Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Love Me, Love Me Not
Ever since Yuna first had a crush on Prince Philip from her picture book of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, she's had an idealized view of love. Her friend Akari, on the other hand, is practical, and doesn't understand how Yuna could still be dreaming of princes on white horses. As the two begin to navigate high school, their differing views of love cause minor tensions, not just between them, but also with the boys in their lives.
It is an inescapable truth that Io Sakisaka cannot get through even one volume of her shoujo romances without introducing Major Angst. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course – she's very, very good at it and her characters all have believably grounded personalities that make the angst feel like a more natural part of the storyline than other creators are capable of; simply put, it very rarely feels like that scourge of teen fiction, torture porn. That said, there is a slight air of “c'mon, really?” to the end-of-volume reveal of just what the romantic roadblock is that may make Love Me, Love Me Not slightly less enjoyable than Sakisaka's previously released series, Ao Haru Ride and Strobe Edge.
Before the book gets to that point, however, it does some very nice playing around with genre tropes. Sakisaka specifically states in her introduction to the series that she decided to cast both Akari and Yuna as main heroines because she didn't want to imply that one's view of love was more valid than the other's, and that already sets the story apart. Wide-eyed, shy Yuna is a romantic – her first crush was on Prince Philip from Disney's Sleeping Beauty as seen in her picture book version of the story (and yes, it's very clearly the Disney version) and she's still basically waiting for her prince to ride up on a white horse and slay her dragons. Akari, who has just moved to Yuna's apartment building, has had boyfriends before, and takes a much more pragmatic view of romance; she knows there are no princes and thinks that the best plan is to just date someone you have a reasonable chance of being happy with. She thinks Yuna's romanticism is possibly dangerous in the sense that it could result in a lot of heartbreak for her gentle new friend, and she can't understand why Yuna doesn't just go out with her handsome childhood friend, Inui, the one (real) boy she's comfortable with.
In a nice change of pace, neither Yuna nor Inui are interested in each other. They're simply friends and always have been, and neither of them can quite figure out why Akari thinks they should “make up their minds to fall in love” with each other. Akari sees it as a practical arrangement – they like each other, they get along, and Yuna doesn't have trouble talking to Inui. For her part, she's not sure why they can't just decide to be a couple, and she spends a lot of the volume trying to matchmake them in what I assume she thinks is a subtle way. (It's not.)
In part this is because she's aghast that Yuna finds Akari's own brother Rio attractive. As far as Akari's concerned, Rio is bad news for sweet innocents like Yuna, although she's not great at verbalizing why. His biggest fault, and the one that she keeps bringing up, is that he tends to put looks first, but that's really no indication that he's in fact a shallow jerk. As Rio himself asks, why should it bother anyone that he is attracted to attractive people? The fact that he keeps turning down beautiful girls who ask him out, one because she just wanted him to be her boy on the side, seems to indicate that he does value other things, as Yuna may be starting to figure out. While Akari, as Rio's sister, is doubtless privy to more information, there's definitely something more than a desire to protect her new friend behind her warnings.
Just what that is may be obvious to seasoned manga readers, and it is some of the other story factors that keep it from feeling too terribly stale. As of this volume, however, it seems clear that the series, which totals twelve volumes, is setting up Yuna and Rio and Akari and Inui to be the main couples, although to be honest, I would not be surprised to see that get a bit changed up going forward. However things progress, Sakisaka does have a deft hand with this brand of shoujo romance, and both her clear, well-planned art and her characters combine with the plot to make it greater than the sum of its relationships, even at this early stage. It also has enough differences from her two previously released series that it doesn't feel like a retread of her own work, which is not only the mark of a skilled author, but also a good sign in general. Add in that this won the 63rd Shogakukan Manga Award for shoujo manga, and any concerns the end-of-volume plot point raise may turn out to be for naught.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ No one is set up as rivals or has their views invalidated, story and characters move organically forward.
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