Anime

Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: The Exam in the Dungeon

In the seventh episode of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, “I Entered a Dangerous Dungeon…,” Catarina Claes and friends have to take the their final exam. Unfortunately for all concerned, especially Catarina, the exam is in a dungeon left behind by a deceased mage. They have to find the magical stone, and the dungeon is filled with traps. You can probably guess how well Catarina and traps mix.

But before we get to that, how are you doing, Irina? Are you getting as dangerously used to working from home as I am? 

I worked from home for several years before so it was hardly anything new for me. I already had a complete virtual office set-up and everything so the adjustment was pretty minimal. This said I am having mixed feelings about ever having to commute to work ever again. We’ll see. Maybe I should just retire….

Wow — that sounds eerily familiar! 

BTW, did you notice that the title on the Crunchyroll web site was “Will he come at me as well?” But the title on the episode itself was “I Entered a Dangerous Dungeon…” I went with the latter because a) it was on the show itself and b) it follows the same pattern as the other titles. Still, that was unusual…

I did not notice and “Will he come at me as well?” doesn’t really fit with the episode. I mean maybe with the smoke creature but it’s a bit of a stretch. We’ll get to that, I assume. “I Entered a Dangerous Dungeon…” is very on the nose as a title, however, I think that’s kind of charming…. ok now that come at me title is sort of bothering me. What is the “as well” part about? Who is the other person? And come at me is such a specific expression, like what you tell someone in a fight but someone you kind of like? Like if you get into feisty cuffs with your friends or something. I tried imagining someone yelling that in a life of death situation and actually it does sound like a cheesy shonen line so I take it back. It could be a serious fight but it still sounds like odd phrasing to me… 

Yeah, it seemed very odd…

This episode was a departure in terms of reveals and stakes. For example, we find out that Catarina isn’t alone in waking up in the world of Fortune Lover, and I bet you can guess who the other one is. We get even more examples of the delightful dichotomy that is in Catarina’s soul: one minute she makes an insightful, keen observation; the next she does exactly what one shouldn’t do in a dungeon full of traps. We gain some insights of our own into the combatants in the ever-escalating battle for Catarina’s heart, with some commendable camaraderie. And finally, Catarina’s luck comes through for her yet again, though the victory wasn’t complete.

Irina, before we dive in, do you have any opening thoughts?

I had just finished a series that dealt very directly with themes of grief and loss at a tender age this very morning, so this episode felt like deja vu to me. That’s not a bad thing mind you. I found both the series I watched and this episode of villainess very touching. I’m a sucker for tears. To be honest I had been wondering how her poor friend dealt with the fact that she had been left behind, but since the show was a comedy I figured we wouldn’t go there. 

This episode has at least portions that were a lot more somber than previous episodes… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

This said, I hope they do something with this little edge of pain they’ve decided to add in. I hope they don’t just forget about it. It was pretty and I wanted to understand it better. Since the series did choose to deal with the sad part as well, I hope they give it the time and space it deserves.  

The show starts with Sasaki Atsuko, a middle-schooler, sitting alone reading a book as class adjourns. Realizing she was the last one in class, she packs up and heads out. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t at all expecting for another middle-schooler to land on her as she walked under a tree. 

“Please don’t die,” the faller said, disregarding all medical advice about not moving a patient who may have broken bones and shaking poor Atsuko. “I can’t bear the thought that I killed someone with my butt!” 

It was a really cute call back to the first episodes. I wonder how odd “not Catarina” is in the flashbacks? Do we know her original name? In any case it was cute from a 7 year old. It’s a little more eccentric if she’s 16 (which I am assuming she is but then again this could have been years before the accident). Still fun though.

It appears Catarina’s Earth self’s butt is every bit as dangerous as her butt in the world of Fortune Lover — as Keith Claes found out back in the very first episode. But Atsuko was as unhurt as Keith had been, and the two struck up a heart-warming friendship. 

It seems that Atsuko had recently transferred and was still very alone. Moreover, she was a shy isolated girl that had never had many friends even at her previous school. She had always been the type to play otomes or read manga by herself so naturally, someone with such an outgoing personality as not-Catarina charmed her right away.

Atsuko and non-Catarina struck up a close friendship. Interesting how we never got to see not-Catarina’s eyes… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

As Catarina’s Earth self (I don’t think we know her Earth name, either…) struggled with studying for the high school entrance exams, Atsuko made her a deal: if she studied hard and passed, Atsuko would share her favorite otome game. You guess what game it was! The ploy worked, because they passed the exam.

I really liked the Fortune Lover poster on the wall of Atsuko’s room. It looked super authentic. I wonder if they will ever sell it as merch? It would be a smart bit of advertising. I always love merch that has something to do with the series itself rather than simply branded merch. Like something that lets you share the universe of the anime rather than just advertise it? Does that make sense? The only example I can think about is how much I prefer jerseys from the teams in sports anime than t-shirts with the characters on them. How about red flower pins as Promised Neverland merch that makes it look as if a small flower is growing out of you? That would be so cool but people who haven’t seen the series probably wouldn’t even know it was merch at all. I guess that’s the downside for a production. They want their merch to act a bit as publicity. So people who see you wear it or use it might get curious about the series and you can’t really do that with the more subtle merch. So I don’t blame production companies for deciding to go with more obvious choices. 

