Loveless is a shōnen-ai fantasy manga by Yun Kouga. It is currently serialized in the monthly magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum published by Ichijinsha. Eight compilation volumes have been released. The manga is licensed for US release by Tokyopop, with eight volumes released as of September 2008. A 12 episode anime television series adaptation was made by J.C.Staff, broadcast in a post-midnight slot on TV Asahi and ABC 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 sexuality in society.
On his first day at his new school, twelve year-old Ritsuka Aoyagi meets a mysterious twenty year-old man named Soubi Agatsuma. He claims to be a good friend of Ritsuka's brother, Seimei, who was recently murdered. An organization called 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, and form an intimate bond as they unravel the mystery.
- Born on the 21st of December, he is twelve years old, and the protagonist of the story. He was named after the lunar day "Rikka" which lands around March 5th. In the sixth volume, Ritsuka and Seimei have a discusion about this. His "true name" is Loveless, although it is yet to be seen on his body as the other teams' names are. Two years ago, he had an abrupt change of personality and became the opposite of his former self. Before, he was a popular but academically average student; now, he doesn't get along with his classmates, but he gets perfect scores in school. Along with the personality change, he suffered a loss of all his memories. The cause of these drastic changes is still unknown, although he has regular therapy sessions to determine why.
- On his first day at his new school, Ritsuka meets Soubi Agatsuma for the first time. Soubi confuses him with his sudden intimacy and puzzling claims that he was Seimei's fighter. As Ritsuka discovers, Seimei's impromptu will dictates that Soubi shall "become Ritsuka's" upon his death. Ritsuka deeply admired and idolized Seimei, and to discover later that there were many things kept secret came as a great shock. It further poisoned his difficulty in trusting others, particularly Soubi.
- Despite his young age and inexperience due to his amnesia, Ritsuka is very intelligent and approaches things with startling maturity. The circumstances of his life encourage his lack of innocence; however, there have been notable incidents that bare his still-strong naïveté, particularly in sexual love and dating. Despite this, he still has firm opinions and unrelenting ideas about those subjects. It is these opinions that clash dramatically with adults and authority figures around him, most notably Soubi. Ritsuka is a pacifist, and strongly opposes violence under any circumstance. Soubi has remained fairly silent on the issue; however, he seemingly doesn't object to pain and punishment under certain circumstances(generally only when it is inflicted by someone he views as a 'master').
- Love is an uncomfortable subject for Ritsuka. He is wary of compliments, and doesn't like hearing phrases such as "I like you." Early on in the series, Soubi says "I love you" frequently, which Ritsuka doesn't believe is true. Because of Ritsuka's cynical reaction, Soubi stops saying it altogether after volume 2 of the manga. Still, Ritsuka's inner conflict over whether he believes what Soubi says becomes a source of great tension and bitterness in their relationship.
- He is a twenty year old art student. He is a former student of Shichisei Gakuen (correctly translated as Seven Moons Academy), a school for fighters where Ritsu Minami was his teacher.
- As ordered, Soubi contacted Ritsuka after Seimei's death. He introduced Ritsuka to the world of fighters and sacrifices, and told Ritsuka he would be his fighter. He fought aside Soubi for some time, and many people believe that he is Beloved's fighter, the appearance of Nisei in the manga, however, proves this to be false later in the manga. Soubi now fights for Ritsuka as Loveless, which is considered taboo because there is not a fighter-sacrifice bond between them. There is also a severe loss of strength, and in Soubi's case, his markings bleed in battle. Soubi was revealed to not have a true name at all — in fact, Ritsu comments that he is a blank slate, and whatever marking he is given becomes his name. Since Seimei carved Beloved into his skin, it became his name. When given a command to break the windows, courtesy of Seimei, in volume 8, it is shown that he cannot disobey, no matter how strongly he is against it.
- Soubi appears to know much more about Seimei and his cause of death than he will divulge. Despite Ritsuka's insistence that he tell him everything he knows, Soubi refuses. In volume 5 of the manga, he even says, "Seimei is my God." He openly declares that he lives his life by Seimei's orders, but still says he'll obey Ritsuka's every order, which is not necessarily true.
