Tuesday, 3 May 2011

ラブレス / Loveless

Okay, how’s this for a yaoi fangirl’s dream? 12-year-old Ritsuka’s life has been one long torture of angstiness since his big brother Seimei died. His mother, seeing the change in him, has gone mad and abuses him because she doesn’t recognise her beloved little boy in him. One day, he meets Soubi, an adult with beautiful long hair and a strong, quiet exterior, who knew his brother. Adorably embarrassed to be talking to a grown-up, he goes with the stranger for a talk in the park, and Soubi kisses him.

The bewildered Ritsuka is drawn into the mystery surrounding his brother’s death: it turns out that Seimei was part of a hidden school that trains fighters, who attack one another with the physical manifestation of words. Crucially, these fighters operate in pairs: the ‘fighter’, who attacks, and the ‘sacrifice’, who takes the damage dealt out by the opponent. Seimei and Soubi were the strongest there ever were, and Soubi had been brutally conditioned to be utterly devoted to Seimei. Normally, a fighter cannot live without his sacrifice: why, then, does Soubi seem to be replacing Seimei with his brother? Is it simply because that’s what he was ordered to do? Then does he really love Ritsuka, as he says he does, or is he just carrying out another's commands?

Loveless is pure fanservice. The two main characters are there purely so that shounen-ai fans can squee. The fact that everyone else in the anime seems to find them utterly irresistible doesn’t hurt, either, though all the rest generally get relegated to comic relief. Character development is just about non-existent: Ritsuka’s problems get solved, his character flaws rectified, so abruptly that it’s hard to believe they were ever problems at all. Soubi screws with everyone around him, but in the end admits to his true feelings, and his taciturn exterior of utter coolness yet utter subservience is actually very annoying. Because he got whipped into submission by his teacher (literally), his characterless banality is supposed to be profound? And if you’re going to make all the minor characters totally flat, doing little but lusting over the two protagonists (even the psychologist falls for the 12-year-old!), don’t devote several of only 12 episodes to them!

Another anime where vagueness substitutes for profundity, including the fighting system, which (like that of Yu-Gi-Oh) is so devoid of proper rules or limitations that it’s incoherent. Ritsuka was occasionally cute, but his character just wasn’t believable enough for me to really care about him. Cheap fodder for fangirls. Cat-ears and all.

(Originally written 11.11.05. The manga offers a little more depth, especially in finding out the truth behind Seimei, but also shares most of the anime's flaws)

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