Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: LOVELESS 2-IN-1 Volume 1


TRANSLATION: Ray Yoshimoto
ENGLISH ADAPTATION: Lillian Diaz-Pazygyl
LETTERS: James Dashiell
EDITOR: Hope Donovan
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4990-3; paperback; Rated “T” for “Teen”
446pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $16.99 CAN, £9.99 UK

Yun Kouga, the pen name of Risa Yamada, is known for creating such manga as Crown of Love and Gestalt. One of her other popular titles, Loveless, a fantasy/drama series, has a new North American publisher. Tokyopop had the license to publish the series in English, releasing eight of the series’ graphic novels before going out of business. VIZ Media now has the license and resumed the English-language publication of the series with the ninth volume.

VIZ Media will also republish the first eight volumes in 2-in-1 editions, which has a single graphic novel edition containing two volumes. Loveless 2-in-1 Edition, Vol. 1 collects Loveless Volumes 1 and 2.

Loveless, Vol. 1 introduces 11-year-old Ritsuka Aoyagi, a troubled sixth grade student who is still grieving the loss of his older brother, Seimei, who was murdered a few months earlier. Ritsuka meets Soubi Agatsuma, a 20-year-old man who claims to have been a friend of Seimei’s. After a little while, Ritsuka learns that Seimei and Soubi acted as a fighting pair.

They were involved in battles in which the fighting involved spells composed of carefully selected words. Soubi was the “sentouki” or “fighter unit.” Seimei was the “sacrifice,” the one who bears the damage inflicted upon the fighter. When the sacrifice gets worn down, the fighter loses. Through Soubi, Ritsuka learns that Seimei was killed by a mysterious group called Septimal Moon.

In Loveless, Vol. 2, Ritsuka and Soubi grow closer, while more pairs of fighters come forward to challenge them or Soubi, specifically. Yuiko Hawatari, Ritsuka’s classmate, falls deeper in love with him. Ritsuka’s therapist, Dr. Katsuko, tries to unravel the mystery of his apparent dual personalities.

Apparently, Yun Kouga does not consider her creation, Loveless, to be boys’ love manga, although the series does depict romantic, committed, or intimate relationships between pairs of boys and young men. There are no scenes of fleshy entanglements between naked young men, as may be found in the boys’ love subset, yaoi manga. But there is the kind of lusty hugging between fully-clothed young men that one might find in the non-explicit-sex subset of boys’ love called shounen-ai.

That’s how Loveless is. It takes on the characteristics of many genres. It’s part battle manga, and I must admit to being intrigued by its verbal, word-based skirmishes. Call Loveless a battle rap manga. It is also a high school romance with a love triangle (Ritsuka, Soubi, and Yuiko) that threatens to keep adding romantic interests (a fellow student and possibly a teacher). It is a family drama complete with a psycho mom and a largely absent dad.

Loveless is not too much of a good thing, but rather, too many good things. I like Loveless, but I’m not in love with it.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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