I lost interest in het harem shows after Kampfer. I still enjoyed it in a “It sucks but is fun” kind of way (Mainly for the yuri of course). Reverse harems I had less interest in even though I know some feature at least one lesbian infatuated with the female lead. the following show did something different. “What if we combined both to create a bisexual harem with a female lead?” They had my attention with a female lead. I waited for the right motivation before deciding whether to dive in or not. The motivation eventually came. Question is whether I made the right choice. Find out as we take a look at My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom.
Alternate Title: Otome Game no Hametsu Flag Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijō ni Tensei Shiteshimatta… (Japanese)
Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Harem, Isekai, Magic
Themes: Bisexual, Hetero, Yuri
Plot Summary: After hitting her head particularly hard one day, Duke Claes’ daughter, Katarina (aka Catarina, aka “Bakarina”), suddenly recalls all the memories of her past life: that of a teenage Japanese girl. It seems in her past life, Katarina was playing a video game very similar to the life she lives now right before she died. She is now Katarina Claes, the antagonist of the otome game, who nastily hounded the protagonist until the end. Knowing all the possible outcomes of the game, she realizes that every single possible route ends with Katarina being murdered or exiled. In order to avoid these Catastrophic Bad Ends, she has to use her knowledge of the game and her own wiles, starting with breaking off this engagement with the prince.
Let us not waste any time. The main reason I loved the show as much as I did was the ladies. The guys are cool too, my favorites being Alan and Keith, and had their own hilarious moments (mostly their reactions to Katarina’s thoughts and actions) but it was the ladies who stole the show. What better place to start with “Bakarina” herself. Best way to describe her is a “lovable and oblivious dork”. She is very kind to everyone, will bravely face danger head on even if she is not aware of the threat, will always choose to reason with people over violence, has a bottomless pit stomach reserved for tea and especially sweets, is subconsciously bisexual herself (with a preference for girls of course), has many mental meetings and of course is hilariously oblivious to a fault. All of her traits combined form a protagonist who follows familiar harem tropes but there is a twist every time. Allow me to explain by kind of spoiling how she wins over one guy. I will not reference the lad by name.
This boy was originally a macho tsundere in the otome game. He was rough, confrontational but secretly had low self-esteem. He confronted Katarina one day, challenging her to a duel. The duel itself was already different from the norm. Not only that but after beating him he DID NOT THROW HIMSELF AT HER FEET RIGHT AWAY! One of the het harem tropes that annoys me the most is the love interest immediately falling for the protagonist after losing to him or her after ONE BATTLE. He/she does not take time to get to know the protagonist better. Nope. Decides right there this person is to be their soul mate. In this show, although the boy not only challenged Katarina time and again but is shown getting to know her better. THAT ALONE was praiseworthy. It meant the infatuation was EARNED!
There are other familiar ways she gets a guy or gall to fall for her but in each one the suitor’s craving for The Baka One’s sacred garden is justified and not “because the plot said so”. That and the hilarious high jinks afterward either from the suitors’ attempts to court their lady love and said lady’s innocent obliviousness failing to receive blatant romantic advances each and every time. Describing them in this review does not the comedy of this show justice. As I said in my first impressions of the show it takes the familiar and adds excellently executed humor to help spice things up for the better. Granted, comedy is subjective, as always. What I find gut busting some may chuckle or not get at all. Such is life after all.
Besides the hilarity outside there is also some of my favorite parts of the show. Katarina’s meetings of the inner mind featuring several mini Katarinas representing different parts of her personality (My favorite is the mustachioed Judge Katarina) often deliberating what course of action to take to avoid all potential Death Flags while failing to realize a lot has changed in front of her. Most of the time her worries are exaggerated but every now and then they are justified.
As mentioned in the summary this is an isekai (other world) show starring someone who died in “our world” and was reincarnated in another one, usually fantasy themed. One common trope is the protagonist for plot reasons is overpowered or easily maxes out her abilities. Katarina throughout the show is nowhere near as adapt at magic as her suitors or fellow students at the Magic Academy. However, as I alluded to while describing her there are other areas she excels such as her bravery and instinct. Her knowledge of the otome game the world is based on comes in handy to guide her to important events also. While events on the show do not play exactly like in the game for various reasons they are similar enough for her to often be at the right place at the right time inadvertently raising her affection meter with her suitors.
Going back to the harem each guy and girl has a story to tell with their own personal struggles to confront. Most of them face gain the confidence to overcome them thanks to Katarina’s support. While some suitors’ stories are straightforward others have quite the emotional luggage, yes. The drama may be low for the most part but every now and then the mood will most certainly change.
Almost to the main event. Let us go over the presentation. Colorful and well done. There is not much I can add. It looks and sounds pretty good. The OP is funny and enjoyable while the ED is serene. There is not much to go in great detail in because I did not see anything worth complaining about visually or musically.
NOW we can get to the ladies.
Ah yes. Something I forgot to mention. The first 2 and 1/2 episodes mainly take place during Katarina and the gang’s childhood, introducing viewers to our lovable lead and her merry band of love interests. First up is Mary. Put simply she is the most open in her desire to make The Baka One hers and hers alone. It was their shared love of gardening that drew them together. Her dedication and lengths she goes for Bakarina, plus her majestic arsenal, are what make her my favorite suitor.
Next is Sophia. Possibly the most adorable of the ladies…and possibly the most devilish depending on who one asks. It was their shared love of fantasy and romance novels that drew them together. In fact Sophia became more interested in certain romance genres thanks to Katarina, yes. One of the guys is her dearest onii-sama. Keep this in mind. Right. There is nothing else to add about this cutie. Nothing at all, nope.
Later in her young adult years Katarina would meet Maria, the main protagonist of the otome game and the one whose fate was the most intertwined with hers. Maria is the purest of the ladies, meaning she loves Katarina as much as the rest of the harem but her attempts to win her heart are the least, shall we say, “tainted”. She is a sweet flower who bares no ill will to anyone, which is both good and bad. Fortunately a certain baka and her harem are there to help her become stronger.
While I love all ladies I imagine some viewers will prefer one over the others. Most of the side-characters are fun to watch also. Some are quite important. Keep a close eye on a select few.
Overall My Next Life as a Villainess was a heck of a lot better than I first thought. Heck, it is one of the best harem shows I have seen thus far and, guys aside, the closest thing to the yuri harem anime of my dreams. It is also one of my favorite female lead isekai shows. Yes, there haven been side yuri harems and stealth yuri harems but my dream is a 22+ minute episode anime centered around a lesbian harem and marketed as such. The main protagonist is excellent. The harem guys and gals ,especially the gals, are great. The presentation is very good and the isekai and fantasy stuff are well done. Highly recommended to people looking for a different kind of harem and not one starring a lead who is either too cocky or too puny.
As readers would expect from reading this G-View I am excited for the second season!