Loveless volume 9
Author: Yun Kouga
Author: Yun Kouga
Seimei is very much alive and has torn through the Seven Voices Academy like a whirlwind. As Septimal Moon struggles to right itself and keep its secrets from spilling out, a new enemy takes center stage: the unit named “Bloodless” wages a crippling psychological war, ending battles without spilling a single drop of blood. Yet Ritsuka and Soubi must emerge victorious against them—or lose Kio. (Source: Goodreads)
Spoiler warning: Spoilers for Loveless up to volume nine of the manga series. Read on with caution!
Oh, Loveless. It's been so long! The last time I had a chance to read this series, Tokyopop had just published the eighth volume, back when it was still a viable, relevant publisher of manga. Getting back in the groove with Ritsuka and Soubi and the others is like revisiting friends, albeit seriously screwed up friends with problems one cannot think of fixing, ever. Good thing Yun Kouga is so good at making oddly fascinating characters worth reading.
In this volume of Loveless, Ritsuka is still reeling from his meeting with his brother Seimei, the very brother he had thought dead for years. Septimal Moon is recovering from having been attacked by the Beloved unit, and to make matters worse, Kio has been kidnapped by the Bloodless unit. In other words, everything has gone to hell in a hand basket and not a lick of it looks to be getting any better any time soon. Yep, sounds like Loveless to me!
The basis of warfare in Loveless has always been the power of words, and no unit until now has grasped and used that power as efficiently as Bloodless does. This duo, made up by the self-proclaimed "Great Yuri" and his dour-faced partner Hideo, doles out psychological damage by the ton. They're able to rip out the inner traumas of their opponents and use them to win without spilling any blood. Unfortunately for the Loveless unit, it's Soubi and Ritsuka who are up against Bloodless - and between the two of them, they've got traumatic material to spare.
I found myself drawn to this new unit, Bloodless. Hideo and Yuri have really dynamic personalities that are even more interesting when they clash, which is often. Plus, their abilities are just plain awesome (in the original sense of the word). They can draw their opponent into their own head, destroy them with their own secrets, without ever drawing a weapon or needing to actually attack. As far as techniques go in this series, for me that's the most frightening and, therefore, the most impressive.
I also really love Ritsuka in this volume. I mean, I've always adored this boy who is both incredibly fragile and amazingly strong, but volume nine is his volume. He's slowly discovering that the only one who can make decisions for Ritsuka is, well, Ritsuka. Not Soubi. Not Seimei. Not his mother. Him. And the only one who can make up Ritsuka's mind and tell him who he can and cannot trust is Ritsuka. After volumes of being unsure of who is a friend and who is telling the truth, this is an empowering step in Ritsuka's personal story. Let's see how it effects his relationship with Soubi, his fighter and partner.
Another surprise was Kio, who I always had chalked up as just another supporting character. Silly me! Kio really grows into his own in this volume, through his interactions with the Bloodless unit as well as a series of flashbacks tracing his relationship with Soubi. He has quickly become a character to keep an eye on. But then again, this is Loveless: you have to keep track of every single person, lest you lose sight of the story.
As for the quality of the book itself, I think I like the look of the pages better than those in Tokyopop - or maybe between Tokyopop's shuttering and Viz's release of Loveless, page cleaners just got better at their job? I also really like the design of the covers and spine, a good combination of Alice In Wonderland-esque imagery and computer culture aesthetic.
Plus, they kept the color pages on the inside! Which is great, cos as beautiful as Kouga's art is in black and white, it's equally stunning with a splash of color. Plus, she does such a good job putting color gradients in her character's hair.
I am very excited about the next volume of Loveless - secrets are coming out into the open, Septimal Moon is losing its mind, and Soubi is scheming although to what end, we do not know yet. One thing is for sure: I am so very very glad Viz Media has brought this series back for English reading audiences!