I’d buy some of that!

But for My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom it works out pretty well since the in universe game almost works as an anime in itself and features all the characters. Even someone who hasn’t seen the show could figure out it’s from an anime and the name Fortune Lover would lead them very quickly to My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom. It’s a win-win.    

Catarina’s Earth self’s death in a traffic accident came as a terrible shock to Atsuko. Catarina’s Earth self’s last text message to her friend was, “Acchan, I can’t conquer the black-hearted, sadistic prince!” It had come at 3:00AM.

Her friend’s death hit Atsuko hard. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

That was terribly, terribly sad. I can’t help but think Atsuko might blame herself for her friend playing the game so late. Did that contribute to the traffic accident? In any event, Atsuko was heart-broken.

And then we find out who the other Earth person was to wake up in Fortune Lover. The camera shows Sophia Ascart waking up from a sad dream. Tears still streamed from her eyes.

Am I interpreting that right, Irina? Sophia is Atsuko reincarnated as Sophia?

That’s basically what the show was saying. I hope it’s not that simple. It’s a bit trite. I’m choosing to believe that friendships themselves could be so important that they take on an importance beyond the individuals. I guess they could also turn it in a sort of Wizard of Oz retelling where everyone in Fortune Lover is actually a version of someone Catarina knew in her old life and in the end she’ll wake up in a hospital room or something like that. 

In Fortune Lover land, Catarina has a problem. She’s still terrified of the doom flags, of course. But now she has another fear: failing the exams. The Council of the Wise-ish met, and they were unanimous: if they fail the test, “We’ll get the doom ending when our own mother kills us!” She resolved to take the test seriously.

I loved how her mom killing her for failing was the biggest doom flag of them all. Very reasonable! Sure, in theory it’s possible that the future imitates the game but the wrath of mothers is a guarantee and it would be very foolish to ignore it.

It wasn’t any boring old written exam. Her class, including with the bully girls who just can’t seem to stop carping about Maria Campbell, were fathered around what looked like a crumbling castle. Some teachers were there to monitor the test with the help of some older students like Nicol Ascart and the student council representative, Sirius Deek. The castle had belonged to an ancient mage, and the goal of the test was to find and return with a super magic stone. The catch? The dungeon was full of traps. 

Before they could start the exam, the students had to be put into groups of 3 or 4 by the teachers. Unfortunately, they couldn’t simply pick their groups for themselves. The teachers assigned the groups, I’m guessing they picked students whose specialties and proficiency with magic would work well together, so that they didn’t end up with really unbalanced groups that would wreck the curve or worse, get themselves instantly killed! In any case, that meant that Catarina could just group up with all her friends or with all the girls as she tends to do from time to time. Instead they were split up into two separate groups, but thankfully still all together instead of scattered among all the groups there. One group had Alan with both Mary and Maria. I wonder if it got confusing when he wanted to call one of the girls. The other group, as you may have guessed, had the remaining characters, namely, Geordo, Keith, Sophia and Catarina. Once they had been sorted out into their respective teams, they were finally really to head out into the dark and scary dungeon.

Catarina’s reaction to hearing the dungeon was full of traps was completely reasonable! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

At almost the exact same time that I thought it, Catarina wondered out loud why they were letting students go into a dangerous situation like that. I’m not saying I’m smart or anything, but jeesh — putting high school kids into a magical dungeon with magical traps just doesn’t sound safe.

It really doesn’t. Maybe they had some magical safe guards just in case? Like in Harry Potter.

That was Catarina at her best. But I didn’t think it was good enough to warrant giving her the lead position in her party, which consisted of her, Keith, Gerald Stuart, and Sophia. She wasn’t only in the lead; she was moving at a pretty good clip. Then she saw the bright red button set between two flag stones. 

I bet you can guess how Bakarina reacted. Yep. She pushed the button. There was good news and bad news. The good news was the trap she triggered simply dumped water on Gerald and Keith’s heads. The bad news? When Catarina stood up to see what she’d done, she leaned against the wall — and touched another trigger. A huge round boulder à la Raiders of the Lost Ark crashed towards them in the narrow hallway.

Oh, Bakarina…

Do you think it’s because Catarina falls on her head so much? I’m joking. I know that Catarina is just being a Dojikko trope although I think it’s kind of unjustified since she’s the most athletic one there. She really should be the one catching the others when they fall.

I am not ashamed to admit I had to look up Dojikko. Okay, maybe a little…

The boulder had a silver lining. To get away from it, they dashed down a side corridor and found a wall of ice. That’s good because it was the kind of thing they had anticipated: an obstacle they needed to overcome with their magic powers. Gerald was first up. In an impressive display of skill, he used his flame magic to melt the wall. He was so impressive, in fact, that they all clapped for his performance — even Keith, with whom he’d been arguing more and more obviously about who should stand beside Catarina.