- In flashbacks to Soubi's childhood, he is shown to bear a strong resemblance to current-day Ritsuka.
- Soubi is often described as having a shota complex. Despite the clamor to label him as such, it is also claimed by some there is no evidence of this within the canon. Though, it must be noted that Soubi often kisses and lovingly caresses Ritsuka, who is only twelve years old. It is difficult to explain the sexual connotations of their behavior without resorting to a shotacon-relationship; at the very least one can say their relationship is sexually ambiguous.
- She is Ritsuka's classmate. Despite her ditzy, bubbly exterior, she is sharp and goodhearted. On Ritsuka's first day in school, she immediately is overcome with awe and fascination. At the prodding of her mean-spirited classmates, she befriends him, although he is very reluctant. As Ritsuka overcomes his initial impressions of her and realizes she is rather smart, they become good friends.
- Yuiko and Ritsuka's friendship greatly irritates their classmate, Yayoi. He had been recently rejected by Yuiko, although rather sorrowfully, claiming she will only date boys taller than her. Much to Yuiko's dismay, Ritsuka insists their friendship is platonic and it indeed remains that way. However, in two separate confessions to Hitomi Shinonome, Yuiko professes her love and devotion to Ritsuka. Their relationship is close, but Yuiko's seems to be a one-sided obsession. One incident of Ritsuka actually demonstrating care for Yuiko is in volume 2 of the manga and episode 4 of the anime, when she is bullied by her 'friends', whom Ritsuka fittingly said were using her. Because she had brought Ritsuka some homemade strawberry jam, they went so far as to smash the jar in front of her, and demanded she apologize for breaking school rules. Ritsuka came to her aid and stated that they were 'less than human'. This may have spurred on her love for him. Though, a notable scene in volume 4 depicts Ritsuka abandoning Yuiko abruptly to go to Soubi's aid, and Yuiko sadly recalls her efforts to become good friends with Ritsuka, but never achieving any results.
- Yuiko also has a fear of heights indicated on episode 11, while on a ferris wheel with Ritsuka.
- As the series progresses, a rather unusual yet harmonious friendship is struck between Yuiko and Soubi. Although it seems their personalities would clash, they have a unique understanding of each other.
- In an early 2005 interview in Japanese magazine Pafu, Kouga Yun stated: "She emerged when I wondered, 'What kind of girl would it take for Ritsuka to be happy?' While she was created to match Ritsuka, she changes from meeting him ... with some injection of intelligence. She honestly wants to change to become worthy of Ritsuka because she likes him. So if Soubi wasn't around, they'd make a great couple."
- Yuiko is characterised by her unusually large breasts and considerable height. At 167 cm tall, Yuiko is much taller than Ritsuka and her other classmates, and is often mistaken for being older than she actually is.
- He is a friend and classmate of Soubi's. They are both art students, and in volume 6 Kio tells Ritsuka, "I'm probably Sou-chan's only friend." It is all but explicitly said that Kio is homosexual. Most of his early dialogue is filled with flirtations and passes at Soubi, despite being gently ignored or indirectly rejected each time.
- A Zero-Sum character booklet also states that Kio's family consists of his grandmother, mother, wife, and daughter, although none of these individuals have shown up in the manga as of yet. The presence of such a family, would, however, explain the ease and speed with which Kio is able to interact and bond with Ritsuka.
- 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. He becomes a loud voice that champions pacifism and self-worth. This contrasts strongly against Soubi's submissive nature that willingly accepts violent treatment and strongly desires to be completely controlled, albeit from only very certain people. More significantly, Kio's views are shared by Ritsuka. Together, they provide a very black-and-white atmosphere that allows only one line of thinking.
- It was recently revealed that Soubi only became interested in Kio because of a tattoo on his back, and a vow that he took when he got it.
- She is Ritsuka and Yuiko's teacher. 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. He 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. Despite his cold treatment, Hitomi seems to have had some feelings for Soubi, due to the fact in volume 2 of the manga (episode 8 of the anime), she burst into tears and brooded over 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.
