Love Me, Love Me Not is a new shojo romance manga by Io Sakisaka, who has several other works available in English, such as Strobe Edge and Ao Haru Ride. The hook that makes Love Me, Love Me Not unique is that it features two heroines, both of whose love lives are given equal weight in the story. But does twice the romance translate to twice the fun?
When a girl randomly approaches Yuna at the train station and asks to borrow money, she isn’t sure that she believes her story about forgetting her wallet and how she’s going to see off a friend, but Yuna decides to lend her the train fare anyway, just in case she’s telling the truth. Akari, the girl who forgot her wallet, is surprised and relieved when Yuna agrees to help her and the two arrange to meet up the next day so that Akari can pay her back. After the girls meet the second time, they discover that they actually live in the same building and will be attending the same high school. From then on, Yuna and Akari are fast friends and get along great; there’s just one point of contention between them, they have very different ideas when it comes to love. Yuna has an idealized concept of romance and believes in love at first sight, Akari, on the other hand, is more practical in her approach to dating and believes that falling in love is a process. As it happens, both girls views on the subject are about to be tested. Yuna finds herself drawn to Akari’s handsome but superficial brother, Rio, who only dates people based on their looks. Not quite the dashing Prince that Yuna had in mind. Meanwhile, Akari is falling for Yuna’s good-natured childhood friend, Kazuomi, who doesn’t seem to be aware that he’s constantly saying things that set Akari’s heart aflutter. Akari’s typical approach to romance might not be effective with someone so unaware of the signals he’s sending out. Will these girl’s feelings come to fruition? Or will they discover that they don’t know as much about love as they thought?
In the author’s notes, Io Sakisaka explains that she decided to make Yuna and Akari both protagonists because she didn’t want to give the impression that one girl’s approach to love was the “correct” one. I really like the idea of having two characters with opposing view points, where both sides are presented as being equally valid. While my own thoughts on the subject of romance are more in line with Akari’s, love is an area where people’s experiences can vary wildly and it can’t really be said that there’s only one right way to approach it. This seems to be the lesson that our main characters need to learn, as the girls are both initially judgemental of the others views. Akari thinks Yuna is naïve and Yuna doubts that Akari has ever experienced “real” love. These feelings contribute to a major misunderstanding between the two and Yuna winds up believing some nasty rumors about Akari because she assumes that Akari is shallow. The rumors turn out to be false, of course, and Yuna feels terrible when she realizes the truth and she discovers that she actually admires the fact that Akari has the self-confidence to face love head-on. Akari, meanwhile, finds Yuna’s beliefs to be childish, but comes to appreciate the sincerity with which Yuna lives her life when Yuna stands up for her at school. Both of these girls have something that they can learn from the other and I really enjoyed seeing their friendship develop and grow over the course of this volume. I’m glad that Yuna and Akari’s relationship with each other received just as much focus as their potential romances.
Speaking of romance, Love Me, Love Me Not has two leading-men and I found that I greatly prefer Akari’s love interest, the easy-going and friendly Kazuomi, over Rio, the heart-throb that Yuna is crushing on. Yuna meets Rio in a chance encounter, before she discovers that he’s Akari’s brother, and is struck by how much he resembles a prince from a children’s storybook. When they keep running into each other after that, Yuna can’t help but think that maybe this is the destined love she’s been waiting for! Unfortunately, Rio doesn’t really live up to the label of Prince. He’s nursing a broken heart and is trying to get over his failed romance by agreeing to go out with anyone who asks him… just as long as they’re hot. Rio wouldn’t be the first teenager to date someone based solely on looks, but, on top of this, he seems to be kind of oblivious to other people’s feelings and he just doesn’t feel like a good fit for Yuna. I’m hoping that his character will become more interesting in future volumes, however, as there was a big reveal regarding the girl that Rio is hung up on at the end of this book that points to some serious melodrama! Kazuomi, on the other hand, is cheerful and honest and much more appealing. He just appears to be a genuinely good guy and I enjoyed his interactions with Akari quite a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing more of their budding romance in future volumes.
This manga series is off to a strong start, thanks to the solid foundation it’s built on Yuna and Akari’s endearing friendship. Both girls are admirable in their own ways and I like how they challenge each other’s world views and push each other to grow. With likeable characters, dramatic twists and at least one promising romance, Love Me, Love Me Not has a lot to recommend it and I’m looking forward to reading more.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on this title, visit Viz Media’s website: https://www.viz.com/read/manga/love-me-love-me-not-volume-1/product/6199/paperback
What did you think of this manga? Do you like Akari or Yuna best so far? How about Rio and Kazuomi? Let me know in the comments. I also recently set up a Ko-fi account, so please consider supporting me and this blog if you have the cash to spare.