The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
I'm the Villainess, So I'm Taming the Final Boss
How would you rate episode 1 of
I'm the Villainess, So I'm Taming the Final Boss ?
Community score: 4.2
How would you rate episode 2 of
I'm the Villainess, So I'm Taming the Final Boss ?
Community score: 4.4
What is this?
When Aileen regains her memories of her past life, she realizes she's doomed. To get out of her situation, she decides to capture the heart of the Demon Lord.
How was the first episode?
Brace yourselves everyone, the crest of the Villainess isekai wave is about to crash down upon us. My Next Life as the Villainess was the vanguard for this pseudo-revolution, but soon enough we're going to be awash in angry-faced ladies wearing fancy dresses and dropping dating sim lingo like it's going out of fashion. Though, despite sharing a similar gimmick, this sophomore entry does a decent job of separating itself from the boneheaded adventures of Bakarina and her gaggle of love interests.
Mostly that comes down to Aileen, our central villainess, and how she reflects her literally pre-ordained role in the story. Unlike Katarina, who got an attitude change to go along with her brain damage, Aileen uncovers her memories of playing this otome game far too late to shift the narrative tides in her favor, but is nonetheless presented as a much more complex person than the scowling antagonist figure on the front cover of the game. She has a reputation for being standoffish and unapproachable, traits that make it easy for popular opinion to sway against her, but as we follow her through the episode you realize those are defensive mechanisms, keeping people at a distance to avoid seeming vulnerable, and approaching everything in her life with the cynical suspicion of court life. That doesn't mean she's an innocent soul – the girl does poison one of the demon king's familiars to blackmail her way into an audience – but there's an obvious humanity behind her that makes her sympathetic.
I also like the budding romance they establish between her and the Demon King, himself seemingly an outsider looking for the same refuge Aileen won't admit she wants. Claude is a little flat through most of this episode, but it's very funny to see him rain down lightning when he's embarrassed, or watch the enchanted flowers next to him bloom when he starts getting blushy over Aileen's attention. He's got the “brooding loner with a secret soft side” thing down pat, and it plays well against Aileen's simultaneously sincere and duplicitous courtship. Plus there's just something hilarious about him showing up to Aileen's school to sweep her off her feet and take off in a flying carriage, like the bad boy lead in an 80's high school comedy driving up in a convertible to whisk the leading lady away from her preppy ex-boyfriend. Aileen's ultimate goal may be to keep from dying, but you get the feeling she's also a little excited to hit it off with her ex's hot older brother and have a little revenge, as a treat.
Unfortunately all the charming points of this premiere are having to work against the art and animation. Beyond oddly simplistic character designs and the hilariously static CG pegasus, there's just a purveying lack of energy to it all that sucks the fun and drama out of nearly everything. The material and the voice actors manage to communicate a portion of the energy it's going for, but the listless presentation makes it all feel too weightless and half-baked. Jokes don't land the way they should. Dramatic scenes miss the mark wide left without proper build up or atmosphere. It makes the whole first episode feel awkward in a way it really shouldn't, and that makes me less than optimistic about following this show further. There's clearly good fun to be had here, but if this is the best the anime is going to get, it may just be better to check out the LN or manga versions instead.
I fell in love with the manga of I'm the Villainess, So I'm Taming the Final Boss for its somewhat unconventional take on the villainess genre, strong character writing, and attractive art full of goofy facial expressions some months ago. However, since the trailer displayed a major loss of detail to the art and seriously limited animation, I've been anticipating the anime with something resembling dread. True to my expectations, Studio Maho has given us an underwhelming premiere. The animation is stiff and the character art is nowhere near as expressive the manga. There's a serious lack of comic timing as well, as punchlines whizz by without a chance to land before the characters move on to the next topic. It's not just the art that's missing detail; certain key plot and setting details have been omitted for no discernible reason.
However, it really speaks to the strength of the source material that a lot of charm still manages to shine through the muddy production. Perhaps it's just my lack of familiarity with trends in the villainess isekai subgenre, but Aileen came across as a fresh take on it to me. Rather than a decent person one day awakening and supplanting the former character's personality, Aileen continues to be the person she always was, just now with foreknowledge of her potential fate. She's cast as the villainess not because she was ever cruel or uncaring, but because she's hardworking, ambitious, and a touch calculating—all traits that are considered unattractive in young ladies, leading others to perceive her as snobby and self-serving. There's a very real commentary on gender roles happening here, written with a great deal of awareness for how powerful women often end up cast as bossy or strident, when men in the same position would not be.
