Loveless (ラブレスraburesu) is an ongoing shōnen-ai fantasy manga by Yun Kouga. It is currently serialized in the monthly magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum published by Ichijinsha and nine volumes of tankobon have been released. The manga is licensed for US release by Tokyopop, with seven volumes released as of November 2007.
A 12 episode Anime television series adaptation was made by J.C.Staff, broadcast in a post-midnight slot on TV Asahi and Asahi Broadcasting Corporation from April 2005 to June 2005. The anime series was licensed and released in the US by Media Blasters in a set of 3 DVDs in early 2006.
The most immediately striking aspect of the story is that many characters are kemonomimi, but rather than the conventional Catgirls, the protagonists are catboys. Those who no longer have the animal features are differentiated by society as "adults" who've lost their virginity, illustrating an underlying theme about the role of sexuality in a societal context.
On his first day at his new school, 12-year old, Ritsuka Aoyagi meets a mysterious 20-year old man named Soubi Agatsuma. He claims to be a good friend of Ritsuka's brother, Seimei, who was recently murdered, and the suspicious organization called Septimal Moon may be responsible for the death. As Ritsuka quickly finds out, Seimei and Soubi acted as a pair involved in spell battles. Now Soubi is Ritsuka's 'sentouki', or fighter, and Ritsuka is his 'sacrifice'. Together, they challenge the organization to find out the truth behind Seimei's death and the reason for Ritsuka's amnesia, but end up forming an intimate bond with each other as they unravel the mystery.
In the world of Loveless, everybody is born with cat ears and a tail, which are shed after they have engaged in some form of sexual intercourse, thereby making the ears and tail a metaphor for virginity. This becomes a telltale sign about the love lives of various characters, such as the 23-year-old teacher, Hitomi Shinonome, who still retains her cat features.
Fighting and Pairings
The fighting style in the series is also unique; fighting can only occur between couples (with a few exceptions), where one is the Sacrifice, who receives all damage, and the other is the fighter, who attempts to attack the enemy couple. The pairing system is used by the author to add romance between the two people in each couple. The special kind of battle used in Loveless is called a spell battle, since attack and defense mechanisms are activated by pronouncing certain words—spell words—which have a special ability or meaning in battle context. Fighters and sacrifices are united by their names which are given to them beyond their control, possibly before birth. A few examples of pairing names include "Beloved", "Loveless", "Breathless", "Sleepless", and "Zero". Those who go against their name to battle alongside a person of a different name suffer ridicule from other teams, also both Fighter AND Sacrifice will suffer damage if there is no connection between the two. It is suggested that people are born in pairings and that they don't form a pairing until after they meet, therefore the naming system; the bond between two persons is something that is decided for them before they have the ability to make a different choice. This seems to be a type of caste.
- Ritsuka Aoyagi (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Junko Minagawa
- Born on the 21st December and currently twelve years old, Ritsuka is the protagonist of the story. His "true name" is Loveless. Two years before the beginning of the manga, he lost all his memories and had an abrupt change of personality, becoming the opposite of his former self. The cause of this change is currently unknown, though he has regular therapy sessions to determine why.
- When he meets Soubi Agatsuma for the first time on his first day at a new school, he is initially confused by Soubi's sudden intimacy and puzzling claims that he was his brother Seimei's Fighter. As Ritsuka soon discovers, Seimei's impromptu will dictates that Soubi shall "become Ritsuka's" upon his death, and Ritsuka becomes Soubi's Sacrifice.
- Ritsuka often has difficulty trusting in others, and Soubi's tendency to keep things from him causes tension between them. Nevertheless, they form an intimate bond as they challenge the organization Seven Moons to find the truth behind Ritsuka's 'amnesia' and Seimei's death.
- Soubi Agatsuma (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Katsuyuki Konishi
- Soubi is a twenty year old art student and a former student of Shichisei Gakuen (Seven Moons Academy), a school for Fighters, where Ritsu Minami was his teacher.
- As ordered, Soubi contacted Ritsuka after Seimei's death, becoming Ritsuka's Fighter and introducing him to the world of Fighters and Sacrifices. Although Soubi's "true name" is Beloved and Ritsuka's is Loveless, they fight as a pair, which is considered taboo in the Loveless universe as there is no Fighter/Sacrifice bond between them.
Soubi appears to know much more about Seimei's death than he will divulge, and despite Ritsuka's insistence that Soubi tell him everything he knows, Soubi refuses which causes great tension between them at times. Despite initially being ordered by Seimei to love Ritsuka, he comes to genuinely love the younger boy over the course of their journey to find the truth behind Seimei's death.