Even Keith was impressed with Gerald’s fire magic skills. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Gerald returned the favor at the next obstacle. There was a deep pool of water separating them from the exit, and there was clearly some kind of creature under the water. Keith used his Earth magic to create a bridge they could use to cross. This time, Gerald applauded him.

Irina, it looks to me like the rivalry for Catarina’s affections are getting more blatant. At the same time, I’m seriously impressed at how nice everyone is staying with one another. Is that how it looks to you?

Well, Mary did seem to swoon a bit when Alan saved her. Oh Mary… you’re so flighty… She obviously didn’t instantly let go of her attachment to Catarina, but it did seem like the start of something. And that’s smart, all the characters are likable and it would be sad if we left most of them heart broken. So if Alan and Mary can slowly develop their fated romance, that’s two taken care of right there. I guess everyone else will have to develop a side romance. Are there any other rival characters? I don’t remember there being any. Of course someone could end up with Maria if Catarina doesn’t.

Catarina and her party continued the search. After seeing both Gerald and Keith step up with their magic, she felt guilty. She wanted to be useful, too! So when she saw a low spot in the floor, she didn’t hesitate. She called forth her Earth bump and made the hole level with the rest of the floor! I had to laugh as Gerald, Keith, and Sophia made a big deal over her contribution. It gave her a little something to be proud of.

Well, until she stepped over it and right onto the trigger for the next trap. Which consisted of wave upon wave of arrows. Gerald and Keith had to combine their magic. While Sophia wisely crouched behind them, Catarina tried to flatten herself against the wall. Unfortunately, she triggered the false wall and plunged down a chute. Her party didn’t hear her because they were busy trying to stay alive.

Seriously. Who sends a bunch of high school kids into a dungeon like that?

That’s always what I think in all these potentially fatal highschool exam settings. I mean if 90% of the kids die each year, who’s paying all the tuition? It’s a precarious business plan!

It’s a bit disappointing that all the girls got to do at all this week is accidentally set off traps and then get saved. I hope they’ll get a bit more agency next week cause the characters have been well set up. Honestly, it’s a real good thing the groups were split so the boys were there or else all the girls would be dead.

It would have been nice to see Sophie, Mary, and Maria use their magic. Maria in particular, since she’s a rare light magic user. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

And with Catarina being so athletic, too. That is disappointing. 

On the other hand, never let it be said that Catarina lacks courage. She didn’t sit huddled on the floor in tears. She jumped up, dusted herself off, and set off in search of an exit. Her hunger distracted her, and she was about to eat some bright purple mushrooms (is the girl insane?) when she thought she heard steps. We in the audience saw a wisp of shadow start to form behind her, but it dissipated as soon as she turned around.

Any idea what was up with that Irina?

Not really. It’s the spirit of the great magician of the place who can tell that Catarina is the main character of the series? That’s sort of my best guess. For some reason I didn’t really pay attention to that part much. 

Catarina continued her search for mushrooms. She came into a wide, circular area that looked like the inside of a chimney. There were tons of mushrooms growing inside the walls, but they were too tough for her to pick. She grabbed a green glowing rock with sharp edges and began harvesting.

You don’t me to guess what the rock was!

It was pretty obvious. I have to admit the dungeon part of the episode sort of bored me except for Catarina’s great quote about always exploring dead ends first. That was super cute.

Meanwhile, there was panic among the harem — er, Catarina’s friends. Nicol said no one had seen Catarina leave, so that meant she was still lost. He had the brilliant idea to use his wind magic to detect her voice, and Sophia, who’s apparently also a wind magic user, joined him. Together, they heard Catarina’s voice say a single word: Mushrooms.

The entire harem headed in the direction of her voice.

Can you really do that? Pick up sound waves on wind? That sounds cool. Wait I’ll look it up, it kind of can! Awesome.

It was nice seeing Sophie step up and use her magic — with her brother, Nicol. Interesting way to find Catarina, too. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

That wispy shadow kept showing up, but Catarina couldn’t see it. Curious — not in the least bit afraid — she walked towards it. The stone lip gave way, and she started to fall into the chasm. She caught herself. Vowing not to meet her doom here, she tried to haul herself up — only to feel more the lip crumble away. She began to fall backwards away from the wall.

I want to note for the record that I am impressed as heck with Catarina’s resolve. She didn’t think about giving up even once all the time she was alone in the dark. She impressed me this episode.

I’m sorry I didn’t get any of that at all. To me this was just Catarina doing Catarina things. She seemed like the exact same character that she’s always been. Maybe I just missed something.

It might just be she seems brave because she doesn’t know any better. It still impressed me.

So did Sophia’s upper body strength. Even as Catarina fell, Sophia threw herself on the ledge and grabbed Catarina’s arm. The effort was clearly enormous. So much so that Catarina, even dangling by one arm, knowing the drop would likely be fatal, begged her friend to let go.

