So the blurb.
When 12-year old Ritsuka discovers a posthumous message from his brother Seimi indicating that 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 Seimi'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?One Amazon review compared Loveless to marmite - you either love it or hate it. From the glomming you can probably tell I'm in the former category.
The story begins with Ritsuka having just transferred to a new school. He's introduced to his new classmates and despite being somewhat aloof, one of the girls in the class - Yuiko - decides she's going to be his friend. Soubi is waiting for him outside of school. Soubi - we find out is a fighter unit - and Ritsuka is a sacrifice. The pair of them are to battle other fighter and sacrifice pairs through wordspell. Basically the fighter units battle using words but it is the sacrifices who receive the damage in the form of restrictions. The battle ends when the sacrifice is completely restricted.
Because of this emphasis on the power of words, names are very important. Fighter and sacrifice usually share the same (real) name. For example there is a unit called Breathless, both fighter and sacrifice sharing the same name, which is found somewhere on their bodies. Here Soubi and Ritsuka are something of an anomaly, they don't share a name.
We learn things as Ritsuka learns them so as yet it is unclear why the battles are taking place. There's also a mystery regarding Ritsuka himself, something happened two years ago and now his mother no longer thinks he's the 'real' Ritsuka. Part of her 'illness' involves testing him - giving him food which the 'real' Ritsuka didn't like and when he likes it, she hits him. A fact he is keeping secret from his friends and teacher. Ritsuka knows he has changed and worries about changing back to the Ritsuka of before, in a way he feels like for that to happen the Ritsuka he is now would have to (figuratively) die.
In the Loveless universe all children are born with cat ears and a tail, these features are lost when the individual loses their virginity. This allows an immediate distinction between who is considered an adult and who is considered a child. And also places further definition on what is innocence and experience. (Example Ritsuka's teacher is 23 but still has her ears, which is something of a talking point!) The child characters have a much greater emotional expressiveness through these additional ears. Whereas the adult characters - notably Soubi - are harder to read.
Some readers may find Soubi's attachment to Ritsuka a little disturbing - after all Soubi is an adult and Ritsuka still a child. But for me, it is more to do with the fact that Soubi - as a fighter unit - has no place without his sacrifice. He is incomplete. (His friend Kio repeatedly calls him a pervert, an accusation Soubi denies every time).
The other notable character in this volume is Yuiko - the annoying girl character. She eventually becomes a) much less annoying and b) Ritsuka's friend, and does provide some of the more comic moments which help relieve the tension.
Ritsuka - And also, you need to be smarter. I hate idiots.Okay, this seems a little harsh, but Yuiko is one of those people that doesn't do subtle, unless you hit her over the head with a metaphorical brick she isn't going to get it. Once Ritsuka persuades her to stop referring to herself in the third person she immediately becomes 90% less annoying.
Yuiko - Am I stupid?
Ritsuka - You are. Read more books! Read! I thought you were illiterate!
Yuiko - You want me to read?
Ritsuka - That's right.
I love the little snarky asides you get in the manga which were missing from the anime.
Because spells rely on wordplay the language during the spell battles is very precise. Beautifully written and illustrated, I'm impatiently awaiting the arrival of volume 2, which for some reason was harder to get hold of then 3,4,5,6,7 and 8.