We all know the pain of having something we love getting misrepresented by a small portion of the fandom; usually the part that attracts negative attention and reflects poorly on the entirety of the fandom. Well, I bring you this Read More on the behalf of Yun Kouga’s Loveless.
Loveless is a psychological/ fantasy coming of age story about the young protagonist Ritsuka Aoyagi, a 13 year old boy suffering from amnesia, an abusive home, an identity crisis, and the rather recent death of his beloved older brother. The story’s main focus is on the power we give to words, and the power we take away from them through over-use. (Such as “I love you”.)
It is not about the sexual or romantic relations between a young boy and an adult man.
Not only is there blatant evidence within the story, but this has been expressed by Yun Kouga herself, along with the editors of Tokyopop. (Before the company went under.)
A more comprehensive insight is provided under the cut, along with a few spoilers to help you better understand the true masterpiece known as “Loveless”.
There is admittedly a good portion of homoerotic fanservice within this series, but only for a short while in the beginning. It is the fandom which exaggerates these few scenes and blows them out of proportion, scaring away potential fans and readers.
The main message of the story of Loveless is the power of language, and how the over-use or under-use of certain words or phrases can increase or decrease the meaning of them. This applies to basic words such as “Love” and “Loneliness” along with what is in a name.
The story’s main focus keeps steady with the growth and development of young Ritsuka. Now that his brother has passed, his mother is openly abusive with him, despite is kind nature towards her. This physical along with psychological torment has left Ritsuka in a sort of identity limbo. He begins to believe what his mother says about him when she claims he is “not the real Ritsuka”. We see several scenes within the first two volumes of Ritsuka consulting with his therapist of how he is waiting for “the real Ritsuka to come back” so that “his mother will be happy”. He also confesses that he is scared of what will happen to him once the real Ritsuka comes back. Will he keep existing?
Ritsuka is the type of character the reader immediately feels sympathy for, and many female readers admit having either big-sister or motherly feelings towards him.
The second character that we see the most of that becomes the catalyst for Ritsuka’s growth is Soubi, a 20 year old college student and Ritsuka’s brother’s “fighter unit”. A fighter unit is someone, when paired with their sacrifice, can fight in spell battles using magic weaved through words. Stronger spells can be formed through larger syllable counts and stronger connections with one’s sacrifice. The fighting system within this series is actually quite intricate and fascinating, and the animation adaption of the fights is simply breathe-taking.
We the audience, later on in the series, learn that Soubi was commanded by Ritsuka’s brother to love him, showing the invalidation of those words, and causing Ritsuka to break away from Soubi and start maturing on his own. This is where we see a crucial moment in the series where Ritsuka starts to take a more dominant stance in his approach to conflict in his life and we witness him growing up. His aggression towards Soubi after this reveal is not a fanservice toss to subdom play, but rather shows that Ritsuka is breaking away from the negative influence the adults in his world have had on him. What many people forget is that Ritsuka is a strong and independent character.
Much of the fandom wants to stereotype him as weak and incapable in order for him to fit better into the position of a stereotypical yaoi uke. We see, once again, a break from the notion that this series is a shonen-ai by the fact that Ritsuka attempts to take all the challenges he’s faced with on his own, rather than leaning on or hiding behind Soubi.
Ritsuka even provides strength to the other supporting cast through his own influence, rather than Soubi’s. One of the most poignant moments is when he convinces classmate and friend Yuiko to stop speaking in the third person, and rather refer to herself as “I”. This is a display of validating Yuiko’s self-worth, and is a major turning point for her character.
In short, Loveless is a story of forming your own sense of self and identity, and breaking away from pressures and standards brought on by those older than oneself. It puts emphasis on the beauty and unique-ness of the human language, while showing conservation of the important phrases.
With an indepth and highly provocative storyline, many loveable characters, a strong lead, and some of the most gorgeous art produced in the last decade, Loveless is a must read for any fan of the psychological genre and otaku alike.