This is where Sophia’s dream came back to her. “No! I won’t let go,” she said, her face flushed with effort. “Never ever! I don’t ever want to lose you again!”

It seems like Sophia might have remembered more of her dream than she had let on. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Irina, what’d you think?

I was happy Catarina didn’t die!

A wind magic spell that looked a lot like what Nicol and Sophia had cast in search of Catarina picked up the two women and gently put them down on the ledge. It wasn’t Sophia’s magic. It appears that the shadowy figure had cast it. More on that in a moment.

It looked exactly the same. I thought Nicol had just caught up since he dashed after Sophia so it would make sense. I guess they didn’t want to use a new sort of magic because then the characters would have to wonder where it came from?

The rest of the group found Catarina and Sophia, and they confirmed what we thought earlier. The stone Catarina had been using to hunt mushrooms was in fact the goal of their test. That meant they would pass! 

Good for them.

Maria was the only one of them to actually see the shadow. But she wasn’t sure what it was she had seen. I liked the uniforms they used in this episode, by the way… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Wait who passes? Catarina’s team or Alan’s? What about all the other teams, do they fail? Does that mean only 3 to 4 students can pass in a year? Is there any way to get partial marks? I’m just being nitpicky. It’s just funny to try to figure out how this curriculum works.

Fortunately, I was vague saying “them.” Unclear antecedents for the win!

But we’re left with another mystery. What was the wispy figure? Was it a manifestation of the shadowy figure who saved Catarina and Sophia? Who was the shadowy figure?

Irina, was it my imagination, or was Sirius the only character who was unaccounted for during these times?

I hadn’t thought of that! Good point, much better theory than mine. I mean none of the teachers or other students were accounted for either, but they don’t count. I actually really like this and now that you’ve pointed it out it seems really obvious. I feel pretty derpy for not having thought of it myself.

This episode still had its trademark humorous moments. I mean, pushing the red button? Really, Bakarina? But it also added a bit of peril. I don’t know if the shadows meant Catarina any harm, but they didn’t seem to volunteer their identity, either. What do you think’s going on, Irina?

I really don’t know but I like your Sirius theory. That’s pretty obvious from my gushing above! I’m sure we’ll find out eventually.

Reviews of the Other Episodes

9 thoughts on “Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom: The Exam in the Dungeon

  1. Actually, I’ve heard rumblings somewhere that a new game edition did come out in a subsequent novel, which indeed would throw everything up for grabs (I know one new development that’s been definitely confirmed, which I can imagine would be enough for a Catarina already fuming about her pathetic earth magic to get in still another angry mood of wanting to write a letter of complaint to the game company, if it were only possible! All I’ll add to that is warn you to not look at the “Five Facts About Catarina Claes” YouTube clip if you don’t want to be spoiled.)

    And yeah, you put your finger on the key plot problem such a development would pose. I can’t see how it could be done to actually impact our Catarina unless they A) have Sophia finally awaken like Catarina has and remember playing the new edition of the game (as you’ll see before the anime ends, Atsuko knows very well who Catarina really is), B) as many people have been speculating since the anime came on, another character from Japan has been isekaied to the world of Fortune Lover, who played the new edition in his or her previous life, and he or she ends up awakening, C) the readers see Sophia dreaming of Atsuko playing the new edition in her previous life, and she awakens with no memory of her dream but her emotions still disturbed, and later on in the day an mysterious sense of unease within Sophie will alert sharp readers that this latest story is following another twist or turn in the new Fortune Lover edition, or (unlikely) D) Someone from the kingdom of Sorcier somehow ends up back in Japan, and finds out about the Fortune Lover game and its new edition.

  2. …///She’s an amazing combination of shrewd genius (planning multiple permutations of avoiding doom) and WTF dumb (red button!). I wonder what she’ll do with a clear and present threat? She’s devoted her life to avoiding the doom she knew.\\\…

    I believe Hercule Poriot once described a villianess he once caught, but who had actually succeeded in making her cat’s paw in a murder and came within an eyelash of getting away with it, “…Oh! that strange brain–childlike and cunning.” You caught the dichotomy in Catarina’s character that makes her so different from the mere genius or idiot fool lead characters that tend to predominate in her genera. I ran across a brilliant analysis that completely explained why Catarina can be downright ingenious in some ways and totally dumb in others, but I haven’t been able to run across it again. Still, Catarina seems to be an example of a growing type in recent isekais. Look at the leads of “The Ascendance of a Bookworm”, “Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!”, or “Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt so I’ll Max out my Defense” The main character of the last, Maple, has a little similiarity to Lady Claes’ personality, in which she is capable of cleverly strategizing, but too often her unorthodox way of playing the game comes from her ignorance of the game ,mechanics or just plain dumb luck. The other two seem to be certifiable geniuses, but what I find striking about all four of these MCs is that NONE of them have any common sense.

