also good. The house, the city, the lab, the tomato plant, everything. It was simple, yet detailed at the same time. A rather refreshing look at a largely unrefreshing world. This series is proof that manga art doesn't have to be complex to be good and effective.
Ai and Ikuru I would rate 9.5/10. Very well developed, very well portrayed with few flaws. Both were very likable characters and I'm almost tempted to give them 10's. Their interactions with each other were perfect. They really did suit each other very well. Nagi-sensei would be a 7/10. I found that she wasn't really developed properly. There were a lot of holes, especially with regards to her past, which probably should have been elaborated on. I really did like her character though, it's a shame she wasn't as prominent as she probably could have been in the story. Other characters would range from 1/10 to 3/10. Personally I believe that if you plan on adding a side story with side characters then said characters should be properly developed, which they weren't.
"Enjoyment" may not really be the proper word for this kind of series. The series as a whole was rather dark and depressing. Throughout the whole series there was a large, dark, ominous cloud hanging over the main characters heads. Which doesn't exactly fit my description of "Enjoyment". So perhaps a better word would be "Appreciation". The messages that this manga sent to me were priceless. Messages about humanity and love, about life and death and about reaching your dreams. You really do finish this series with a greater appreciation for what you have. I would give this a full 10/10 if (once again) it wasn't for the side story which served more as a distraction for me as I was reading.
I currently have this rated as a 8/10, it's more like 8.5/10 and I am tempted to rate it a 9/10. This is a very touching story about love, life and humanity. The side story is a bit of a distraction, it wasn't really done well, was very cryptic and wasn't really necessary to the main story, but it wasn't that bad. If I had to rate the side story I'd give it a 5 (average, nothing special but not bad). What makes this series so special is the characters of Ai and Ikuru and their interactions with each other and other characters.
To anyone who likes to read romance and tragedy I strongly recommend this hidden gem. The story, the characters will remain with you, possibly forever. You will not be disappointed in reading this manga.
tl;dr: A manga that tells two separate story threads that eventually collide, with one being well written and having a lot of emotional impact, and the other one being somewhat of a mess.
There was more to this series than I thought there would be, but not really for the better. The main story is about a guy, Ikuru, who's dying living with a girl, Ai, who was born in such a state that she's dying. They comfort each other and do their best to find happiness despite this. They also interact with various other characters who have stories and morals of their own. This was an incredibly well told story, with lots of really cute
and really sad moments that really tugged at the readers heart strings. It also conveyed strong messages related to life and death, mainly that death was inevitable and that while that would never be something that people can come to truly accept, it was something that it was possible to live with and continue making the most of one's life with, even leaving something of value behind. This may seem cliché to a sense, but it felt like it was saying this in a way a bit different from most takes on this, and it had a good amount of impact. What adds more to the story is that this is all taking place in a future that is semi-apocalyptic with all sorts of crazy things such as aliens as saviors and the end of human evolution being touched upon mainly focusing on the secretary general of some organization dedicated to protecting humanity. The problem with all this is that except for how it set up the ending, it felt completely separated from the main story, both in terms of plot and tone. Furthermore, that side wasn't all that great. It said a lot of profound sounding things, but it didn't really establish them or give them any meaning. It had no impact. It still took up a good amount of time however and seemed unnecessarily complex and confusing. The two sides didn't really mesh well at all, and though one side was really good, I can't think of the other as anything more than a detriment. The art was solid.
If there are two genres of anime/manga/any form of media that I absolutely REFUSE to watch/read under any circumstances, its ecchi and porn. Or both in the same package. I don't like porn. I really don't. Seeing people be naked and have sex and do stupid stuff just doesn't appeal to me. It never had, and it never will. Over the top nudity or sexual situations are always a turn-off for me. However, by accident, I discovered the works of Yutaka Tanaka, a mangaka who actually writes very good manga with genuinely interesting storylines, sex and all, and any nudity it has is never played
for fanservice or ecchiness, and it doesn't completely take over the story in any way. But so far, I've only read two of his works: Mimia Hime (which I seriously wish would come to the US or at the very least be fully scanlated, too bad neither of those happened) and Ai-Ren. I've finished the latter, and...despite all the praise I've seen heaped on it, I don't find myself loving it.
