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!
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!”
CC: I love to see it: a protagonist who is just like me
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
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
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
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
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
I do appreciate that we get some worldbuilding stuff about the game itself
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”
CC: i feel like this is so many people i know
CC: u were & u should say it
Jenny: break the stigma
talk about it! i want to hear it!
Rachel: the sound effect lol
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
Rachel: omg manben but about fanfic
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
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: that’s you^^
CC: look even i have my limits but at the same time
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:
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
Ashley: AHHHH hahahaha
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…
good sound effects
Rachel: those little cherubs are us
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???
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
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
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
Ashley: oh my GODDD hahaha, damn, what a curveball
Jenny: companionship is all i’m saying
Rachel: the little 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
Ashley: because the first thing that sprang to mind is, of course, final fantasy x-2, with all my GFs
CC: oh hell yeah
Jenny: oh you know actually cooking mama could be a good one (i love milfs)
Rachel: mine’s gonna be persona 5
Rachel: i want to be a criminal
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!
CC: love to smooch from a distance
Jenny: ok my final thought is just that these two dummies really are made for each other
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
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
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!!
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:
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
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!!
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.