My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ?
After twelve solid-episodes of accidental seductions and flailing cake binges, we've made it, folks. The villainess has officially avoided her doom, the “good” ending has more or less been secured, and all is right with the world. The only question is: Does Catarina Claes' final adventure (for the time being) prove to be a satisfying and worthwhile conclusion? After stewing over it for a good long while, the answer I've come to is: “Eh. Mostly?”
Look, let's be honest. The Sirius Dieke stuff was never going to be the story's strongest material, because My Next Life as a Villainess has always been strongest when it is functioning as a gentle parody. Fortune Lover, for all intents and purposes, seems to be an incredibly generic and straightforward game. If this whole anime had just been about watching the vanilla routes of the game play out normally, it probably would have been boring as hell. The whole gimmick of My Next Life as a Villainess is the thing that makes it so fun. Catarina's very nature and presence in her friends' lives has flipped the script in amusing and silly ways. The biggest problem with the Sirius Dike story is that it is played almost entirely straight. The boy has a tragic past, he commits some crimes, we get some anguished exposition monologues, and everything is resolved via the power of friendship. There's absolutely nothing here you haven't seen done before, and more interestingly to boot.
But yeah, for those in the audience that were absolutely dying for some kind of dramatic climax to Catarina's “Doom Arc,” Sirius Dieke has a bridge's worth of spooky backstory to sell you. It's surprisingly convoluted too, as we learn that the boy known as “Sirius Dieke” is actually Ralph Walt, the bastard son of Baron Dieke and a house maid (there's a lot of that going around this kingdom, eh?). The real Sirius Dieke was Raphael's half-brother, until a vague illness threatened to kill him young, which is when Marchioness Dieke hired a Black Mage to perform some ungodly spell or other that would transfer the dying Sirius' memories and whatnot into Raphael's body. The catch was that the spell required a human sacrifice, as all good spells do, and so Raphael's poor mother was put on the chopping block.
Then, the Marchioness stabbed the mage that performed the spell, on account of the whole ritual being a profane abomination to all things decent, which probably wouldn't go over well in the Dieke's social circle if word got out. Then, as we later discover, the soul of the murdered mage also invaded Sirius/Raphael's body, influencing him to do his dark deeds and altering his memories to convince him that his dying mother demanded vengeance. The ghost mage didn't account for one thing, though, which is that Catarina can win over literally any soul with the power of just being kind of nice, so she gives Raphael a hug and basically solves the whole thing without breaking a sweat.
I ask, was indulging all of this vaguely grim plot wankery really necessary, in the end? I suppose you could justify it in that the story needed to have Catarina's ultimate doom trial come eventually, but then again, the show got along just fine just by dangling the existential threat of doom over Catarina's head like the Sword of Damocles. If this had been one episode, or even just two, I might have an easier time accepting it as a necessary evil, but the whole first half of this season finale is devoted to resolving a problem that we all know is going to end up just fine, and it isn't like Raphael is such a compelling and likable character that we desperately need to see his story play out. The only thing the dude is even good at, apparently, is making tea. And that isn't hard. You just dunk some leaves and a little dirt into a cup of hot water, right?
(I don't drink much tea, to tell you the truth.)In any case, it isn't like the show cares that much about the big high-stakes adventure Catarina and Co. just had, because it jumps to the final event of Fortune Lover, the second-year graduation party, with almost no fanfare. It's like the last three episodes didn't even happen! That being said, we get one last hurrah with Catarina's Harem, and it's pretty cute, so I'm not too mad. Catarina gives Nicol a “veggie bouquet,” which is a legitimately great gift, and Geordo and Alan play a concert together. It's fun. Given that this is where Maria is supposed to finally choose her romantic partner, though, Catarina notices that something is off, and naturally she completely misses the fact that everyone is simply happy (and exclusively interested in Catarina).
In fact, we get the most direct love confession of the series, so far, when a panicky Catarina asks Maria who she “like” likes. Maria, of course, spells it out plainly: She likes Catarina. Our heroine objects, what with her being both really dense and weirdly oblivious to the possibility that a girl could be attracted to another girl for someone who was apparently obsessed with dating games and otaku culture. When Catarina specifies whether there is a boy that Maria is romantically attracted to and wants to be in a relationship with, not only does Maria say no, she gives as straightforward and obvious and answer that any character could possibly give: “The only one I love, admire, and want to be with for all time is you, Lady Catarina. So please allow me to stay by your side from now on.”
Catarina even acknowledges that this is, word-for-word, the same line Maria uses on whatever boy she happens to conquer in Fortune Lover. So what does she make of it? Why, this is the “friendship ending” of course! Everyone is just good friends, nobody falls in love, and doom avoided. Fin.
It's the obvious but appropriate punchline to the whole show, and a perfectly fine note to end the series on (I was never going to be convinced that the show would end with Catarina actually picking someone; I know what kind of game this is). That leaves one final question, though: Why in the world would the show need a second season, and what could it possibly be about? I haven't read the light novels, nor do I plan to, but this feels like a very definitive ending for Catarina and Her Polyamorous Bisexual Harem of Doom. Do we really need another 12 episodes of Catarina accidentally seducing people and being utterly incapable of picking up on the most obvious “I'm horny for you” signals a human can possibly receive? I'm not sure. This first season was a fun little ride, though, so I won't write off the second season without giving it a fair shake. As Catarina notes as the season comes to a close, she's about to enter territory that never even got covered in the Fortune Lover game. These here are uncharted romantic waters, which means anything is possible, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little curious to know what happens next.
Odds and Ends
• Shipping Wars: I suppose the idea is to come up with a concrete winner of the Eternal War for Catarina's Heart, and though I love all of these goofy dorks, I think I have to go with Maria. Geordo, Alan, and Nicol never got enough time to demonstrate real romantic chemistry with Catarina, and Sophia seems just as happy to let her brother have Catarina, so I don't think it matters who wins in her case. Mary is great, of course, and Keith is easily the most charming and likable of the male suitors, but Maria is a difficult pick to beat. What I mean by that is that the only thing Catarina has every been lustful for is cake, and Maria's baking prowess will satisfy Catarina's dark and inhuman cravings for sweets for years to come. It's a match made in heaven.
• I didn't miss out on the after-credits sequence this time, everyone! Of course, this would happen for the least important stinger of all time, because all we see is how Catarina sold that realistic snake toy she never used to some shop in town. Good for her?
• This series might win the award for having the most consistent grades of any show I've reviewed, as most episodes of the show earned a 3.5/5, a couple earned only a three, and just one earned a 2.5. So it makes sense that, overall, I'd give this first season of My Next Life as a Villainess a 3.5. There were stumbles here and there, but it was a cute and harmless harem comedy that made me smile more often than not. Catch you all around for Season 2!
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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