Loveless

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Wolfco's avatar By Wolfco on Jul 10, 2005

Story
To begin, it is exceedingly rare that an anime title be so apropos to the main character, but then it also somewhat unusual for any anime to focus so deeply on that character's development. Loveless, as a 12 episode series, finished airing in Japan in June 2005. It features the difficulties of one Aoyagi Ritsuka. The initial episodes partially illuminate a young boy foundering in his current circumstances, and the final episodes demonstrate what such a child can do if given opportunity.

Loveless is a series where the plot grows through the (self) discoveries of the main character. The plot may follow his investigations and the battles which result, but it is tied to his emotional needs. Even as the focus expands and other characters are introduced his stability remains the issue. Every aspect of this plot may be carried in other anime, but there is something new in the combination itself. Perhaps the difference is in the honest with which Ritsuka interacts. What if you are suffering tremendously and you actually tell someone about it? What if you are confused by your own emotions in relation to your interactions with others and you tell one of the biggest perpetrators? Humans are always facing the loss of loved ones through death, separation, and misunderstandings. Loveless is a small demonstration of human maturation under stress. This is not to suggest that the plot is without humor or joy. There is a reoccurring appreciation for life and the need for trust in any relationship is emphasized.

As the plot is simple, it is easy to follow. The creators do not hurry to introduce characters or to explain their positions. You may wonder what exactly is going on at first, but it is clear that the Ritsuka does not know either. With the progression of episodes, you can foresee certain events, but this is one of the few series where you are not disappointed in your vision. I would say that the plot is easy to accept even if the specific events are not.
Animation
The image portrayed overall is surprisingly powerful, especially when you examine the means by which it is attained. Watching this anime is sometimes like peering through a foggy mirror or watching a fansubbed anime with wide spread artifacting. There is a clear picture in the center of the screen and then there is a shift and you see the image through a dirty lens. It is not blurry and the color is not affected, instead it is softened. If you remove the brightness of color from Utena, you might attain a similar effect.

This is not to say that the colors of Loveless are black and empty. Although it is a dark anime, the designers use muted tones of red, blue, green and even yellow. The subtle warmth keeps a viewer from succumbing to despair even when it seems that the main character might. The actual lines used in drawing of the characters and backgrounds are clean (even spare in some cases); yet, the use of color and shading adds incredible depth. The texture of the images greatly accentuates the emotional overtones of the action.

Loveless has a subtle flow. Characters move fluently across the screen and their actions are within the laws of nature. Loveless lacks the detailed art of a Clamp piece and the fabulous CG of so many current works; however, it manages to accent the idea that less it more. The fight scenes in Loveless do not have much of the gloss that is currently in favor. You are never spectacularly impressed by them. You can only view them as part of the story's progression. For example, if you watched a recent episode of Naruto and paused the video to appreciate the effects, you might have forgotten how to appreciate this type of action. The backgrounds always have one or two small details and somehow these details always become integral parts of the action.

That said about the visuals of the anime itself. It is important to note that unlike some (maybe even most) other animes in current production, Loveless does not exclusively feature clipped scenes from the actual anime in its intro and exit. I generally dislike this practice as it predisposes you to like or dislike the anime itself. It also gives you an idea of what will happen in the series itself (AKA don't watch the intro or exit of Trinity Blood if you don't want to know who the characters are and what is going to happen to them in the beginning episodes.) In this case, I'm also fond of the effects used for both pieces. There is blurring and fading as well as scaling transfers. These demonstrate the general mood of this anime quite well without defining its form.
Sound
The opening and ending songs of this anime are really suitable. The opening song "Tsuki no Curse" is a clever choice in that its sound is not depressing. It expresses loss but focuses on hope. In fact, the only thing I don't really understanding, in reference to the actual anime, is the song title itself. The ending song "Michiyuki" is a softly sad song which approves of the bond between the characters.

The overall audio for the anime itself is relatively free of actual music. The creators only selected a few soundbites of actual music to accent a few very specific scenes. I notice these fragments for their infrequency and somewhat unusual selection, rather than for their originality or quality.

The sound effects themselves are perfectly acceptable. For example, the sound of glass breaking is unfailingly realistic. However, the designers found a more useful effect in the use of silence to accent character motivation and change of momentum.

