Loveless Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1598162217
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Loveless Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     March 22, 2006
Release Date: February 07, 2006


Loveless Vol.#01
© TOKYOPOP


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yun Kouga
Translated by:Ray Yoshimoto
Adapted by:

What They Say
When 12-year-old Ritsuka discovers a posthumous message from his brother Seimei indicating he was murdered, he becomes involved in a 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?

The Review
Words can weave a spell before we even know it, and Loveless is a manga whose power captures us at page one.

Packaging:
TOKYOPOP uses the original cover art featuring Ritsuka on the front and Soubi on the back in pink and orange tones. The bright pink accents by TOKYOPOP do a good job of drawing attention to the cover but do look a tad overbearing. The logo has been redone in a new white font over a pink swatch with a butterfly motif and looks alright, though I prefer the look of the original. Inside the printing looks good, generally on par with other books from this publisher, if perhaps slightly better suited to the art style here. Extras include a color insert, the author’s afterward pages and an essay written by the English adaptor. Ads for other TOKYOPOP properties close up the book.

Artwork:
Inevitably the artwork here is very pretty, a product of both Yun Kouga’s incredible style and the fact that it’s near impossible for characters with ears and tails to be anything but cute. (Ritsuka in particular gets distinctly feline when angered!) Lines are distinct, detail just enough, and the character designs are unique and attended to with care. Panels tend to be quite full on their own with character art, text or SFX, but the backgrounds also offer a nice mix of both white and negative space, tones and artwork and do not suffer an over-reliance on stock images. TOKYOPOP’s printing tends to be a little on the dark side, but it works in their favor fairly well here, suitable for the many solid black spaces and backgrounds.

SFX/Text:
Though the SFX are generally left untranslated, there are several (if somewhat inconsistently chosen) overlays here. It’s puzzling how often SFX in white spaces could have easily been translated but aren't, yet those where an overlay would cover artwork are. That said however, fonts are used well and the overlays look very nicely done. The translation reads extremely well with no noticeable errors and honorifics are left intact. The only real difficulty I had was in reading the very small text, which not only occurs in random bubbles around the page, but quite often runs very close to the inside margin. All things considered though, this is definitely one of the better TOKYOPOP productions as of late.

Contents:(please note that the following may contain spoilers)
In the world of Loveless spoken words invoke magic power and two-person fighter units engage in battles where one is the Sacrifice and one is the Weapon. People also have kitty ears and tails until they become grown-up (read: have sex) and have two names – their “real” name and the name they use everyday. Ritsuka is a very troubled young boy; at twelve years old he’s suffering from a mental trauma that has caused a sort of personality switch-induced amnesia. He has no recollection of his life before two years ago and his abusive mother insists that he isn’t her real son. He bears it all as his punishment for the sins he believes he’s committed.

This story opens with Ritsuka transferring into a new school some time after the mysterious death of his older brother, Seimei, whom he looked up to and loved a great deal. Despite his solitary wishes and a less than stellar first impression, he finds himself the center of some very persistent attentions of a classmate named Yuiko. Then later that day he meets Soubi and though he doesn’t know it yet, life will never be the same for Ritsuka again. He first believes Soubi merely a friend of his brother’s but he turns out to be something much more. A weapon, he says, and he pledges his love and very life to the service and protection of Ritsuka. This strange introduction comes none too early because a fighter unit named “Breathless” shows up intent to take Ritsuka, a.k.a. “Loveless,” away with them.

In the ensuing battle Soubi removes the bandages from around his neck to expose the word “Beloved” – Seimei’s real name – scarred into his flesh. He disposes of the threat using mysterious magical powers invoked by word spells while a bewildered Ritsuka looks on. Before recovering from one shock, Ritsuka receives another – Soubi knows who killed his brother. Though Soubi is not permitted to talk about it in any detail, Ritsuka becomes obsessed with finding out more about his brother’s killer, the enigmatic Septimal Moon.

As if unraveling the mystery of his brother’s murder and staying out of the hands of “Breathless” weren’t enough, Ritsuka has to fight against his own conflicting emotions. Still very much a child in many ways, Ritsuka is confused by Soubi’s attentions but desires them all the same. To muddle things even further, Soubi’s motives and sincerity become suspect when Ritsuka discovers he had first belonged to Seimei. But just as Ritsuka can’t help but be drawn to him, Soubi is falling under Ritsuka’s spell, more than he ever imagined possible.

Comments
It’s hard to know where to begin extolling the virtues of this series, partly because there are many, and partly because the story has so much yet to be uncovered. First there’s the art; I simply adore it. It’s beauty alone is enough to convince me to read (but thankfully there’s a good story too), but even more fascinating is how it plays with convention – this is a story that deals with many dark themes and has some truly unsettling undercurrents – definitely not the sorts of things one would expect in a manga full of cute, young kitty boys and girls.

Secondly, the characters are exquisitely intricate and mysterious. Ritsuka is one messed up kid, not surprising given the bizarre psychological traumas that beg to be sorted out, but he has a resilience even he isn’t aware of. His capacity to survive and to love is tremendous, though he wants to fight its existence with all of his being. There’s a lot more to Soubi than first impressions would lead us to believe, as well. Yun Kouga plays with many conventions here, too. Some might consider certain events – or words – in this book to merely cater to fan-service, but this story warns us not to take everything at face value. The relationships are incredibly complicated, proving love itself is never truly pure and entirely too complex an emotion to sum up simply.

The mysterious way in which this story unfurls is engrossing, the order in which facts are exposed deliberate. This book strives to change our perception of things in the same way an incantation of a thought can change not only ourselves, but the world around us. Loveless is not the first manga to explore the power of words, but it is not afraid to do so in unconventional, controversial and, ultimately, captivating ways. Absolutely recommended.

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