I’m in Love with the Villainess LN Vol. 1 Review

TL;DR It’s great, go read it.

Overworked salarywoman has finally made it home after another long and unfulfilling day when she suddenly realizes she’s no longer in her apartment – and seems to be staring at her favorite character from the otome game Revolution. Thus begins “Rae Taylor’s” new life as a VN heroine in a high-class boarding school… except she has no interest at all in the game’s designated love interests, instead preferring to romance the villainess, haughty Claire Francois. And she’s not at all shy about doing so, much to Claire’s annoyance, as it means Rae’s impervious to her bullying attempts. But while much of what follows are fun and games, it’s going to be important that Rae never forgets that the name of this otome game is “Revolution” for a reason.

This has been a long-awaited release for me – I’d in fact requested it be acquired in several of Seven Seas’s monthly licensing surveys in the time leading up to it’s announcement. While I hadn’t previously read any of it, the premise piqued my interest – women getting reborn into their otome games has become quite a genre staple, but I hadn’t run across one yet wherein said woman was queer. (Ironically, though, J-Novel Club’s got a release next month of a different series involving this same sort of premise – reborn in otome game but I want the villainess! – A Lily Blooms in Another World. It’s from same author who wrote Sexiled. Yes, I have it pre-ordered.) I’d also gathered from the illustrations I’d run across that this wasn’t a skeevy yuri series. So, how else to sate curiosity except to request it be licensed?

I mention all this to make it clear that I was coming into the series with high expectations, albeit ones I’d tried to rein in a bit… but then lost control of when some of the early reviews starting popping up and it was clear that folks whose opinion I respect, like Erica Friedman, loved it. By the time I had my copy ready to read, well… I started reading with some trepidation – it couldn’t really be as fantastic as everyone was claiming, right?

Actually, it could really be as fantastic as everyone was claiming, and it was. This first volume is genuinely fun as heck, managing to both integrate the required elements of otome games (Rae might be bucking the system, but that doesn’t automatically wipe out the rails on which the game runs) while giving us a set of core characters whose interactions and foibles are enjoyable to watch. Rae makes for an interesting protagonist in that she’s wholly competent yet also not the least bit embarrassed about being up-front about what she wants. Claire’s an ojousama, but through Rae’s explicit and implicit insistence that there’s more to her than that, we do get to understand that Claire’s abrasive nature is partly a protective reaction to her realizing her headstrong nature is not one valued in a lady in her society. Other characters are less fully-realized, but are decent enough; in one case its funny how its clear for the reader that the person is important even as Rae’s strongly dismissive of him. It would be nice if Rae’s room-mate and closest friend, Misha, had a little more backbone, as while I like her basic character, her quick deference to her social “betters” is rapidly wearying.

None of that likely sounds especially noteworthy, I’ll admit. What levels it up from merely enjoyable to really good, then, is that… Rae is gay! Well, yes, uh, duh, of course she is, she’s pursuing a girl? Ah, but surely we all know that that’s not really enough – especially not in a high school-type setting, given Class S and it’s LUG granddaughters. It’s also important given how common it is for these stories to include “I’m not gay, I’ve never felt this way before, it’s just you!”. So that Rae is bluntly asked if she’s gay, mulls the question, realizes she is… and that this is followed by a discussion about why “eww, you’re gay, you must want to jump my bones!” is biased and gross is relatively remarkable. (By the way, author Inori thanks her partner in the author’s note… and it’s true that “partner” doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s in a queer relationship, but it may indicate as much and if it does, that’d certainly seem to itself indicate that Inori is bringing personal insight to bear as she writes this queer story.)

Having said all that, I am a bit unsure about the book’s treatment of the political unrest which bubbles up in the second half. The world of Revolution is one which is deeply divided along socioeconomic class lines, and things have become even more acute as magic has been discovered and the king has opened Rae’s previously nobles-only school up to others. While there’s some stuff about misapplication of justice and its also clear that the strident arrogance of the nobles is a bad thing, the way a student commoner group is handled and the way the conflict in this volume is resolved gives me some pause, as does Rae’s insistence that she isn’t interested in politics. I think Rae may be getting set up to realize she does have to care given her own marginal status (queer, commoner, female), but this is an aspect I’m not at ease with at the moment.

This is a great release from Seven Seas, which is itself a relief as the last couple of LNs I’d read from them had been spotty as finished products (lot of cases wherein sentences simply didn’t make sense) – it seemed like they’d been rushed. Not only does this not have any of the sorts of errors one would expect to be finessed out in proofreading, the translation adaptation work from Jenn Yamazaki and Nibedita Sen itself is just good – the tone is nailed perfectly.

It should be clear from everything I’ve said, but in case it is not – this was a great opening volume for the kind of LN series I’ve been hoping we’d be able to get our anglophone paws on for a while. I liked it so much, I’m thinking of picking up the physical release when it comes out in October. If you like yuri, you should absolutely pick this up, especially so if you like your yuri to have characters who ARE queer.

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3 Responses to I’m in Love with the Villainess LN Vol. 1 Review

  1. Pingback: I’m In Love With the Villainess – English Light Novels

  2. shas says:

    the political stuff is a huge focus for the 2nd volume, and rae does get more involved with it. though claire-sama is still her n1 priority

    • A Day Without Me says:

      That’s good to hear – I had been feeling mildly optimistic about it, given how the book’s gone so far, but its good to know that for sure.

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