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Manga / Loveless

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Other manga by Yun Kouga:

A running manga series and 12-episode anime created by Yun Kouga, Loveless follows the story of a 12-year-old Ritsuka as he searches for the truth behind his brother Seimei's murder — and, unexpectedly, inherits his brother's Fighter Unit, 20-year-old college student Soubi, who in their first meeting declares nonchalantly that he loves Ritsuka, kisses him, and draws him into a world of spell battles, Fighters and Sacrifices. Ritsuka learns that he is "Loveless" (see Meaningful Name), and has a destined Fighter somewhere in the world and an as-of-yet unrevealed birthmark on his body of his "name".

Oh, and all the virgins in their universe have cat ears and a tail until they lose said virginity.

Despite the considerable BL themes in Loveless, the focus is more on relationships themselves and the dynamics between the people, be they straight, gay, or entirely non-romantic (Yun Kouga herself has stated that she doesn't personally consider the series as BL). Among other things, the series deals with very real situations such as Domestic Abuse, childhood sexual abuse and trauma, and other "not for kids" issues. The series is also known for having Mind Screw aspects of epic proportions.

The manga began serialization in the shoujo/josei magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum in 2002, and is still ongoing. It was formerly licensed in English by Tokyopop, and is now being continued by VIZ Media, who are also releasing two-in-one editions of the volumes that Tokyopop previously published with brand new bonus comics and interviews.

The 12 episode anime adaptation, which first aired in 2005, covers most of the chapters from the first four volumes of the manga. While it's a faithful adaptation, there are a few differences between them, like how some of the events are in a different order than in the manga and exclusive scenes that didn't occur in the manga, especially the ending.

Is in no way related towards Lamia Loveless (this is not an anime of her descendants), nor NEEDLESS, nor the play set in Final Fantasy VII. And no, it's not devoid of LOVE. Also has nothing to do with the iconic Loveless, of My Bloody Valentine fame. It also has nothing to do with the The Wild Wild West villain, a certain country music singer or a Russian film.

Includes examples of:

