As the friendship between Yuna and Akari develops in volume two of Love Me, Love Me Not (Omoi, Omoware, Furi, Furare), so, too, do the girls’ connections with the boys they’re closest to—Rio begins to confide in Yuna, who desires to be brave and admit her crush on him, while Akari learns more about and starts to appreciate Kazuomi, even as she navigates the complex dynamics of her own home life. As they grow more intimate, will the girls become more attached to the boys? And if so, how will they respond?
The second volume of Io Sakisaka’s shoujo series multiplies the relationships established in the first few chapters several times over. While volume one covered the initial meeting of Akari and Yuna and how the two very different girls interact with each other, in volume two, a web begins to develop. Yuna grows closer to Rio. Kazuomi gets to know Akari. And though emphasized the least, perhaps most surprisingly is that Kazuomi and Rio begin a friendship.
Because Sakisaka sensei is centering this series so completely on the four main characters, it’s imperative that we care about all of them and that the dynamics between each are interesting and well-established. The mangaka makes a good start on both accounts in this volume with her flair of introducing characters at their worst, or at least most stereotypical, before beginning to peel back the layers. She doesn’t goes as extreme as with a number of her characters in Ao Haru Ride (at least not yet), but you still get a playboy in Rio, a naive girl in Yuna, etc. Volume two shows that those elements of their personality are more nuanced than they initially seemed, and apparently as is to be a theme of the work, are just “different” facets of character, and not necessarily bad. These ideas are particularly explored in Yuna as she builds up the courage to confess to Rio, even while she assumes he will reject her. The panels showing her thoughts and conversation with Rio are wonderful for their character development, and nicely demonstrate that the manga won’t hinge on something so simple as a love confession.
However, the later story involving Akari and Kazuomi is even more interesting. Akari is presented originally as being very self-confident, but the openness, softness, and yes, naivete (Yuna doesn’t have a monopoly on this quality) she shows in these chapters makes her more human and likeable. Meanwhile, Kazuomi is an enigma; the more pages he consumes in the work, the less I feel I know about him. On the closing pages of the volume, Sakisaka writes, “…Kazuomi may [be] the most difficult to figure out…He doesn’t sound real. Is he?” Her explanation here helps to center Kazuomi in “real life,” establishing him as a figure who is as both flawed and likeable as the rest, even as we don’t yet know much about him.
The story demonstrates a depth that belies its generic shoujo conventions. For instance, “attractive step-siblings with a history living in the same household” isn’t new territory, but it’s so engaging to read about how hard Akari is working to encourage her mother to trust the two siblings, and how she blows up about her distrust, only slowly beginning to make up with her. How that is all further connected to Akari’s own desire to meet up with her first love is a beautiful and subtle development, and the kind of connection that excites me about this series.
In the very last frame of the volume, one of the girls asks herself, “Aren’t these cues that something is starting?” I could well say the same: the loveliness and depth of Love Me, Love Me Not has me entranced, and I’m falling for it—falling hard.
Love Me, Love Me Not is available for reading through Viz.