Recently Barnes and Noble was running a pretty sweet deal where you could by buy two manga and get the third free! Super awesome. I decided to use the opportunity to check out some new manga I’d never read before. The series Loveless caught my eye so I decided to give it a shot and bought the first two combo volumes, which included volumes 1,2,3, and 4.
I had never actually heard of the series before so I had zero expectations going in. The back cover sounded interesting though, I’m pretty into fantasy based anime/manga and this one sounded like my kind of thing.
“Ritsuka Aoyagi is alone in the world- never fitting in at school and alienated from his own past by a fragmented memory. When his beloved older brother is brutally murdered, Ritsuka is heartbroken but determined to find answers. His only lead is Soubi, a mysterious, handsome college student who offers him an intimate link to his brother’s other life: a dark and vibrant world of spell battles and secret names.
Soubi leads Ritsuka through a maze of new experiences, from battles wrought in wordplay to making friends at school. But is he any less alone with the secretive Soubi than by himself?” –Loveless
The one thing I have to say is that I found the synopsis on the back to be a smidge… misleading, I guess you could say! I don’t know if it is just me, but when I read the back of the cover I imagined that this was going to be about some high school (probably seniorish age wise) guy who starts to investigate the murder of his brother and along the way discovers that he is was magic and discovers that he is as well. Then this Soubi character teaches him how to harness his magic and introduces him to the secret wizarding world hidden from humans right before their eyes. That maybe there might end up being some sort of love relationship between Soubi and Ritsuka’s older brother and there was a possibility that Soubi and Ritsuka would start to like each other as well, which might cause tension because Soubi use to date his brother…Or something like that!
The actually story turned out to be A LOT different then I originally anticipated. I’m not mad at it though; I actually really enjoyed the books and ended up binging on the rest of the series via the internet until five in the morning. However if you, like me, have never read/heard of this series before and get the type of the impression that I got after reading the back cover I feel like there’s some things that you should know going into it.
First off, this series is a lot darker then I think the summary portrays. The book deals with a lot of intense themes like physical abuse, child abuse, and rape. You also see how adults are aware of these situations and just turn away allowing it to continue. Abusive relationships play a huge part in the storyline and how the characters interact with each other so scenes can get pretty serious.
I will hand it to Yun Kouga (the author) though she does do an excellent job of creating moments and characters that help to break up the tension. All and all though I would NOT consider this series to be “light-hearted”. If you’re into a more carefree type of storyline already this manga might not be for you.
Secondly, when the back cover mentions “spell battles and secret names” don’t think Fairy Tail. In this series everyone has a specific partner and they each share the same true name. For instance on the first page Seimei (Ritsuka’s older brother) mentions that Beloved is his true name. His magic partner turns out to be Soubi so they both share the name Beloved. Ritsuka’s true name is Loveless, so somewhere out in the world there should be another person with the name Loveless and they are magical partners.
How this magic relationship works is that one person acts as the sacrifice and the other person acts as the fighter in battles. The sacrifice’s job is to take the hits while the fighter weaves words to subdue the opposition’s sacrifice. The fight is over when one of the fights dominates the other fighter’s sacrifice. It is also the sacrifice that controls the fighter, lending them strength and controlling how the fighter fights. Keeping them calm and giving them orders. The fighter takes the orders and protects the sacrifice from being overtaken by beating the other fighter first thus tying down the opposing teams sacrifice. This magical relationship causes an interesting system where the fighter is submissive to the dominant sacrifice. The series explores how this relationship affects the characters in the story.
This is important to understand because if you’re expecting some sort of happy guild like atmosphere where everyone fights together and protects each other you are going to be disappointed. While this power structure does create some very intense and loving bonds between some partners it also creates very abusive and hateful bonds between others. These different power imbalances and takes on what it means to be a fighter/sacrifice help to propel the storyline forward.
The third thing could be a deal breaker for some people. As I mentioned above my initial thought when reading the back of the book was that Ritsuka was some high school boy when in actuality he is a twelve-year-old sixth grader. I’ll admit this through me for a loop. As I mentioned above this manga does touch base on some pretty serious themes, however that really isn’t why his age threw me off. The reason had more to do with the fact that Soubi is twenty-one. Remember how I thought there could possible end up being a relationship between the two? Well that was about the only thing I was right on about.
The relationship between the two hasn’t turned sexual all though there are moments when they kiss. Not full on make-out sessions or anything, but still Ritsuka is twelve and Soubi is twenty-one and it’s a little… I’m not even sure what the word is. It just throws me off! I’m still not sure how I feel about it to be honest! I mean were a lot of times when I was reading that I forgot about how old Ritsuka was and then there’d be a scene where’d they’d mention it and I be like, “Oh, yeah! Weird.”
Obviously this wasn’t a deal breaker for me as I read the next six volumes. I honestly feel it showcases Ritsuka’s personality better and highlights the dynamics he has with the people around him. Even though he is so young he is basically the adult in the majority of his relationships and is constantly put into situations where he is the one who has to make the so-called “grown-up” decisions I have to wonder if that may be the reason Yun Kouga created him to be so young. It makes more of an impact when a twelve year old learns that someone close to him (I won’t say who!) arranged and watched a rape happen and then has to make the decision on how he will deal with this person, then if say, a seventeen year old has to face this situation. It is almost more gut wrenching when you remember he is only in sixth grade and is having to deal with all of this.
Some issues I do have with the series includes the facts that certain things have yet to be explained adequately and I feel ten volumes creates more then enough time for that. For example, we still have no idea what the deal is with Ritsuka’s memory. There are barely any clues so we can’t even create well thought out theories. Don’t even get me started on what the deal with his brother is. It’s almost like there are to many extra episodes and not enough time spent on the main plot which causes the series to lag a bit. Another thing I find irritating is the fact that sometimes the characters are drawn to similar to each other that can cause some confusion when reading. Neither of these things keeps me from recommending this to anyone who enjoys a more serious manga though. I myself will still be waiting for the next volume to come out.
Have you ever read Loveless? What did you think? Comment below!
* A miracle has happened and all pictures were actually taken by me *