- Although he has rejected her, it can be noted that Soubi enjoys tormenting her to some degree. In their first meeting, he takes pleasure in confronting her uneasily face-to-face. In volume 2 of the manga (episode 6 of the anime), he holds her closely when she faints. This is notable because there are only two characters he physically interacts with in the entire series: one being Hitomi and the other Ritsuka.
- Reasons for this awkward behavior towards Hitomi may be stemmed from jealousy. It is interesting to note that Soubi refers to Hitomi as 'childish', despite her being three years older than he is. Yet he still respectfully calls her "Shinonome-sensei." The only way he degrades her is by her sexuality, possibly because Hitomi has remained a virgin while he lost his ‘ears’ at a much earlier age. In volume 2 of the manga and episode 6 of the anime, Soubi also 'saves' Hitomi from the male Zeros, Yoji and Natsuo. They threatened to get rid of her ears, despite the Zeros being very young themselves, and she protested immensely. Although she is grateful for Soubi's protection, it only embarrasses her more. In comparison with his extreme dislike of his own teacher figure, Ritsu, Soubi still manages to treat Hitomi as a subordinate, constantly belittling her.
- She is the mother of Seimei and Ritsuka. She has an important influence over her sons. Being emotionally and mentally weak, Misaki has very little grip on reality, and often hallucinates, particularly after certain events in volume 5. She is abusive and violent, and blames Ritsuka's personality change for the reason Seimei "left", demanding that she wants her former Ritsuka back when she beats him. To many readers, she is seen as a cruel villain, but in volume 5 she has inner dialogues of her own at last, and you see a much more human, fragile side to her behavior that she cannot control.
- He is another classmate of Ritsuka's. He 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. Yuiko claims her reason was that she only dates boys taller than her, but the truthfulness of that statement is called into question when it is painfully obvious she loves Ritsuka, who is just as short as Yayoi.
- Despite his jealousy of Ritsuka's close friendship with Yuiko, he is encouraged by Ritsuka's adamant claims that their relationship is purely platonic. He makes a firm statement 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.
- She is a young, easily angered woman who conducts experiments, and creates humans who cannot feel physical pain. Her age, background, and organization are unknown. She had a sister, but what has become of her sister has not yet been confirmed. She created Youji after the image of her younger sister, perhaps as an attempt of remembrance or to erase a pain in her heart, but reasons are still unknown. Her over-the-top behavior and strange lifestyle leaves her alone and alienated. She befriends 7, and shamefully confesses that she is her only friend.
- Her relationship with Ritsu is an intriguing one. She puts up a front of hating him deeply, and wishing for nothing more than to see him fail. However, there are small moments that reveal possibly deeper feelings, as she blushes deeply whenever he is near her or touches her, though she steadfastly denies caring for him. Starting in volume 3 and finishing in volume 4, she makes a bet with Ritsu that her older Zero pair, Yamato and Koya, can beat Ritsu's Soubi. Ultimately Yamato and Koya are defeated, and Nagisa's sibling rivalry-like attitude towards Ritsu continues.
- 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.
- In one of the Zero-sum chapters, they are told to defeat Seimei. But because of the other's unusual power with words, the Zero team was rendered practically useless.
- He is the sacrifice of the male Zero pair. He is the more cruel and brutal of the two; however, they are both rather blunt and cold towards others. 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 Yoji are both amused by this, and say, "A mother abusing her child! That's the best!" while grinning happily. Like Natsuo, Youji seems to care for Soubi and Ritsuka, and in turn, 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.
- In one of the Zero-sum chapters, they are told to defeat Seimei. But because of the other's unusual power with words, the Zero team was rendered practically useless.
- 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 Koya and Yamato attend high school, although different ones.
- In an interesting demonstration of the series' fictional world's rules and expectations of society, Koya 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.
- She is the sacrifice of the female Zero pair. In contrast to Koya's solemness, Yamato has an outgoing, vivacious personality. Their relationship is the focus of a mini-arc in volume 4.
