Lovefool 01.06.13 | Falling in Love with Loveless

Back from hiatus, your Lovefool falls for a tale of love, friendship, puberty, and all the complications they bring in Yun Kouga’s Loveless.

 

 

 

 

 
Nerdlings! Welcome back! In the finest tradition of hiatuses everywhere, it’s approximately six hours before a normal, well-planned column would go live and I’ve had WEEKS to think about this and I am just now sitting down to work on my triumphant return to the world of nerd journalism. So what’d I do this whole time? Honestly, nothing. I led my Omaha friends through many triumphant rounds of alcoholic beverages, cooked a Christmas feast, hosted a wee New Year’s gathering, watched some truly bizarre Netflix shows (look up Fishing With John and tell me how that goes) and generally just let my brain settle for a bit so that I could focus on important things again. Important things like reading comics and talking to you about them, nerdlings. This hiatus was for you, you see. ; )
 
So, anyway, after my brief vacation, when I was finally able to focus enough to read the first couple volumes of Loveless, written and drawn by Yun Kouga, currently published by Viz Media, and, one can only presume, always weird, I was ready for it. And this is kind of embarrassing, but Loveless was the book that made me realize I needed a couple weeks off. Coming up to it, the art is gorgeous but it isn’t shojo and it doesn’t try to present itself as such, despite being more romance than not. Frilly backgrounds would just distract from a story that needs to take center stage and this book has enough substance that the style can be more direct. The first time I read it, I made it through about thirty pages before I was like “I hate everyone in this book and what the hell.” There’s this thing? With this weird, mean kid and this dippy chick and this creepy older dude who’s all like “I love you and I’m going to have this magical spell word duel for you and, yeah, I am straight up hanging out outside of your school because you needed to find me and didn’t” and did I mention that the kids are actual children? And some people have ears and tails and other people don’t? In fact, seeing as a lot of the action happens in an elementary school classroom, most everyone has ears because, apparently, you keep your ears until you have sex with someone, at which point your ears and tail drop off and you’re instantly considered an adult.
 
Which, of course, I take exception to, even this second, far more successful time around, but nerdlings, oh my gosh. Loveless is so creepy and weird and good. It starts with a boy, Ritsuka Aoyagi, starting a new school unaccompanied by his parents and being…well, he’s an odd duck, Ritsuka. (He is an honest-to-gosh boy, despite seeming older than his 12 years, which is a little unusual for what we deal with but okay, we’ll see what happens here.) And he meets a girl, Yuiko Hawatari, who immediately wants to be his best friend, omg, let’s go to 7-Eleven and the library and hang out. He totally shuts her down, crash and burn. I wanted to cry a little for her. After crushing his poor new classmate, he leaves school to find this tall, pretty guy waiting outside the school gates and chain smoking.
 
Tall, Vaguely Creepy and Hot introduces himself as Soubi and explains that he was a friend of Ritsuka’s horribly deceased brother and was in a weird, magical relationship with him. But magical for real because they were spell battlin’ partners. Oh, and Ritsuka has some issues that are too spoilertastic for me to reveal fully here, but trust me, he really doesn’t have much of a way of being able to know if Soubi is lying. Frankly, I would’ve told him to pack it up but Ritsuka hangs out to hear what Soubi has to say. Part of that could be because Ritsuka’s been having a tough time of it at home. His mother has lost one son and Ritsuka’s got the issues that prevent them from having a relationship like they previously had and she takes everything out on him. I imagine that Soubi comes as something of a relief, presenting love and affection when Ritsuka needs it so very badly, so, yeah, Ritsuka listens.
 
Honestly, this is where I had some bad feelings start up but, thankfully, Soubi tells Ritsuka right away that he’s not interested in him sexually and everyone—you, me, Ritsuka—can relax. So they have a vaguely jarring jaunt through the park and, afterwards, things start to get into a groove of weirdness. Yuiko is allowed to hang out once Ritsuka mansplains that she needs to stop acting so derpy and they end up a little closer. Which…well, okay. Whatever. Those sorts of things happen to teenage girls and she, hopefully, is learning valuable lessons here. She even becomes buddies with Soubi, which I can see. Soubi’s a nice guy and Yuiko is a tall teenage girl who was the first in the class to hit puberty, and say a prayer for all the girls who are the first in their class to hit puberty, so she could use someone who knows she’s a kid and doesn’t care that she looks like a woman. Soubi tells Ritsuka a little more about his magical abilities, explaining that he needs to work with someone in order to be at full strength. That someone was Ritsuka’s brother but now it’s not (see horribly deceased) and he has been left to Ritsuka in his brother’s will, which, seriously, don’t get me started, but Soubi now has to obey Ritsuka. And I hate myself for what I’m about to say, really, I do, but it works for the story. Part of that is probably because Soubi has already explained, in an act of extraordinary kindness on the author’s part, that he’s not interested in Ritsuka sexually. And Ritsuka constantly refers to going out and taking pictures as “making memories” and Soubi shows up at all hours at Ritsuka’s and tells him he loves him. Honestly, it kind feels a little like Lost for the manga set because what the hell is going on here?
 
Only, I found myself asking that in a totally good way, most of the time. The blank look on Soubi’s face when he tells Ritsuka that he loves him scares the bejesus out of me and there are some references to sex that are a little weird coming out of a 12-year-old’s mouth. Okay, they’re a lot weird, but I can see it. Ritsuka, deep down, is scared and a little confused and wants to put Soubi in his place for knowing more than he does about the world and has the power to do so because Soubi has to obey him. Ritsuka is also at an age where he’s going to start having those feelings, at which point he’ll start mouthing off about complicated things like masochism because he wants to prove himself. And it’s not like Soubi makes it hard for him, coming from a subculture that involves markings and then asking Ritsuka to pierce his ears to make his own mark on Soubi. Damn. I could write a column on that alone. On a lighter note, Yuiko’s obvious crush on Ritsuka, despite the fact that he was horribly mean to her, is so very teenage that it hurts but she’s got a classmate that she’s turned down. But I imagine we’ll see more of her and that story in the future. And the notion that everyone in the entire world can tell if you’ve had sex just by looking at you is…intriguing and a little awful. In fact, the whole book is churning with that feeling – this is intriguing but could-be-a-little-awful but we’re in good hands and once we clicked, I couldn’t put Loveless down. | Erin Jameson

 

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