Romance Roundtable #49: I’m in Love with the Villainess

Welcome back to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Have you ever dreamed about getting stepped on by a mean video game lady? If so, be prepared to (vicariously) watch those dreams come true as we cover the first volume of the I’m In Love with the Villainess manga by Aonoshimo (Illustrator), Inori (Original Creator), and Hanagata (Character Design); translated by Joshua Hardy.


Ashley: so, who wants to sum up this edition’s title?

CC: yeah, there’s a manga about me!
LMAO

Ashley: HAHAHAHA

CC: I’m In Love With The Villainess is a manga about escaping into Fire Emblem: Three Houses and bullying Edelgard into loving you LMAOOOOO

Jenny: the summary is basically “simple office worker wakes up inside her fave otome game, and with free will she can finally romance the character she’s always wanted: her rival!”

From the back of the book: "When corporate worker Rei Ohashi finds herself reborn as the protagonist of her favorite dating sim, it's the perfect opportunity to do what she's always wanted — seduce the villainess! In her previous life, Rei had no interest in the princes the game had to offer. She only had eyes for Claire François, her nemesis. Now, armed with her extensive knowledge of the game, and her undying love for Claire, will Rei finally be able to win over the woman of her dreams?

CC: I love to see it: a protagonist who is just like me

A gif of Spike from Cowboy Bebop saying, "I love the kind of woman that can kick my ass."

Ashley: now, i’m no F3SH player, but whomst among us has not yearned for Varric an unromanceable NPC in our time

CC: yeah exactly
Cassandra Dragon Age, as a female Inquisitor

Rachel: my favorite thing about the isekai genre is that it does not matter why this happened
it does not matter why this office worker has awakened in this video game
who cares!!!!!

CC: yeah lol she is not concerned at all
good for her honestly, in another world living her best life

Rachel: love to be 15 again but with the brains of a 30 year old

Ashley: no thoughts, no responsibilities, just boobah

Rachel: god bless

Jenny: love to never experience test anxiety bc i know that the narrative will go my way

CC: yeah idk if this game has a time skip where they all have to go through a brutal war but hopefully the worst thing they’ll have to endure is test anxiety and lore infodumps

Ashley: LOL
one element of this plot point – memorizing the puzzles in the game – is the way that the common tropes backfire on or inconvenience the protagonist (Rae)
like, she knows she gets extra special magic powers and tries to biff it so she won’t trigger one of the Romanceable character’s admiration, but fails anyway
(fails at…. extremely not failing that is)

CC: I like that she needs to stay on the least popular boy’s route to spend time with her mean gf
also that Rae is not into the most popular boy

A page from the comic, where Rae laments that the most popular of the love interests is the one she can't stand the most.

CC: truly relatable content

Jenny: lol yes v real

CC: gimme that worst love interest
two shots of your finest worst love interest please

Ashley: her face is SO good in this moment (and many others)

Jenny: i think this book has a lot of fun w the tropes and the programming, but also it’s fun to think about when/how she goes off script! like, i have to assume that the whole “blackmail claire’s father into hiring me on as her maid” arc isn’t something the programmers intended

Rae drops a name, a date, and a ludicrous gold amount, causing Claire's dad to freak.

Rachel: oh yeah i loved that!!

CC: I wonder how much of that she’ll be able to get away with heh heh
how off the script can she go???

Jenny: yeah! like, would love to see her thrown off course by more unavoidable cut scenes

CC: to your point rachel, it does seem like this story does not really wanna bother with why she was isekai’ed
so maybe it will never even be a thing! like how magical girl stories don’t have as much hand wringing about secret identities as superhero stories do IMO
BUT
I do appreciate that we get some worldbuilding stuff about the game itself

Some background on the world Rae has found herself in.

Jenny: yeah lol also loved that she was like — i know all this backstory bc i had to do SO MUCH RESEARCH for my fanfic about claire’s family being disinherited and her having to work and learn and grow

Ashley: HAHAHA YES

Rachel: YES love for fanfic to come into this
very relatable when she was like “i was so confident i could do a better job than the game developers”
hell yeah

CC: i feel like this is so many people i know

Rae, to herself: "I was writing... fanfiction!"