  3. …///“I Entered a Dangerous Dungeon…” is very on the nose as a title, however, I think that’s kind of charming…. ok now that come at me title is sort of bothering me. What is the “as well” part about? Who is the other person? And come at me is such a specific expression, like what you tell someone in a fight but someone you kind of like? Like if you get into feisty cuffs with your friends or something. I tried imagining someone yelling that in a life of death situation and actually it does sound like a cheesy shonen line so I take it back. It could be a serious fight but it still sounds like odd phrasing to me…

    Yeah, it seemed very odd…\\\…

    For some reason, when I read what you were saying on that phrasing, an old cartoon I saw came to mind. It was from the Kings Features Syndicate seasons of Popeye shows in the early 1960s. Popeye and Olive Oyl were on a date at an amusement park, and were riding a boat into a fantasy-type tunnel, when the Whiffle Bird showed up to turn the interior of the tunnel into a real fantasy world. He told Popeye and Olive that they would find a great treasure, but would have to face “three dangerous dangers!”. On hearing that, Popeye wanted no part of the ride, but Olive was gold-hungry and forced the sailor to sail on. As it turned out, Popeye never actually resorted to his obligatory spinach because the climaxing third “dangerous danger” wasn’t one he objected to at all–being charmed by a mermaid (I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out who used the spinach in that episode!). So they won the enormous treasure–but the Whiffle Bird then faced a “dangerous danger” of his own in the person of a very peeved Olive when the “treasure” turned to ordinary items once the boat left the tunnel. Given that when you look back to the beginning of Olive Oyl’s history, that episode was perfectly in character for her…but you think she would have learned from earlier experience. In a comic strip “Thimble Theater”, its stars Castor Oyle and Ham Gravey partnered together on their own treasure hunt, looked along the docks for a sailor to steer their boat, and on the way they discovered that Ham’s girlfriend and Castor’s sister had stowed away on the voyage, and they ordered the sailor to lock her up. That voyage ended in the pair finding their treasure too, but it proved to be just as Pyrrhic a success as the tunnel excursion–the sailor eventually came back to the strip, took away Ham’s girl, crowded both he and Castor out of the strip, and eventually replaced the title Thimble Theater with the title “Popeye” (which of course went on all opening titles of the decades of cartoons which followed).

    (Come to think of it, some of the characters and relationships of the old comic strips and cartoons were just about as crazy as some of the tropes of today’s manga and anime. One has to wonder what manga kas and anime producers might have done if given a crack at Popeye like they have some other Western characters. Actually they did, but unfortunately, when Popeye was being blown into a literal cloud of dust, while on this side of the Pacific Popeye was mowing down the Japanese navy and BLUTO was coming to Popeye’s rescue against Japanese spies, things understandably weren’t too friendly back then…)

    Ahem. Getting back to this episode’s review…

    …///The show starts with Sasaki Atsuko, a middle-schooler, sitting alone reading a book as class adjourns. Realizing she was the last one in class, she packs up and heads out. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t at all expecting for another middle-schooler to land on her as she walked under a tree.

    “Please don’t die,” the faller said, disregarding all medical advice about not moving a patient who may have broken bones and shaking poor Atsuko. “I can’t bear the thought that I killed someone with my butt!”\\\\…

    That is the part of the episode that was taken straight from the original web novel (and the light novels and presumably manga as well). It was actually a bit more intense and interesting there, as Atsuko suddenly felt something falling on her before she fell into unconsciousness, and the next thing she knew she was waking up in a hospital, and she saw this sobbing girl standing over her. Even though she was responsible for putting her into the hospital, Atsuko just couldn’t bring herself to get mad at a girl who was clearly very sorry and so miserable. So that was start of Atsuko’s side story in the novel in which she detailed the backstory of her life in school and how it was changed by the Monkey Girl. On the other hand, I can’t really blame the anime for wanting to set up a comical repetition scene, particularly when they wanted to tie Monkey Girl-Atsuko and Catarina-Sophia together in the minds of the viewers (though again, I don’t think Keith bearing the brunt of the deadly butt of Bakarina was quite as funny as in the manga–there, Catarina mourning her brother went on and on and on, and poor Keith is beginning to shout to get through to his dense sister that he wasn’t dead!).

    …///It seems that Atsuko had recently transferred and was still very alone. Moreover, she was a shy isolated girl that had never had many friends even at her previous school. She had always been the type to play otomes or read manga by herself so naturally, someone with such an outgoing personality as not-Catarina charmed her right away.\\\…

    If I remember Atsuko’s own account rightly, her isolation was the very thing that led her into becoming an otaku in the first place (and that pattern repeated itself with Sophia–her even more severe isolation led her into becoming a bookworm). The vibe I got from Atsuko and the Monkey Girl was actually somewhat similar to what I got from Maple’s and Sally’s relationship in Bofuri–Atsuko was the one more aggressively involved with games, and her enthusiasm pretty much picked up her more laid-back friend (though her friend was clearly the more physically active and athletic in both lives) and dragged her along into the gaming world with her. But now it seems their former relationship has reversed a bit–Catarina clearly has the bigger body and personality of the two, and while she’s still inclined to sit back and take it easy, since she awakened to old memories, she became more hard-driving from her continual efforts to avoid doom.

