Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 2 mines teens' raging emotions (Manga Review)

A high school boy puts a finger up to his lips to tell the girl to keep something a secret
Love Me, Love Me Not vol. 2 - 7.5/10 (*see full rubric below)

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 2 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is the second volume in Io Sakisaka's newest series to be translated into English. I'm a huge (HUGE) fan of her series Ao Haru Ride. While this doesn't quite rise up to that level, it shares much of its essential DNA: nothing happens but the characters feel a lot of feelings, everyone is nice but fighting their inner demons, and the art is amazing.

In volume 1 we met the four leads, old friends Yuna and Kazuomi, and siblings (actually step-siblings) Akari and Rio. This is a romance shoujo, so you know where all this is going: lots of complex will-they-won't-they and conflicting feelings. We find out at the end of volume 1 that Rio was in love with Akari before their parents met and married. He's determined to ensure they are good to their parents and he never lets Akari know his feelings.

But Yuna has fallen for Rio, hard, and not knowing his feelings for Akari, Yuna lets Akari know about hers for Rio. Volume 2 begins with Rio sharing his story with Yuna and confirming that it is Akari he still loves. He also peps Yuna up to take the risk and confess to her own crush, unbeknownst to him, he's the one she likes. Yuna tells him and is turned down, kindly, and now they're awkward around each other.

Akari has warned Yuna that Rio is a player and breaks girls hearts, but Yuna knows that it only seems that way because Rio is hiding his feelings for Akari. It makes it really special then to see Rio defend Yuna when some other people accuse her of being an annoying stalker. He really does seem like a stand-up guy.

While most of this volume is really about Rio and Yuna, we get some interesting glimpses of Akari. She's been hung-up on someone from her past for a long time, and she gets a resolution in this volume that will allow her to move on. Will she move on towards Kazoumi? There's a pivotal scene between them that suggests as much. BUT...

I'm also picking up on some tiny hints that she might fall for Yuna! Warning, I have a tendency (BAD tendency) to over-read between the lines shipping girls and hoping for real relationships between women. And I would love to see Io Sakisaka-sensei actually do a yuri or an LGBTQ+ series. AND I also (mistakenly?) thought this might be a yuri series when I saw the first images from it before it came out. SO take with a big grain of salt that I think (hope) that perhaps Akari might eventually fall for Yuna. Here's some stuff from this volume that's making me dream about it:

  • Akari clearly says, with awe in her eyes "Yuna is amazing." She could just mean her bravery for confessing to Rio, but it plays (at least to me) as more than that.
  • When Yuna is laughing and blushing and looking adorable, Akari's heart skips a beat.
  • Later, Akari asks herself why Yuna made her heart skip a beat.
  • And finally, she asks herself: "Yuna was courageous and confessed her love. Is that why I find her so cool?" If we weren't going to think there might be something more, then this wouldn't be a question, it would be a statement. That Akari leaves open the possibility she finds Yuna cool for some other reason (like LOVE?!!?!?!?!?!?!) gives me hope (and boy can I ever hope when it comes to girls/women in love).
So I have no idea, I could be making it up and reading between lines that don't exist. OR Akari could eventually fall for Yuna and get her heart broken by Yuna as she and Rio get together. Or EVERYONE could break EVERYONE's hearts in this series. I don't know yet, and knowing that it's a dramatic romance story but not knowing how it will resolve is okay by me.

At the same time, Kazoumi's role in the series is also hard to pin down. Through volumes 1 and 2 we're uncertain whether it is Yuna (his long-time friend) or Akari (whom he's just met) that he will come to love. Of course, we're all hoping that in the end Yuna and Rio will get together and Akari and Kazoumi will get together, because then everyone's happy. But, I don't think Sakisaka-sensei is afraid of a melancholy ending, and so it is also possible that one or both of the couples won't end up together. The fact that she's such a skilled and brave writer, that she really does leave open the possibility that things won't work out in a happy little ending, makes her stories that much more poignant and affecting to read.

As always, Sakisaka-sensei nails the writing of teens, and their dialogue. My favorite moment in this volume is so simple and cute; it may be hard to convey, but here goes: Yuna has just confessed to Rio and been turned down, but they try walking home together. Yuna ducks out with an excuse and Rio falls to his knees thinking he's the biggest dumbass for cheering her on not knowing it was about him. As he's sulking, Kazuomi comes up and tries to talk and Rio says to just leave him alone. Then Kazuomi offers him a snack, and like every teenage boy (hungry all the time), he says: "yeah" and eats the snack. You can just hear the pause after Kazumoi's question before Rio quietly, almost imperceptibly, accepts the snack. He's so cute! It's just such perfect writing, and as inconsequential as the moment is, it's indicative of Sakisaka-sensei's genius. Here's part of that scene:

One boy is sulking, the other offers him a snack even after being told to go away, the sulking boy reluctantly accepts the snack.
You can hear Rio pause before accepting the snack! So CUTE!!!!!
And finally, the art. She's my second favorite mangaka of all time and probably my favorite when it comes to art. It's just endlessly beautifully drawn art. Facial expressions are so vivid, the technique is so strong, there are tons and tons of screentone sparkles everywhere. It's detailed when it needs to be and not when it doesn't. Her art is perfectly balanced, beautiful, light, and just amazing.

Love Me, Love Me Not volume 2 demonstrates strong writing and great art. It's a teen drama romance with nice kids and no antagonist. Nothing will happen but lots of people will feel lots of feelings. And however it all resolves, people will have grown a little as a result. What more could you want from a series, and volume 2 sets this well on that path. Love Me, Love Me Not volume 2 gets a strong 7.5/10.

  • Story interesting (0-10): 6.5 - yes and no, there isn't much actual plot yet, but this is a character piece, and certainly the step-sibling crush storyline is always a good one, but I think we're still missing Kazuomi's piece in this.
  • Characters interesting (0-10): 7 - Yuna and Rio are starting to feel like fully realized characters. Volume 1 had a lot of potential with Akari's personality but doesn't give us much of it here. Kazuomi, as Sakisaka-sensei says in her afterward, is definitely still a mystery.
  • Quality prose/writing (0-10): 7 - Very strong writing, nails being kids, but we're still early, so not a lot of space for writing pyrotechnics yet.
  • Emotionally plausible (0-10): 7.5 - a super strength of Sakisaka-sensei's
BASIC SCORE (avg.): 7/10

  • Emotional insight/depth (0-5): 1 - it's early in the series for this, but there are some moments "You'll survive even if he rejects you" and "My feelings for ____ stemmed from my fantasy that he would take me away to a world I didn't know." come to mind as just some of the deeper moments.
  • True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5): 0 - nope, but I can hope (and find clues to bait me on!)
  • Female agency (0-5): 1 - Both Yuna and Akari take moments in this volume to move their lives forward, it's good to see. Sadly both moments are about boys and there's definitely more to life than boys.
  • Character growth/change (0-5): 1 - yeah, we're seeing it already, this early in the series. And not just from the girls, Rio is changing too.
  • Quality art (0-5): 3 - mega points just for Sakisaka-sensei being herself and doing what she does.
BONUS POINTS (sum/8): +.5

  • Homophobic/transphobic (0-5): 0
  • Misogynistic (0-5): 0
  • Fan service (0-5): 0
  • Child/adult relationship (0-5): 0
  • Exploitative (0-5): 0
PENALTY POINTS (-sum/2): -0



Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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