She has solid chemistry with Claude as well, enough that I can totally buy that by the end of the series, they will be in genuine love and for sure getting married. Claude is believable as a man who has been betrayed by and isolated from his family, and while he's attracted to Aileen and flattered by her attention, he is also slow to trust. He may even see the parallels between himself and her, as both have been unfairly cast aside by the royal family simply for being themselves. It's a good setup for a romance.
I'm not going to fool myself here about Taming the Final Boss's potential to be a hit. Maybe in a slow season, like the one we just finished, it could gain a cult following, but autumn is already stacked with glossy, highly anticipated sequels and high-budget adaptations of big-name shonen titles. An underdog like this doesn't stand much of a chance. Still, I'll be out here singing its praises, unless the adaptation really goes sideways.
This may not be all that different from other villainess isekai (which I think we all have to agree is a legitimate genre now), but it's just so much fun that I'm rating it higher than it perhaps merits. It's also in some ways more enjoyable than in its original novel form, although I fully admit that's because I don't love that the novels are written in the present tense; for whatever reason I have a hard time with that. But it also feels like the episode is truly enjoying itself, from Aileen's sudden awakening to her isekai state to poor, adorable Claude's intense confusion when his younger brother's ex-fiancée shows up at his gate with a proposal of marriage, it's just a romp all around.
And it's also easy to see that Aileen is not the monster Lilia appears to be painting her as. While we don't see the exact moments leading up to Cedric dumping Aileen very publicly, Aileen's flashback does a good job of showing us that this is much more likely to be a case of people misinterpreting her actions than any actual ill-will on her part. She grew up feeling lost and alone, and Cedric's proposal was the first thing that gave her any sense of self-worth. In her drive to become a perfect princess, people began to resent her, and that appears to have led us to Cedric's repudiation of her…and yes, you should be concerned that Lilia's word is what the whole thing hinges on. But more important is the fact that Aileen, in proposing to Claude, is doing for him what Cedric originally did for her. Claude was disinherited when people found out that he was the demon king (how this works is as yet unexplained) and took up residence in a lonely castle in the forest. He's said to resent humans, but really it looks more like he's hurt by humans' treatment of him, and Aileen showing that she doesn't care what species someone is goes a long way towards making Claude feel worthy. It's plain that the demons all love him, but Aileen seems to offer him something more.
It's true that this episode doesn't look amazing. The character designs didn't translate particularly well and that poor horse looks pretty bad. But the characters and the voices are selling it, and I can assure you that the story absolutely builds on what it establishes in this early episode. It's a promising start to an adaptation of a series of books I very much enjoy, so if there's a villainess-shaped hole in your anime-viewing life, give Aileen a chance to fill it.
I love villainess stories. It doesn't matter if they are isekai, time travel, or simply telling a cliché story through the villainess' point of view. They are my crack cocaine and I seek them out voraciously, regardless of the medium. I love how each story puts its own subtle twists on the archetypal narrative framework and revel in all the little differences. In the case of I'm the Villainess, So I'm Taming the Final Boss, the twist is that, after her denouncement, Aileen not only gains memories of her past life but realizes that the only way to survive her looming death at the hands of the demon lord is to seduce him (and, in doing so, prevent him from going on his mad rampage).
Aileen herself is the key to this romantic comedy. While generally a nice person, there is nothing she won't do to ensure her survival—be that poisoning, blackmail, or slipping the demon lord an aphrodisiac. She has no shame about the underhanded things she is doing, and will proudly admit to them after the fact, which makes for some very effective comedy. All she cares about is winning the demon lord's heart, and she sees nothing wrong with pulling out all the stops. She isn't trying to deceive anyone really; she just doesn't think that anyone would believe her story about being reincarnated in a game.
At this point, most of the supporting cast serves as little more than her comedic foils. However, her encounters with her ex-fiance Prince Cedric and the “heroine” Lilia highlight the other mystery of the story: why did Cedric break up with Aileen? He implies that it's because Aileen has been bullying Laila, but we also see Aileen being framed for doing so in this episode. Is this all part of Cedric's plan or is he just a fool being influenced by others? Is Lilia as innocent as she seems or is that all a mask? I, for one, will definitely be back next week to see how this mystery continues to unfold.
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