CC: u were & u should say it

Jenny: break the stigma
talk about it! i want to hear it!

Rachel: the sound effect lol

Ashley: BOOM

CC: i want a good reveal sound effect when my friends who write badass fanfiction wanna talk about it

Jenny: just load it up on one of those shock jock sound effects apps

CC: ohhhh genious

Jenny: the special ‘talking about badass fanfic’ segment opening effect
i would listen to that radio show

Ashley: “uhWOOOguhwah!?”

Rachel: omg manben but about fanfic

Jenny: GENIOUS!!

CC: LMAO two wolves
i want both fanfic manben and shock jock fanfic commentary

Rachel: we can have it all

Jenny: this is the world we deserve
i mean, if i can’t be isekaied into an otome game

The sounds of a shrieking voice causes Rae to realize where she is.

Jenny: love “shriek shriek”

CC: idk what I would do if I opened my eyes and the first thing i heard was an o-ho-ho nanami laugh from a distance

Jenny:

Rae confesses her love for the ultimate anime "OH HO HO HO" laugh.

Jenny: that’s you^^

CC: look even i have my limits but at the same time

Rae thinks on why she loves Claire — "she either has too much price or she wants to hide how easily hurt she is."

CC: ^^ the root of all the long essay ramblings
I have ever put together about my favorite terrifying ladies in fiction

Jenny: lol i have this shot too! love this depth for her!!
love that she couldn’t bring herself to deface the textbook bc she just had so much respect for the bookbinding workers or w/e

Rachel: again, relatable!!!
books are great!

Jenny: it’s true! and a lot of work goes into making them!
to be respected!

Rachel: i dunno it’s such a cool conceit to have a character that already knows why they love another character
like, you the reader don’t watch her fall in love
but we see more and more WHY she’s already in love
it’s 1/2 of a going steady

CC: it’s a very delicate balance IMO to have a relationship start with one character very confidently loving the other, who is baffled and annoyed
but I think this is a really fun version of that trope

Jenny: yeah! and like, you (me) the reader do kind of fall in love w her as things go on, which i think is like a great meta otome nod

CC: who doesn’t love and fear being loved and known?? whomst?

Ashley: it’s pretty suspenseful in this book too, actually! there’s a lot of mystery
like, some sort of nefarious plot involving Claire’s dad which allows Rae to blackmail him? a major final confrontation that we don’t know anything about?

CC: she probably dropped some endgame content on him
that’s my prediction anyway L O L

Ashley: oh surely… but what is it???? i have to know

CC: tariff rate navigation minigame time~~
export tax level grinding
look: i would play an otome game with something like that rolled up in there too
give me that star wars prequel content with some beautiful romance options in the mix LMAO

Jenny: LOL but i mean, i would love to see a train route mapping minigame in vol 2! but mostly i would like more of this:

Rae leans over Claire, telling her she'll have to do her very best to make Claire believe she really does love her. Claire is flustered!

Jenny: she doesn’t believe she can be loved!!
she will be convinced!!

Rachel: YES, CUTE
love to fluster the un-flusterable!!

CC: i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again

The comfort of love / the mortifying ordeal of being known

Ashley: AHHHH hahahaha

Jenny: LOLOLOLOLOLOL

Ashley: truly the root of all joy AND suffering

CC: i just want things to work out for these two crazy kids* (LOL)

Rachel: yes! with the power of…

Rae saying, "Love!" with little cherubs around her and flowers and ribbons.

CC: LOL
beeng boooong
good sound effects

Rachel: those little cherubs are us

Ashley: perfection
do you think the artist drew this obvious favorite panel right at the start? or saved it til the end for motivation?

Rachel: LOL i bet they sketched it immediately
but saved inking it till the end, as a little treat

Ashley: love that for them

Rachel: ok i also wanna talk about something i didn’t understand
there’s like a montage where Claire (the villainess) is bullying Rae and Rae keeps turning it around into something she loves
but what was the deal with this flower???

