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Loveless Vol. 01: 2-in-1 by Yun Kouga
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Loveless Vol. 01: 2-in-1 (edition 2012)

by Yun Kouga

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Member:catfantastic
Title:Loveless Vol. 01: 2-in-1
Authors:Yun Kouga
Info:VIZ Media LLC (2012), Edition: Original, Paperback, 376 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:manga, cat people, read in 2013

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Loveless, Volumes 1-2 by Yun Kouga

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I initially read Yun Kouga's manga series Loveless after it was released in English by Tokyopop. I was surprised by how much I liked it, finding the story to be oddly compelling and engrossing if occasionally confusing. Tokyopop only released the first eight volumes of the ongoing series and so I was exceedingly happy when Viz Media rescued the license. The quality of Viz's release is much better than Tokyopop's, as well. Viz re-released the first eight volumes as two-volume omnibuses based on the special limited edition of Loveless published in Japan. The first omnibus, released in 2012, collects the first two volumes of Loveless as well as additional material previously unavailable in English. In Japan, the contents were released between 2002 and 2003. Since July 2013's Manga Moveable Feast focused on Yun Kouga and her work, it was the perfect opportunity for me to revisit Loveless.

Ritsuka Aoyagi is a new student at Yano Jonan Elementary School. Though he can't be bothered with his classmates, the withdrawn sixth grader does his best to at least put up a good front for his teachers. At such a young age, Ritsuka has already been through a lot. His older brother Seimei, who he adored, was brutally murdered and he suffers from physical, mental, and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother. Even Ritsuka's past is obscured--his memories and personality from two years ago are lost, the amnesia brought on by what is assumed to be some sort of trauma. Ritsuka is alone and has nothing that he can claim as his own until he is approached by Soubi Agatsuma, a college student with a mysterious connection to Seimei. For never having met before, Soubi shows an unexpected and disconcerting level of devotion and affection towards Ritsuka, something the younger boy desperately needs but is hesitant to accept.

One of the most peculiar things about Loveless is apparent within the first few pages: many characters have cat ears and tails. Later it is revealed that this is a physical sign that those individuals haven't had sex. It's an admittedly strange addition to the manga but Kouga uses it quite well. The presence or absence of ears and tails impacts characters' interactions and relationships, how they think about and act towards one another. The cat ears and tails also serve another purpose in Loveless, allowing many of Kouga's characters to be particularly expressive. Tails bush out when they're startled; ears fold back when they're upset or perk up when they're attentive. Actually, in general I find Kouga's artwork to be beautifully expressive and emotive. It creates a mood and atmosphere that captures the story's darkness, intimacy, and barely subdued sexuality exceptionally well without being overwhelmingly oppressive.

The beginning of Loveless is a story of intense yearning and loneliness with characters who have been broken, damaged, and twisted. But even when they despair they still cling to hope. Ritsuka has trouble accepting himself and difficulty trusting others; the attention he receives from Soubi is both welcomed and feared. Loveless is also a story about the power of words. In part because of his association with Soubi, Ritsuka is pulled into a world where battles are waged with words and spells are cast that can cause considerable pain and physical damage. Whether he realizes it or not, Ritsuka is already quite familiar with the even more insidious psychological agony caused by words uttered in everyday contexts--such as when his mother continually denies that he is even her son. The first omnibus of Loveless raises more questions than it provides answers, but it does establish an intriguing tale and characters. Even having read it before, I still find Loveless to be a strangely enthralling and compelling manga.

Experiments in Manga ( )
1 vote PhoenixTerran | Jul 19, 2013 |
Loveless takes place in an alternate universe where children have cat ears and tails until they lose their virginity. The main character, Ristuka, is an elementary student who suffers from some sort of amnesia or personality disorder, brought on by the violent death of his older brother. His mother is abusive and claims he isn't her son. Ritsuka himself feels like there is something wrong with him and seems depressed and aloof - and Kouga shows how deeply his memory loss has affected him by his obsession with taking photographs and "making memories."

One day Ristuka meets a mysterious college student named Soubi hanging around outside his school. Soubi claims to have been a friend of his brother's and Ritsuka, still heartbroken over his brother's death, eagerly befriends him. But Soubi is secretive and involved in weird battles fought using words. These battles are fought by teams - one partner, the "fighter," deals the magic damage, the other is a "sacrifice" and receives damage cast by the opposing team. Soubi and Ritsuka's brother were team "Beloved," but now Soubi is "Beloved" and Ritsuka is "Loveless." Ritsuka is the sacrifice, but this also means he is Soubi's "master." Soubi keeps Ritsuka in the dark about the bizarre organization that sanctions the battles and trains the fighters, even though they seem to be the ones who murdered Ritsuka's brother and have sinister plans for him, as well. Soubi also keeps Ritsuka off-balance by flirting with him - teasing him, kissing him. It's more than a little troubling (Ritsuka is an eleven year old child) but I can't decide if Soubi is the real villain in the piece or the love interest.

The art is very beautiful, the story emotional. I enjoyed it more than I expected - there is something poetic and alluring about Yun Kouga's work - and I will admit that I am eagerly waiting to get my hands on the next volume. ( )
  catfantastic | Jan 14, 2013 |
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When 12-year-old Ritsuka discovers a posthumous message from his brother Seimei indicating he was murdered, he becomes involed ina shadowy world of spell battles and secret names. Together with the mysterious Soubi, the search to find Seimei's killer and uncover the truth begins! But in a world where mere words have unbelievable power, how can you find true friendship and happiness when your very name is Loveless? In volume 2, as Ritsuka continues to mourn the loss of his older brother Seimei, he endures abuse from his mother, bullying at school, and the threat of new assassins who are targeting him.… (more)

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