I’ve had the first omnibus of Loveless for a fair amount of time. I tried reading it once when I was a bit distracted and put it aside after a few pages. The Yun Kouga manga moveable feast was the perfect opportunity to give this series a second try, and I’m glad I did. Some manga seems a bit too edited or mass produced. Unless you’re seeking out manga from some of the more alternative magazines, most mainstream manga isn’t all that weird. The pinnacle of enjoyable manga weirdness in my mind is Est Em’s Working Kentauros. That manga about the slice of life tribulations about Centaur salarymen provides the reader with a peak into a manga creator’s subconscious and ability to be creative without boundaries. Loveless isn’t as unconventionally weird as Working Kentauros, but its combination of cat people, light bondage, magical battles, mysterious organizations, abusive parents, master/servant relationships, and occasional licking definitely add up to a manga that’s a bit more distinctive and quirky than one might expect.
The world of Loveless features cat-people who seem to lose their extra cat-ears when they lose their virginity. So all the teens in the book have cat-ears and tails, while the adults look like normal humans. Ritsuka Ayoyagi shows up for the first day at a new school, attractive, mysterious, and bedecked with bandages. He’s still dealing with the emotional fallout from the murder of his beloved older brother Seimei. Ritsuka’s home life is difficult. He sees a counselor. His personality evidently shifted a few years back, and his mother treats him like a changeling and scapegoat. Ritsuka’s personality is understandably abrasive, and he promptly rejects the girls in his new class except for the persistent but simple Yuiko who appoints herself his new friend.
Ritsuka’s life takes a sudden turn when the college student Soubi shows up at his school and announces that he’s a former friend of Seimei. Soubi pledges his love for Ritsuka and announces that he’ll protect him, and they’re suddenly thrown into a mystical battle with a pair of fighters. Soubi casts spells, while Ritsuka serves as a sacrifice absorbing the pain of the others’ attack. Kouga’s art is graceful and dynamic, making the fighting scenes look very stylish with plenty of dramatic yelling and flowing hair. She’s particularly good at making Ritsuka appealing and sympathetic, as his facial expressions shift from closed-off to beseeching and vulnerable.
I’m glad I read this omnibus, because I probably would have been a bit unsure about continuing the series after just the first volume, but in the space of two volumes Kouga builds an intriguing world and made me invested in seeing what would happen next for Soubi and Ritsuka. While Ritsuka is allegedly the the one in charge of giving Soubi directions, Soubi is snarky and sophisticated enough to make the reader question who is really in control. The mystery of Seimei’s death, Ritsuka’s shift in personality, and the presence of the organization Septimal Moon all add up to a lot of plot points to explore in future books. I enjoyed Loveless more than I thought I would after my first reading attempt, although I can see myself getting a bit frustrated if answers to some of the questions raised in the first two volumes aren’t explored thoroughly in the manga series as a whole.
This two-in one omnibus has plenty of extra author’s notes, side stories, and character illustrations, and I think it would appeal to fans who already bought the first part of the series when it was published by Tokyopop. At roughly $12 per volume now on amazon, the first three omnibus volumes are a solid value for readers.