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One of my favorite shows for the fall 2023 season is the animated adaptation INORIThe latest in a series of isekai animations centered around video game “villainesses” redeeming themselves, is’s light-novel series. The anime began with 2020’s hilarious My Next Life as Villainess: All Routes lead to Doom!, which sparked a minor boom for derivative shows.
I’m in love with the VillainessIts heavy explorations of capital-T themes are a major reason why this subgenre stands out. My Next Life as VillainessIt’s pure screwball humor, a delightful inversion to well-worn otome stereotypes. In that story, the female lead unwittingly builds a devoted harem, with characters of both sexes. However, any yuri is mostly present for humor. I’m in love with the Villainess, however is unabashedly lesbian and interrogates its premise, which centers a lesbian romantic relationship within a far from progressive pseudo-historical environment.
The following is a list of the most popular ways to contact us I’m in love with the VillainessIt is funny at times (this seems to have been amplified in the anime version), but its humor serves its character. Rae is an initially offputting lead — her obsession with fellow magical high school student Claire seems creepy and almost stalker-like. She constantly leers, makes off-color, sexually-tinged jokes, and invades Claire’s personal space—Rae’s reaction to Claire’s bullying of her borders on the overtly masochistic. If Rae was a male character, it’s hard to imagine readers embracing her toxic nature. Claire is also a typical antagonist: mean, aloof, verbally abusive and spoiled. Rae and Claire, both multi-layered characters, grow into flawed yet sympathetic heroines over the course of the novel.
The anime covers the entirety of the first novel (chapters 1–3) plus chapter 4, the first segment of the second novel. Novel one is a mostly scene-setting novel that establishes a sometimes turbulent relationship between the besotted Rae, and the often bemused Claire. Novel two will be a dramatic conclusion that relies heavily on the conflicts, characters, concepts, and ideas introduced in novel one. If there’s a flaw at all, it’s that the fantasy setting and magic mechanics are painfully generic — though these are but backdrops to the themes I’m in love with the VillainessExplore the world.
Rae’s motivations behind her actions were edited out in the first English language print run, which was a mistake that was widely condemned. This audiobook adaptation has restored the missing segments to match later printings. Rae’s internalizations about modern Japanese attitudes towards homosexuality are a big contributor to the self-defeating flamboyance of her performative style.
Narrator Courtney Shaw nails Rae’s many-faceted personality — from her libidinous jokes about Claire’s body to her deadly-serious scheming to her anguished heartbreak towards volume two’s conclusion, Shaw imbues Rae with both mischief and pathos. Shaw’s take on the story is a little more restrained than anime Dub voice actress Hannah AlyeaThe more deranged lesbian gremlin. (I love them both by the way. Other character voices exemplify Shaw’s impressive range — from the imperious Claire to the timid Lily, the confident Prince Rod to the sneering Salas; Shaw keeps every character’s voice distinct. Her urgent narration drives the plot forward. I recommend this audiobook as the best way for you to enjoy I’m in love with the Villainess.
It’s a real shame that the anime only ends half way through the main arc. The story really takes off in the second half of the arc (chapters 5-8), with unexpected twists and turn, as well a reinterpretation and callbacks to previous events. INORIUses RevolutionThe plotline is a discussion of how inequality between the rich and the poor can cause resentment and social instability. The nobility is selfish, pampered and spoilt. INORIArguments that upbringing and cultural influences alone do not sum up a person’s morality. Claire is a good example of a noble who has been educated to the truth of inequality. However, not all rebels against the corrupt government have the most pure motives. One villain in particular is a little pantomime with their boohiss simplicity. But that’s just a small price to have characters as complex and endearing and Rae and Claire.
By the end of the movie, we are cheering Rae on as she tries to save Claire from her own wretchedness. INORIRae’s use to condemn discrimination against homosexual relationships may come across as a bit didactic and preachy. However, the positive message is that of tolerance, encouraging people to be themselves. The queer content extends beyond the central lesbian relationship to include bisexuality and other sexualities as well as (fantasy) gender dysphoria. It’s unusual to see frank discussions of such concepts in Japanese popular fiction — normally, these stories are much more coy, but I’m in love with the VillainessStraight out goes there. I may not be able to directly relate to Rae and Claire’s struggles, but this story is exciting and the characters are wonderful. Its honesty is what makes it so good.
Although volume two ends this story, the light-novel series continues with three more volumes. These volumes include a mixture of earlier-set stories and a sequel arc. Hopefully we’ll be getting an audio adaptation soon!