Original Run: April 5, 2020 - June 21, 2020
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Harem, Isekai, Romance
Based on the Series Created: Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom. Reader discretion is advised.***
When she was young, Catarina Claes (voiced by Maaya Uchida) was shaping up to be a horrid villainess. Then one day, she had an accident that caused her to remember memories of her previous life as a teenage otaku who loved to play dating sims. The world she is living in now is identical to her past self’s favorite title, Fortune Lover’s, and her current life would transform into the role of the game’s bad guy.
Unfortunately, that would mean Catarina is doomed to either exile or death. Fortunately, Catarina’s in-depth knowledge of Fortune Lover might be able to prevent such a fate.
Catarina immediately begins to befriend the people her video game incarnation would one day torment. So, instead of becoming the big baddie, Catarina is turning into the admired protagonist of her own story.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom (Villainess) will prove to be a rather significant series. Although I will acknowledge this show was good, I won’t pretend it didn’t have issues, but we’ll get to that later in the review. For the moment, I want to focus on not just one but two aspects this story did incredibly well.
First, as an isekai anime, Villainess was unique. If I had to compare this show with anything, the only comparable series is Ascendance of a Bookworm. Neither are high-adventure fantasy narratives. Both had elements of magic, but at their cores, they were stories that centered around character interactions instead of over-the-top action pieces.
Where Ascendance of a Bookworm and Villainess differed was in their respective scopes. Ascendance was much larger in what it wanted to attempt; there was a sense of great destiny to everything that transpired. Villainess, on the other hand, was – for the lack of a better phrase – a straightforward harem anime.
Now, I will return to the thing I just said, but before that, there is something I want to mention. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but Villainess’s character designs, I thought, fit well with the setting. Main character Catarina Claes’s appearance didn’t have the flash or sparkle of a protagonist from a dating simulation game. She looked like a side-character, which, I guess, would be a negative for other shows. However, in this case, I’m considering it to be a smart detail since Catarina was initially a side character, and Fortune Lover’s actual protagonist looked the part of a heroine when she made her appearance in this series.
Getting back on track, Villainess was a harem anime and a decent one at that. This series did everything you should expect from a standout story from this genre. The harem-center (Catarina) was exciting, and it was clear why other characters would fall for her. Conversely, the harem-routes each had a legitimate claim at being the choice for the center. This latter part was particularly impressive since Villainess had quite a lot of harem-routes Catarina could have gone down.
This series was at its best when it was building up the harem. For the first few episodes, before the events seen in Fortune Lover, it was fun to see Catarina grow close with the many different characters. This then continued later in the show when Catarina reached the point in her life that corresponded to the game.
This chain of events, though well-done, wasn’t anything special in of itself; I have seen plenty of other harem anime be as equally solid as this was. What separated Villainess was the make-up of Catarina’s harem routes. If she were to choose a direction, Catarina’s partner could have been anyone, be them rich, poor, shy, outgoing, male, or female. Each route was their own character, and yet, it made sense why they would all be attracted to Catarina’s kindhearted and welcoming personality.
If nothing else, Villainess should be considered a benchmark for other harem anime. If you want to know how this type of story can be done well, you need only look at this show. This series put all its emphasis on how the characters acted towards one another. Simple human decency, rather than attractiveness or bust size, is far more enduring.
From what I can tell, it appears Villainess is scheduled to receive a second season sometime in 2021. That may be intriguing, but I do have one question.
This story had an ending. It wasn’t a particularly exciting one (I’ll get to that), but it was pretty damn definitive if you ask me. I mean, yeah, Catarina didn’t choose a single route to follow. However, that is quite typical for harem anime since, you know, the harem is the entire point of the narrative.
What I am about to say is a bit of a spoiler, but I feel it does need to be brought up. This series reached the conclusion of Fortune Lover, like, we saw the ultimate result. Where do you go from there? Sure, the story can now focus on building up the harem and bringing the characters even closer, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of the show, or, at least, what the title suggests.
A second season probably would have had a lot of material to work with had this installment not rushed the ending as it did. Villainess’s finale was not a good one.
The last few episodes of this series were boring in comparison to what came before them. I would say a generic villain showed up out of nowhere, except this show made it painfully obvious who this mystery bad guy was going to be. There was magic, murder, and vengeance, which could have been fine. Unfortunately, this story hadn’t done any of that up to that point. I could not bring myself to care about what was happening, which was disappointing, considering I liked Villainess’s characters.
Then again, it probably didn’t help that the ending was set in stone after the very first episode. Excluding a massive bit of f@#$ery, Catarina’s fate, according to Fortune Lover, was only going to end one way. This series went into great detail about the circumstances that made the game’s version of events the way they were. Even the slightest change to those circumstances would completely distort what could happen. And the thing was, there was nothing slight about Catarina’s actions. She wasn’t the character described in the game.
Long story short, Villainess’s weakest point was its ending. That said, I do want to see whatever season two is going to do. Granted, much of that interest stems from me wanting to find out just where the hell this story thinks it is going to go. But mostly, though, this installment was good, so I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
This series was okay. Although it might have floundered with its conclusion, everything up to that point was, well, on point.
This show had an outstanding cast of characters that were fun, interesting, and worth supporting. Along with that, this series helped add a whole new layer to not just one, but two anime genres. That alone is enough to tell me this one was unique.
However, I do have to reiterate: This ending wasn’t good.
Nevertheless, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.