- Format: light novel
- Author: Inori
- Illustrator: Hanagata
- Translator: Jenn Yamazaki
- Adaptation: Nibideta Sen
- Publisher: Seven Seas
Resurrection into otome games has become a hot genre recently. Most of these have the protagonist reborn as the villainess of a game they’re familiar with, trying to avoid the canonical bad end in their future. As you might be able to figure out from the title, I’m in Love with the Villainess turns things on their head. Our protagonist was reborn as the game’s commoner heroine Rae Taylor. But she still wants to avoid the bad end for the villainess, noble Claire François – so that Rae can pursue Claire romantically!
From the start, it’s made clear that Rae doesn’t really expect Claire to reciprocate. A lesbian in her original life in Japan. she had a crush on Claire from playing the game. But Rae knows what’s coming – the game is called Revolution, with everything that implies – and she wants to make sure that, no matter what happens, Claire survives and is happy, even if that means she ends up with someone other than Rae.
That doesn’t stop Rae from, ten seconds after waking up in the game world, professing her love for Claire.
And getting promptly shot down.
And enjoying it.
Rae’s masochistic tendencies are a source of comedy throughout the work. I have to admit that if I were Claire, I’d probably find Rae obnoxious. The way Rae inveigles her way into Claire’s life and employment as her maid is little short of stalking. But the problematic implications of Rae’s actions are hidden behind the comedy.
The first volume is spent introducing us to the main cast, the Academy shared between commoners and nobles that they attend, and the tension between commoners and nobles in the world. We see the tension briefly spark a flame, but nothing like the promised Revolution. In the narration, Rae uses her knowledge of the game to foreshadow that there are worse things to come in the future for our characters, promising that the series’ narrative thrust won’t give out anytime soon.
I’m in Love with the Villainess is a delightful twist on the otome villainess stories that we’ve seen in English. I don’t know if I could call it a romance novel yet, as the relationship is clearly one-sided. The novel manages to give the greater fantasy world just as much play as the romance, expanding its appeal to a wider audience. Hopefully we’ll see that continue as the series goes on. ⭐⭐⭐⭐, Recommended for everybody.