Wednesday, March 10, 2021

REVIEW: I'm in Love with the Villainess, Vol. 1 (book) by Inori, illustrated by Hanagata, translated by Jenn Yamazaki

I'm in Love with the Villainess is isekai fantasy with a lesbian main character - don't be like me and go into it expecting it to be f/f romance. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


In her previous life, Rae worked for a company that sucked all the hope and joy out of her life. The only thing she looked forward to was her favorite otome game, Revolution, which she loved enough to write fanfic for. However, rather than being a fan of one of the various romanceable prince characters, Rae's most beloved character was Claire, the villainess. When Rae finds herself suddenly part of the world of Revolution, in the body of the heroine, her top goal becomes to stay by Claire's side, support her, and help her achieve as good of a life as possible. Since Claire's fate in the game is either bankruptcy or death, Rae has her work cut out for her.

I looked forward to this book enough to pre-order it. I went into it expecting it to be f/f romance in which the heroine's reaction to being transported into her favorite game was to create a new "route" in which she romanced the villainess instead of one of the original romanceable heroes. I'd also have been happy with a romance in which the heroine supported the villainess from the sidelines and didn't realize that her favorite character was falling in love with her.

What I got instead was a main character who immediately loudly declared her love for Claire despite ample evidence that this made her uncomfortable. It didn't matter how much Claire bullied her - her response was always a smile and a request for Claire to punish her some more, adding an odd masochistic element to their interactions. She wormed her way into Claire's life by becoming one of her maids, over Claire's objections, and frequently sexually harassed her. At one point, Rae discussed her sexuality with Claire and several other students and thought about how damaging it was that Japanese media often portrayed lesbians as being sexually aggressive towards any and all women. The lack of self-awareness was painful - true, Rae didn't aggressively flirt with all women, just Claire...but Claire was plenty. No matter how many times Claire turned her down or acted uncomfortable about the way Rae acted, Rae refused to stop. 

It wasn't even that Rae thought she had a chance with Claire - she figured her love was doomed to be unrequited, and the best she could hope for was that Claire might end up with Thane (in Thane's route, Claire and the heroine are romantic rivals) and allow Rae to stay by her side to witness her happiness. There were ways Inori could have written Rae that might have worked and wouldn't have involved changing the rest of the story much, if at all. Rae could have kept her feelings to herself in order to focus on her top goal, supporting Claire as best as possible. Rae could also have derailed Claire's bullying, become friends with her, and worked in some light flirting that could eventually have taken on more weight - we've seen this type of character before in m/f anime romances, the big flirt the heroine doesn't initially take seriously because they're like that with everyone. Thinking about it now, Inori might have actually been aiming for something like the second option but 1) went overboard, 2) added that weirdly masochistic element by having Rae enjoy Claire's bullying, and 3) didn't choose the right POV for maximum effectiveness.

When Rae wasn't heavy-handedly hitting on Claire, she was watching events around her follow the same general course as the original game and trying to tweak things so that Claire might have a better outcome. Readers didn't know the exact details, but it was clear that Rae had pretty much everything memorized, right down to the different strategies the character AIs used in their chess games. I found myself wishing that the characters had thrown some surprises at Rae, something to indicate that they were now real and more complicated people rather than otome game characters with predictable behavior patterns.

There were a few magical battles, and Rae acquired a magical familiar that weirdly never came up again. Eventually the original game's serious storyline came to the forefront: conflict between the commoners, who didn't like the country's class system, and the nobility, who were perfectly fine with maintaining the status quo. It wasn't handled in a particularly interesting way, and I disliked the completely unnecessary surprise incest that Inori threw into the climax.

The translation was smooth and readable - if the story had been more along the lines of what I'd expected, I'd probably continue on with this. I'm so disappointed with the way Inori wrote Rae and her relationship with Claire, and the rest of it (characters, world, larger story) wasn't interesting enough to make up for that.

(Ugh, I just checked, and it sounds like this series may only be two volumes long, possibly with an additional volume featuring side stories. The "but you just have one more volume, and maybe it gets better" part of me may prompt me to finish this up, despite my issues with this first volume.) 


One full-color illustration (same as the cover), and several black and white illustrations throughout. Also, a brief afterword by the author, plus a bonus chapter from the POV of Claire's maid, showing how they first met.

No comments:

Post a Comment