    …///That’s basically what the show was saying. I hope it’s not that simple. It’s a bit trite.\\\…

    I couldn’t really agree, because there’s one very big significant difference between Catarina and Sophia–one hasn’t awakened like the other has–and as far as I know, still hasn’t really awakened in the story to date. (I can’t help but note that Catarina’s intuition is exceptional and her dreams tend to have visions of actual events past or future. Unfortunately they don’t do her any good for the most part, because her flashes of intuition too often are either dismissed altogether, or send Caterina off on a wrong tangent, and Catherine has a very difficult time remembering her dreams after waking up. Sophia suffers that identical weakness on remembering dreams in a worse way.)

    …///In Fortune Lover land, Catarina has a problem. She’s still terrified of the doom flags, of course. But now she has another fear: failing the exams. The Council of the Wise-ish met, and they were unanimous: if they fail the test, “We’ll get the doom ending when our own mother kills us!” She resolved to take the test seriously.

    I loved how her mom killing her for failing was the biggest doom flag of them all. Very reasonable! Sure, in theory it’s possible that the future imitates the game but the wrath of mothers is a guarantee and it would be very foolish to ignore it.\\\…

    Actually, in the original story Catarina’s mother seemed more likely to kill her daughter for violating social etiquette at school rather than failing grades…but then mothers turning demons at seeing their offspring bringing home test scores in the range of 25-0 is a pretty popular anime trope (a big crowd of traumatized teenage waifus would be all too willing to testify to that!). In the original story, Catarina’s studies tended to be, well, at least adequate because she was hoping to at least find some sort of way to protect herself from magic, and because she had all her friends pushing her.

    …///It wasn’t any boring old written exam. Her class, including with the bully girls who just can’t seem to stop carping about Maria Campbell, were fathered around what looked like a crumbling castle. Some teachers were there to monitor the test with the help of some older students like Nicol Ascart and the student council representative, Sirius Deek. The castle had belonged to an ancient mage, and the goal of the test was to find and return with a super magic stone. The catch? The dungeon was full of traps.\\\…

    …///Catarina’s reaction to hearing the dungeon was full of traps was completely reasonable! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

    At almost the exact same time that I thought it, Catarina wondered out loud why they were letting students go into a dangerous situation like that. I’m not saying I’m smart or anything, but jeesh — putting high school kids into a magical dungeon with magical traps just doesn’t sound safe.\\\…

    Well, for the first time the anime is totally breaking away from the novel/manga storyline. And it does represent a real break with continuity–though in the anime’s defense, it’s breaking with a massive plot hole that’s been at the core of the storyline from the very beginning. Now I can’t give spoilers, but every book after the first revolves around some sort of attacks or kidnappings (I’m curious if the trend will hold at all with the fifth and sixth volumes now coming out). I just have to wonder: if the purpose of this school is to safeguard what’s believed to be the kingdom’s most precious resource, and at the very least if the school is filled with nobility or a very rare commoner that could eventually match that level through marriage or by own merit of magic power–well, wouldn’t you think a significant portion of the curriculum would be teach these VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE something on using magic or other means to defend themselves, or be on alert for danger in certain situations, if nothing else? From what’s happening to the school’s graduates or near-graduates so far, I kind of have to scratch my head and wonder if these students were actually taught anything in class on magical defense in the first place to even be examined on! (By the way, I’m not raising this question in regard to Catarina Claes at all, I’m afraid that even if her school gave her Agent 007-level of training, all those skills would never keep our Bakarina from bumbling into danger after danger like we saw this episode!)

    And this episode highlights an oddity with the original story. The whole story is centered around the Fortune Lover game, in which the game-playing character powerful magic-user Maria Campbell has a romantic rivalry with a royal fiance weak magic-user Catarina Claes, or on another route Maria romances Catarina’s brother Keith Claes, who is coping with the childhood trauma of his magic (far more powerful than his sister’s) running wild. So…this new storyline that results from the newly-awakened Catarina’s tampering with the plot, will now then go on to–feature very, very little magic. In the original novel/manga, key magical moment by any of the main cast is performed by–Catarina Claus with her earth thud. No one is in the main cast does any magic except for Keith–and it happens early in the story so Catarina can draw her new brother from out of his shell. Of course off-screen magic lessons are referred to, but in the end–if Keith does no magic over the next eight years anyway that we see in the story, then what was the fuss over his magic being dangerous in the first place? Maria also is limited to one long-ago healing to explain why her childhood went completely south. And the website discussing anime tropes lampshaded the “My Next Life as a Villainess” story for having the extremely rare, kept fearfully as a never, never discussed state secret, dark magic–proving to be SO RARE that it merely keeps popping into story after story (rather reminiscent of the old Superman stories, in which the deadly Kryptonite that originated from a planet blowing up light years away somehow seemed to fall as meteorites around the environs of Metropolis and elsewhere by the rail-car load!). And it’s only the dark-magic users doing the magic, for some reason our heroes don’t seem to be doing magic in response! Prince Gerald, maybe you should be far less concerned about what education your fiance is getting at home like you were last episode, and start wondering what education (or lack thereof) your classmates are getting at supposedly at the elite school in the country!