As I watched a fansubbed version, I developed a real appreciation for the voice actors. I can clearly remember my brother being 12 and upset about his life. Junko Minagawa captures that almost whine very well. She conveys the sound of a not-quite child dealing with totally adult issues convincingly. The intonation of Katsuyuki Konishi voice as used to portray Agatsuma Soubi innocence, determination, or desire is exceptional. The quality of voice acting throughout Loveless cannot be missed as the creators choice not to provide extensive support through effects or music.
Characters
As this story revolves around the psychological adjustments of the main character, complexity is expected. Ritsuka shows a very adult emotional spectrum. In fact, his ability to appreciate the underlying motivations of his counterparts is unexpected. There are other traumatized young boys in anime, but few are as generally acceptable. Capable of fooling his elders and at the same time being terrible honest, he entrances the other characters.

These characters are foils used to demonstrate his conflicting desires and needs. There is the beautiful foolish innocent who loves him for loyal support, as well as, the experienced adult who loves him for his own innocence and will do what she can to prevent his self-destruction. As the anime progresses, these basic foils broaden into more three dimensional characters. They slowly show their motivations. For example, the beautiful innocent escape her prison of ignorance and begins to perceive the emotional state of Ritsuka.

However, the second most important character in this anime is clearly Soubi. Soubi's presence is the driving force behind Ritsuka's growth. Soubi is a character of conflicting uses. He clearly serves to drive the plot, but his own role in its resolution is unclear. As a man of mystery with a unpleasant agenda, there is the expectation of dislike or disgust; however, it is impossible not to appreciate his position. His depth is more true to reality than any standard hero or villain. He proceeds to take advantage, but he is never happy about it.

As Soubi's interaction with Ritsuka is elaborated, a group of flat characters are introduced. These characters do not stand alone. They illustrate Soubi's origins and the origins of his behavior. They show his cruelty, his humor, and his own unsatisfied desires.

These are the kind of character interactions that suck you into an anime and hold you there breathlessly. The major characters are so well constructed and so closely based in real life, that you can see yourself in them. Their expressions are carried not only their body language , but also in their ears and tails. As rule such inclusion should serve to bring humor to any scene (as they do in many cases in this anime). But in a diversion from the norm, these individually differentiated attachments allow the creators to express a character's emotional state from any view. They clarify aspects of personality and manifest the maturity of a given character.
Overall
To say that I was captured by this anime could not be anything but the truth. Although physical and mental trauma abound in anime, few works combine them so effectively. The creators of Loveless effortlessly weave the various threads of Ritsuka life into a powerful message about human needs. Even though the visuals are not rendered with extraordinary skill, they pulled at me. The audio enhances the message without overpowering the concepts. The characters are wonderfully constructed even if they are in many respects standard. As I'm a rather critical glass is half-empty kind of person, it is important to note that this is the ONLY anime I have ever watched that did not annoy me when explanations were left out. You can watch the same episode several times and still find an underlying meaning or tidbit of humor you missed. If you are looking for some depth in your anime, then this is for you.
8/10 story
9/10 animation
7/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
haize78's avatar By haize78 on Nov 8, 2014

Loveless was one of the first anime I saw. And it was really unsettling. But it's also probably one of the reasons why so many years after I'm still watching anime as avidly as ever. As I was watching it, I remember thinking that it was wrong in so many ways; Ritsuka is only 12 years old and Soubi is a university student, without mentioning him always being banged up and abused by his mother, and I think it's the only anime I've seen up to now where the protagonist is seeing a shrink - I mean, there are some controversial themes. And I also distinctly remember feeling that it was also wrong that I should love it so much. Years have passed since then and it's not so easy to shock me now. But it's still one of my favourite anime.

If I had to describe it in only one word, I'd use: intense.

The story is well narrated and well paced. Unluckily, nothing gets explained. I guess they were planning on a second series that didn't happen. To know if the story really makes any sense, I suppose you could read the manga. But I never did get round to doing that. Maybe it's lame, but sometimes it's better not to reveal everything, to keep wondering. Anyway, the story doesn't have an ending and you're left only with questions and vague suspicions.

