Ai Asato (麻里 愛, Asato Ai) is one of the characters from the Japanese manga and anime series Kochikame by Osamu Akimoto. She is a patrol officer from the Transport Department of the Katsushika Police Headquarters. She is most often addressed as 'Maria', which is an alternative reading of her name as a whole (ma, ri, a(i), 麻-里-愛). In the manga, her name Maria is typeset in the katakana alphabet (マリア) the most often.
Maria is best known for the fact that she was a transgendered character; in the manga, she officially becomes female and is no longer a male. In the anime however, 'she' remained as a transgender in all episodes.
Maria has a very long, lush and straight bout of dark brown hair (depicted as black in manga illustrations) with very straightly-cut bangs just past eyebrow level, and hair ends cut in the same fashion around her hip area. While her eyes are an amber shade in coloured manga illustrations, they are shown as a darker shade of brown in the anime.
She wears a lilac-coloured rendition of the female police officer uniform, both while previously male and now as a female, which very much resembles the type worn by Reiko. It includes a long-sleeved coat with lapels, white undershirt with dark blue tie, a short skirt (above knee length) and matching lilac shoes plus official hat. Her summer uniform has T-shirt style sleeves instead of long sleeves.
The fact that Maria is a legit male in the whole of the anime series has never actually fooled technically any male character who have seen her at first sight, due to 'her' very convincing physique, facial features and choice of clothing, as well as deceptively feminine mannerisms and way of speaking. It is only in circumstances where a male character is accidentally or forcefully pushed (head-first) to her evidently 'bulky' nether regions where they discover her true gender identity, causing intense shock. In 'her' introductory anime appearance, she reveals to Ryotsu that her breasts are in fact implants. However, having previously been a champion kickboxer prior to become transgendered, it is unknown how or why she is depicted with little evidence of more visible muscles on her limbs.
Maria possesses an extremely feminine and caring personality that, paired with her looks, captivate many men in her presence. She is compassionate amongst other characters, and is especially fond of Ryotsu, treating him with a more loving and affectionate demeanor compared to other men she encounters. Other things of her interest are cute items,Before she decided to take on the build and mannerisms of a woman, Maria was previously a number-one kickboxer champion who was serious and diligent in his training with his coach. His skills from this era are still present in Maria, and are most commonly seen where Maria is in self-defence or expressing anger towards another character.
She is easily jealous of other women who show interest in Ryotsu, and is always seen hugging him on a frequent basis, making her seem possessive to an extent.
Main article: Kyouko Asato
Kyouko is the mother of Ai Asato. Maria's physical appearance, save for hairstyle, matches most to her looks.
Main article: Ban Asato
Ban, alternatively known as 'Hondara-ken' in the series, is the father of Ai Asato. His hair colour and hair style is almost identical to Maria's own, albeit being shorter at shoulder-length.
Main article: Rin Asato
Rin is the younger twin sister of Ai Asato. They both share identical appearances and mannerisms, which makes it easy to confuse one of the girls for the other.
Police Box colleagues
Main article: Kankichi Ryotsu
Maria is especially notorious for her unyielding displays of affection for Ryotsu, based primarily on the fact that he most resembles the likeliness of her previous kickboxing coach. She can often be seen hugging him -to his displeasure- and vowing to help him out in any way, depending on the situation at hand. She always addresses Ryotsu as Ryo-sama, the -sama affixation only used towards those deemed of a higher or more important status, which in turn displays the extent to which she finds Ryotsu significant to her.
Scenes in both the manga and anime which show Maria's flatting room always depict a multitude of items ranging from pin-up posters and plush dolls to carpets and bathroom toys which are of Ryotsu, indicating that she shows a highly obsessive interest in him.
Maria's debut anime episode is the only anime episode in which Ryotsu is completely fooled by her feminine appearance, to the extent of considering her as a marriage partner (based on marriage-related conversation he has with Bucho at the beginning of the episode) up until the end of the episode, where he 'realises' her true gender.
Main article: Reiko Katherine Akimoto
Reiko and Maria are arguably the two female characters most often seen throughout both the manga and anime series. They appear to be very good friends with one another, and are especially portrayed as being the main beauties of the Kochikame storyline. The two share mutual skills and interests with respect to activities involving cooking, sewing, handicrafts, sports, fashion and modelling. It could be suggested that Maria is an 'alternative' female counterpart to her, much like how Nakagawa is portrayed as Reiko's male counterpart, because of their highly similar looks and interests.
Many illustrations of the pair have been featured on manga volume designs, title pages and promotional images. The two seem to work as contrasts, given their attributes; Reiko's blonde-hair blue-eyes and 'foreign' appearance juxtaposes Maria's brown-hair brown-eyes and more 'local' Japanese look. The two are similar in body physique, i.e. both are busty, tall and have the longest lengths of hair compared to other female characters.
- Maria's birthday was slated to either be on 14th April (in the anime) or 5th May (in the manga). She is also said to be 20 years old.
- Her bust-hip-waist sizes are 93.5-58-88 centimetres respectively.
- Maria has actually undergone two gender changes in the manga series; in Volume 75, she is changed to a woman by the Old Man of Heaven and his assistant Rika Hanayama, but is reverted back into a man later on. Her permanent gender change from male to female occurred in Volume 111 by use of magic, when she is faced with new character and potential love rival Haya Isowashi, wishing to compete against her and other female characters for Ryotsu's affections.