- Yuiko Hawatari (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Kana Ueda
- Yuiko is Ritsuka's classmate at school, and is sharp and goodhearted despite her ditzy and bubbly exterior. Overcome with awe and fascination for Ritsuka as soon as she sees him on his first day, and at the prodding of her mean-spirited classmates, she befriends him, though he very reluctant. As Ritsuka overcomes his initial impressions and realizes she is quite smart, they become good friends, much to the irritation of their classmate Yayoi, who has a deep crush on Yuiko, who had recently rejected him. Although she has a deep crush on Ritsuka and professes her love for him twice to their teacher at school, Ritsuka insists their relationship is platonic and it, indeed, remains that way, much to Yuiko's dismay.
- As the series goes on, Yuiko develops a rather unusual, but harmonious relationship with Soubi. Although it seems their personalities would clash, they share a unique understanding of each other.
- Kio Kaidou (Main Article)
Kio is a friend and classmate of Soubi's, both of them being art students. In volume 6, Kio tells Ritsuka, "I'm probably Sou-chan's only friend." It is all but explicitly said that Kio is homosexual, as most of his early dialogue is filled with flirtations and passes at Soubi, despite being gently ignored or indirectly rejected each time.
Despite his early presence as a character who exists solely to create a lighter atmosphere among a very dark story, he gradually gains depth and justifies his existence as the story progresses.
- Hitomi Shinonome (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Mamiko Noto
She is Ritsuka's, Yuiko's and Yayoi's teacher at school. She is very naive and innocent, and painfully aware of these characteristics. At twenty-three years old, she is teased and ridiculed for retaining her ears (and therefore her virginity) to such an age. She is visibly embarrassed, but as the story progresses, she gains confidence and pride over making her own choices.
Hitomi is greatly troubled by Ritsuka's mother and the injuries he sustains from her, and greatly desires to involve herself in the situation to make a change, despite her fears and her colleagues' dissent. Her very caring and naive nature clashes spectacularly when confronted with Soubi, who brusquely rejects her and says he doesn't care for older women despite the fact she never made a romantic move towards him and is no more than three years older than him. His brash actions are mysterious, but a bit more reasonable when you consider his undiscerning hatred towards teachers as a result of his experiences with Ritsu Minami.
- Yayoi Shioiri (Main Article)
Seiyū: Jun Fukuyama
Another classmate of Ritsuka's, Yayoi is shown as being socially awkward and with low self esteem, and feels great jealousy towards Ritsuka. Yayoi admits that he loves Yuiko but when he confessed to her, he was rejected. Despite his jealousy of Ritsuka's close friendship with Yuiko, he is encouraged by Ritsuka's adamant claims that their relationship is purely platonic, deciding he will not give up on Yuiko, and spends more time with her than ever.
It is notable that in the manga, Yayoi has a rather small role. He is absent for large parts of the story, and has only a small amount of dialogue. In the anime, they utilized his character much more to enhance the would-be love triangle of Yayoi/Yuiko/Ritsuka, and to inject comic relief into a dark story.
- Natsuo Sagan (Main Article)
Seiyū: Mitsuki Saiga
He is the fighter of the male Zero pair. He is one of Nagisa's experiments, and presumably the second generation of Zeros. He first makes an appearance in volume 2, when he and Youji corner Soubi when he's alone. When Soubi wins the battle, Natsuo tells him that he and Youji have no place to return to if they lose a battle. Soubi offers to let them live at his apartment, and Natsuo warily accepts. Natsuo seems to care for Soubi and Ritsuka, and in turn, does nothing to harm them.
- Youji Sagan (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Hiroyuki Yoshino
- He is the sacrifice of the male Zero pair. Although he and Natsuo are both rather cold and blunt towards others, Youji is the more cruel and brutal of the two. A good example of this is in volume 5, when Ritsuka rushes home after curfew, and Soubi remarks that Ritsuka will probably get a "beating". Natsuo and Youji are both amused by this, and say, "A mother abusing her child! That's the best!" while grinning happily. Like Natsuo, Youji also seems to care for Soubi and Ritsuka and does nothing to harm them.
- Nagisa is unashamedly biased towards Youji, often ignoring Natsuo. According to Youji, this is because he bears a significant resemblance to Nagisa's younger sister.
Kouya Sakagami (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Rie Kugimiya
- She is the fighter of the female Zero pair. Until they met, both pairs believed they were the only Zero pair to exist. Both teams are experiments created by Nagisa at different times, and the female pair is presumably the first generation. Despite their unusual background, both Kouya and Yamato attend high school, although different ones.
- In an interesting demonstration of the series' fictional world's rules and expectations of society, Kouya wears fake cat ears despite not being a virgin. Yamato often teases her about it, particularly because Yamato doesn't try to hide her status.
- Yamato Nakano (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Yumi Kakazu
- She is the sacrifice of the female Zero pair. In contrast to Kouya's solemness, Yamato has an outgoing, vivacious personality. Their relationship is the focus of a mini-story arc in volume 4.
