As we were discussing what series to collaborate on this season, Irina suggested “My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!” I thought this was a great idea, because a) I’d just seen the first episode, and I thought it was hilarious and b) it’s another chance to collaborate with Irina! So, no down side, right? Then she wondered, in her usual insightful sort of way, why we seem to review series where the hero dies in a car crash.
We don’t just review them, we enjoy them. Oooops spoilers. I mean we enjoy the specific episode in which the girls get smooshed. I mean that can’t be super healthy…
The question haunts me. I’m sure I’m going to stare into the night trying to answer that question for the rest of my mortal days.
But here we are, reviewing episode 1, “I Recalled the Memories of My Past Life…,” which is streaming on Crunchyroll. The first episode had everything! It had aristocratic arrogance, it had a face plant, it had a council of the wise, it had a struggle against fate, and best of all, it had a door chopping incident that would have made Jack Nicholson not only proud, but a little envious.
There will be spoilers.
Before we dive in, any opening thoughts, Irina (who’s in bold, which is as it should be)?
I am bold! Some of my readers (I’m not sure if there are any here mind you) might know that I am in fact a fan of Otomes and Visual novels and have played quite a few in my day as such the premise of this series really appealed to me. I figured I could laugh at all the otome stereotypes and tropes being lampooned.
Did it deliver?
The show starts off dramatically enough. Katarina Claes (apparently Crunchyroll spelling it “Catarina” is causing quite the stir in the Reddit discussion of the first episode) is riding in a carriage with her fiancé, Gerald Stuart, to the magic academy. She’s resolute to the point of defiance — this is where her game begins. She steps out of the carriage, plants her feet wide apart, and says, “Bring it on if you dare, doom flag!”
So, right off the bat, I know that she’s strong-willed. She knows what she needs to do, and she’s determined to do it. And she uses the phrase, “doom flag.”
What did you think of her introduction, Irina?
I’m o.k. with Catarina. I thought it was cute. It’s also not so unusual a spelling outside of the US…
My little otaku heart went out to this girl. Very relatable. I know exactly who this girl is, except for the fear of dogs, that’s just weird. I have spent my share of sleepless nights talking to catboys…
I’m going back and forth between Catarina (which is how Crunchyroll spells it) and the source material that Reddit quoted — they seemed pretty miffed that Crunchyroll changed it! But it was right there on screen with a “C”…
Then, we go back in time. She’s a 9 year old (or something) brat who berates her maids for giving her the color of hair ribbon she asked for. She even had the rich aristocratic doting father, the very thought of whom made me queasy. Her father had come in to introduce her to the young Gerald Stuart, who took her on a walk in the flower garden. Actually, it was more that he carried her, because she firmly attached herself to his arm. She was quite smitten. But when they met his younger brother Alan, they became detached (much to his apparent relief). He walked away and she tried to catch up with him, but she tripped on an uneven paving stone and planted her forehead on the ground.
Katarina’s fall looked really dramatic. If this had been an action/drama, I’d’ve been worried for her! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Honestly, it looked painful.
It really did, I thought she was going to die again!
But as painful as it had to be for Katarina, it was really important to the plot. As she lay on the ground, stunned from the impact, she remembered who she really was: a teenaged young woman. A teenaged young woman who loved an otome game that featured a character named Gerald Stuart (whose sterling manners hid a black heard), Alan Stuard, and, worst of all, Katarina Claes. The villainess. But she hadn’t connected all the dots yet. All she realized was that she loved playing the game.
So, Irina, any insights in who we seem to constantly pick shows with this event? It seems kinda singular…
I mean it’s the anime writers who keep writing stories where the catalyst is a fatal car accident with a young female character… Not our fault. Nu huh…
And we picked Promised Neverland because uhm..
Guys, we may need help. Good news is neither Crow nor I are leaving the house for a while so you’re all safe. Unless you come to visit.
Have I mentioned yet how much I adored the work of Katarina’s voice actor, Maaya Uchida? Because she absolutely nailed this role!
When Katarina regained consciousness, Gerald was waiting for her. And this is where I thought the series started to get seriously cool. Katarina started thinking and behaving like a seventeen year old woman from our world. Gerald was all concerned that his actions led to a scar on her face. Katarina was trying to apologize for making everyone worry as Gerald and the maid were completely freaked out. Gerald even warned her that she might have a hard time getting married now, and as Katarina reflect on how much she despised the very idea of “high society,” Gerald proposed to her.
Distracted, she accepted. After Gerald left, she only realized her mistake when the maid congratulated her. And she realized that she’d met the first condition for the game: engagement to Gerald.
You know, sometimes it’s important to listen when others talk! I understand this mostly in retrospect….
