What They Say:
Ritsuka’s innocent childhood days came to a bloody end when he lost the one person who understood him. His brother Seimei was always his guiding star, and without him Ritsuka was left with his insane mother as his only family. The enigmatic Soubi appears to change all that. Soubi was once partners with Seimei, a sacrifice who gave his energy so Soubi could fight. Now Soubi has come to Ritsuka looking for a new partner. Will Ritsuka find happiness chained to Soubi?
For this review, I took in the brand new English 2.0 dub. A Japanese 2.0 track is also available. As a stereo track, it has a fairly basic mix, with little in the way of directionality except in some sound effects. Dialogue, and many other sounds, stays even on both channels. The sound is clear, however, with no dropout or bleeding on any of the tracks. And really, that’s generally all I ask.
The video was clean and clear here too. Colors and lining were solid, and there were no technical flaws that I noticed. The only place it gets points knocked off is that with the amount of rough sketching and stills, it is obvious that this series was done on a budget. That was distracting at times, but this was otherwise a solid transfer.
This collection has some pretty basic packaging. The three discs are housed in a single width amaray case with center insert. The front cover has a picture of Soubi standing protectively over Ritsuka. The pastels give it quite the artistic effect. The back of the case has a series summary along with some screen shots and the technical details. All-in-all, it looks fine.
The menus are basic too, with a static image of a few characters, with the selections scattered around the screen. In a nice touch, the cursor is in the shape of a butterfly. Even with the selections somewhat haphazardly thrown up on the screen, it is easy to navigate around, so it is functional.
There are textless versions of the opening and the closings. Other than that, each disc has an SD Theater, which is basically a humorous, 2 minute short based on some of the characters. Nothing fancy, but it’s a nice addition.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This collection is Media Blasters’s third release of Loveless, and the second collection. The first two releases were sub-only releases, but this collection sees Loveless get the full dub treatment (much to delight of this reviewer). Normally not one it be interested in a boys-love title, Loveless nonetheless has a decent story, some good action, and not a few amusing moments.
Once an outgoing boy, Ritsuka has withdrawn into himself since his brother Seimei was found murdered. Living alone with an abusive mother, Seimei was the only person Ritsuka could count on. Now, he just pushes people away because he doesn’t want to be hurt again.
Starting at a new school, Ritsuka finds himself the object of fascination among quite a few people, including Yuiko, whose desire to please everybody makes her the target of class bullies. However, through force of sheer willpower, she begins to break down the walls Ritsuka has built, and for the first time in a long time, he has a real friend (though she wishes for more).
But Ritsuka’s life really takes a turn with the arrival of Soubi. Soubi was a friend of Seimei’s, and had agreed to take care of Ritsuka should anything happen to him. When Ritsuka becomes the target of a kidnapping plot, Soubi reveals that he was the ‘sentouki’ of Seimei, a fighter skilled in magic. Now he is acting as Ritsuka’s sentouki, and he will protect Ritsuka no matter the cost.
From the outset of Loveless, the shonen-ai nature is pretty obvious. A recollected conversation between Rituska and Seimei suggests the potential for a deeper bond than just that of brothers, and Soubi is pretty romantic with Ritsuka (much to Ritsuka’s disgust) from the moment he shows up.
Adding to the atmosphere is the show’s use of kemonomimi: humans with animal features. Humans in Loveless are born with cat ears and tails, and they lose them when they lose their virginity. It is a visual sign of passage into adulthood, and it is used to good effect for revealing characters’ natures, such as Ritsuka’s otherwise adult school teacher who still has her animal features. And one of Soubi’s first considerations when he first meets Ritsuka is to “take his ears” (by the way…Ritsuka is in the sixth grade…).
As somebody who isn’t the target audience for shonen-ai, the general interactions between Ritsuka and Soubi did not interest me a whole lot. But what did interest me was Ritsuka’s interactions with virtually everybody else. First is his classmates Yukio and Yayoi. Yukio is a young girl who immediately develops a crush on Ritsuka, and does everything in her power to get close to him. At first, he gives her the cold shoulder, as he does not want to get close to anybody. But she eventually gets through to him, and he begins to see her as a true friend (though nothing more, much to her chagrin).
On the other side is Yayoi, another boy who has long had his own crush on Yukio. Not long before Rituska’s arrival, he had his feelings shot down because Yukio just could not see herself dating somebody shorter than her (she is quite tall for her age), so when the even shorter Ritsuka arrives and steals her attentions, it quite rightly frustrates him. So, he becomes the third wheel in their party, spending all his time trying to get Yukio’s attentions, while she is alternatively working on Ritsuka. Frankly, this dynamic between the three of them was my favorite part of the series, and I really wished that it was given more screen time.
But it wasn’t, because in the end, the attacks on Ritsuka—and the ensuing, strange attraction between Ritsuka and Soubi—are the heart of the series. It turns out that Ritsuka’s real name is Loveless, and he is important to an organization known as Seven Moons. While he might have normally tried to run from their attentions, he discovers that Seven Moons was behind Seimei’s death and vows to get back at them.
And frankly, as a revenge story, Loveless has a lot going for it. There is quite a bit of good, shonen-fighter-esque battle sequences whenever new fighters from Seven Moons arrive to try and take Ritsuka away, and the slow burn on Ritsuka’s eventual understanding is also well done. There was plenty of intrigue in here to keep me interested pretty much throughout.
However, it also plays a part in my biggest gripe with the series. It may come as a shock to you, but Loveless was based on a still ongoing manga of the same name. This anime was released in 2005, so as you might guess, with another six years of material since the anime was made, there is no real conclusion to this series. For the most part, it acts as little more than an introduction to the manga.
To make matters worse, the manga has never seen the light of day over here. Now, I was not so interested in the proceedings here that I want to read the manga, but it is a hard sell when the option isn’t even available. (*edit: Apparently, I was wrong in thinking that the manga never came over here, as the first eight volumes were released here by TokyoPop, but as TokyoPop has gone under and the ninth has been available in Japan for a year-and-a-half, it looks like this might be a moot point. Still, I apologize for the error; the rest of my argument remains the same) The tenth episode ended a mini-story arc, and the eleventh acted almost like a fun, OVA-style conclusion to the short series, and if it had ended there, I likely would not have griped. But the final episode opens up a lot of new questions that never get answered (such as why, exactly, Seven Moons is interested in Ritsuka). As we have not seen an anime sequel to this point, only the manga can answer those questions. And frankly, I hate it when that happens.
Loveless is a series that has a lot going for it, even for those who are turned off by boys-love material. Unfortunately, it just does not end up going anywhere and that is frustrating. If shonen-ai is your thing, you can probably add a letter grade or so, as there are certainly a lot of pretty boys running around doing pretty boy things. There’s probably even enough here to even recommend to non-shonen-ai-loving folks (if for no other reason than there are also quite a few pretty girls running around doing pretty girl things), just don’t get your hopes up for any kind of real conclusion. Thumbs very firmly in the middle.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, SD Theatre, Textless Opening/Closing
Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System