Ritsuka has nowhere to run or hide. He lost his memories and his mother’s loving support, and then his brother -- his sole defender -- was brutally murdered. He is entirely alone until Soubi appears, saying the words he most wants to hear, but refuses to believe: “I love you and will do anything for you.” Flung into a world of intrigue and magic, where bonded pairs battle and only Soubi can fight for him, he struggles to find his brother’s killer. Yet he must also face the most bitter question of all: if you can't remember who you were, does that mean you don't know who you are?
StoryTo 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. AnimationThe 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. SoundThe 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. CharactersAs 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. OverallTo 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.
“God, what is wrong with you people?!” That is the only thing I was thinking while watching this show many years ago when it was very famous amongst the yaoi fangirls. It is the anime that made me realize their brains are full of hay and gave up on the genre altogether. It’s just too nauseating with no bloody payback! I mean just look at the people who made this. Animated by J.C. Staff, which translates to retarded fan service. Directed by Kou Yuu who has made equally bad gay anime, plus Chrono Crusade and Familiar of Zero which despite their hype and not being gay are still bad for pacing reasons. And now that we know it’s going to be bad, let’s get a bit more into the story. Or the crumbs of story it has. First of all the setting makes no bloody sense and they never tried to explain it; you just need to accept it as it is. Which doesn’t sound like much of a problem but trust me in this particular case it’s a major downer. Ok, check this out, virgins in the series have cat ears. And when they stop being virgins, those ears drop. WHY IS THAT? Beats me, for all I care it’s just an excuse to throw in cute animal ears on people and to be able to tell who still has his or her cherry intact by just looking at his head. And did I notice an elementary kid in the background with no ears at a certain point? That’s just… EWWW!So what else is there in this setting besides being impossible to hide you are still untouched? Oh, but of course, being gay is so normal to the point your own relative’s lover comes to take a taste out of you too like it’s a normal thing to do. Man, I am telling you the moral standards in this world are so loose. So this super hot gay dude comes to the OBVIOUSLY VIRGIN protagonist and tells him the following. “I used to be your brother’s partner in war (and OBVIOUSLY bed too) but now he got killed, so the logical thing to do is to come after you, so you will be my new partner.” Another thing the setting never bothered to explain if the laws in this place really work like that. I mean everything else looks pretty standard but then WHAM these things come out of nowhere. So the protagonist and his new… partner are to investigate how his brother got killed. He also has to deal with the whole depression issue over his death and to start trusting people again. You know; opening up. Getting closer. Hugging. Kissing. And having sex with your brother’s gay lover. And surely, this other dude seems more interested in that than to reveal the truth of the brother’s death. He even comes out and says it to his face. “I am sooo gonna take away those ears of yours my little love toy.” EWWWWWWW! So at first it appears to be a story about getting over your sadness, trusting people, exposing the ones who are responsible for your brother’s death, as well as losing your innocence to a gay dude. Sounds like a lot of stuff, right? Guess how many of those issues are resolved by the end of the show. NONE! ZERO! Nothing happens! You get 12 episodes of nothing but a deviant build up which results to freaking nothing! AND THEY CALL THIS A MASTERPIECE! What the devil is there to like in this show? The production values? They are barely average. The story? Not only it lacks exposition to its own in-laws, but it also has no conclusion. The characters? They don’t develop in any way and are quite the gay uke/seme stereotypes. Plus, I find nothing cute in people with dog ears; especially when said dog ears sprout on top of their scull and above an already normal pair of ears. THAT IS DISGUSTING! And so is butt-sex. Which doesn’t even occur in this show so I see no reason why the fujoshis like it so much. In other words, there is nothing to love in this show, hence the title. I am losing faith in humanity every time I witness the crap that sell and give birth to even worse crap. It is a terrible show I do not recommend to anyone. Besides of course those retarded women who get their thingies wet by looking at mutated dog ears sprouting out of their sculls.EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! I mean, really, what do those fujoshis find erotic in expecting to see an underraged boy being ass-raped by the gay lover of its own brother and having his own mutant ears cut off? And yet not even getting that by the end of the show and still liking it! “THESE PEOPLE NEED THERAPY AND MEDICATION FAST!” And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 5/10 Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2 SOUND SECTION: 6/10 Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 2/3 STORY SECTION: 3/10 Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 0/2 CHARACTER SECTION: 3/10 Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 0/2 VALUE SECTION: 1/10 Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 1/4 ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10 Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 0/4 VERDICT: 3/10
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.
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