Otaku USA Magazine
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! [Manga Review]
My Next Life as a Villainess manga© Nami Hidaka 2018, Satoru Yamaguchi 2018

After she dies in a traffic accident, a teenage otaku finds herself reborn in a fantasy world as Katarina Claes, a pampered eight-year-old aristocrat. After initial confusion (she regains her memories of her past life when she hits her head), “Katarina” starts to recognize her new world … it’s the same as the video game she was playing before she died! And more shocking still, she’s one of the villains! Remembering that in the video game her character always ends up exiled or killed, she starts work on her new life goal: change the plot of the game so she gets a happy ending. (“I need a plan to dodge these terrible endings!”) With seven years to relive her childhood, can she become a better person, make fewer enemies, and hopefully survive?

Based on a light novel, My Next Life as a Villainess is inspired by otome dating sim games, but the romance tropes it plays with are familiar enough that it doesn’t require knowledge of the genre. Armed with her out-of-character knowledge, Katarina gets to work building friendships with the other aristocratic boys and girls: arrogant Prince Alan, shy Mary, her adopted My Next Life as a Villainess mangalittle brother Keith, and Prince Jeord, who becomes her arranged fiancé. She works on self-improvement in other ways too, practicing her swordsmanship and magic when not enjoying tea parties and gardening. The entire first volume passes this way, with the characters slowly developing through childhood, before suddenly jumping ahead to Katarina’s teenage years. Volume 1 ends just before we get to see Katarina’s destined rival, the “real” heroine of the game.

Apart from pacing issues, the problem with My Next Life as a Villainess is that there’s so little villainy. Wicked and Despicable Me are edgelord stuff next to this mild-mannered story, which is more about Katarina making friends with everybody (“I just hope I can survive the romance game that is about to start … and that we remain friends!”) than the Goth comedy suggested by the title. Even Prince Jeord, whom we’re told is evil, doesn’t do anything especially bad, and there’s a failed running joke where Katarina keeps complaining about her “villainous face” when her character design doesn’t even look barely evil. Readers coming to the manga with different expectations may get more enjoyment out of this light story of courtly pastimes, or maybe it goes dark in Volume 2, but so far the manga lacks both humor and drama. Volume 1 is padded out with a 10-page prose short story.

publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
story: Satoru Yamaguchi
artL: Nami Hidaka
rating: 13+