- The relationship Yamato has with Kouya is a passionate and dedicated one that becomes unexpectedly stressful for Yamato in volume 4. Her marking, which she interprets as physical proof of her relationship with Kouya, slowly fades without warning. In a blatant reference to the homosexual nature of their relationship, both girls' markings -- a 0 with a line through the middle -- are on the same place: their breast.
- Ritsu Minami (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Takehito Koyasu
- He was Soubi's former teacher and held a very influential role in Soubi's life at that time. The extent of their master/slave relationship is left unknown, but it is clear that Ritsu misses those days. In the few times they have made contact within the current timeline, Soubi acts very brusque and treats him with disgust, in a way that almost recalls the dynamics of a parent-child relationship. It is also revealed that he was the one who took away Soubi's virginity. Ritsu is said to have been the Sacrifice to Soubi's mother, which lead to him and Soubi meeting.
- In the latest chapter of Zero-Sum Monthly Comic (March 2008), the seven members of Septimal Moon were revealed. Included as members were Ritsu Minami, Nagisa Sagan, and Nana. Both Ritsu and Nagisa had previously denied any affiliation with the Septimal Moon.
- Seimei Aoyagi (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Ken Narita
- He is Ritsuka's older brother. He was seventeen when he was found murdered, although he died under mysterious circumstances and could only be identified by his dental records. Ritsuka was hit hardest of all by the news of his brother's death.
Seimei is the sacrifice of the Beloved pair, Soubi having been given to Seimei (mostly at Seimei's request) as a fighter when Seimei was only 14 years old. His personality is subject of great debate, and many readers have very different interpretations of his actions. To make things more confusing, the characters in the story themselves clash with their different beliefs and experiences, some believing he was a gentle, loving man and others saying that he was cruel, merciless, and hateful. However, it has recently been confirmed that Seimei does indeed have a violent personality, or destructive behavior at the very least. There are also suggestions in canon that Seimei possesses powers beyond that of a normal sacrifice. He has been described as inhuman by Soubi and others.
Nisei Akame (Main Article)
Nisei’s character is largely a mystery, though he appears to be very cunning and devious. First appearing in volume 5, he is the real Fighter Unit of Beloved, and helps keep track of Ritsuka by spying on him and reporting the information to a mysterious boss. After he meets Soubi in volume 6, he stops following Ritsuka, though his presence remains near.
He and Soubi have great animosity between each other, and in volume 6 Soubi expresses his deep desire to murder Nisei at any cost. There is a strong belief among fans that Nisei is a psychopath, judging by his actions and the way he says he can’t feel emotions such as love or desire.
Misaki Aoyagi (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Wakana Yamazaki
- She is the mother of Seimei and Ritsuka, and has an important influence over both of them. Being emotionally and mentally weak, Misaki has very little grip on reality and is abusive, violent, and often hallucinates. She believes Ritsuka's personality change is the reason Seimei "left", and blames him for it, demanding that she wants her former Ritsuka back when she beats her son.
- Nagisa Sagan (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Sanae Kobayashi
- She is an easily angered woman who conducts experiments, and is the creator of the Zero series (humans who cannot feel physical pain). Her background is unknown, but it is revealed that she is over 30 years old, contrary to her young appearance. She had a sister, though what became of her has not yet been revealed. Her over-the-top behavior and strange lifestyle leaves her alone and alienated, and she shamefully confesses that 7 is her only friend. She has an intirguing relationship with Ritsu, seeing him as a rival and putting up a front of hating him, though small moments, such as her blushing whenever he is near or touches her, reveal possibly deeper feelings.
7 (Main Article)
- Seiyū: Aya Hisakawa
- She first appeared in volume 3 of the manga and Episode 12 in the anime. The strange coded message that Ritsuka receives from SLEEPLESS is from her. Ritsuka meets her in a special area of an MMORPG called Wisdom Resurrection several times to discuss Septimal Moon and Seimei. Her mission as stated in volume 5 is to determine whether Seimei really faked his death. She is a member of Septimal Moon, although her role in the organization (outside of the previously described mission) is unclear. She has tell-tale signs of a hikikomori, leaving her computer rarely and has even admitted to Nagisa she has no other friends.
- A young man who still retains his ears and who first appears in volume 6. Little is known about Nakahira, although he seems protective and respectful of Chaco. Nakahira owns a cat, named Shirokuro, who gives birth to four kittens. When told by Seimei that the cat would eat her young before allowing someone to take them away, Nakahira is plainly disgusted. Seimei usually refers to him as "Nakahira-san".
- Osamu Kimizuka (Main Article )
- Ritsuka's friend from his previous school. Her only appearance is in a side story in volume 4. She allows only Ritsuka to call her Osamu, but after a while lets Yuiko use it too. At first, Yuiko sees her as a love rival, but gradually they become friends and Osamu even shares her photos of Ritsuka with Yuiko.