    (Incidentally, there is another flaw I see with how the kingdom conceived its school in the first place. The inherent Achilles’ heel of all schools is young children are much like dogs or pigs–socialized singly in the context of a family, they can be absolutely delightful, but put them in a herd or pack with no adult supervision, they can turn wild and dangerous and savage the weak and vulnerable. One of the prime directives of any school ought to recognize that phenomenon, and be prepared to take measures to minimize cliques and bullying as much as possible. But in the case of this school, everyone with magic is required to attend with no excuses allowed, whether the teens want to go to the school or not. So to begin with, you’re inevitably going to get a proportion of students who don’t want to even be there in the first place, and you also have some deep social divides to bridge as well because the nobles themselves are divided from higher [royalty or close to it] to progressively lower levels [for example, as a noble herself, Anne was probably very lucky not to have manifested any magic talent, because she would have been at the bottom of the bottom in terms of social status at an institution like that]. Inevitably, this type of situation is going to produce a certain proportion of students who flunk out or graduate as malcontents. A fanfic description of the original Fortune Lover Catarina’s clique depicts the dangerous vulnerabilities that could develop at such a school: “She used to surround herself with fellow girls who felt inadequate, fellow nobles who didn’t live up to expectations like Katarina and her pathetic earth bump. So they spent their time stepping on people to pull themselves up, compromising girls like Sophia Ascart who already felt so low.” Imagine, for example, when Catarina was exiled, she wasn’t a poor student or didn’t have very weak magic; or if Maria WAS hounded out of school, she didn’t have that great drive to be a good and classy person; or if a heart-broken Gerald or Keith went into exile to escape the shame of killing Catarina, they were eager to wreak revenge on the kingdom; or so on and so on. If I were a neighboring monarch next to a kingdom monopolizing magic, I would think seriously of infiltrating the school with a spy or two, and do some “graduation recruitment” of my own among the students to see if they would be willing to sell their magical services or magical knowledge to my kingdom instead, rather than continue with a land from which they had never received anything but grief, or had suffered an irretrievable fall in social status and saw themselves as having nothing to lose. Sorcier seems to have organized its school in such a way as to defeat its very purpose–i.e., to keep magic securely in the kingdom’s hands!)

    …///Honestly, it’s a real good thing the groups were split so the boys were there or else all the girls would be dead.

    It would have been nice to see Sophie, Mary, and Maria use their magic. Maria in particular, since she’s a rare light magic user. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

    And with Catarina being so athletic, too. That is disappointing.

    On the other hand, never let it be said that Catarina lacks courage.\\\…

    Hmmm…it seems the mysterious blackout of magic in the story even applies to this anime episode, depending what sex the character is. As for Catarina, she may have a superb nerve net to make her exceptionally coordinated, but it does get nullified a bit by having an airhead operating the central switchboard. Hmmm…your comment on Catarina brought to mind a line in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie in which the Wizard told the Cowardly Lion that he was mistaking cowardice for wisdom. I ran across another review of this episode in which the commenter pretty much nailed Catarina by giving out a set of stats she would have if she were in an actual game like Bofuri:

    “akumi
    1 week ago (edited)
    Catarina stats:

    Physical strength: 600 MAX:999

    Speed: 120 MAX:999

    Magic: 5 MAX:999

    IQ: I think these suspicious looking death mushrooms will taste very good and keep me from hunger MAX:999”

    …///It might just be she seems brave because she doesn’t know any better. It still impressed me.\\\…

    Yeah, pretty much my take on it!

    …///I liked the uniforms they used in this episode, by the way…\\\…

    To tell the truth, when I first saw them in the preview for this episode, I was a bit startled and nervous that after a superb adaptation of the original story, the animators were deciding to pitch the whole story overboard.

    Actually, though, if you go back over the problems I pointed out with the school to begin with, adding uniforms would likely be a positive. In the real world, they seem to cut down on misbehavior in schools, maybe at least in part you don’t have wealthier or even “cool” crowd engaging in a competitive upmanship over plainer-dressing students.

    Plus, anime series like Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero or The Irregular at Magic High School shows superpowered students wearing military-like student uniforms can look pretty cool.

    1. “the sailor eventually came back to the strip, took away Ham’s girl, crowded both he and Castor out of the strip, and eventually replaced the title Thimble Theater with the title “Popeye” (which of course went on all opening titles of the decades of cartoons which followed).”

      You know, I watched Popeye for years, and I never knew that. Interesting!

      “one hasn’t awakened like the other has–and as far as I know, still hasn’t really awakened in the story to date.”

      When Sophie said that she didn’t want to lose Catarina again, I had the impression she had remembered at least some. Do you think her statement was more based on a subconscious/unarticulated feeling? Just a general sense that she and Catarina were connected?

