I’m in Love with the Villainess, Vol. 1

By Inori and Hanagata. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Oshi wa Akuyaku Reijou” by GL Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Sas. Translated by Jenn Yamazaki. Adapted by Nibedita Sen.

I will admit, I knew very little about this series and was not really expecting much. It’s publisher, GL Bunko, seems to specialize in yuri light novels. This was a webnovel first, like so many others before it, and is another take on the popular “trapped in an otome game” genre, only this time instead of being cast as the villainess our protagonist gets to be the heroine. It does not really seem to concerned at first with setting up how she ends up in this world – she simply finds herself there in class, in front of her favorite character. It does not really bode well. And yet, she’s a very likeable character who’s fun to read. Then, as you go on, you realize that there really is a lot of thought being put into this, that a lot of the subtle (and not so subtle) hints pay off down the line, and by the last quarter of the book it’s become absolutely terrific.

Our heroine is Rae, who is the Maria Campbell of this series, a commoner who attends a school that, until recently, was reserved exclusively for nobles. However, now that magic has been discovered, commoners with abilities are being admitted. Rae is ALSO a former OL from Japan, overworked and unhappy, whose sole joy was playing the otome game Revolution… and analyzing it… and writing fanfiction about it. Particularly about the “villainess”, Claire. So when she finds herself now in the game’s world, as Rae, with the ability to interact with Claire every day… well, she could not be happier. She proceeds to insert herself into Claire’s life, first at school and then, as if that weren’t enough, as one of her maids. That said, the book is not simply happy go lucky shenanigans… remember the name of the otome game.

As I said, this book starts off pretty “same old, same old” to soften you up, though Rae’s general joie de vivre makes the narration run at a higher level. Claire is seemingly the standard “cartoon bully” you see in games like these, but we get to know more about her and see her more nuanced sides and grow to like her just as much (unlike Katarina Claes, Claire also has some depth in the game as well, it seems). There is also an honest discussion of sexuality, which uses the word lesbian, and also talks about the things that people tend to believe about them, which you almost never see in books like these. And then there’s the last quarter, where Rae declares that she’s not a political person and that her sole goal is to be with Claire, but politics is not something she can escape, and she does not hesitate to abuse her knowledge of the game to help save the girl she loves.

That love is still one-sided, at least by the end of this book, though Claire’s “I hate you” statements are getting weaker and weaker. More to the point, the book makes me absolutely ravenous to read the next two, despite the fact that the covers for the Japanese books are HUGE spoilers. I absolutely recommend it, even to those sick of otome game villainess stories.

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