Anime

Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: Ep 11, There and Back Again

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Episode 11, “The Moment of My Doom Arrived… Part 2,” had a huge responsibility. Could it restore the good will the first 9 episodes had built? After all, our review of episode 10 was probably the most downbeat review we’ve done — and not only for this series! Did we get a return to the character moments that made the show so endearing? Or was this episode as rushed as the reveal of Sirius Deek as a villain? 

Most importantly: Did Mary find out what Sirius had done? And if she did, is he still alive?

Before we get this review underway, how are things with you, Irina? Staying healthy and safe?

Hi Crow, things are pretty good here. It’s finally getting really sunny but it’s not too warm and quite Pleasant. I do hope the summer stays this way because if it does it’s going to be absolutely lovely. They are threatening us with this ridiculous heatwave, so I guess we’ll see. I hope things are good for you as well. How’s your family? I’m glad to see that things are slowing down in the world. I really really do hope that we’ll get some back to some semblance of normalcy soon.

For me, My next life as a villainess all routes lead to Doom has sort of gone downhill a bit for the past month or two. Basically since around the time they stopped being children, it’s been a little less charming as far as I’m concerned and a lot more conventional. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or anything, just a bit less to my personal taste. This said, I had some pretty big expectations so that might be the issue as well.

Family’s well — we’ve stayed healthy, and that’s a huge plus! Thanks for asking.

Irina’s in bold this week (as always!). There will be spoilers. Seriously, there will. There are some events really worth experiencing in this episode, so if you haven’t see it yet, please do.

Episode 11 had four main sections. The first dealt with the direct consequences of Sirius’ attack on Catarina, and I have to say it wasn’t at all what I expected. The second drew us into the world of Catarina’s harem without Catarina — frankly, it was surprisingly effective. The writers used a secret weapon, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. The third section dealt with aid coming from a surprising source. Truth be told, I’m not sure I understand exactly how it happened, but let’s see what you think. Finally, the harem figures out the role Sirius played, and they set off to, let’s say, pay their respects to the student council president. 

Irina, any introductory thoughts on the episode?

My main takeaway from the episode was: really? It’s pronounced Serious D*ck ?!? I see where you’re coming from, but it’s a bit aggressive!! It’s also kind of awesome! I wish I had known that straight from the beginning. It would have made a lot of episodes pretty unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) hilarious. There is a much more adult and sort of cynical version of this story going on in the back of my head. 

I was really curious how the episode would open this week. At the end of episode 10, Sirius had used black magic to put Catarina in a coma. He said she’d never wake up and that she would starve to death. Where’s the plot go from there?

I’m pretty sure no one at all believed that she wasn’t going to wake up. The show hasn’t really made any consequence stick so the stakes were pretty low. That’s a fairly common issue when you have a story that starts with the death of your protagonist. Since we already know that even death isn’t that big a setback according to the laws of this universe, creating proper tension becomes difficult. No impossible mind you, just very tricky. 

In my experience, narratives that use death as a catalyst for the story, like this one, have to create emotional rather than physical stakes to really make the audience worry. Even if Catarina dies, is she just going to go on to an even better world where she has a bigger harem? 

See, that’s one of the reasons I like collaborating with you. You share these awesome insights! An even bigger harem — talk about a worthwhile afterlife! 

Well, this is an interesting turn of events! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Back to the episode: The plot goes back to Earth, apparently. Earth-Catarina (I don’t think we ever caught her name; maybe I’ll just call her Earth-rina) overslept so badly that her mom had to wake her up. Her Earth mom. As she’s rushing to get ready for school, she stops in front of a mirror, and there’s her whole Earth face! She has brown eyes instead of Catarina’s blue. She can’t figure out how to get rid of the cow licks in her hair. And she’s a little uneasy because she feels like something’s off.

