Title: Ai Ore! Love Me (Ai wo Utau yori Ore ni Oborero!)
Author: Mayu Shinjo
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 (oversized), $12.99
Vintage: Original run in 2006 by Shogakukan, 2010 by Kadokawa Shoten, May 3, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Romance, comedy, gender bender
Mizuki is the leader of the all girl band Blaue Rosen. The band is incredibly popular, and it has helped make its members the shining stars of their all girls school. When their lead singer, and Mizuki’s best friend, Kaoru announces that she is moving to New York with her parents, Mizuki obstinately argues that no one could replace Kaoru and that the band will stop performing without her. Hardcore fan and Mizuki lover Akira visits the girls and claims to be able to sing just as good as Kaoru. There’s just one problem – Akira is a boy. Just as the tall and handsome Mizuki is the prince of her all girls school, the short and adorable Akira is the princess of his all boys school. Akira is head over heels for Mizuki, and would love to join the band so he can spend more time with her. Unfortunately, Mizuki hates men, because as a child, a neighborhood boy would cause her heart to beat fast and her chest to hurt, scaring her off of all men from then on. Mizuki is dead set against having Akira in the band, not only because he’s a boy, but because he is “bad for her health,” just like the boy from her past. Though Mizuki doesn’t mind being treated or viewed as a boy, her heart pounds when Akira treats her like a girl. He is, after all, about the only person to have ever done so. After hearing Akira sing (albeit very briefly), the girls agree to let him into the band, but the transition doesn’t go at all smoothly. Mizuki is constantly flustered in Akira’s presence, and embarrassed by how open he is with is feelings. Having never been in love before, the rush of emotions she feels drives her bonkers, and she simply can’t handle Akira’s forward behavior. Mizuki has always been comfortable being seen and treated as a boy, so Akira’s advances are really turning her world upside down. For his part, Akira appears mostly innocent and adorable, and even at times a little effeminate, but when he’s alone with Mizuki, it’s undeniable that he’s a boy. (Unfortunately, he puts a lot of pressure on her to admit her own feelings, which eventually causes her to have a slight mental breakdown.) As Blaue Rosen starts rehearsing with Akira, who has to dress in the girls’ school uniform to attend practices at their school, the boys next door at the all boys school start getting suspicious. Ran and Rui, Akira’s two biggest admirers and friends, get annoyed when the believe Akira is interested in other guys (mistaking Mizuki for a guy). And when Ran discovers Mizuki is in fact a girl (in a rather rough manner, I might add), he’s even more annoyed; but, more importantly, he wants this new “princess” for himself. Things come to a head on a school trip, when the girls’ school goes to a resort for an annual gathering of the underclassmen and upperclassmen (who attend classes in different buildings). Akira overhears a girl named Misaki talking about her plans to target Mizuki for some reason, and sneaks onto the bus to attend the trip as well. Unfortunately, that’s where things go horribly wrong for poor Mizuki, and the story in general.
Things start out innocently enough. It’s a cute story about a tomboy dealing with first love. Mizuki is strong and cool, and has no problem with her masculine appearance or status as her school’s “prince.” Akira does everything he can to get closer to his lady love, including pretending to be a girl to join her all girl band, and taking all manner of abuse from Mizuki as she tries to sort out her feelings. It sounds like a sweet, adorable shoujo. And it is, sometimes. When Akira isn’t manipulating Mizuki, or forcing his feelings onto her. He finally learns some patience by the end of this volume, once he realizes he’s hurting Mizuki, but who knows how long that will last. Then there’s Mizuki. Why must this strong girl completely fall to pieces around a boy? It’s cute, in its way. An innocent girl who has no idea what love is or how to be honest with her feelings. But the difference between cool Mizuki and love struck Mizuki is pretty drastic. It’s obvious that Akira puts on an act when he acts all cute and sweet to get what he wants, but Mizuki’s actions make me wonder if she’s just putting on an act as well. She seems to spend a lot of time grooming her “cool” persona, and gets quite upset when Akira’s presence causes her to lose it.
My biggest beef, and I’ll be getting into specifics here, is the final chapter of this volume. Mizuki is drugged by an upperclassman who plans to take advantage of her. Unable to move, Mizuki lies helpless as Misaki begins her sexual assault, and is eventually joined by a guy (Akira’s friend, Ran). Ran changes his mind before things go too far and gets her out of there. Later, in Akira’s arms, Mizuki collapses in tears, the situation having terrified her (a perfectly normal reaction for someone who was almost raped in a three-way). Upset that Misaki frightened his woman and caused her to cry, Akira decides to retaliate. He enlists his friend Rui for his revenge, asking the other boy if he’d be willing to rape someone for him. (The exchange is essentially: “Hey, Rui. Would you come rape this girl for me?” “Well…OK, since you’re asking, Akira.”) The volume ends with Rui beginning his assault on Misaki as Akira looks on in anger and contempt. Even if he’s just trying to scare Misaki to make a point, Akira is really going way too far. In an instant, he’s utterly despicable. He doesn’t even see anything wrong with his actions. To him, he’s perfectly justified, because it’s the same thing that was done to his beloved Mizuki. But really, how can we root for someone who would stoop so low? How are we supposed to even remotely like Akira after this, if we liked him at all? He’s far from pleasant to begin with.
At least the art is good. Though more attention needs to be paid to continuity and detail. Sometimes the art is very detailed, right down to the emblem on the girls’ neck tie pin (even if it’s drawn rather oddly at times). Other times there’s very little detail to be seen, like when the pin emblem disappears altogether for the majority of the volume, leaving an annoying blank space. The clothing is pretty interesting, as Shinjo is creating a clear style to fit Blaue Rosen, but again, occasionally it seems Shinjo forgot what she was drawing.
A quick note on Viz’s presentation. This is an oversized volume. I’m not sure why, though it may have to do with how the chapters are broken up originally. The first part of the story is known as Ai wo Utau yori Ore ni Oborero!, and makes up the first several chapters. The title then changes to Ai-Ore! Danshikō no Hime to Joshikō no Ōji. Shinjo also started out writing the series with Shogakukan, but left them in 2007. The tankoubon for the first part of the series was published under Flower Comics, which is a Shogakukan print. Its “sequel” ran in Monthly Asuka, which is a Kadokawa magazine. I’m not certain how the chapters/volumes are broken up between the publishers, but Viz’s volume only lists Kadokawa. Given the title Viz has given the series, I imagine it will all be put out as simply Ai Ore! I think the original series ran 5-6 volumes, so I’m not sure how many volumes Viz’s edition will run if they’re going to put out these larger volumes.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.