I'm in Love with the Villainess Audiobooks 1 2 Review

I am in Love with the Villainess Audiobooks 1-2 Overview

The animated version of INORI’s light book series, the most recent in a line of isekai anime centered on the idea of video game “villainess” characters redeeming themselves, was one of my favorite episodes of the fall 2023 season. In terms of anime, this started with the humorous My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! in 2020, which caused a small surge of episodes that were derivative.

The extensive examination of capital-T themes in I’m in Love with the Villainess sets it apart from other subgenre titles. Screwball humor at its best, My Next Life as a Villainess is a fun reversal of popular otome clichés. The female lead in that tale inadvertently gathers a loyal harem of characters of opposite sexes; yuri material is mostly there for comedic effect. from I’m in Love with the Villainess is overtly queer and critically examines its premise—that is, that a lesbian relationship takes center stage in a pseudo-historical context that is anything from progressive.

Even if I’m smitten with the The anime version appears to have heightened the comedic aspects of the villainy, which works well for the characters. At first glance, Rae’s fixation with Claire, a student at a magical high school, looks unsettling and even stalker-like. Rae’s response to Claire’s bullying of her verges on the blatantly masochistic. She invades Claire’s personal space, leers incessantly, and makes inappropriate remarks with a sexual overtone. I doubt readers would have been drawn to Rae’s poison if she had been a masculine character. Claire is also cruel, distant, abusive, and conceited—qualities typical of an adversary. Fortunately, Rae and Claire are complex, multifaceted characters who, as the story goes on, develop into flawed but sympathetic heroines.

The first three chapters of the first book as well as the first section of the second novel, chapter 4, are covered in full in the anime. The first novel mostly consists of scene setup, introducing the sometimes turbulent relationship between the often perplexed Claire and the enamored Rae. The themes, people, and conflicts that are established here play a major role in the dramatic end of book two. The fantasy scenario and magic systems are excruciatingly generic, if there is a defect at all, even if they are just supporting characters for the topics that I’m in Love with the Villainess want to go into.

It was rightfully pointed out that the initial print run in English omitted crucial passages explaining Rae’s reasons for behaving in a certain manner. Happily, the missing passages are restored in this audiobook version to correspond with subsequent printings. Rae’s self-defeating performative flamboyance is often a result of her assimilation of contemporary Japanese societal views regarding homosexuality; without this crucial context, it is impossible to comprehend her character in its whole.

Courtney Shaw, the narrator, masterfully captures Rae’s multifaceted personality. From her lustful quips about Claire’s body to her deadly-serious planning to her heartbreaking sadness at the end of book two, Shaw gives Rae an equal measure of tragedy and humor. Compared to the more insane lesbian gremlin joker voiced by anime dubbing actress Hannah Alyea, Shaw’s interpretation is a little more reserved. (I should add that I adore them both.) Other character voices highlight Shaw’s remarkable variety; he maintains the individuality of each character, from the commanding Claire to the shy Lily, the self-assured Prince Rod to the sardonic Salas. The best way to appreciate I’m in Love with the Villainess is to listen to the audiobook version, since her impassioned voice propels the narrative ahead.

The anime’s second half (chapters 5 to 8) is when the plot really takes off, with many of unexpected turns and reinterpretations of earlier events. It’s unfortunate that the show finishes just halfway through the major arc. INORI discusses how wealth disparity breeds animosity, discord, and instability in society by referencing the Revolution storyline. Despite the conceit and luxury of the aristocracy, INORI contends that morality and value are not entirely determined by a person’s background and society. Not everyone protesting against the corrupt regime has the best of intentions, and some nobles—like Claire—are excellent after learning about the nature of injustice. Particularly one of the villains is a touch theatrical in their boo-hiss simplicity, but that’s a tiny price to pay for two of the story’s most interesting and likable characters, Rae and Claire.

By the conclusion, we are rooting for Rae to succeed in saving her beloved Claire because we are so happy for their hard-earned bliss. It might sometimes come off as a bit didactic and pompous when INORI uses Rae’s understanding of contemporary sexual politics to condemn prejudice against gay partnerships, but the good message is one of tolerance and supporting (and letting) individuals to be who they really are. In addition to discussing the main same-sex lesbian relationship, the queer material also takes into account bisexuality, other sexualities, and (fantasy-tinged) gender dysphoria. In Japanese popular literature, it’s uncommon to see open explorations of such ideas; often, these tales are much more subtle, but I’m in Love with the Villainess goes right there. Even if I may not be able to fully relate to Rae and Claire’s hardships, I still think this thrilling novel and its amazing cast of characters are fantastic. Its candor is what makes it powerful.

The light novel series continues for three more volumes, which include a combination of previously published short tales and a second sequel arc, even if volume two marks the conclusion of this specific plot. I hope they will soon be available as audio!

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