That uneasy feeling is obviously a clue to us. So was the zucchini she stuffed into her mouth instead of toast when she raced out the door. But other than that, her day was an ordinary Earth school day. Her teacher was mad at her for being late. She even met her best friend Atsuko Sasaki for lunch, and they talked as if the first 10 episodes hadn’t happened.

Irina, what were you thinking at this point?

That I generally enjoy the homecoming episodes of isekai shows and I was hoping we were finally going to get some development for Catarina. 

I was also trying to figure out why we were having this little tangent. I thought maybe the show was trying to fake out the audience by pretending to have an it-was-all a dream moment or something. But I figured it was so unlikely that anyone would fall for it at all that it seems like they probably wouldn’t bother. I also thought that maybe they were pretending she did die in the Fortune Lover world and was back to her old life, but that didn’t make much sense either. I decided to just go with it’s a dark magic fuelled dream meant to keep her in her dream world because that’s the most common explanation.  

I was surprised to find out that Catarina originally had an older brother. She never mentions him.  He looks a bit like Nicol. I couldn’t help but to be a little sad for her family. It must be devastating to lose a child or sister, especially at such a young age. Still, I quite enjoyed the sequence and it ended up being my favourite part of the episode.

It doesn’t hurt that A-chan is my favourite character in the series by a mile! I’m always thrilled when we get to see her.  

It was nice to see A-chan again. She seemed like such a good friend to Earth-rina. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The narrative switched back to the world of Fortune Lover. Catarina was, as Sirius intended, in a coma. Her harem was crestfallen as doctor after doctor examined her. The scene started with the latest doctor in the kingdom visiting, with Alan saying this doctor was the “most intelligent and advanced” in the country.

They all sank into their own versions of despair when the doctor announced he could find nothing wrong with Catarina and confirmed that if she didn’t reawaken, she would starve to death. They were all thunderstruck. Sophia collapsed to her knees.

Oh my!

What stood out to me was how much each one of these characters truly loved Catarina. But the show wasn’t satisfied with a vague sense of “Hey, they cared!” We got a series of short scenes that showed individually how each of them reacted. Once I saw what they were doing, I vowed to stay strong. This is a comedy, after all. No need to get worked up, right?

I’d forgotten something vital: The best comedies get you to drop your guard so you can laugh. Then they launch tactical-grade weapons into your unprotected feels.

What stood out to me was that last week they were all earnestly calling her a complete idiot and they all meant it. And no one felt bad about it at all. Sheesh.

This part was my least favourite. Sorry Crow, but I’m not sure this particular writing theme is really at it’s best with tragedy. Having each character in turn conveniently flash back to all the good times they had with Catarina was an absolutely brilliant way to save some money on animation and I really respect that. But as far as the narrative goes it seemed really ham-fisted and clumsy. 

Were the flashbacks effective? It’s a split decision! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

There’s also a bit of a diminishing returns issue. We saw what Catarina did for each of them back when they were young and since then, it’s been repeated in one way or another, just about every episode. To me they’ve become like the OP. 

I could be way off track, but I get the feeling that it’s a case of lost in adaptation. I can guess how much more effective these scenes were ikey to have been on the page. Maybe if they had had the resources to animate new scenes it would have worked better. 

Of course I have little patience for drama. Doubtless most viewers enjoyed this sequence way more than I did but it was my least favourite one.

Fair points! You’ll see (a little later!) how I think this approach plateaued with Mary. But what was here affected me — though, to be honest, that’s not a high standard!

Catarina’s maid Anne was first up. She tried to get Catarina to drink, but the water just spilled down her cheek. Unable to hold back her tears, she said brokenly, “Lady Catarina, please… please… Please don’t leave me…”

How were you holding up at this stage, Irina?

I was looking forward to getting the story going but I had liked the first sequence, the back on Earth one. And yeah, this was… 

I’m not sure how you mean your question. 

I’m sort of a sucker for sappy emotional manipulation. I read the Sailor Moon manga as an adult and found myself crying on public transit more than once because the power of friendship is soooo beautiful, or some other nonsense. Unfortunately, this was a bit too sappy even for me. 

