Love Me, Love Me Not
思い、思われ、ふり、ふられ (Omoi, Omoware, Furi, Furare)
Shoujo – Romance, slice-of-life
12 Volumes (complete)
Shy, romanticist Yuna is surprised to learn the prince-in-appearance-only guy she just met and the random girl who begged her for money turn out to be siblings — and her new neighbors! Yuna and fellow resident Kazuomi welcome Rio and Akari, but they all start high school, will they be able to navigate love and friendship?
Love Me, Love Me Not combines two typical shoujo romances and pushes the friendship angle to reduce the hard line between the main and supporting couples.
Yuna is a bit of a bookworm, losing herself in manga romance stories and dreaming of her own Prince Charming sweeping her off her feet. When she meets a young man her age who bares a resemblance to her first love, a character in a storybook, Yuna thinks this may be the moment where she becomes the heroine. But it turns out he only stopped her because there was dog doodoo in front of her.
It’s a rather embarrassing incident on top of the depression of her seeing her best friend move away. But it’s precisely because of that Yuna can’t turn down a stranger’s request for money to go see her own friend off. While the most likely result of such of an interaction would be that the money is gone forever, the girl, Akari, does return the money she borrowed. She also turns out to from somewhere nearby — the same building in fact, as her family just moved in. As the two get to know each other, both are a bit taken aback by the other’s attitude about love. Yuna, who isn’t good around boys, dreams of something akin to love at first sight; Akari currently has a boyfriend and thinks Yuna should go out and discover what 3D guys are like. When Akari learns Yuna has a handsome childhood friend named Kazuomi with whom Yuna can interact normally, Akari thinks this may be a prime opportunity for her new friend to fall in love!
Especially since Akari learns the “prince” Yuna met is Rio, her brother who doesn’t have a good track record with women and is only interested in looks.
Except, as Yuna soon discovers, Rio and Akari are actually stepsiblings, and Rio is nursing feelings for Akari.
Love Me, Love Me Not is about two gals and two guys who each find themselves navigating the waters between love and friendship. Yuna and Akari become friendly right away, but there’s still an initial wall there because of their perspectives on romance. Yuna is a shy dreamer, while Akari thinks romance can stop and start rather easily. Rio, who has a bit of a reputation for never turning down pretty girls, gets to know Yuna through Akari, and he doesn’t realize Yuna is crushing on him as she discovers he likes Akari. Rio and Kazuomi start hanging out in the same friend group. Meanwhile, Akari is taken aback by Kazuomi’s naturally friendly, sincere personality — so much so that she considers him a natural airhead. There are other characters including a couple of love rivals, but the manga limits outside influence overall. In fact, there are more male supporting characters here than female!
What this means, of course, is that the story involves a love square full of misunderstandings, one-sided feelings, and bad timing. But really, this is more like two romance stories that occasionally intersect. Initially, they’re intersecting a lot, but by the halfway point, they’re on separate tracks. The manga does favors Yuna, as she’s the one introduced first and is the romantic idealist, but Akari is never reduced to just being the friend of the protagonist. This is a rarity in romances, and the nice thing about it is that this counteracts some of the negatives of the genre and of shoujo manga in particular.
However, if you don’t tend to like shoujo manga, nothing in Love Me, Love Me Not will make you reconsider. Tone-wise, the manga ends in a similar fashion as to how it starts, with a focus on the wonders of love. However, the story adds a little extra flavoring to the purehearted, sweet category. So while there’s the innocent girl crushing on someone she just met, there’s also the more experienced, outgoing one who finds herself attracted to someone who isn’t pursuing her — or any other girl. Sharing the spotlight means the saccharine sweetness and youthful depression are spread out a little more instead of just piling up.
True, both Yuna’s and Akari’s stories are heavy on innocent, first (and true) love, but there’s also emphasis also on nurturing friendship as well. Unlike in a lot of manga, the two main same-gendered leads are not longtime friends. In the first volume, Yuna feels ashamed she assumed Akari wasn’t bothered by breaking up with her boyfriend. Akari in return tries to share her feelings more, as she hasn’t had a lot of long-term friendships due to her having to transfer schools often. Rio and Kazuomi also end up hanging out together, but there’s less drama there outside of misunderstandings surrounding the girls. But their friendship is not based solely on the fact their love interests become BFFs. Again, it’s because of the “separate tracks” that prevent this from devolving into a love square where the romantic feelings are a barrier to being friends.
Anyway, the author tries to pull some trickery as to which couple will get together first or if feelings won’t be resolved until the end. The low point in the series is when one of the main characters seems like their feelings suddenly switched targets. At this point, it seems like the manga could wrap up soon, but obviously not. Again, what happens is nothing you can’t find in other romances, and at least family drama takes the blame for a lot of story developments rather than the characters always screwing up and causing issues. Still, for a romance, it’s not terribly long at 12 volumes, and there aren’t any real time skips since the story takes place over the course of a little more than a year. There is a brief closing epilogue if you want to call it that, but this would have been one shoujo romance where I would have liked to see that epilogue in full for a final chapter or side story.
Perhaps the best way to describe Love Me, Love Me Not‘s art is warm and soothing — like a warm cup of hot chocolate. The art is clear, bright, and familiar. Fans of the author will recognize some of the character designs, particularly with Yuna’s two suitors. I did like how Yuna herself has somewhat of the cat eye style, which is unusual for a purehearted maiden archetype. The manga is light on visual gags overall, with most of the exaggerated expressions limited to quick funny thoughts and blushing. This also isn’t a series with much emphasis on fashion. That may seem boring, but it also means we avoid a lot of emphasis on outward beauty. Which is surprising since Rio is initially billed as putting heavy focus on girls’ looks. (Not much is done with that storyline, any more so than a typical teenager). As I said before, if you like most shoujo manga, the visuals will be quite good thanks to Sakisaka’s experience. But if you’re not a huge fan of the school life shoujo romance genre, there won’t be much here that will be that exciting or different. But if Love Me, Love Me Not‘s scenario interests you, you’ll enjoy the visuals.
Also, I do like how the manga covers both rotate and cover the bases among the four leads. There are friendship covers, budding romance, single character shots, and couple pics. None are elaborate but instead put the focus on the characters. If you want to be completely surprised though, don’t look at them ahead of time. Chances are that you’ll know exactly how this story is going to play out though, so no big deal if you get spoiled ahead of time.
No honorifics are used. Not many cultural aspects to this series, so not much to say.
Love Me, Love Me Not, like a lot of school love stories aimed at girls, is made for those with a romantic sweet tooth. A small cast and splitting the spotlight keeps the manga’s flavor from becoming too sweet or sour, but it’s still very much a dessert — and one with a lot of fluffy whipped cream.
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