Far into the future, a grave cataclysm wiped out most of humanity, and there is little hope for the future. One such person, Ikuru, lost his parents in the apocalypse and almost died, had life saving technology not gave him a new body. However, as it turns out, the new limbs that were supposed to save him are killing him instead. In order to live the rest of his life in peace, he requests that he have a special companion to keep him comfortable for his last days. An Ai-Ren, or AGH-RMS, is an artificially generated human created to give comfort to terminally ill patients like Ikuru. His comes in the form of a girl, whom he names Ai. Ai is basically a girly girl: happy, energetic, childish, naive, yet still mature when she wants to be. She helps him rediscover the beauty of life and shows him how everyday things he once took for granted gain new meaning when shared with someone else. However, outside their little world, humanity is on the edge of a potentially unavoidable apocalypse, and there's hardly anything the current generation of people can do to stop it.
If there's one thing the manga definitely has going for it, its the art. The character designs are deceptively simple, but the backgrounds are lavish, detailed, and painstakingly drawn, giving the setting life in this otherwise rather grim world the characters live in. Ai is obviously drawn just like a cute magical girlfriend and Ikuru looks like a regular Japanese man. Other characters have distinct designs as well, and they're simple but recognizeable enough to be differentiated from others, that way readers can easily tell who is who, so nobody looks the same. The setting is very interesting, as it shows humanity trapped on the path of an apocalypse, and we see how people are forced to deal with it, from seeing a strange being called HITO floating in the sky to ruins of what was once a grand, lively civilization. Something like this is definitely reminiscent of most giant robot anime like Gundam or Mazinger Z, but it's rare to see them put in what looks to be a cute slice-of-life/romance/fantasy manga, giving Ikuru and Ai's relationship more meaning in their current circumstances.
I'll admit, while I appreciate that the characters are three-dimensional and different from most anime character archetypes that plague most modern anime, I didn't really find them to be very memorable. They're definitely not bad, no. Ai proves that she's more than just a bouncy genki girl, Ikuru doesn't always sit around angsting about his upcoming death, and his teacher Haruka has a very large role to play in the story's advancement. But I couldn't really relate to them or their struggles. I liked seeing them try to find beauty in a broken world, and I did feel for them when things got bad, but I didn't find myself attached to any of them, especially one woman whose name is Camelo I think, who witnesses the cataclysm and meets with the strange being called HITO in person. I honestly don't see what Camelo adds to the story, and I didn't find her plight to be very interesting. But I do find Ikuru and Ai to be very sweet and even believable as a couple, and none of their romantic progress or actions felt forced, and they do have chemistry, so I can praise Yutaka Tanaka for that.
Unfortunately, as much as I want to love Ai-Ren, as it has a lot of things that really appeal to me, I just can't bring myself to love it. It has a lot of problems. First and foremost are the cryptic, apocalyptic chapters that focus on how humanity got to where it is now. I feel those segments felt slapped on, and it didn't really mix well with Ai and Ikuru's story, and what explanations they do provide make absolutely no sense and are extremely hard to follow, so in a way, it didn't hold my attention, but felt very jarring and distracting. The lack of proper transitions between chapters only exacerbated the problem. While I do appreciate the manga attempting to take on two genres to tell one story, I don't think he did a good job in trying to tie them together in a cohesive, concise manner. But I do appreciate his attempts at doing so. Hey, I'd rather read this than watch Breadwinners or Kanokon or Seikon no Qwaser or anything of the like. Also...the nudity. There's a lot of people getting naked and having sex in this. It's not placed for fanservice or ecchiness, as the main couple having sex is portrayed as being romantic and intimate, and both characters actually want to have sex and Ai is the one who makes the most moves on Ikuru, who doesn't mind being intimate with her, which is a nice change of pace. But again, if you're not a fan of nudity or people getting into sexual situations, then this isn't the manga for you. I appreciate what the manga is trying to do, but the nudity and cryptic storyline about the apocalypse didn't really hold my attention, even though the manga has a lot that really appeals to me, even philosophical questions about what makes us human and whether we're really human.
I love media that has substance. I love how anime and manga are bold and ask questions about life and humanity that makes us think. I love that no matter what, they always want to be mature about their presentation of serious issues, create three-dimensional characters, and show that life isn't always peachy keen. That's what drew me to anime and manga in the first place, even as a kid. You'd think that I'd praise Ai-Ren up the wazoo because it has all of these things that I love in media art forms. Unfortunately, Ai-Ren just kind of fell flat for me. Now don't think I hate it. I actually don't. But I just don't love it. I like it, but not nearly as much as other titles I've seen/read/played. I do think other titles have handled Ai-Ren's concept and ideas better.
It's no masterpiece, but Ai-Ren has a lot to like if you're able to move past the nudity and sexual situations. It may not be for me, but I'm sure others will like it.