Spicy Spotlight! – I Love You So Much I Hate You Manga Review

I love keeping an eye on any new releases that come through on social media. I saw this title pop up not too long ago, but was ambivalent on whether or not I wanted to pick it up. For one, I wasn’t quite sure how the story would turn out considering the premise centered around two women having an affair, one of whom was the other one’s boss. I was worried it may venture into some unhealthy territory. Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to have Yen Press send over a copy a few weeks ago so I didn’t have to make that decision. I have to say, my worries were unfounded. The story does center around two women having an affair, but in the end it winds up being a story of female empowerment within a male-centered world, one I can whole-heartedly get behind. So if you’re a fan of a yuri romance between two older women, I’d think about giving I Love You So Much I Hate You a try. 

The story centers around two women who work at the same company together. One, Ayako Asano, has risen to become the first female manager at the company and has taken the young Saori Fujimura under her wing in her department. Little do their coworkers know that their relationship extends far past professional boundaries. But something is always standing between their love for each other, namely Asano’s husband. Tensions begin to rise between the two as Saori’s feelings grow stronger and now Asano must decide what is it she actually wants out of their relationship, love or pleasure?

Note: this manga is rated Mature and does have explicit content.

I’ve never really been a fan of ecchi manga, especially those geared towards the male audience. I think they just get way too carried away with forcing women (and men) into weird poses just for titillation purposes to the point where it becomes more comedic than arousing. Though this manga is marked mature and came wrapped in plastic, Yuni doesn’t dip into the ecchi sphere for this one, but keeps it classy as she depicts the passionate yet tense relationship between her two characters. Some of it may be due to censorship, though I’m not sure how much (except for the depiction of pubic hair which is forbidden in Japan), but I really did appreciate the way this manga was drawn. We do see the intimate moments between Asano and Fujimura, but it all feels in good taste and allows the reader to feel more of the emotion and mood behind the scenes than get drawn into the titillation some manga love.

I’m not saying that ecchi doesn’t have its place, it most certainly does, but for I Love You So Much I Hate You, the manga is better served with its more reserved style of showing sex and intimate moments. I love how Yuni captures the love and tension between the two characters throughout the manga, drawing on tone and shading to accentuate the important moments. You can see it in the panels too, and what Yuni choses to accentuate with her full-page splashes. They are moments of intimate love like Asano and Fujimura entangled in an embrace during sex or drama like Asano contemplating her situation with her affair and the nature of her marriage. I especially love this page because we see Asano depicted without a mouth, in shadow, clutching her hand displaying her wedding wing that is practically glowing in the dark. It’s almost as if Asano lacks a voice in her life and is being restrained by her marriage. 

This is one of the reasons why I started to enjoy reading this manga, the fact that Yuni was highlighting not only a romance between two women, but also the societal implications of their relationship. Japanese women are still pressured by society to conform to the ideal wife and mother role, though it has been getting better. I wasn’t surprised with the state of Asano’s marriage because of this. Her husband feels as though he’s allowed to cheat with younger women while viewing his wife as the stable figure he can always come back to, who will never leave him. Asano and Fujimura’s relationship started as a way to get back at her husband for his cheating, but wound up morphing into love and a chance to escape her marriage. 

A moment of weakness on Asano’s part leads to a complicated affair that drags them both into a tangle of emotions that neither can get out of. Spending time with and having sex with Fujimura seems to be freeing for Asano, as she comes back to her again and again to get away from dealing with her husband. She even begins making up excuses to stay out late or rebuff his advances for sex. But it creates problems for their workplace and Asano feels pressured to keep their closeness under wraps for the sake of her high position in the company. Another instance of how precarious women’s roles in Japan can be, especially for those who find themselves in positions of power within companies.  

I really did find myself enjoying this manga, and was kind of glad it was only one volume. I felt like there was just enough story to fill a single volume and it wrapped up nicely at the end. The art is fantastic, the story is good, and the romance is satisfying. I would highly recommend this to finds of the yuri and josei genre. If you’ve already had the chance to read it, let me know what you thought in the comments below. Another thank you to Yen Press for sending this to me. 

~~Thanks for Reading!~~

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