Geraldo was next. This is where the show unleashed its secret weapon, and boy was it effective. Remember how we all felt kinda bummed that the show switched from their childhoods right into their high school years? We missed their antics and adorable chibi-ness. Well, the switch was intentional. Those early episodes took on the aura of a real childhood. So when Geraldo began to remember how “that strange little girl” began to make his world more alive, just showing those old scenes was super effective. It felt like reliving memories of my own childhood.

But “ha!”, I said. I see your trick. No way that’s going to break my defenses!

I wondered why Geraldo took a drink of water. When he bent to kiss Catarina, I realized: he’d seen Anne fail to get her to drink, so he was trying a different approach.

Did we ever see Geraldo get to kiss Catarina before? It’s a shame it had to be when she was unconscious. That sounds way more creepy than I’d intended… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

They have a lot of baby birding scenes in romance flicks nowadays and it’s a trend we need to stop. 

Geordo has always been a very reliable and loyal partner. It was a bit odd that he was still wearing his huge cape though. 

Okay, that was well done, but it still wasn’t enough. Neither was Keith’s tearful memory of how knowing Catarina had turned his life around. Like Geraldo, he felt terrible that he wasn’t there to protect her. I thought that was commendable of him. Giving Keith a mental thumbs up helped restore my calm.

Then we get to Mary. It’s all her fault that my control slipped. I think her voice actor, Miho Okasaki, bears some responsibility, too. Mary was sitting in the garden she’d helped her friend plant, and she was sobbing. Not a little sniffling “Oh, what a bad turn of events.” It sounded like someone had ripped her heart out.

The others were similarly affected. Alan finally realized how he felt about her. Nicol realized he could never be romantically involved with Catarina, but he, too, had his memories of her. Those flashbacks were emotionally powerful, and I thought they were effective, but we started getting into diminishing returns after Mary.

Mary’s reaction felt the most powerful to me. Not belittling anyone else’s! But honestly, I’d forgotten how shy Mary used to be… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

What’d you think, Irina?

I think I’ve pretty much gone through all my notes for this part of the episode already. Oopsies. 

See, I usually read a paragraph or two and jump in whenever I have something to say or if Crow has asked me a question, before reading ahead. I feel like it gives the post a more conversation feel. It certainly feels more like a conversion as I’m writing it in any case.

But on several occasions, it’s been counterproductive. I might end up answering one of Crow’s questions before he even asks them, or I’ll talk about something in the episode and then realize that Crow said the exact same thing a paragraph later. Usually I go back and rearrange  the paragraphs or do some editing. 

Today, I thought some of you might be interested in a bit of the nuts and bolts of these posts.

I like how we tend to leave some evidence of the writing process from time to time. We’re among friends here, so it’s fun to share some behind the scenes stuff.

Last of all, we see Sophia’s reaction, and it’s what I was expecting. Until it wasn’t. Because as she lay remembering what Catarina meant to her, as despair overwhelmed her, a voice I didn’t immediately recognize said, “”That’s right! I refuse to lose her again!”

Then it hit me. That was Atsuki “A-chan”’s voice. I have to admit, when I realized whose voice it was, my breath caught in my throat. Was this how they were going to get Catarina back? Through the link that Sophia dimly realized she had to Atsuki back in episode 7 in the dungeon? 

I liked how Sophia’s link to A-chan played a role in this episode. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This is the start of the third section. Sophia was surprised and didn’t quite understand what was happening. She ran to the window to look out, but it was dark, so she saw her reflection. Rather, she saw A-chan as her reflection, confirming whose voice I thought I’d heard. A-chan said they needed to work together to save Catarina. 

There are two things I didn’t understand, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to. We get several quick shots of yellow/gold light, almost like lightning bugs, swirling around the individual members of the harem. They didn’t last long, but when they were done, each member felt energized and ready to help, so they converged on Catarina’s room. What was that light?

