A while ago I reviewed the Loveless anime, and whilst it undoubtedly had potential, something about it didnâ€™t sit right with me- I wanted to spend long enough in the world of the series to explore both the setting and the characters, and twelve episodes just wasnâ€™t long enough to do that. In the hopes of getting a better grasp on what the creator was trying to achieve, I decided to turn to the manga, and in due course, the first eight volumes had duly been devoured (in a non-literal sense, of course).
Delving into the original version of the story, however, was to be an equally mixed experience, for whilst there was no doubt that I had enjoyed what I read, at the same time, it wasnâ€™t enough- I needed more. The story has continued to gain momentum since what we saw at the end of the anime, but with the end still nowhere in sight, the series leaves the reader desperate to see how it is all going to turn out.
A tale that explores both relationship dynamics and the power of words- sprinkled with a healthy dose of fantasy- Loveless never really bothers to explain why its world is the way it is, instead using its unique setting to better tell its story. This lack of explanation was one of the things that frustrated me when watching the anime, but now that the manga has enhanced my appreciation for the series, it seems less important- like Saikano, the explanation behind the setting is less important than the character interaction that takes place therein. And such interaction is truly what the series is about, with its portrayal of everything from pure-hearted, innocent love to dangerous, twisted obsessions. Is love about attaining someoneâ€™s unquestioning devotion, about moulding them into your ideal, or just accepting them as they are? The â€˜rightâ€™ answers may seem obvious, but with so many different types of relationship employed in the series, it becomes fascinating to watch how they all evolve.
As mentioned above, words are themselves a potent force in the series, a theme that is most noticeable in the spell battles where Fighters cast spells by picking the words, but one that permeates throughout. Obviously words are going to have a de facto degree of power in any story that relies on them as its medium, but Loveless elevates this to something more, once again providing something to think about as the series again and again demonstrates the power of even a simple phrase. As the characters themselves remark at times, a particular choice of words at a particular time can make all the difference to the outcome of a situation- and equally important is the intent behind those words. Itâ€™s a simple point, of course, but one that the series uses to great effect- especially as these days stock phrases tend to get bandied about in favour of words carefully chosen for maximum effect.
Given that the series is all about relationships, it comes as no surprise that it succeeds or fails on the strength of its characters. At the centre of the story are Ritsuka and Soubi- one a sixth-grader who has lost both his memory and his brother, and who is in desperate need of the emotional support his abusive mother cannot give, the other an adult who seems suave and self-sufficient on the outside, but is equally needy within. Both they and the various supporting characters have issues to be dealt with over the course of the series, but somehow it never feels too much- rather than groaning at yet another tragic back story, a firm injection of lighter hearted material ensures that when the serious stuff comes along, you sympathise with those involved.
In the anime, the visuals were Lovelessâ€™ strong point, and unsurprisingly the original manga is no different, showcasing Yun Kougaâ€™s skill at creating attractive character designs. The use of animal ears and tail to indicate which characters retain their virginity may seem like an excuse to please the furries, but it actually proves to be an interesting device, with every extreme from an adult who has yet to lose hers to a child who lost his at far too young an age. In the real world, such things happen (or donâ€™t happen, as the case may be) behind closed doors, but here the deed is effectively public knowledge.
Final ThoughtsrnAfter a degree of disappointment with the anime, the Loveless manga was just what I needed to rekindle my interest with the franchise. Much more than a boysâ€™-love-fest, Loveless gives us an insight into relationships, loneliness and all the different types of love, whilst wrapping it up in some eye-catching artwork. It will be interesting to see where the mangaka takes the story from here.