When she finally realized that the black-hearted prince in the game she’d loved was named Gerald Stuart, she tried to remember more. The “more” included the name of the villainess: Katarina Claes. Her scream really startled the maids.
I’ll give Katarina credit. She didn’t want to make any assumptions. She systematically studied the problem. And concluded she was in one of her favorite otome game! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
She remembered Maria, the heroine. In addition to Gerald and Alan, she remembered Keith Clases, her adopted younger brother, and she remembered the character named Nicol Ascart. Those four young men were the potential suitors for Maria, while the character Katarina was their nemesis.
Worst of all, she remembered the various routes in the game. In the “happy” ending, Katarina was exiled for tormenting Maria. In the “bad” ending, Katarina dies by Gerald’s hand.
Fairly strong incentive to change the plot, wouldn’t you say, Irina?
OK so this is where we’re going to get into the meta plot for all the otome fans out there.
First of all, the in universe otome game is called Fortune Lover, which is 1) such a classic and generic otome game title that I couldn’t help but giggle and 2) super fitting as the otome itself (plot wise from what we know) seems to be loosely based on Wand of Fortune. Delighted is nowhere strong enough an adjective for how I felt at being able to draw a parallel to this never translated gem of an otome. It might be wishful thinking on my part but a lot of elements line up. Which would mean that the last path, the quiet black haired boy, should be my favourite.
Even if you haven’t played wand of fortune (not many people have), this part was a loving and gentle deconstruction of otome tropes. All your classic suitor types are introduced and the story is laid out. One thing I have to say, heroines NEVER have blonde hair. It’s always the mean girls that have blonde hair, the nice main characters are usually brunettes so that was a switch.
I’m willing to bet Maria having blonde hair will have significance later on. The writers seem as well versed in the genre as they are clever. Which is to say, lots! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Now one unfortunate but hilarious trend in otomes is to make the main character painfully dumb. Or rather painfully oblivious to the point of you wondering how she has even survived for all these years. Seeing a witty, strong willed and smart character (as the players usually are, cough cough) was such a pleasant change that it had me grinning from ear to ear.
I had to chuckle when, at the end of her conscientious research, Katarina concludes, “I’m on the path to doom!”
Having come to this conclusion, Katarina did what anyone geek would do. She convened a council of elders. Unfortunately, she only had herself to draw on, so her internal meeting consisted of various incarnations of Katarina: the chairman, the fearless one, the spineless one, the happy one, and the sudious one. After much debate, the fearless one suggested they brush up on their swordsmanship and magical powers so that if they’re threatened, they can defend themselves. And by themselves, they meant herself.
It was a bit confusing in this age of pandemic.
But the goal was sound: Finding work even if they get exiled. So the council of the wise adopted that plan. I have to say that I found that visualization of Katarina’s inner debate to be a lot of fun. Irina, what’d you think?
It was my favourite part. I particularly liked that each aspect of her personality had its own roleplay. I sort of want to solve all my own problems this way from now on.
I’m still wondering why the chairman version of Katarina has a white moustache. It doesn’t match her hair at all! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The thing about otomes is that they rarely have very well established universes. You rarely know what’s happening outside of your own little focused story so expanding to explore the possibility of finding gainful employment for the bad guy while in exile is way beyond the scope of the average narrative and it’s amazing! I wish I could play this.
As Katarina learned swordsmanship, the maids wondered what had gotten into her after she face-planted on the paving stones. She overturned everyone’s perception of what a proper young lady should do when she took up gardening to boost her Earth Magic. She remembered her grandma’s words about gardening — from our world — so it made perfect sense to her. It was so scandalous that when Gerald’s parents came to visit their soon to be daughter, momma Gerald fainted dead away.
I adored that faint, I took note of it. That’s the way a real lady faints!
Social change is distributing to some folks. Fortunately, one of the maids caught her.
But Katarina needs to learn to pay attention, because as she was overcome with relief that Gerald wasn’t going to make a scene over her farming, he formally proposed to her, in front of his parents. And she absent-mindedly said “Hai.”
I really hope she starts paying more attention to what she says “yes” to! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Never let it be said that Katarina doesn’t learn from her mistakes. She realized she had met two conditions of her game character: forehead scar and engagement to Gerald. She was bound and determined to thwart all future traits from the game. And into that conviction came poor Keith. In the game, Keith had become a problem for Katarina because she’d bullied him (he was the son of a mistress, so her mom even supported the bullying) and turned him into a playboy, so he attracted Maria’s attention.
Katarina convences another council of the wise (well, some of them were pretty smart, anyway) and decides to be really nice to Keith. Were you a little afraid for Ketih at this point, Irina?