I’m not sure either, but I liked it. The light of hope or whatever. It reminded me of an episode of Red Dwarf. The one with the doves. Man I love that episode.

Maybe Gunmen of the Apocalypse

Exactly!

Second, we get a shot back in the Earth timeline with Earth-rina sitting down to talk to A-chan. It’s after school. The sun’s setting. There’s no one else there. A-chan asked her friend if she’d been having a good time. Then she said, “But… this isn’t your world anymore, is it?” 

Earth-rina began to see with a sort of double vision, with A-chan and Sophia superimposed on each other. She began to more clearly remember the world of Fortune Lover. She could hear her harem calling for her (which was an idea A-chan had given through Sophia). 

Irina, what do you think the fireflies were? And was Earth a purely magical environment, maybe of Sirius’ construction? Maybe to keep Catarina asleep? Then how’d he know about Earth?

I’m not sure what the lights were, but they were really pretty in motion. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I’m sticking with hope in bug form for the fireflies.

As for Earth, since I decided early on it was a dream – the classic dream that feels so comfortable you never want to leave thing – so I didn’t really think any more about it at that point in the episode.

Basically, the curse made her fall into the type of dream she wouldn’t want to wake from or in this case, she wouldn’t perceive as a dream therefore wouldn’t even think of waking. Matrix style. 

I know what you’re thinking, if it’s all a dream then how is A-chan there and acting by her own volition. And the answer to that is, I don’t know… I do have a “wizard did it” type of explanation though. Since there is a magical element to Catarina’s sleep state, whatever dark magic Sirius cast (I can’t say his name without giggling, I’m 4…), it was counteracted by the white magic of friendship, or something like that, allowing A-chan to reach through space time and touch her friend’s mind.

I very much doubt that’s the actual explanation but it works well enough for my head canon. Maybe one of our kind readers who has access to the LNs can correct me.

Works for me — I was thinking along similar lines.

As Catarina perceived that Earth wasn’t the real world (and she took on her Fortune Lover form), the world began to disintegrate in a very cool way. If we ever needed proof that Catarina is not a complete dunce, that Baka-rina isn’t her end all/be all, she asked her friend where Sirius had hidden Maria. Nicely done, Catarina!

As the dream Earth disintegrated all around her, Catarina had the presence of mind to ask A-chan where Maria was. Smart thinking! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Another nice touch? Catarina got to say goodbye to her best friend. Their finger-tips even brushed as Catarina completely lost form in the disintegrating Earth space. 

The animation in this scene was really pretty.

I’m certain it wasn’t on purpose but the heavy suicide undertones were a bit unfortuante. Kind of a bummer.

Catarina waking up was wonderfully emotional. Mary hurled herself onto the bed beside Catarina, and I thought it was lovely that Catarina stroked her friend’s hair. With a determined expression that looked good on her, Catarina also vowed not to let the bad ending happen.

I thought this was the end of the episode. It seemed like such a natural stopping point. But I did find what happens next interesting.

And now we come to the fourth and final section, which is also the shortest. Sirius had taken to hiding in a lower room. The candles burned a strange purple/black in a way that reminded me of black lights (does anyone still use those?). Apparently, the dude has his own inner demons to fight. Literally, because the demon was telling him he still had to fight Catarina and her harem to avenge his dead mother.

Who looked like she’d been killed in that very room.

Mommy issues man, nothing will turn you into a villain quicker than that it seems.

This was my second favourite section after the first. Obviously it was an extremely rushed and condensed bit of character development for Sirius. but it’s still great that they managed to fit some in. Sadly, I think he’s now more or less as developed as most of the main cast. Maybe more than some. 

Seems the student council president is working through some issues… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

And that’s very important, seeing as they are already setting up a redemption arc for him. That sort of thing works best if you have some attachment to the characters.