      “but in the end–if Keith does no magic over the next eight years anyway that we see in the story, then what was the fuss over his magic being dangerous in the first place?”

      I like the points you made about magic. I mean, I guess I could argue that Keith’s magic and his old friends’ reactions to it gave Catarina an excuse to be kind to him, but it does seem like much ado about nothing.

      “If I were a neighboring monarch next to a kingdom monopolizing magic, I would think seriously of infiltrating the school with a spy or two, and do some “graduation recruitment” of my own among the students to see if they would be willing to sell their magical services or magical knowledge to my kingdom instead”

      It’s hard for me to tell in this story how seriously I should take the world-building. I’m beginning to suspect it’s closer to Caligula than anything else — I almost get the feeling that if they walk in one direction too long, they’ll hit the edge of the map!

      “Plus, anime series like Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero or The Irregular at Magic High School shows superpowered students wearing military-like student uniforms can look pretty cool.”

      Now I want to go watch The Irregular at Magic High School again! I really like their uniforms…

      1. I think its only a general sense as you said (to tell the truth, when I first read the original novel I was well aware from the tropes website that Sophie and Atsuko were the same person–but I still found the reveal at the climax to be dynamic and a bit startling nonetheless, however, I’m afraid that moment is going to lose a bit of its impact now with the premature reveals that the anime is making already).

        “I almost get the feeling that if they walk in one direction too long, they’ll hit the edge of the map!” LOL! Well could be, although at the core of the story is Catarina facing exile from the kingdom, and the whole point behind her digging a field and engaging a tutor was that even weak magic would be enough to ensure her employment in an outside world without it (which in fact exactly did happen to a certain upcoming dark-magic user in a subsequent novel, and that’s all I’ll say about it, except to say he and Catarina had the most UNLIKELY discussion of traveling abroad together. Actually, THAT WOULD probably be the perfect story for a future book. The very idea would infuriate her entire harem (which would have grown by then), just HOW MUCH it would infuriate them you’ll only see when you read the novel in which Catarina and this character meet. However, in the new book, through wacky circumstances the king does appoint Lady Catarina as the kingdom’s emissary (I can picture right now Catarina’s mother and brother fainting dead away at the very thought) sailing on a world tour with her companion–so the harem is helpless to do anything about it (which leads to a wild scramble for her harem and magic ministry officials to get aboard, even if they have to stow away!). To complicate matters you might have a new edition of the Fortune Lover game in which the exiled Catarina is supposed to be fated to attempt revenge on the kingdom by committing all sorts of villainy across the world–a game story line which Bakarina’s doom-flag destroying ends up totally frustrating and obliterating in her usual inimitable fashion. So such a future book could do some badly-needed world-building (literally) as Bakarina wins hearts across the world in a series of side stories in which she and her harem bumble through misadventure after misadventure in every port.

        1. “To complicate matters you might have a new edition of the Fortune Lover game in which the exiled Catarina is supposed to be fated to attempt revenge on the kingdom by committing all sorts of villainy across the world”

          That’s an aspect I’d never considered.

          Do future editions of the game, or even DLCs, mean that Catarina’s world changes? Grows?

          She knows the game she played, but she’d have no idea about the new content!

  4. “putting high school kids into a magical dungeon with magical traps just doesn’t sound safe”

    Just think about Hogwarts…

    If Catarina hadn’t tripped those traps there is no guarantee the magic stone would ever have been found. So it is Cat for the win.

    Pretty obvious that if there’s a doom flag it is in all the resentful female students. Cat seems to have monopolized the attention of all the most attractive males and is the friend of the lower class females who would ordinarily be at the bottom of the food chain. She also found the stone and gets to proceed even though her own magic is trivial. And she’s working in the field like a peasant girl despite being top royalty. Makes her a threat to the social order.

    The missing stone was obviously missing so you’d step over it and hit the button on the far side. Cat filled the hole with an earth bump but still stepped over it. Sheesh!

    1. “Just think about Hogwarts…”

      I never really was comfortable with Ginny going into combat…

      “If Catarina hadn’t tripped those traps there is no guarantee the magic stone would ever have been found. So it is Cat for the win.”

      You know, that’s a very good point! Maybe there’s a method to her baka.

      “Makes her a threat to the social order.”

      I hadn’t thought of that! I mean, sure, other young women would feel jealous that Catarina’s in the center of such an amazingly talented and beautiful group of people. But you’re right. Left to her own device, Catarina would likely overturn the social and political world. And she’s engaged to the perfect man to help her.

      Talk about a huge bullseye!

      “The missing stone was obviously missing so you’d step over it and hit the button on the far side. Cat filled the hole with an earth bump but still stepped over it. Sheesh!”

      She’s an amazing combination of shrewd genius (planning multiple permutations of avoiding doom) and WTF dumb (red button!). I wonder what she’ll do with a clear and present threat? She’s devoted her life to avoiding the doom she knew.

      I’m kinda hoping it doesn’t go as dark as Cautious Hero. That was an amazing emotional ride, but I’m way too attached to all these characters to see them in real peril…

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