Season aired: Spring 2020
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Harem
Thoughts: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! made headlines on Anime Trending by completely overtaking the Couples polls. Not only did the main protagonist, Catarina Claes, get a reverse harem, but she also received an actual harem. Paired with a total of four boys and three girls, she entered the isekai genre from a different angle compared to previous anime series and made waves across the anime community.
My Next Life as a Villainess takes place in a European-like magical kingdom. Catarina Claes, the extremely spoiled and unlikeable daughter of the powerful Claes family, was walking with the fourth prince of her kingdom, Geordo, while attempting to earn his affection. During her obviously failed attempts, she trips and hits her head so hard that it awakened her past life’s memories. Through them, she realized that she had died tragically in her past life and was reincarnated as one of the antagonists in a famous otome game! Fully equipped with the knowledge that she might die or get exiled in her teenage years, Catarina turns herself around to make sure she can live the remainder of her new life to the fullest.
From the beginning, Catarina proved herself different from the typical isekai protagonist. Aside from the fact that she was female, Catarina was a relatively normal girl when she lived on Earth. Yes, she was an otaku, but she had friends, she got along with her classmates, she had a good relationship with her family, and she had hobbies outside of just otome games and manga reading. Unlike other isekai heroes who start off as “losers” in society, Catarina was by all means a girl enjoying her Earthly life. She was honestly disappointed that she died before she was able to make it to old age, which is why her goal in the series is so different. She doesn’t want to make a name for herself or become a hero. She just wants to ensure that she survives till the end, so she doesn’t waste her second chance at life. Yet, that completely understandable goal is exactly what makes Catarina so likable to viewers and to the characters around her.
After all, one does not lead a normal life by being a mean person. At the heart of Catarina’s tree-climbing antics, she is a nice person who treats other people well. And when she conveniently gets surrounded by characters with rather tragic upbringings — all various tropes found in anime series — she proves that just by being open-minded, genuine, and nice was all it takes to change. It not only positively affects the futures of the characters, but also their personalities down the line.
Add in a good dose of “quirkiness” from both the original Caterina persona and her own Earthly counterpart, the character proves herself as an incredibly entertaining character who’s refreshing to the eyes of the harem interests and viewers. Her thought process and actions clash quite dramatically with the culture of her new world in many comical ways. Catarina’s likability is what makes this series work because unfortunately, the other characters around her aren’t really of importance. We get to see them change from the otome archetype they were originally fashioned after (i.e. the sadistic prince, the playboy, the aggressive loner with a heart of gold, and the quiet boy) into very different people, but that is the extent of their presence in the story. They do change because of Catarina’s influence, but they don’t actually contribute much to the real story aside from Sophia, who is a big walking spoiler.
Which, at times, does also slow the stories down. Because Catarina ingenuously makes every character whoever meets her falls in love with her due to her uniqueness and kindness, the entirety of the plot could be summed up love interests grappling for her attention while she continues to fret about her “doom flags.” Antics and stories begin to repeat themselves near the latter half of the series, which erodes the enjoyment of the first half.
The other flaw that the series ends up facing is the fact that Catarina also doesn’t grow as a character. While the story does make sure to add in a plot twist and a main conflict, the overall issue gets resolved relatively quickly in comparison to the entirety of the series. As a result, character development on a central character is the only other thing to really push the series forward, and that ends up lacking towards the end. Catarina’s complete obliviousness to the characters’ affections towards her never even grows the slightest more aware. Also, because she’s already a nice person with quirks peppered in, there’s no other flaw for her to grow upon aside from the obliviousness.
However, despite my critiques, I still enjoyed My Next Life as a Villainess. Thankfully, even without character development, Catarina is still funny enough to continue the running jokes in each episode. The other members of her harem are all likable, so it makes for fewer ship wars and more for camaraderie because, at this point and time, none of the characters have any chance with her. This allows the audience to join an inclusive and overall warm fandom. With the additional bonuses of vibrant character designs, outfits that I would personally love to own in my closet, a fun soundtrack, and colorful backgrounds, My Next Life as a Villainess is a success of a new kind of isekai adaptation to the anime world.
The second season has already been announced, which shows the effects of Catarina and her bisexual harem, and, while I am excited for what the protagonist still has to confront, I also hope that the story will start taking strides to bigger conflicts and character development. Jokes and antics can only last a series so long.
Voice acting: 8.5
FINAL SCORE: 77