Rae, thinking: "A flower on my desk...? Could this be from Miss Claire?"
Claire, reacting to Rae having pressed the flower in a book: "Why have you gone and pressed it like that?!"

CC: I COULDN’T TELL EITHER LOL
flew right over my commoner head

Ashley: omg yea i pored over that!!! felt a bit like a translation / missing cultural context issue

Jenny: ah yeah, my best guess is that daisies are, like, very common flowers and so aren’t worth cherishing, but like she put in a vase, so idk

Ashley: maybe it’s because it’s like, a cheap wildflower?

Jenny: it might be something that’s explained more in the light novel

Ashley: yea jenny! like in the language of flowers it stands for “lowly commoner”

Jenny: i’d buy it

Rachel: ohhh that would make sense!
a little easter egg for those in the know who read the light novel

Ashley: alternatively, claire could be mad about defacing a book with a flower pressing?

Rachel: ohh also a good read!
one thing that this book doesn’t leave to speculation at all though
Rae loves to be literally stepped on

Rae, yelling: "If you're going to step on my foot, then do it with more vigor!"
Rae, bowing to Claire: "Miss Claire... I beg you to take those high heels... AND STOMP ON ME TO YOUR HEART'S CONTENT!!"

CC: LOL love that she was completely to the point on that

Rachel: IT’S NOT SUBTEXT, IT’S TEXT

Ashley: ahhhhh hahahaha i screenshotted every single instance of this lollll

Jenny: v same v same

CC: i keep making puns and deleting them L O L
but agreed

Ashley: okay y’all… what do you think, final thoughts?

CC: mine is a question to yall
is there a game you would get isekai’ed into and if so which one

Rachel: OH A GREAT QUESTION

CC: oh: to clarify
for the purposes of romance!

Rachel: i gotta really think about this one

Jenny: ok i am not a furry but…animal crossing
dual lifestyle and romance

Ashley: JENNY WHAT

Rachel: LOL HAHAHAHAH

Jenny: maybe i watched roxanne too much as a child, but i love cyrano.

Rachel: “i am not a furry but”
was so interested in where that was going and so happy in where it went

CC: LOLLLL

Ashley: oh my GODDD hahaha, damn, what a curveball

Jenny: companionship is all i’m saying

Cyrano!

Rachel: the little eyebrows!!
(big eyebrows)

CC: i would say final fantasy vii remake, IF I could leave before shit gets too real and also if I could figure out which character I’d want to be

Rachel: i mean that’s a great point about getting out before shit gets real
i feel like for that reason i am not going Mass Effect

CC: yeah absolutely not, no thanks
i feel like the logistics would be too difficult to navigate in an actual human body, for most of the best mass effect romances

Ashley: right now i feel the same way i do at a restaurant when someone orders the thing i was gonna order right before me, which is unnecessarily conflicted because i have a compulsive need to NOT BE SAME

Rachel: LOL

Ashley: because the first thing that sprang to mind is, of course, final fantasy x-2, with all my GFs

Rachel: oohhhh!!!

CC: oh hell yeah

Jenny: oh you know actually cooking mama could be a good one (i love milfs)

Ashley: LOL

Rachel: mine’s gonna be persona 5

Ashley: ooooo!

Rachel: i want to be a criminal
of HEARTS

Jenny: LOLOLOL

CC: oh hell yeah

Ashley: yesssssss i love this

Jenny: you dropped this 👑

Rachel: LOLLLLL thank you thank you

CC: the more we talk about this, the more i realize
the games I spend the most time playing are places i would not want to go L O L
but: i think y’all had very good choices and now i wish i had a better one!!!!
but oh well! I’m sticking with my choice. literally everyone in the ffvii remake is a babe and i would like to take them all to gold saucer

Ashley: hell yeah

Jenny: perfectly respectable choice

CC: anyway: video games with romance in them are fun!!!!

Jenny: it’s true!

Rachel: 10000%!!

