"No matter what happens, you still get sleepy, and you still get hungry, and the sun still rises."Semei and Ritsuka and Soubi reunite in Loveless Vol. 8. Like most everything in Loveless, it's not a happy occasion.
As readers we've spent a number of volumes believing along with Ritsuka and Soubi that Semei was dead. From Ritsuka's perspective, we also believed that, when alive, he was essentially a good person, Ritsuka's savior in times of abuse and neglect. If we only watched the anime, this image of Semei essentially never changed. But, the story arc of the anime ends around the time Vol. 6 of the manga does, and what we find is a whole other villainous and possibly mentally ill Semei lurking just beyond the credits, a cunning sadist who finds self-satisfaction in torturing the ones who are closest to him.
What we get in Vol. 8 is a better understanding of the relationships of all of the players involved. We get a lot of back story and learn more about Soubi's relationships with Minami Sensei and Semei and Kio. We learn more about Nigisa and her relationship to Minami Sensei and Zero as well.
It's implied that Minami Sensei was the one who "took Soubi's ears" at an abnormally young age, though not shown outright. Whether this was consensual or not, we don't know, but we do know that Minami Sensei was in love or hate with Soubi's mother. We know that he could not stand to look at Soubi, and he could not stand to look away. "I brought you here to be my slave," he tells Soubi, but in truth, he has simply taught Soubi to be "a" slave. Soubi does not even have the personal power to call some one or some thing his own. We know that Minami Sensei is a Sacrifice and that his Fighter Unit died, that he could have had Soubi for his own, because Soubi was born nameless, but instead he chose to "give" Soubi to Semei, who proceeded to abuse him, first by carving his name "Beloved" into Soubi's neck.
We learn that Soubi, as physically powerful as he is, is only a secondary fighter unit...whether it's true or not, his self-esteem and sense of personal autonomy have been worn down to nothing by Semei and by Minami Sensei (and has only recently begun to heal through his exposer to Ritsuka). He has been abandoned and abused and shaped into someone else's image his entire life. It seems only Ritsuka is able to treat Soubi like an individual person.
Well, Ritsuka AND Kio, his best friend -- a real friend -- a person who seems to be only a minor distraction, but we're learning about the strong bond he shares with Soubi more and more.
But, Soubi's self is still very weak. Though he is able to tell Ritsuka to not believe Semei's lies, he is unable to ignore them himself. After Semei blinds Minami Sensei and generally reeks havoc on the Academy, he orders Soubi to help him escape by shattering the glass of window in the library. Soubi does so without hesitation, and though no one blames him -- Zero says it can't be helped: A fighter must respond to his sacrifice -- he can't forgive himself.
Soubi understands that he is Ritsuka's fighter unit (even if it is at Semei's orders); he gets it that Semei is not a good person; he is afraid of what Semei might be intending for Ritsuka, but he is still physically and/or mentally ruled by Semei. He can't let go of what he percieves to be his own betrayl. He goes into a kind of "toddler" state, as Ritsuka says.
Here we see an example of the role reversal of this pair. Ritsuka, a twelve year old, who has als been abused mentally and physically most of his life, becomes the adult. Like a parent, he takes Soubi to task, tells him matter -of -factly to listen to his own advice: Semei lies, to not beat himself up (because no one else is) and to go to bed. Soubi, who in so many ways is still like a child, responds. In the last scene of the main storyline we find him fast asleep next to Ritsuka and there is something safe and comforting about that scene.
Of course the other thing I really love about Loveless are the quieting side stories. The main story is painful and heart wrenching, but Yun Kouga is able to lend it some levity by showing "normal" episodes in the character's lives. In this edition we find a split story of Yuiko and her and Ritsuka's teacher. Both stories take place at home, and they become more firmly grounded as "real" by the end of each.
The second side story is of Ritsuka and Soubi on New Year's Eve. It's cute and pedestrian and gentle.
Vol. 8 of the English language edition does not have an essay at the end. Too bad. I really look forward to those.