Friday, May 21, 2021

Green Phoenix - My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom Review

My Next Life as a Villainess, All Routes Lead to Doom! light novel volume 1 cover.jpg

Sometimes there comes along an anime that just speaks to you, you know?

I have made it no secret of my love for romance stories in fiction. I also enjoy isekai's and self-aware stories which comment on their own narrative's shortcomings and tropes. Combine all of these with with a very sweet and ditzy main character and a truly humorous comedic plot with the occasional dash of emotion and you have My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom.

Yeah its a mouthful but this anime released in 2020, with a second season set to air in 2022, has been a highlight of my pandemic watch list alongside That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. The adventures and life of Catarina Claes and her efforts to avoid her death or exile at the hands of a bad dating sim story line is a treat to view and I think you all come to agree with me after my review.

So join me as we take a look at the comedic reverse harem romance that is My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom.

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  • Directed by Keisuke Inoue
  • Produced by  Silver Link
  • Based on the Light Novel written by Satoru Yamaguchi
  • 12 episodes available for viewing on CrunchyRoll
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SUMMARY

When Catarina Claes, the daughter of a prominent noble family in a magical world, bumps her head, she suddenly recalls memories from a past life where she was an average Japanese school girl obsessed with a story-based dating sim called Fortune Lover. Realizing that she has been reborn as the villain of the Fortune Lover game and she is ultimately doomed to either death or exile, Catarina endeavors to alter her fate by any means necessary.
 
Along the way, Catarina will befriend a band of fellow game characters; including her fiance Geordo, her adopted brother Keith, the mysterious Nicol and his sister Sophia, the enigmatic Student Council president Sirius, and the main character and individual destined to lead to her demise: Maria.

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REVIEW

My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom is an absolute hoot and a really great anime. This really shouldn't be all that surprising as the production company Silver Link is actually behind some of my favorite anime of recent memory, including Restaurant to Another World. I actually really enjoy nearly every show that I have watched from their productions (I will admit that I don't watch as much anime as I really should given my side hustle on this website but the point still stands).

The show is fundamentally a self-aware isekai comedy that relishes in the romance harem tropes that it utilizes whilst also maintaining compelling character interactions and an exceptionally progressive take on relationships, with heterosexual and female homosexual attraction being explored in a completely positive light.
 
The primary point of success with this show lies in its interpersonal relationships. Unlike many isekai which tend to have an overpowered main character, Catarina is almost comically underpowered and relies largely on her genuinely pleasant personality to get her through most of her problems. The first half of the show spends the majority of its time introducing us to the characters in the romantic game and shows how the new Catarina's personality shifts their relationships with not only our main character but each other as well. A particularly fun aspect of this part of the show is watching Catarina completely miss the changes that she enacts on other people, still firmly believing that she is the villain of the romance game when she is actually becoming the main character.

The characters are all amazing, though I will admit that the Student Council President is a minor character through most of the show, only becoming important in the last few episodes. To make up for that, the rest of the cast is spectacularly well-performed and you really get a sense of comradery and genuine affection for each other, especially towards Catarina. Normally the main character being oblivious to the affections of the romantic interests in a harem anime would become quite frustrating for an audience but Catarina is so earnestly ignorant of other people's affections due to her fears of being hurt by the romance game that frustration is largely absent from the mind in place of humor and charm.

In short, Catarina is so sweet and well-meaningly stupid that you almost can't be mad at her for missing very obvious romantic instances. This is due to excellent voice acting work which is shared by all the cast, in both dub and sub. Thankfully, the friendships between her harem members is such that you really don't mind the interactions that occur as a result of Catarina's ignorance and it leads to many hilarious moments.

Of course, another key element of the show is the stellar animation work, which really helps you to connect with the characters. Silver Link has a good reputation in my mind for high quality character design and My Next Life as a Villainess is absolutely no different. The line work is incredibly clean and each character looks like they would absolutely fit in a Japanese dating sim. It really helps immerse the audience in the story and draws you into a generally light-hearted and hilarious romantic comedy.

I had expected the show going in to be very grim or potentially dark due to the main character's role as the villainess, however the "villainess" is actually a running-gag throughout the show. Catarina is simply to emotionally dim to understand her own heroicness and genuinely believes that she is the villainess and therefore "unloveable" from a romantic narrative standpoint.

The show is set to get a second season in July and I am very interested to see where the show goes. The first season actually ends pretty satisfyingly though I do believe that the dating everyone option is hinted at heavily enough that season two is sure to be just as fun and chaotic. The fact that My Next Life as a Villainess also presents a very well-written bisexual romantic harem that genuinely makes me love all the characters and ties that in to a humorous and heartfelt tight narrative that both leaves you in awe of where Catarina's story is headed and yet ever confident that the "villain's" outcome is absolutely going to be happy.

 
VISUALS
  • 7/10
SOUNDTRACK
  • 8/10
CHARACTERS
  • 9/10
STORY
  • 8/10

 FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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