- The relationship Yamato has with Koya 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 Koya, 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.
- He is Soubi's former teacher, and held a very influential role in Soubi's life when he was still his teacher. 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 one of the Zero-sum chapters Ritsu has his eyes gouged out by Seimei, so he could write a message to Ritsuka on the wall in the mans blood.
- 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.
- 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. We later learn that Seimei had faked his death, but who the person was that died in his place has not yet been revealed. He is also the sacrifice of the Beloved pair. Soubi was given to Seimei (mostly at Seimei's request) as a fighter when Seimei was only fourteen years old. It is speculated by fans that there is some kind of rivalry between Seimei and Ritsu over Soubi and perhaps over other things, but there's no information in the series that confirms these speculations.
- When Ritsuka lost his memory, Seimei stepped in and became an extremely important figure in his life. He protected Ritsuka from their abusive mother, Misaki, and was a great source of comfort and trust. As a result, Ritsuka was hit hardest of all by the news of his brother's death. He is very bitter and vengeful towards those who may have been involved in the killing of his brother.
- 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. Ritsuka, Soubi, and Misaki claim Seimei was a kind, gentle, loving person. In contrast, everyone else has the very opposite idea: They say he was cruel, merciless, and hateful. They claim Seimei acted strangely and would be close to no one, and go so far as refusing to eat in the presence of anyone else. Soubi's friend Kio bitterly resents Seimei for the apparently abusive manner in which he treated Soubi, but Soubi refuses to back up Kio's accusations. Ritsuka denies all of this; however, he has some startling flashbacks that show a more disturbed, obsessive side of Seimei, and even sometimes borderline incestuous behavior towards Ritsuka. Seimei has said in Volume 7 that in his world, he and Ritsuka are the only two humans that exist and everyone else to him is an animal. He later states in volume 8 that Ritsuka is the only human alive that is exactly like him.
- However, it has recently been confirmed that Seimei does indeed have a violent personality, or destructive behavior at the very least. In volume eight, Seimei stabs the wary Ritsu in the eyes after the two have a short yet heated conversation about Soubi, the wound leaves Ritsu blind. Seimei then proceded to write the message haunting message "Ritsuka I'm Back" on the wall in Ritsu's blood for his brother, Ritsuka, to later see. 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.
- He first appeared in the manga in volume 5. Although his character is largely a mystery, he appears to be very devious. He is the real Fighter Unit of Beloved.
He helps keep track of Ritsuka by spying on him and reports the information back to a mysterious boss. He and Soubi meet in volume 6 and from then on, Nisei stops spying on Ritsuka, but his presence is still near.
- His role in volume 5 was a pivotal one: he was first introduced as "Seimei," although he was only masquerading as Seimei to gain the trust of Misaki. It is unknown if it was carried out by Seimei's orders, but Nisei ended up drugging Misaki and trying in vain to convince her to murder Ritsuka, on the promise that Seimei would come back for good. Due to his smug demeanor and malicious behaviour towards Ritsuka, Nisei and Soubi have great animosity between each other. In volume 6, Soubi expresses his deep desire to murder Nisei at any cost. Volume 8 shows that he was captured by security at the Seven Voices Academy, but despite his struggles to respond to Seimei's calling, it appears that he was successfully restrained.
- There is a strong belief among fans that Nisei is a psychopath, judging by his actions and the way he says he can't experience feelings such as love or desire.
- 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. His distrust and annoyance of Seimei is both shown and spoken. Nakahira owns a cat, named , 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".
- 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.
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
announced they acquired the English license. They have since published the first eight volumes, with more to follow.
Volumes released in Japan
Volumes released in the U.S.
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 R2 market, but only 3 DVDs for the R1 market. Both markets got the entire series, but due to different sorting methods, the R2 DVDs have 2 episodes each, while the R1 DVDs have 4 each. Additionally, the first DVD for the R2 market was sold with a special frame that displayed a photo of Soubi and Ritsuka, but the R1 market DVD did not come with this item.
Japan DVD release (R2)
U.S. DVD release (R1)
Music and drama CDs