I was thinking that no matter what Katarina tried she would inadvertently end up with the same backstory as the villainess if you only looked at it from an outside perspective. A sort of don’t judge a book by it’s cover sort of thing. So I really thought that Keith would mistake all of Katarina’s overly friendly gestures for some sort of bullying.
That was my initial thought anyways. Either that or he would get bullied by Gerald who has a black heart in disguise and it would end up being the same.
After showing a bewildered Keith her garden and favorite fishing spot, she brings him to a tree and starts to climb it. That’s a very unlady-like thing to do, and it turns out to be a little beyond her. She got about five or ten meters up when she slipped and fell, landing on Keith.
She was surprised she wasn’t hurt, then she looked down and realized she was sitting on Keith. Distraught, she lamented that she’d finally gotten a little brother, and “I can’t believe I killed you with my butt!”
Keith really had no idea what to make of her. But at least she hadn’t tormenting him! Not intentionally, anyway… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
She should have realized her butt was way too small to be lethal. In fact, Keith seemed a little perplexed by it all. Later, Keith was surprised to hear that Katarina was trying to learn Earth Magic. He even seemed a little withdrawn. Turns out he was actually a very powerful Earth Magic user. Too powerful, as it turned out. She begged him to show her what he could do, and the resulting golem was enormous. But Katarina had to run towards it, and Keith was still too young to control it well.
Irina, I’m still not sure why she ran towards the golem. Any ideas? Plot necessity?
Somali did the same thing… Young girls run after golems it seems.
My thought is (because that’s probably what my line of thinking would have been) that she thought of the golem as a big toy. A giant moving teddy bear and she simply wanted to play with it. Keith warned her but he’s also a bit of a timid overly careful guy so she probably didn’t figure what the danger was. She’s not actually 9 but she is still a teenager. Teenagers can be reckless.
I also adored how her first thought was – if I learn this I can turn it into a sustainable revenue stream should I get exiled. I loves me a prepared princess!
Katarina was every bit the prepared princess — she was already thinking of how to monetize Keith’s magic! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
The end result was that Katarina was once again waking up in bed, this time to find her father and mother watching over her. They thought she’d been seriously injured, and they expected her to be wrathful against Keith. But her main goal was to forgive him, because her mission was to keep him fulfilled and not lonely!
And she does seem to actually like the kid a bit…
She arrived at his room to find a maid and manservant fretting. Keith had locked himself in his room and refused to come out. He even refused to let Katarina in. It looked as if the game were making a course correction — pushing Keith into a solitary, lonely life so he could contribute to her demise. So, she did what any girl of that age would not have done. She grabbed a pike-axe from a suit of armor and, warning Keith to stand back, hacked her way into his room.
After the door was in ruins, Katarina strode into the room, pike-axe in one hand, her other hand on her hip. Poor Keith had no idea what to think. Then, after that majestic pose, Katarina hurled herself to her keeps and begged him to forgive her.
The shining parody scene with the axe through the door was pure gold. I was cheering so hard for Katarina. Man, she doesn’t need any of this, she’ll be just fine exiled or not. Ok, maybe not murdered, that wouldn’t be cool but she can definitely stand on her own.
I really would not want to be between Katarina and her goals! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I sort of feel bad for the main character of the otome now. How is she supposed to take attention away from a girl like this?
Keith had been convinced he was at fault. He thought he was a monster who deserved to be isolated. Everyone who had seen the extent of his powers before had recoiled in terror.
“Aren’t you afraid of me?” he asked.
Her “Huh?” was perfectly mystified. It was as if the thought of him being scary was about the same as asking if he were a cement block. The question didn’t make sense to her. As he tried to explain why she should be scared, she gently took his trembling hands and told him that all they needed to do was get him some training so he could control his magic. His voice quivered when he asked, just for confirmation, if she would stay with him. Her cheerful answer in the affirmative pretty much guaranteed that at least from Keith’s perspective, one of her death-flags had been reset.
The moment was so emotionally endearing that for a moment, I forgot I was watching a comedy. How Katarina’s mom called her to task for breaking the door brought me back, but it all stayed within the tone and character of the episode. This is going to be an interesting one, I think!
How about you, Irina?
I had so much fun with this one. I was a little tiffed when it was over. I definitely want to see where it goes. There are some laughs, some heart warming moments. A reverse harem with a female character that actually has… character! Sign me up!
Reviews of the Other Episodes
- Review: My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 1: I Recalled the Memories of My Last Life…
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 2 with Crow and Irina
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 3: Met a Beautiful Brother and Sister
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 4 – Ave Maria
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 5 – Another Flag Falls, Another Soul Heals
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 6 – The Devilish Count Makes His Move
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 7 — I Entered a Dangerous Dungeon…
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 8 — I Became Engulfed by Desire…
- Review: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ep 9 — Things Got Crazy at a Slumber Party…