Isekais have transported otaku culture to another huge trend, a trend that I’ve mostly avoided for the most part. Most of the isekai light novels, manga, and anime I’ve experienced are badly written, generic power fantasies with skin deep concepts (which, as Buck Naked In Another World shows, can be quite literal). It takes something unique, such as the witty first-person narration of So I’m A Spider, So What?, to win me over. Good thing that not only does *breathes in* My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom! *heavy breathing* have a good voice, it also has a unique concept to boot.
The title is literally the plot summary, but here it goes: Katarina Claes is a spoiled, evil daughter of a duke living in a fantasy world. Then one fateful day, she regains memories from her past life. She used to be a kind Japanese girl who played the otome game (a term for Japanese dating sims aimed at females) Fortune Lover, which featured a villainess character who always ended up being exiled or killed at the end of the love interest routes. The villainess was named… Katarina Claes?!?!? Luckily, Katarina is currently eight, and the events of the game take place when she will be fifteen, so Katarina has time to prepare, avoid these fates, and form her own route.
Not only does Katarina regain all her memories, she also regains her previous personality as well. She is no longer a brat but a kind, gentle, thick-headed soul. Oh, what a thick-headed soul. The fans of the novels have nicknamed Katarina “Bakarina,” and for good reason. The first volume is dedicated to Katarina meeting Fortune Lover’s major characters. As she meets them, she unwittingly makes them all fall in love with her! This is a reverse harem story after all.
This is also a comedy, and the author Satoru Yamaguchi injects a light-hearted spirit into the prose. Katarina will sometimes have meetings in her head, with the various facets of herself in attendance. It’s a fun concept that Yamaguhi uses to create hilarious exchanges. As for the strong supporting cast, the author is able to give each character their own distinct voice, which is shown at the end of each chapter.
In an inspired move, the chapter ends with the point of view switching from Katarina to another character, often a love interest, and we get to see what they were thinking as the chapter’s events unfolded. There’s something special about how reverse harem stories develop the love interests so that you fully understand why they fall for the protagonist. Katarina often fills a need in their life, solving a problem that is relatable to anyone: they’re lonely or unable to fit into the royal lifestyle they are forced into at birth. Katarina saves them from themselves, and only Katarina, now that she’s acting as her true self, can do that.
What really speaks to me is the theme of making your own choices. Dating sims are about player choice, and now Katarina has to destroy the choices set up by the game’s developers. Just by being herself, Katarina has created so much change in just the first volume that there’s no telling how the events that are supposed to take place in the game will unfold. Will destiny rear its ugly head and ruin Katarina’s self-determination?
Side note: The best side effect of being an otome game is that there’s no overcomplicated game mechanics. Imagine an isekai light novel that’s not pages and pages of leveling up text. Imagine no more!
I should also note that my review copy had a publishing hiccup: The first page or two of the epilogue doesn’t exist. When you turn the page after finishing the sixth chapter, it jumps to the middle of a sentence. Be on the lookout for that!
I’m glad I gave this book a chance. Satoru Yamaguchi is doing something new in a tired genre, and I’m excited to learn what situations Katarina will blunder her way through.
After hitting her head particularly hard one day, Duke Claes' daughter, Katarina, suddenly recalls all the memories of her past life: that of a teenage Japanese girl. Just before her untimely death, this girl recalls playing an otome game... that is exactly like the world she's living in now! 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... Will Katarina survive while making her way through this world, where bad flags trip at every turn? Find out in this reverse-harem rom-com, led by everybody's favorite villainess!Add to CartLearn More