= * Alternate Universe: In the manga hiatus, there was a brief story about Ritsuka visiting a different world where he was a college student like Soubi.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Even though the Fearless pair aren't bad people, they're connected to Nisei, and fought Ritsuka and Soubi under his orders. Nisei being Seimei's Fighter, it's unknown where they really stand even though they associate with him. It doesn't help that Nisei calls Mimuro "senpai".
  • And That's Terrible: If it wasn't made clear enough that Seimei, even outright called a villain by Youji, was evil, we can't really help you. Not that Ritsuka was having any of this. Even Nakahira notices that he's not really a good person.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Seimei, in volume eight. Even worse, though Nisei was taken captive, he ended up getting him back through an exchange by using Kio as his own captive. In other words, no matter how it's looked at, he won.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The entire Name system, though it's frequently argued against and subverted in some cases.
  • Blood Knight: Natsuo and Youji start out this way, but they mellow out once they start living with Soubi. Not that the signs of it are completely gone.
  • Cat Girl and CatBoys, earning the series a plethora of FanGirls (often of the Yaoi variety).
  • Chains of Love: Used both in splash pages and literally, in the literal case as part of a spell used by the enemy to restrain Ritsuka in a battle.
  • Characterization Marches On: Admitted by Kouga herself, as she states after about a year of the series, she had gotten used to Ritsuka and the others. It definitely shows in the most amazing ways.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Soubi introduced himself to Ritsuka as Seimei's friend. However, it turns out that he despises Seimei more than anyone; even his former teacher, Ritsu. Also, Soubi was introduced as "he has no ears, so he's an adult". Though, if he hadn't lost his ears to Ritsu, he'd probably still have them.
    • Soubi admits to himself in his fight with Natsuo and Youji that the things taught to him by Ritsu saved him.
  • Crapsack World:
    • Not only is the school for Sentouki attacked, but the ones dealing with the mess are the kids. The only adults that actually make any effort to physically help are blinded or end up as a depressed mute. In total, one person was blinded (in a very disturbing manner), one person went missing, one was knocked out and left outside before later being kidnapped, two kids were left unconscious on the floor, four unknown entities were injured, one had a mental breakdown and started crying out of fear, one was an emotional wreck, and one didn't know what to think. Then there's the fact that a portion of the Old School was damaged. This was all done by one guy and his partner, who ended up being held captive. The Dreaded then took it upon himself to send the previous emotional wreck a text message stating he would trade the kidnapped for the captive. Bitch.
    • It's hard not to see the setting as this with all of the supremely screwed up stuff that happens in it.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Not always the case, but it certainly became something of a history lesson for Natsuo and Youji. Hell, they went from being Ritsuka and Soubi's enemies to living with Soubi.
  • Defector from Decadence: Inverted strongly with Seimei, who left Septimal Moon. Thus far, he is considered the villain of the series.
  • Destructive Romance: Highlights the overall relationship between Seimei and Ritsuka, though it's of debate as to whether or not it's exactly romantic (though in a negative light).
  • Dissonant Serenity: Several characters demonstrate this trope, but Seimei is definitely the best example.
  • Domestic Abuse: Ritsuka at the hands of his Cloudcuckoolander mother, the mentally unstable Misaki. Hence the nearly ever present band-aid on his cheek and frequent absence from school.
  • Easily Forgiven: It may be a Crapsack World and all, but even after everything Seimei did, the fact that Ritsuka still forgave him after stating some chapters before he would never forgive him for what he did to Soubi, is quite baffling.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Alluded to, when Seimei plucks out not one, but both of Ritsu's eyes.
    • It's made worse when we learn that he did it to write 'RITSUKA I'M BACK' on the wall. With BLOOD. Apparently leaving him a note in ink would have just been rude.
    • Also, it was explained that Natsuo pulled out his own eye carelessly. Still didn't feel pain from it, though.
  • Feel No Pain: The Zeroes. However, it backfires, as the lost of pain also made them deprived of a sense of temperature. Soubi eventually beats the male Zero pair., as no sense of pain = no ability to counteract hypothermia.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Seimei uses the fact that Soubi was once his Fighter by telling him that even now, he is still his Fighter. This helps him escape by telling Soubi to break the window, thus using both Soubi's abilities as a Fighter and the emotional weakness he has to their once shared name.
  • For the Evulz: Seems to be Nisei's motivation at times. Ties into him being a Manipulative Bastard.
  • Freudian Excuse: Ritsuka's abusive mother, Misaki, was abused as a child as well. Subverted, as it's not supposed to make you feel bad for her and was only mentioned once in the entire series.
  • Furry Confusion: Besides people having cat ears and tails, regular cats are shown to exist.
  • Gambit Pileup: Soubi, Seimei, basically every member of the Septimal Moon are plotting something somewhere.
  • Good All Along: The Seven Moons don't really seem to be evil, like they were initially portrayed to be.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Yuiko, who despite being in sixth grade, is 5' 6" tall and has very large breasts (that actually earn her much ridicule).
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: This is what Seimei says to Youji and Natsuo when they ask why he abandoned Soubi. Played straight and to horrifying effect when they start discussing books. Seriously. This is a rather twisted example, as it's less because of he doesn't want to say as it is the fact that he hates to be questioned.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode of the anime is titled as "X-less"; Bondless, Tearless, etc. The creepiest is probably "Skinless".
  • I Know Your True Name: This happens between Soubi and Ritsuka, but outside of that, the True names are normally presented.
  • Kick the Dog: When they first come into the story, Natsuo and Youji kill an innocent dog because they found it annoying. Although their Heel–Face Turn does not excuse this behavior, they have become noticeably less violent since then; though there are still traces of their violence left. Then, there's also Seimei and Nisei, with their own evil stunts.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Subverted with Seimei. To him, it doesn't really matter HOW you treat his younger brother Ritsuka. Seimei believes that Ritsuka belongs to him and will get rid of anyone getting in his way. Especially ironic because Seimei plays an actual Paladin character on the MMORPG "Wisdom Resurrection".
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • The anime. Yuiko and Yayoi are seen MUCH more often to provide both comedy relief and a break from all the Mind Screw, which was also less abundant.
    • Episode 11 of the anime. ...Then comes episode 12. Probably the worst case of Mind Screw in the entire anime.
