Ai-Ren ([愛人]?) is a manga series by Yutaka Tanaka. Ai-Ren is a departure from most of Tanaka's light-hearted slice-of-life stories in that there is a dark and philosophical sci-fi undertone to the whole story. He comments about this at the start of the story.
Ikuru is going to die soon. He lives today, because of another girl's body parts that were grafted to him long ago. The parts that had once saved his life now threatens to take it away. Weighed by the pain and loneliness of his condition and his dilemma, he decides to request the companionship of an AGH-RMS, an "Ai-Ren." These artificially generated humans have their personality and disposition artificially engineered to specification. Their origins are a mystery, but they currently serve to comfort terminally ill patients. When Ikuru's AGH-RMS first arrives, he is surprised by her decisively childish naivite. He names her "Ai" and rediscovers life, love, and how moments he once took for granted can take new meaning when shared with someone else.
However, the futuristic human society seems to be on the edge of an unavoidable apocalypse while Ikuru and Ai live in their own sweet little bit of paradise. Ikuru finds solace in Ai's love, but AGH-RMS can only maintain their engineered persona and memories for a short time. Ai faces death as well.
- Ikuru Yoshizumi
- The introspective main character of the series. He seems like the stereotypical character of a Ren-ai game, but he is also very intelligent and cynical at times. Ever since the traffic accident, which killed his parents and left him living on borrowed time, Ikuru is haunted by memories of his death and his body's self-destruction, which leaves him occasionally unable to eat and paralyzed in place.
- He is good at cooking and housekeeping. Ikuru grows a vegetable garden in his yard, where he later nurtures tomato plants with Ai. He is very kind and tolerant by nature, but he often feels left out and alienated from the rest of the world.
- He outlives Ai. He is later killed by a stray missile blast, but he dies happily knowing that he will finally be re-united with Ai.
- She is the "Ai-Ren" Ikuru requests to be his companion near his death. Ai is very precocious and inquisitive, but naive and resembles many of Rumiko Takahashi's heroines. When she first arrived, she was more of an annoyance, drawing all over the walls and never staying still. Even though her personality is "engineered", she seems to prefer the louder and flashier things in life (rock and roll music, cropped asian outfits) unlike Ikuru.
- She keeps a journal where she draws out what happens in her life and her feelings. Ikuru teaches her how to play piano, but soon she surpasses Ikuru and learns to play guitar as well. Ai has a special charm that brings hope to other people. Ai dies peacefully in her sleep.
- Haruka Nagi
- Ikuru's Teacher and a "perfect being." She forced Ikuru to want to live and be self-reliant after his operation with his implanted body parts. She was attracted to Ikuru before and seems to be somewhat relunctant to accept Ai now. Haruka is a very esteemed doctor at the hospital where Ikuru is treated, and appears to be connected to the precarious state of the earth at the moment.
- Haruka worries about Ikuru and his well-being a lot. She also takes care of Ikuru and Ai's child, releasing her from the incubator she stayed in at the end of the story.
- Ikuru and Ai's Child
- Only appears at the end of the manga, her name is unknown. After the attack on the building Nagi inhabits, the artificial womb holding her was destroyed, so Nagi placed her in another artificial womb with life support systems. When she was being birthed, it appears that either the spirit of Ai and Ikuru, or her own conscience told her not to be afraid, and to live to the fullest. Template:Spec