My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X
Episodes 1-3

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X (TV 2) ?

We may not have a victor in the competition for the heart of Catarina Claes, but at least two of these three episodes belong to Nichol Ascart. That's actually pretty much in line with the way the novels run (or at least the better ones); although everyone tends to be present for at least part of each of the source books, there's always one suitor who gets the bulk of the romance plot. We haven't really gotten there in terms of the novel currently being adapted, but when Nichol gets the spotlight like he does in episodes one and two, who cares? (That's not to imply that these are anime-original storylines – the whole school festival is present in the source material.)

Since Nichol makes my personal list of top three people Catarina could end up with, that's a nice boon. But what's more important is the way that he manages to assert himself here. Geordo is a champion at making himself and his feelings known to everyone except our oblivious heroine, but Nichol is arguably the most reserved. In part that's because Geordo is both his best friend and Catarina's official fiancé, but he's also just a quieter guy than anyone else. (Keith comes off that way, but I think that's more because he's also an anxious fellow.) Sophia, the sole member of the mixed-gender harem who isn't after Catarina's heart for herself, does her level best to promote her brother's interests, but unlike virtually everyone else, Nichol's his own obstacle alongside Catarina's intense obliviousness. Therefore, he's not just going to act on his own. He needs someone to create the opportunities for him.

Luckily for him, aspiring romance novelist Sophia has his back, and the device of the school play, a Sorcié version of Cinderella, is the perfect chance. Getting Nichol and Catarina to read the romantic confession scene is inspired (especially when Catarina's own flub up gives Nichol his opening), but it's really the play itself in episode two that wins the day. When Catarina has to fill in as the Evil Stepsister, Sophia seizes her moment and writes in a romance for her as well…played by Nichol, of course. That moment when Geordo goes off-script out of jealousy and Nichol just pauses for a bare second before wrapping his arm around Catarina is practically passionate – and the first major declaration of his intent that Nichol has made. That it's swiftly followed by Keith barging in on the scene and a three-way sword-and-rake fight just makes it the story we all know and love.

It really is about the little moments in these opening episodes. Certainly, Nichol's are the most noticeable, but other characters have good ones as well, such as Maria perking up when Raphael suggests that Catarina could work at the Ministry in order to avoid marriage for a bit. Geordo glancing down at Catarina's cleavage (okay, it shows him glancing at her neck, but come on – we all know) and getting huffy about her showing so much skin is another good one, as well as Mary zeroing in on how Keith has managed to finagle Catarina into feeding him on a regular basis. But the most important small gestures happen in episode three, after it's been revealed that Selena, Prince Ian's fiancée, is behind (or “behind”) the kidnapping. Selena is certainly way too nice to the woman she's kidnapped, but more than that, the purple sheen her eyes take on when she's about to reveal too much or do something that would help Catarina, and who's beside her every single time, is a notable plot point. Dark magic has been behind Catarina's troubles before, and it certainly looks to be again. There's no doubt that butler Rufus is doing more than just butle; the question is how much and why he wants Geordo and Ian out of the way. We should also wonder about Lana, the Anne clone waiting on Catarina. Is she in on it? Or is she working for Selena? It's also worth questioning if it's Lana or Selena (or Rufus) who knows so much about Catarina. Sure, the whole kingdom knows Geordo is head-over-heels for his fiancée (minus the girl herself), but does the whole kingdom also know quite so much about Catarina's habits? Maybe this isn't quite the low-stakes kidnapping Catarina thinks it is, or at least acts like it is.

Whatever the answer, it's nice to get back to this group. This season already looks to be doing a slightly better job of incorporating the sections narrated by other characters, which I missed in season one, and the reveal about Mary and Alan's alliance is a nice one, not just because it shows us what's really going on with them, but also because it gives us a clear friendship that doesn't directly involve Catarina, as well as a softer side of Mary, who is otherwise moving into being the scariest and most determined member of the harem as far as her determination to get Catarina back. Catarina may have survived Fortune Lover's plot, but life isn't just like a game that ends with (lovely art nouveau) credits rolling. There are still plenty of perils for Catarina to eat and nap her way through before she gets to any kind of happy ending.


My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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