Also, I may not have mentioned this before, but I really like how the other characters pronounce his name! Snigger.

I mentioned in the very first episode review that Fortune Lover reminded me of the otome Wand of Fortune. It’s not a direct copy or anything, but there are a lot of similar elements. And I‘m pretty sure Sirius’ apparent route (i.e. orphaned at a young age and had to watch his mother die, possessed by a powerful evil that initially pits him against the heroine, capable of dark magic..) is exactly one of the routes from Wand of Fortune. One of the best routes at that! 

It’s been a long time since I could find any references to otomes or otome tropes in the show so I just wanted to share that with everyone! 

You might just convince me to try one of them!

It was a very cool touch that Geraldo and Alan burst into the room first, their swords drawn. They looked like they meant business. It was also cool how calmly Catarina walked between the two brothers to confront Sirius. Presumably, she remembered A-chan’s plea for her to save even the president. “I know you can fix this,” A-chan had said just before Catarina said goodbye. “Save the president, just like you saved all of us.”

I’m not sure Geraldo and Alan were completely onboard with the “Let’s Save Sirius” mission. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The stage is set for the final confrontation of the season. What’d you think of the fourth part, Irina? Do you think the episode came together and redeemed episode 10?

I’m sure our readers can figure out where I stand. For the record though, I think episode 10 was better than the 2 or 3 before it. I’m not sure it desperately needs to be redeemed or anything. 

I found the last few seconds pretty interesting. It’s a good setup for the next episode and I’m actually curious about what happens next. Obviously they win, but will they be able to save Sirius and go for the mega Disney ending, or will sacrifices need to be made? They did develop the character and give him a really sad backstory, sometimes shows do that to get us to care about a character right before they dispose of him or her. Dum Dum DUM!

I’m sure we’ll find out next week.

Reviews of the Other Episodes

4 thoughts on “Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: Ep 11, There and Back Again

  1. I liked this episode a lot better than last episode, though I’d agree the chibi part up-front is the series’ highlight (though I’d say that for me, the downward slope became steep only once they’d visited Maria’s home).

    I adored the slice-of-life dream portion of the show. The post-death flashback always gets to me (like the Acchan episode). I loved the little details, too: earth-catarina hugging a taiyaki plush, for example, ties in really well with her love of snacks. You can feel they’re the same person, even though they don’t look anything alike. I thought that part was very well done.

    As for those magical fireflies, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen comparable things mutliple times before in other anime, even though the only example is Clannad, where such a fire-fly would take off whenever Tomoya and Nagisa helped one of the girls, only to re-appear in the magical Ushio-Tomoya bond space that’s girl X robot themed. I’m thinking that might have something to do with shinto, maybe loosely related to either mitama or nigitama? I’m really no expert and might be talking nonsense, but it didn’t even occur to me to be surprised that Acchan would appear in Catarina’s “dream”. Yeah, it’s a dream, but, to me at least, it also fell into a familiar “magical bond-space” trope.

    As a result, I also quite liked the everyone-overcomes-their-despair scene. It had this ritual quality: receive the blessings of your bond. You might be onto something with the “light magic” idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how they interpret it (these are RPG elements, in the show, aren’t they?)

    As for Sirius, I still don’t much care for him. At that point it just feels too little to late, but it was great seeing Catarina march towards him with no hesitation. That’s the girl who smashed a door with an axe to get to her brother. She’s been hiding behind a mountain of snacks lately.

    I’m not going to pretend that the episode was perfect, but I’m definitely quite happy with it, and – yeah – I want to see next episode, too, now.

    1. “but it was great seeing Catarina march towards him with no hesitation. That’s the girl who smashed a door with an axe to get to her brother. She’s been hiding behind a mountain of snacks lately.”

      I love how Geraldo and Alan broke into their room, ready to confront Sirius. And into the silence came the sound of Catarina’s purposeful stride.

      That was a cool moment!

Please let me know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.