CC: love to smooch from a distance

Jenny: ok my final thought is just that these two dummies really are made for each other

Rae: "Miss Claire... I can tell you strongly dislike me."
Claire: "O-of course I do!"
Rae: "That doesn't bother me! Please tease me more, to your heart's content! Bring it on!!"
Claire: "Until the day comes where you cry and submit to me... I shall punish you... torment you... and make you suffer endlessly!"

Jenny: like, we get it
one loves to torment, one loves to be tormented
submission this, tormenting that
what a pair

Ashley: i got exactly what i was craving from this book

Rachel: this is that mini game in yakuza like a dragon
where there is the man who can no longer feel pain, no dom is enough for him anymore
and you have to find him the dom of his dreams

CC: LOL I think Yakuza 0 has that same guy

Ashley: omggggggggggg

Jenny: i am a modern office worker, i can no longer feel pain

CC: and that game is set in 1988
truly, a tale as old as time

Ashley: or, as old as… me
lol

CC: oh lol v true

Ashley: crone lyfe baybee

Rachel: lol so my final thought is
not enough comics do gag strips in between chapters but i loved it in this book!!

All the characters in the comic stand in a line to spy on each other.

Rachel: extremely silly, big fan

Ashley: yes!!!!!! omg yes i love the gags

Jenny: yes this was so cute!

CC: such a good gag; all of them but this one especially

Ashley: you can see the pure self-indulgence and i live for it

Rachel: i also love the style of them!!
not to go all manben on y’all, but i like that the gags are drawn with a fine liner instead of a nib

Jenny: i love to learn
also i do want to put forth:

An expanded view of the "step on me" panel from earlier!

Jenny: an expanded version of an earlier panel bc this was one of the gag strips and it really got me

Rachel: i love it!!

Jenny: clearly had so much fun w these!

Rachel: truly, i think that’s what gets me about this comic
it really seems like the author and the artist were just having the best time

Jenny: feels good!!

CC: agreed; pure fun self indulgence in the best possible way

Ashley: my final thought is
and, okay, so, i know this is explicitly not the point but…
more of the moody bishonen plz

The moody, long-haired bishounen, staring meanly at Rae.

CC: LOL

Jenny: oh the sad middle child feelings

Ashley: maybe he turns out to be “the villain” of this adventure … ?

Jenny: or the actual rival

Ashley: ooo right!

Jenny: if she has to do his path in order to spend more time w claire…idk he could skew more villain

Ashley: also, he’s claire’s crush!

Jenny: ah yes! def a good point

CC: oooh I’d love to see it

Jenny: who’s to say what will happen, but i am looking forward to vol2!!

Rachel: hell yeah!!

Ashley: same!!!


Join us next time for even more love story shouting in our next Romance Roundtable! In the meantime, Monthly Ko-Fi members: head on over to Ko-Fi for just a few bonus goofs that didn’t make it into today’s roundtable, as a treat.

Rachel Weiss

Rachel Weiss

Rachel is a designer and artist from Texas. She is pro-feminism, pro-crones, and pro-dogs. She's also Boss Crone at POMEgranate Magazine, and one day hopes to be able to drink her tea without so much milk and sugar.
CC Calanthe

CC Calanthe

If you prick your finger and write “Cat Fancy” on your mirror during a harvest moon, CC will appear behind you and make you put human clothes on your pets. CC is Head Crone in Charge at POMEgranate Magazine, as well as the co-host of Moon Podcast Power MAKE UP!!
Ashley Gallagher

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley writes comics and emails from zir burrow in the Pacific Northwest. Ze is a sentient subtropical swamp fern whose favorite food is old words.
Jenny Mott

Jenny Mott

Jenny is just a Silly Nerd with a lot of Feelings about Comic Books and Friendship and also This Capitalist Yoke We All Share; she enjoys Dogs and Sleeping and Cartoons. Her three favorite words are: Breakfast All Day.
#comics

Romance Roundtable #51: Yakuza Lover

Welcome back to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Join us for our spiciest Romance Roundtable yet as we cover Yakuza Lover by Nozomi Mino: an absolutely R-rated romance between a bold, fearless college student and a beautiful twink yakuza boss.

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