  • Love Martyr: Ritsuka is a male version of this towards [[spoiler: Seimei, though it's not of the Brother–Sister Incest variety. Although he is constantly being told of Seimei's sins, he is steadfast in his decision to be angry at him, but always forgive him.
  • Lover and Beloved: Inverted and deconstructed. The older partner, Soubi's, "name" is Beloved and he has been trained to submit to whoever is the Sacrifice in his pairings. The much younger Ritsuka's "name" is Loveless; he struggles between his affection for Soubi and his own submissive personality that his brother took advantage of.
  • Loving a Shadow: Kind of. Ritsuka learns that Seimei is not at all the person that Ritsuka thought he was. While Seimei was caring (albeit a little distant) towards Ritsuka, he was, in reality, a cold, obsessive, and very violent man who was not above manipulating or murdering people who got in his way. When Ritsuka learns that even HE was manipulated by Seimei because of his twisted concept of 'love', Ritsuka is angry, but he forgives him. He still loves Seimei like he did when he was a child. Possibly a case of Stockholm syndrome, or there's some type of laser-guided mind-ray telling him to ignore the obvious.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: The spells used in battles. They can be creative, they can be simple, they can be dull... and they can do and/or create anything. You name it, the spells do it.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ritsu, Nisei, and also Seimei, who despite all logic is still alive, even though they actually did find the body and even matched dental records. Who replaced him in that capacity is the subject of much fan debate and Epileptic Trees.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Everyone has one. Though, many characters wouldn't say the same for the Beloved pair.
    • It's explained later on that Loveless doesn't really mean without Love, but means To not be tied down or controlled.
  • Mood Whiplash: What would one expect from a series with the genre of Psychological? Your comedy relief isn't going to last forever!
  • Moral Myopia: Seimei. In spades. It's outright stated that he only cares about Ritsuka and everyone else might as well be animals to him.
  • The Nicknamer: Kio has "Rit-Chan" for Ritsuka and "Sou-chan" for Soubi. Both he and Soubi refer to the Zero boys as "Chibis".
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: For the better of the story, ever since Seimei and Nisei came into it. Bloodless also introduced a new type of battling.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Used when Ritsuka points out to Ritsu that the way Ritsu talks reminds him of Soubi. Yamato also makes this connection with Soubi on how she was always being told about Kouya and was waiting to meet her. Ai eventually sympathizes with Soubi when they are alone together before they meet with Ritsu.
  • Otaku Surrogate:
    • Seven (who's a hikikomori, or shut-in minus her internet connection), and Nagisa (a wannabe Elegant Gothic Lolita) to an extent.
    • Subverted with Seimei, who doesn't act like a typical otaku but reached level 99 through grinding in the MMORPG "Wisdom Resurrection".
  • Either subverted or played straight with the Zero boys, who said in an extras booklet that the thing they want most is a rare item in Monster Hunter.
  • Our Love Is Different: Ritsuka has been quite convinced that everything bad anyone could ever have to say about Seimei is completely, utterly wrong. Even now, he's still trying to come to terms with things and has yet to make a decision.
  • Parental Incest: Seimei raised Ritsuka more than their mother did, and his "parenting" included escalating molestation...
  • Pretty Butterflies: Butterflies appear in the title cards and opening theme of the anime, spell battles, Ritsuka's daydreams, Soubi's artwork, and Ritsu's collection.
  • Psychologist Teacher: Or rather, would be Psychologist Teacher, as Ritsuka's good-hearted yet unfortunate teacher Hitomi never really manages to solve anything and has almost debilitating shyness when it comes to confronting problems.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Nisei. He takes delight in both stalking and torturing Soubi and Ritsuka, but refers to Soubi as 'mad' and 'creepy', and refers to himself as a pacifist. He's a stranger to the concept of love, but he also has no intention of ever finding out, even going so far as to call it sickening.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • Youji, for Nagisa, since apparently Youji was created from some of Nagisa's deceased sister's genes.
    • Also the main use of Blank Fighters. Oh, yours died? Well, here's a new one. Even if the original fighter was "destroyed" in order to replace them with a blank, as was the case with Bloodless.
  • Right Makes Might: Averted. You can always count on Seimei to screw up your hero logic and twist it around enough to make someone else think they were wrong; even if they were right in the first place. Or he can tell someone they meant something they clearly didn't, hell, even convince someone that they belong to him. They'll believe it. If he can use your words and emotions against you, he will.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Subverted, turned inside out, and arguably played straight. Particularly twisted when it comes to Soubi who lost his cat ears as a result of sexual abuse at the hands of his teacher Ritsu.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Why nobody does anything about Ritsuka's abuse at the hands of his mother — which seems odd, considering that Ritsuka has a therapist and his teacher is constantly worrying about his home life, though Values Dissonance may also be involved here.
  • Synchronization: A key aspect between the Fighters and their Sacrifices. If it's off, they'll lose.
  • Theme Naming: Most fighter/sacrifice pairs - and all episodes of the anime - end with "-less". Subverted with "Beloved" and the Zero pairs.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted in that Ritsuka does see a psychologist weekly, yet Misaki's abuse continues (and it's implied the older female psychologist has a crush on him — she takes him out on a "date" in an early volume). Justified, as it's his mother that sends him to therapy to try to get the "other" Ritsuka back.
  • Third-Person Person: Yuiko at first, though with Ritsuka's help she gets over it. There's also Yurio, who calls himself "Yuri-sama" (or "The Great Yuri" in Viz's release) instead of using any gendered pronouns.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Nana, when she gets over believing thinking what happened to Ritsu was her fault. Of course, she was able to with the help of the Zero boys. Natsuo also ranked up in this category when he confronted Seimei and was ready to fight back, being one of the only two people who stood up to him.
  • Tsundere:
    • Ritsuka is a little bit Tsundere toward Soubi, which is uncommon to his gender. Also, Kouya is arguably mildly tsundere. Nagisa is definitely tsundere for Ritsu-sensei.
    • Mei (who seems to be even younger than Ritsuka) is extremely Tsundere towards Mimuro.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Ritsuka gives Soubi this treatment after he finds him injured from battles he fought alone.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Despite being only 12 years old, Ritsuka is noted for acting much older than he is.
  • Yandere: Seimei is a rather extreme example towards his younger brother Ritsuka.
    Seimei: You see, I just want to be loved by Ritsuka. But I'm so insecure. That's why I have to test his love. Is this normal?
    Nisei: It's normal for you.
  • You Are Not Alone: The majority of Fighter and Sacrifice pairs exhibit this, but Natsuo takes the award when Youji emotionally needs him most.