The characters and the character development are why I love this anime. My heart goes out to Ritzuka, he keeps asking questions about the meaning of life and love, and none of them are stupid. I asked myself pretty much the same questions as a teenager, so I can empathise with him. He's just a scared and lonely kid, but he's got so much to deal with. Right after the murder of his brother, he gets pulled into this bizarre world of sacrifices and fighters he knows nothing about and has only his feelings to guide him. Obviously the best part is his relationship with Soubi and how it develops. But no spoilers. I think they're two touching characters who really move something inside of you.    

The animation is good and so is the music, the opening and ending songs are lovely, but also the background music during the anime is good. And I think the voice acting is good as well.

It's one of those anime I watch again every now and then. I would have loved to see a second series.

7/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
TallyCrow's avatar By TallyCrow on Aug 11, 2014

(My opinion everyone) 

 

The storyline in my opinion was unique and strange but I guess it was good. I felt like it was a slow start and then it got really interesting and then look what they do, they leave an open ending... I’m sorry but if you “think” there won’t be a second season, then don’t leave an open ending – And if its continued in the Manga, then it’s unfair on people who don’t read manga.

The animation and sound were really good and I really love the opening song, and also the ending song was really good but not as good as the opening song.

The Characters were lacking so much it’s unreal. I loved a few of the Characters but even the ones I loved I knew there was improvement to be made. “Soubi” was annoying every time he said “I love You”... I mean I know you do, but really do you have to keep saying it. It’s strange because normally the adults make more sense and are grown up but in this case, I felt like the children were more grown up.

Overall I did like this Anime but the ending really made me rate this lower. 

7/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
7/10 overall
NekoKriszty's avatar By NekoKriszty on Mar 19, 2010

What I really admire about this anime is how well it captures the original feel of the manga.

The music in it - all that French - makes it mysterious and romantic, but lethargic at the same time. The opening and ending songs are both catchy, romantic and somewhat sad - perfect for this story.

The colors are dull, making the whole series seem like a dreamland - just like it should be.

There isn't too much emphasis on the battles; the plot captures more of the emotional and psychological aspects, which is the main virtue of this story in my opinion. I love it how twelve-year-old Ritsuka, haunted by his beloved brother's death, schizophrenia and abuse by his mother, is a child who would do anything to hear the words "I love you", and while he hardly trusts anyone and pegs all the world dishonest, inside WANTS to have someone he can trust to say those three words honestly. (Since I have written a longer review on this in my review of Loveless, the manga, I am not going to dwell on the plot any further)

The characterizations are good, and the voice actors are chosen well.

All in all, I deducted half a point because the twelve episodes and the abrupt, open ending doesn't make me feel like I am satisfied - I definitely want more!

10/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
Elfieeva's avatar By Elfieeva on Oct 25, 2014

Story:

After watching the whole series, I still have no idea what is going on. There are Fighters and their Sacrificies, but it is never elaborated in the series why these battles take place, why the Seven Moons school exists, or why everybody in this world has cat ears (or lacks them) as markers of their virginity (or not).
I found some of the scenes uncomfortable to watch as they included sinster forebodings/threats of non-consensual sexual acts taking place; and the relationship between Soubi and Ritsuka, with the large age difference and sexualized nature was troubling to me. However, despite the many unanswered questions, I found myself ruminating over them and watching the whole series in the hope that all would become clear. It didn't, but I don't regret watching it. There were positives to the series such as the character development, and fragmentary revelations of their histories which enabled the audience to have a better understanding of the characters' present day behaviours and personalities.

Animation:

I actually really liked the animation. The characters were well drawn, although the scenery could have been more detailed.

Characters:

The character development was good, and this was definitely one of the saving graces of the series. Hints of Ritsuka and Soubi's pasts made them more open to interpretation, which made me feel a lot more involved with the series. A serious qualm for me was the depicition of Yuiko and Hitomi. Both are characterized as substanceless, blushing, big-breasted morons - incapable of expressing their emotions without uneccesarily shouting and disturbing the class or wailing unreservedly in front of the students. In fact, when imagining Hitomi, what comes to mind is the fact that she is still a virgin at 23, which is emphasised several times throughout the anime, a fact used against her by both Soubi and Zero. It's sad that Hitomi doesn't have much character aside from the way in which she responds to sexual relations (obsessing over both Soubi and her virginity.)

Overall:

Despite probably sounding quite scathing in the above, I would still say that the series makes for quite an interesting watch if you enjoy cheesy battles, tragic backstories and analysing troubled characters.

5/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
7/10 characters
5/10 overall