Ah, the oversaturated genre of Isekais, where the main character is transported to an alternate fantasy world. I’m not the biggest fan of the genre personally, but there are many diamonds in the rough among the countless shows I’ve seen such as Konosuba and Re Zero among them. However, I Favor the Villainess (or I’m in Love with the Villainess) is a unique and fantastic one. Already with a stand-out premise, where office lady Oohashi Rei is reincarnated into another world as Rei Taylor, heroine of a romance, reverse harem style game in a fantasy, medieval setting. Except, the twist is that the setting is in a video game named Revolution, a game that Rei was obsessed with in her prior life, and Rei is in love with the game’s main villain, high snobby aristocrat Claire Francois. The story starts with a bang, and Rei wakes up in class already being belittled by Claire. And this is all Rei’s biggest dream, actually living in her favorite otome game, able to interact with none other than her favorite character and villainess, Claire.
Now that we have the background out of the way, this train has no brakes. SPOILER WARNINGS BELOW…..Now don’t get confused, this is a yuri light novel. The main focus is on Rei and Claire’s relationship, but that elephant will be addressed later, because wow is it deep.
Anywhere, to start off, the first novel does a fantastic job in worldbuilding, establishing a clear hierarchy and tense relations between the aristocrats and commoners in the Bauer Kingdom, the nation where the story takes place. Only recently has the Academy, where Rei studies, has accepted commoners into its ranks, due to the proliferation and rising importance of magic in world affairs. This sets the overarching plot of the story, of the clash between the social classes.
Now for the magic system. As for every fantasy setting, there’s always some kind of magic system, and I’m in Love with the Villainess surprisingly does not disappoint. Albeit it’s very simple, with four elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind, but the characters push their specialties to their utmost limits and utilize them in creative ways. What stood out to me, was their mock battles to become Academy knights (the equivalent of Safety patrol in elementary lmao). My favorite fight was Rei vs. Claire, with Rei’s specialties being Water and Earth, while Claire was Fire (matching her fiery personality). In this tier system, certain elements trumped others, Water beating Fire, Fire beating Earth, etc. Of course, Rei being the protagonist, was overpowered but was smart as well. With only using Earth, she was already at an elemental disadvantage, but she just kind of trapped Claire in a pitfall and won underhandedly. Simple but effective. This is just a small taste of how magical battles worked in the novels, of sheer firepower along with sharp wits to make for entertaining fights in a fantasy setting.
Now, the spicy part, Rei and Claire’s relationship. There is a lot to go into here, so we’ll talk about the first novel. Rei is extremely self aware, she knows herself and isn’t exactly shy about her love for Claire, always proclaiming to Claire that she loves her. Claire, on the other hand, is the perfect aristocrat; haughty, arrogant, selfish, about what you would expect of a spoiled noble. Claire sees Rei as a weirdo and constantly insults her and sees her as nothing more than a filthy commoner.
Now the interesting part is that Rei, despite being incredibly outspoken and never holding her tongue around other people, holds back a lot. In her prior life, Rei fell in love with another girl and was socially ostracized for it. Despite being self aware and having moved on, Rei holds immense fear in losing Claire, in that she is satisfied in keeping Claire at an arm’s length, as long as she can interact with her. Rei’s best friend Misha notices this, asking Rei if she has given up on Claire, and Rei almost breaks her silly facade of always poking fun at Claire, saying despite being in love with Claire, she is satisfied with seeing Claire being happy. She even tries to set up Claire with Prince Thane, knowing that Claire has a crush on him. This complex faucet of Rei, truly makes for a complex character, in that she is openly honest, yet hides a lot to save her pain.
Claire is just as complex, as despite coming across as an unshakable, confident aristocrat who is the best at everything, hides a lonely, insecure person who can’t trust anyone. It is why she is bewildered at Rei at first, thinking it’s a joke when Rei proclaims she loves Claire at every waking moment. Eventually Claire begins warming up to Rei, as she realizes Rei really does have her best interests in mind. This comes to a turning point, when Claire’s maid Lene betrays and nearly kills Claire. Heartbroken and shook, Claire now has truly no one to lean on, and realizes Rei may truly be genuine.
Now, the second novel. Keep in mind, this one was nearly double the length of the first one, and for good reason. Rei and Claire’s relationship picks up FAST and the plot thickens heavily. I also want to note that Rei is just really a funny character, making me laugh out loud with her quotes and inner monologues.
The second novel opens up with a childhood friend of Claire’s, named Manaria, whose appearance is tomboyish. Unfortunately for Rei, Manaria has caught onto Rei’s love for Claire, and declares Rei is a coward and will take Claire for herself. You know what they say, sometimes you don’t even know you’re in love until something drastic happens or what not.
Rei and Manaria have a magic duel, and Rei loses badly due to her emotions getting the best of her. Rei made a promise earlier to leave Claire’s service as her maid, and is left feeling empty. Claire is also feeling bewildered, as she trusted Rei to always be there for her. Distance makes the heart grow fonder hehe.
