One of the few manga I would never buy in a physical store.
Seriously – just take a gander at that cover. I remember another reviewer on another blog (forget whom, though) describing the cover as an abused catboy being manhandled, and the description has stuck with me in part because it is so apt. That is also why I would never waltz up to a register to buy this, even though I did pick it off the shelf a few times to glance at it – I have no issue with handing over the likes of Yellow, all wrapped in plastic, or even the Strawberry Panic light novel omnibus with its designation of “School girls in full bloom!” on it, but Loveless looks just enough like the favored title of the pedophile that I was completely unwilling to tote it to the front. I ordered this sucker online and let USPS handle the rest, thanks.
Oh, Loveless. Many years ago, I watched the first episode of the anime and was completely skeeved the fuck out. Completely and utterly. That was my only contact with the franchise – I was content to let it recede into the sands of time, having no patience for the borderline-pedophilia on display. I was also really, truly bothered by the entire conceit having to do with cats tails and ears, wherein everyone has them to start with, but when they have sex for the first time, they fall off. This honestly stuck with me longer than the show as a whole did, because it really, really, really bothered me. First off, the ick factor – yuck, everyone knows when you’ve first had sex! Secondly, though, was the matter of sexually abused children. Presumably their ears and tail fall off, too, even though their sexual contact wasn’t consensual. Sure, yes, you can say that, well, isn’t that good since it reveals the abuse immediately? But I also think of the bullying that must accompany it, the continual re-victimization that occurs as the abused child wends their way through everyday life and situations. I also can’t help but think it would make a target of the child, too, for further attacks and assaults. This persistent feeling of disturbance over this story conceit is still with me even now.
But, I’ve probably gotten ahead of myself. In case you are unfamiliar, Loveless is the tale of Ritsuka, a young middle schooler from an abusive and neglectful family who has lost his older brother recently and who also lost all of his memories two years prior to the start of the story. The loss of his memories seems to have triggered mental illness in his mother, who fiercely and repeatedly insists that Ritsuka isn’t her son, and who also physically abuses the boy. Ritsuka’s father does nothing to stop her, and the behavior is implied to have grown worse since the death of Ritsuka’s brother, Seimei. Into all of this comes college student Soubi, who apparently had some sort of relationship with Seimei, and who also insists that he has been ordered to seek out Ritsuka. And that’s about when the battles start.
I feel very mixed about this manga. Ritsuka is definitely one of the better depictions of an abused child I’ve seen in manga – his emotions vacillate wildly, and he is clearly desperate to have someone in his life who actually cares about him even as he’s deeply suspicious of the intentions of others. His confused feelings toward Soubi ring true, borne out of a cocktail of both adolescence and his awful home life. As a character, Ritsuka is legitimately engaging; in the manga sea of young, male protagonists, he certainly stands out (although he does remind me of Nabari no Ou’s Miharu a bit).
But then, we come to the bit that tips me toward ‘mixed’ – Soubi. Soubi is really creepy. Even Soubi’s friend and fellow art student tells him he’s creepy. Soubi kisses Ritsuka a decent bit, and it never sits well with me, since, um, its a twenty year old kissing a twelve year old. He also follows Ritsuka around quite a bit and makes regular declarations of love. That he does all of this in an entirely unfussy fashion simply serves to make it all the more unsettling. His mild protest that he couldn’t ever “get hard” for a middle schooler also plays as unconvincing.
As noted in the title, this one’s an omnibus, courtesy of Viz. Omnibuses have become somewhat of a kryptonite for me of late, as I’ve ended up picking up series I otherwise would never have touched – apparently price reductions are enough to lure me in. Viz’s production is perfectly fine here, roughly what I expect from an omnibus release of a mainstream-type title (versus, say, Yen Press’s release of Thermae Romae, or Viz’s own release of solanin).
There’s enough here to have me intrigued, but Soubi’s behavior kept me permanently ill at ease while reading. Which translates to… well, give me that next omnibus, will you? I want to know what happens to Ritsuka… even if that also means having to know what happens to Soubi.