Otaku USA Magazine
Good Bad Girls: Why Are We So in Love With Villainess Isekai?

Why do we love villainess isekai as much as we do?

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! was a quick sell as a light novel, manga, and anime. Fans fell in love with Catarina Claes and her struggles. And, if you’re online much, you’ve probably noticed that this series isn’t the only villainess isekai out there. Not by a long shot.

More manga/manhua and light novels explore the topic every day. So what’s made us fascinated with these good bad girls? We’re pretty sure we know…


Classic Fairy-Tale Romance

Love as a villainess is... strange

By their very nature, villainess isekai take place in romantic settings. The villain in question is a love rival, and we know where love rivals live: fairy tales and dating sims.

So old-fashioned romance, at least in some form, is part of the package deal. Sometimes you really just need that. And we’re getting a twist on the typical formula by default, so that makes it even better.


Heel and/or Face Turns

A young Bakarina

Villainess isekai stories can go one of two ways. Either you don’t want to be the baddie, or you lean into it. Either way, it makes for an interesting take on a standard love story.

Heroines like Catarina want nothing more than to survive. And in their effort to do so, they end up making their lives (and the lives of others) even better. But that’s not the case for everyone. Some heroines get a taste for the bad girl life, and it suits them in return. That’s another good thing about the stories: there’s already a variety of angles.


Life Is Not Just Heroes and Villains

She doesn't look that bad to me.

The narrative hook of villainess isekai in general is that it casts our heroine in a role she never asked for. We all see ourselves, at least a little, as the protagonist of our own lives. To have that flipped — to be told you’re the baddie — is confusing.

In reality, life isn’t so clear-cut. We’ll find ourselves in situations where we feel like we’ve done the right thing, but maybe we’ve made a misstep. Or maybe we’ve been misrepresented. Either way, it’s not as simple as “good guy” or “bad guy.” There’s growth, change, and perspective. All things we get to see in these shows, and can hopefully integrate into our real lives in fairness to others. And ourselves.

Have you fallen down the villainess isekai rabbit hole? What are your favorite titles?

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. Beyond the world of anime, she's a writer for Doctor Who expanded universe series including Iris Wildthyme and the City of the Saved, as well as an editor for the critically-acclaimed Black Archive series.