FAQ: As a newbie to Ai No Kusabi should one read the novel first or watch the anime

Thus begins our first post series of sorts which is giving my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Ai No Kusabi, both the novel and the anime.
And one of the ones I see the most often around the Great Interweb is this:

“I just found Ai No Kusabi and I know that there is a novel and anime adaptation, but I don’t know what to do first: should I read the novel before seeing the anime or should I watch the anime first?”

This question leaves me sort of stumped, to be honest because I’m not sure how to answer it. But, I’ll attempt to answer it by relating to my experience.

I discovered Ai No Kusabi in pretty much the same way as this person had: I noticed other fans talking about it on a forum or even found it on the Web through a random search and wanted to find out more. I watched the anime first…and this was before I found out that they did a remake of it. I watched both parts of the original anime on YouTube and immediately loved it. I found out that it was a novel sometime after that when I went looking to see if I could find any more information about it. I naturally had already read the fan translation of the first few chapters of the novel. I eventually ordered the English translations and read all 8 in about a week, week in a half. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For the most part, whichever form of media you choose I think it’s pretty much relative. However, I do wish to make one small suggestion and that is: prior to reading any fan-fiction, and there are literally tons of it out there, make sure you read the novel before reading any of those. Nine times out of ten, FF deals with AU or alternative universes and fan authors change things to the point that new fans coming into a series may confuse what is “fanon” (what the fan perceives is true from the source material) from actual canon (the original author’s take on the world he/she created in the novel/series). Many times the lines between the two get so far out of tune it gets difficult to tell the difference. Case in point, the Taming Riki series which was a fan fiction story that became legendary within the AnK fan base, not only because the author tried to sell her stories (a completely separate issue I won’t get into here), but many new fans believed that she was the original author of Ai No Kusabi. Oops! That turned out to NOT be the case. The authors of Taming Riki and Ai No Kusabi are completely different and the former are a series of stories based on the latter.  Fan Fiction forms a bit of a grey area in terms of copyright any way–but that’s another story. Anyway, be careful, and know what you’re reading ahead of time. I think also it’s more fun to read fan fiction once you know the original story going in. That way you know what things are being changed around if any and also you can put the story into proper context. It’s not important in some ways. Most times I like to read a good story and so I’ll come into a piece of fan fiction as if I’m opening a new book. If it’s well written then I love to read another writer’s take on a world I’ve come to know and love.

Which anime OVA adaptation should I watch?
Oh, yeah! I forgot about that…. you should know too that they did a remake in 2012 of the anime OVAs—same production company and director and character designer of the 1994 OVA, except with a different voice cast (same used for the audio drama CD remakes) and Yoshihara-sensei wrote the screenplays for all four parts. This remake was supposed to be a 13-part series, but AIC had financial difficulties and only did the four episodes. The remake only covers a portion of the novel series, but it has a narrative structure very close to the novel. Whereas the original OVAs (1992 and 1994) present the novel’s events in more chronological order and it’s the whole story with certain scenes altered or changed around. The main plot points remain the same. So if you happen to be new, the original OVAs are a nice overview of the story. It’s not the whole story, and in the original OVAs the 3-year span that Riki is in Eos as Iason’s pet is only hinted at via flashback, but it’s still nice to watch this classic. I once put both versions of the anime OVAs together to see how they would look and work and it ended up being close to three hours. Whether I’ll be posting here, I haven’t decided.
To wrap up, in what method you come into Ai No Kusabi, either with the novel series or the anime, I’m not really sure it matters. I was given a taste of the story through the anime OVAs and it was through those that I wanted to hunt down the novel series. After that, I wanted to read more and see how others interpreted Yoshihara’s world and started reading fan fiction stories and collecting fan art. Yoshihara’s world is complex and much is left to interpretation (as I’ll discuss later) and one take is as good as any other’s. Whichever it is you do, though…. find your path and ‘walk forward into the world’. Just enjoy whatever it is you find and share your discovery with others!

So long for now!

Share with me in the comments how you discovered Ai No Kusabi. I’d be very curious to discovery what path you followed in your journey to Amoy.