Manaria confronts Rei, asking Rei why she is being a coward and to stop denying her feelings for Claire. Rei finally realizes she wants Claire for herself and won’t give her up to anyone, and won’t fear rejection. Some magic stuff goes down, to test Rei’s resolve, and Rei asks Claire to be her partner (basically her girlfriend but that’s just my yuri goggles talking). To Rei’s surprise, Claire calls her impossible, except she’s actually happy and crying??? And now the next moment had me squealing, because Manaria reveals that this was all a ploy since she was really actually interested in Rei and tries to kiss her, but CLAIRE DOES THE UNTHINKABLE.
Claire screams and says Rei is mine, don’t steal what’s mine, in front of everyone. Big Win for yuri fans everywhere.
I probably wrote too much for this section of the novel, but this was one of my favorite moments so hate me.
Rei and Claire continue their “unofficial” relationship, as the plot progresses. Ton of sweet moments further on, visiting Rei’s family house and basically getting their blessing. However ominous clouds gather, as the Commoners’ dissent rises and word travels of potential revolution…
Also, cute moment of when Claire gets jealous and melts tea cups with her fire magic when other girls show interest in Rei. Claire you go girl!!!
Seeds of conflict are sown as Claire and Rei are assigned to investigate corrupt nobles finances, and the worst part is Claire’s father is suspected of being the ringleader of noble corruption. Revolution erupts, and fighting breaks out between the aristocrats and the commoners. Claire and Rei try their best to help the displaced during the conflict. Now this is where the Big Brain plays happen.
Rei, having played the Revolution game countless times in her prior life, is privy to knowledge of what will happen in this world. She knows who the bad guys are, when the revolution will happen, and most importantly, that Claire will executed as an aristocrat. Also, she knows that Claire’s father is actually not a bad person, but was a double agent in supporting the Commoner’s Movement. She masterminds a plan with Claire’s father, in order to prop up Claire as a noble who helped the people and will be the one who acts as judge, jury, and executioner of the corrupt nobles to ensure she lives. Her love goes that deep for Claire.
However, there was a major miscalculation. Despite being a game before, now that Rei is alive, the game is real life now. And people don’t act in a certain manner.
Claire, after finding out the truth, resigns herself to her fate and wishes to die as a noble, to pay for her sins of being ignorant and selfish her entire life. She gives Rei their first kiss, and leaves to be executed. (I teared up a bit at this part)
The climax approaches. Rei, at her wit’s end, does everything she can to convince Claire and the revolutionaries not to kill her. She exposes the true wrongdoers of the country, traitors who sold the Bauer Kingdom to their enemies, and those who took advantage of the revolution for their own gains. But at the end of the day, it’s that Rei was finally honest with herself, and honest with Claire.
“Shut up! Listen to what I want for once!” Said Rei Taylor. The same person who loved Claire from the bottom of her heart, who always had Claire’s welfare at the forefront of her mind, was finally selfish for once. And this is what convinced Claire to change her mind.
These two lovebirds came such a long way, from Claire being the classic tsundere who saw Rei as annoyance, to Rei being an eccentric outgoing clown.
It always stood out to me that, their facades were the opposites of who they both truly were at heart. Claire outwardly being the perfect, snobby noble who thought of everyone as beneath her, was also the first person who was open minded and truly cared about the people as her responsibility and was willing to die for them. She kind of wasn’t truly a noble in that sense, in that she was a highly emotional person and would much rather be honest and honorable, traits that would be detrimental in politics. It showed in her love for Rei, in being jealous at times when other girls showed interest for Rei, or always being angry with Rei whenever Rei would do things without consulting her.
Rei, was the exact opposite. Outwardly, she seemed to be a charismatic person who said whatever on her mind, no matter if it was the King or a prince. She constantly nagged Claire for her reactions, always proclaiming her love for Claire and not hiding the fact she adored her. Despite all this, deep down, Rei was a very deep thinker and always calculated her actions. She held deep fear of rejection, and truly cared for Claire from the bottom of her heart. These were traits she held from her previous life, to avoid the same trauma of being openly honest again. But in the end, being truly honest with her feelings is what got to Claire’s heart.
The two are finally reunited at the end, and Rei proposes to Claire and they share a proper kiss. (LOVE IT!!!!). Rei puts it perfectly. “As long as we’re together, we can go anywhere”. And that, my friends, is I’m in Love with the Villainess.
Extra stuff at the end of novel two, is years later showcasing Rei and Claire (Relaire? Ship name?) living with their two adopted daughters named May and Aleah. Cute fluff is always appreciated.
I’ve read and consumed many Yuri mediums in my lifetime, but I’m in Love with the Villainess stands out among the top for me. I find that Yuri stories that have Yuri as it’s main topic, but have other strong topics going for it as well, as the best, as having more legs to stand out separate the good from the great. Rei and Claire are an amazing pairing, and even more amazing characters. 10/10 masterpiece.
The story does continue (much much more) on Jingle Translations, but unfortunately has not been english licensed yet. Hopefully soon!
There is also a manga adaptation (which is very lovely and cute) which I highly recommend checking out as well.