A textbook indecent yuri proposal in I Can’t Believe I Slept With You!

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“I Can’t Believe I Slept With You!” is a strong title for any work of media. One might expect a title of that calibre to be a light novel, but no, in fact, in this case it’s a manga series by Miyako Miyahara, also known as Ichido Dake Demo, Koukai Shitemasu (Even If It Was Just Once, I Regret It). And, indeed, the title gives at least a vague idea of what to expect.

I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! follows the plight of the 24 year old dropout Chiyo Koduka. She’s lost her job, is flat broke and is, as we join the story, on a bit of an ill-advised drink-fuelled bender in an attempt to make herself feel better. Of course, as we all know, attempting to solve one’s problems like this is nothing more than denial rather than actually fixing the core issue — but she’s thrown an unexpected lifeline when her 19 year old gay kuudere landlady shows up asking for the rent.

I Can't Believe I Slept With You!

Unable to pay the three months’ rent she owes, she (perhaps unwisely) says that she will “do anything” for the landlady. And the landlady, without missing a beat, indicates that if Chiyo was willing to have sex with her, they could probably come to some sort of arrangement.

The following morning, it becomes clear that they did indeed follow through on this, since the landlady sets up a “rent reduction agreement” for Chiyo, indicating that if Chiyo will do her 21 “favours” — one for every 10,000 yen she owes — she will write off the debt completely. And, since a now-sober Chiyo is exhibiting a certain amount of regret for her actions the previous evening, those favours don’t even need to be sexual in nature.

Chiyo is initially hesitant — particularly when the landlady proposes renting her own room in the building out and moving in with Chiyo temporarily — but ends up accepting the offer. She knows that she’s not going to be able to get out of the situation by herself — and, despite her protestations, it’s abundantly clear that she welcomes the companionship, friendship and helping hand offered by the landlady.

I Can't Believe I Slept With You!

What follows is a rather touching story about the struggles of adulthood when things haven’t quite gone the way you expect them to. Through Chiyo, I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! explores the idea of how, when you get yourself into a difficult or seemingly “impossible” situation as a grown adult — old enough to “know better”, as it were — it’s hard to ask for help, even when it’s obvious that you need it.

This is perhaps explored most potently during a scene where a childhood friend of Chiyo turns up at her apartment, concerned that she hasn’t been able to get in touch with her. Chiyo, of course, has ended up completely “off the grid” due to her lack of money — she wasn’t able to pay her phone bill, so it was disconnected, and the subsequent depression she felt meant that all she wanted to do was just hide away and ruminate on her “failures”.

An especially touching moment comes when Chiyo’s friend brings out some ice cream she brought over to share, and the taste of strawberries brings Chiyo to tears. Strawberries are a flavour she associates with happier times — particularly enjoying crepes after school with her friend — and thus it’s hard not for her to feel intense, painful regret about the course her life has taken since those times.

I Can't Believe I Slept With You!

Having been given something of a boost by the presence of the landlady, Chiyo at least makes an attempt to start picking herself up and living like a normal human being — particularly since the landlady is a tidy sort of person, and has been doing a lot of Chiyo’s chores for her. But when Chiyo has an accident while hanging out the laundry, meaning she needs to wash it all again, she’s immediately demoralised and goes right back to believing herself to be a complete failure.

From a personal perspective, I found this side of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! to be exceedingly relatable. Having lived through one failed marriage (my present one is just fine, thanks very much) whose complete breakdown coincided with a period of unemployment, I’ve been almost exactly where Chiyo is at the outset of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! — broke, feeling utterly worthless and terrified of the prospect of doing even the most simple necessities alone.

Author Miyahara does an excellent job of depicting the crushing, often unreasonable and irrational sense of despair it’s easy to fall into when in such situations — and how what would be a minor inconvenience to someone who is in a good place in their life can feel like a complete disaster. When you’re depressed and anxious, all the “bad” things of the world feel amplified considerably — and it’s hard to accept the good things, because it’s easy to get yourself into a position where you don’t feel you “deserve” them.

I Can't Believe I Slept With You!

Chiyo is dealing with these feelings at the same time as feeling a certain amount of confusion over her sexuality. She initially protests that she’s “into men”, but as the landlady points out, her willingness to go along with the initial indecent proposal demonstrates that she must have at least a passing curiosity in what it would be like to be with a woman. And, indeed, as the first volume of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! progresses, Chiyo starts demonstrating more and more curiosity.

Initially, she offers her body to the landlady once again because she believes that, as a failure, she has nothing else to give her as a “favour”. But before anything happens, the landlady refuses her advance, instead preferring to “spoon” with her as they sleep together. Despite the landlady being something of an enigma — we don’t even find out her full name until the very last page of this first volume — she’s not a monster.

She knows that while she does have feelings for Chiyo — and clearly has been harbouring them from afar since well before the story of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! begins — taking advantage of her while she is at her most vulnerable would be wrong, particularly if Chiyo is not secure in her sense of sexual identity. And thus she settles for a level of intimacy that Chiyo is obviously comfortable with: hugging. Chiyo is someone who enjoys hugs; she hugs her childhood friend when she visits, and even provides an open offer to the landlady for hugs whenever she wants them.

I Can't Believe I Slept With You!

For most of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! the landlady comes across as a likeable but deadpan sort of character; she’s open about her preferences and bluntly honest to a fault, but we see occasional hints of her vulnerability when she’s alone, such as the conclusion of a chapter where she’s crouching on the floor muttering the unfinished thought “straight people are so…”

This is brought to a head in a chapter where the landlady requests a date with Chiyo as one of her “favours” for the day. Chiyo, believing this to be a light-hearted, silly thing, initially doesn’t take it all that seriously — but realises that she’s made a mistake when the landlady shows up clearly having made an effort. From hereon, it’s clear that Chiyo is starting to look at the landlady a little differently — and the climax of this comes where a former acquaintance of the landlady stumbles across her and Chiyo sitting together at a mall food court.

Said acquaintance says some spectacularly insensitive things; she’s not deliberately offensive as such, but the way she obliquely refers to the landlady’s sexuality as being somehow “abnormal” is obviously jarring. It stings even for Chiyo, who has come to regard the landlady with some affection by this point — so rather than forcing her to sit there and continue to take these insensitive comments, she simply takes her by the hand and flees the situation with her.

“If I were in your shoes,” Chiyo says, “I wouldn’t want randos coming up to me and making assumptions about who I like, or might be dating. I shouldn’t have to tell someone if we’re just friends or not. Don’t you feel like that, too?”

“She just doesn’t understand me, that’s all,” says the landlady in probably the most heartbreaking line of the volume. “I’m all right. I’m used to being treated like that.”

There then follows probably the most genuine hug we’ve seen in this entire volume of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You!, and it’s clear that this is a turning point in their relationship. Chiyo wants to help and protect the landlady, just as the landlady has helped and protected her — “saved” her, as her childhood friend put it in an offhanded comment. And, if part of that is offering her physical intimacy, then so be it, it seems.

I Can't Believe I Slept With You!

We leave this volume of I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! with the landlady’s admission that, on some level, she regrets the indecent proposal to a certain degree, because she feels an irresistible urge to be kind to Chiyo. At the same time, Chiyo is starting to feel some new feelings, too, though at this point she doesn’t feel entirely able to admit them either to herself or to the landlady.

It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how things develop from hereon, for sure. We’ll have to wait until June to find out what happens next, though!

I Can’t Believe I Slept With You! volume 1 is available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon. Alternative physical and digital retailers are listed on Seven Seas’ website.

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Pete Davison
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