- Faceless consists of Hatsuko and Keji Shigemori, but it is unknown who holds which position in their Unit
Serialized since May 2002 in Monthly Comic Zero Sum. Roughly every 10–12 months, these chapters are then collected and released in compilation volumes. At Anime Expo 2005, Tokyopop announced they acquired the English license. They have since published the first seven volumes, with more to follow.
Volumes released in Japan
- Volume 1 (released July 2002; ISBN 978-4-7580-5002-9)
- Volume 2 (released December 26, 2002; ISBN 978-4-7580-5011-1)
- Volume 3 (released June 25, 2003; ISBN 978-4-7580-5034-0)
- Volume 4 (released June 25, 2004; ISBN 978-4-7580-5077-7)
- Volume 5 (released February 25, 2005; ISBN 978-4-7580-5120-0)
- Volume 6 (released December 24, 2005; ISBN 978-4-7580-5198-9)
- Volume 7 (released November 25, 2006; ISBN 978-4-7580-5254-2)
- Volume 8 (released February 25, 2008; ISBN 978-4-7580-5329-7)
- Volume 9 (released November 25, 2009; ISBN 978-4-7580-5457-7)
- Volume 10 (released May 25, 2011; ISBN 978-4-7580-5599-4)
- Volume 11 (released July 25, 2012; ISBN 978-1-4215-5381-8)
- Volume 12 (released December 25, 2013; ISBN 978-4-758-05870-4 / ISBN 978-4-758-05871-1）
- Volume 13 (released December 05, 2016; ISBN 978-4-758-03204-9 / ISBN 978-4-758-03205-6）
Volumes released in the U.S.
- Volume 1 (released February 7, 2006; ISBN 1-59816-221-7)
- Volume 2 (released June 13, 2006; ISBN 1-59816-222-5)
- Volume 3 (released October 10, 2006; ISBN 1-59816-223-3)
- Volume 4 (released February 13, 2007; ISBN 1-59816-224-0)
- Volume 5 (released May 8, 2007; ISBN 1-59816-225-7)
- Volume 6 (released August 7, 2007; ISBN 1-59816-864-8)
- Volume 7 (released November 13, 2007; ISBN 1-42780-457-5)
- Volume 8 (released September 1, 2008; ISBN 1-4278-1302-7)
- Volume 9 (released September 11, 2012; ISBN 1-4215-4324-6)
- Volume 10 (released January 8, 2013; ISBN 1-4215-4325-7)
- Volume 11 (released June 11, 2013; ISBN 1-4245-5381-3)
- Volume 12 (released August 12, 2014; 9781421573496)
- Volume 13 (released June 12, 2018; ISBN 1-9747-0067-4)
A 12-episode anime adaptation was made by J.C. STAFF, and first aired in Japan from April 2005 to June 2005. The episodes covered approximately volumes 1-4, due to production starting in August 2004—about 4 months before volume 5 was published. Because the source material hadn't finished its serialization, and with a limit of 12 episodes, the anime adaptation has quite a few differences. The most notable is the series finale, which was written specifically for the anime and left the storyline open to the possibility of a future sequel.
- Episode 1: BREATHLESS
- Episode 2: MEMORYLESS
- Episode 3: BONDLESS
- Episode 4: FRIENDLESS
- Episode 5: SLEEPLESS
- Episode 6: PAINLESS
- Episode 7: TEARLESS
- Episode 8: TRUSTLESS
- Episode 9: SKINLESS
- Episode 10: NAMELESS
- Episode 11: WARLESS
- Episode 12: ENDLESS
There are 12 episodes total, and released across 6 DVDs for the DVD region code|R2 market, but only 3 DVDs for the DVD region code|R1 market. Both markets got the entire series, but due to different sorting methods, the DVD region code|R2 DVDs have 2 episodes each, while the DVD region code|R1 DVDs have 4 each. Additionally, the first DVD for the DVD region code|R2 market was sold with a special frame that displayed a photo of Soubi and Ritsuka, but the DVD region code|R1 market DVD did not come with this item.
Japan DVD release (DVD region code|R2)
- Loveless 1 (released July 22, 2005)
- Loveless 2 (released August 26, 2005)
- Loveless 3 (released September 23, 2005)
- Loveless 4 (released October 28, 2005)
- Loveless 5 (released November 25, 2005)
- Loveless 6 (released December 23, 2005)
U.S. DVD release (DVD region code|R1)
- Loveless 1: Lost and Found (released February 14, 2006)
- Loveless 2: Soul of Chains (released March 28, 2006)
- Loveless 3: Hope on the Run (released April 25, 2006)
On April 26, 2011 Media Blasters re-released the series with an English dub titiled "Loveless: Vocal Collection." The series is also licensed in German by Tokyopop.