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Monday, September 8, 2014

Manga Review: Loveless GN 12

Loveless volume 12
Author: Yun Kouga
Viz Manga
176 pages
When Seimei refuses to fight alongside Nisei against an enraged Moonless, it cuts the final tie in the web of manipulation that binds the dirtiest Fighter to his heartless Sacrifice. Meanwhile, while looking at his brother’s photo album, Ritsuka discovers new information about his old self that doesn’t match up.
Note: some spoilers for the Loveless series so far are in this review. 
Considering how disappointed I was in the previous volume, I found volume 12 of Loveless a surprisingly engaging read. It's hard to say I liked it, since most of the Loveless cast at this point are heavily flawed individuals I would never hang out with (cough Seimei cough), some of them I would fear for my own safety around, but I was entertained by this dark and beautifully drawn set of chapters. The focus of it starts out narrow but by book's end has widened and raised many crucial questions about the story so far.

The majority of the book is split between the battle between Moonless and Nisei (with Seimei and Soubi as observers) and Ritsuka's trawl through his brother's belongings alongside Natsuo and Youji aka the Zero pairing. The story then expands to include flashbacks to Nisei's past with Seimei, domestics with Mimuro and Mei of Fearless, and an unusual amount of Ritsuka's troubled mother Misaki. It's a lot of ground to cover, but it never feels scattered.
This might be the first book in which I see Misaki as someone human, someone who could be a slightly sympathetic figure in this series. In one of her most lucid moments so far, she brings snacks to Ritsuka's room, chats with him and his friends, and willingly gives out information about her son's youth. One of the Zeroes suggest she has bipolar disorder, which would explain a lot, especially if she's not getting adequate treatment for it. If so, it's a depressing look at how mental health is treated in Japan. Not that it excuses the child abuse, but where are the systems that are supposed to break the cycle of hurt?
Again, we also see Seimei in a clearer light than before - and we see that Seimei is a certified, dangerous sociopath. There is no other word for him and his behavior, for how he treated Nisei from the beginning, from how he continues to abuse the fighter/sacrifice system. Unfortunately, now both Nisei and Soubi are trapped in his system, weapons for him to control.
It's interesting that Loveless is bringing up discrepancies in Ritsuka's established history. I don't know what this will mean for him or Soubi or Seibei, but I have high hopes that it will fundamentally shift the series. I also enjoy that the series is focusing more on how the characters think and how their relationships affect each other. This particular volume is very much a character study, especially of Seimei and Nisei, so fans of those characters should enjoy the lengthy flashbacks that spell out how they met and how they became partners.
Speaking of character driven pieces, the Ritsuka's Three Wishes side chapters are a great look at what Ritsuka wants most of all. They're not that surprising if you've been paying attention, but seeing them realized on the page, even in these dubiously canon dream sequences, put them properly in perspective. Ritsuka's witch guide says that dreams are actually the future - but which one of Ritsuka's dreams could possibly be his future?
Yun Kouga's artwork is as striking as ever. It's dark and dreamlike and swimming in precious details that beg for a re-read. Although, some of the most powerful art in this book happens when the background falls away and we are just left with the characters surrounded by blank space, by inky darkness, and therefore become the undeniable focus even for one or two panels. Not everything is dire and dark, however. Kouga drew Yukio and Yayoi in some cute badminton outfits that have to be seen to be believed.
It's actually a shame that volume 12 of Loveless is so good, because I don't see a publication date for 13 yet, even in Japan. Are we finally current with the original publication? Hopefully, Kouga doesn't make us wait too long for more chapters.