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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
Episode 3

by James Beckett,

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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ?

Given that we still had some characters from the OP left to meet, it only stood to reason that My Next Life as a Villainess would spend some more time introducing its otome game cast before finally pulling the trigger on the inevitable timeskip. Sure enough, this week Sophia and Nicol Ascart have arrived as the final two members of Catarina's ever-growing harem.So far, every character has had their specific connection that eventually triggers their unyielding adoration for our dense Catarina: Geordo is her betrothed, Alan is Geordo's rascally rival, Keith is the doe-eyed and jealous adopted brother, Mary's confidence got a huge boost from Catarina's charms, and now we've got the Ascart siblings.

Sophia's infatuation with Catarina makes the most sense between the two of them, because, despite living in the world of an anime dating sim, her snow-white hair and blood-red eyes aren't a normal, everyday occurrence. She's spent her whole life being ostracized and gossiped about, with only her loyal brother and her romance books to keep her company. “Sophia and the Emerald Princess” is one of those books, a same-sex romance that tells of a girl who is spellbound by the beauty of the princess that sweeps her off her feet. Catarina, being the otaku that she is, devours the same romance books in lieu of the manga and anime she's used to, and she's desperate to find someone to geek out with. When Catarina rescues Sophia from some bullies at yet another fancy tea party, Catarina is just happy to find a bookworm to chat with, while Sophia…well, you can guess where her feelings end up. It's pretty darn cute.

Nicol, on the other hand, I can't get a read on. Even pre-death Catarina wasn't interested enough in him to pursue his route in Fortune Lover; she only knows a bit of his storyline thanks to some off-hand information from one of her otaku friends. The only solid fact the council can settle on is that he has a sister-complex, which makes you think he'd be more of a rival for Sophia's love than another suitor for Catarina, but it's hard to say where he lands at the moment. Of the men in the cast, he is intentionally being played up as the hardest nut to crack, which makes him my least favorite member of the boys almost by default.

Still, Catarina's scenes with both of the siblings are enjoyable, and they feature a trope that is often all too absent from the isekai stories I'm used to, where Catarina reflects on her former life in our world and uses that knowledge to make decisions and analyze the people around her, and it goes beyond just Fortune Lover. I always like it when you can see the effects of losing everything you ever knew and were for an entirely new existence, and My Next Life as a Villainess does it in a way that isn't too self-serious or dour.

The most significant order of business, though, is that we finally have our timeskip! It's a little abrupt, actually, as if the show just decided enough exposition was enough and flipped the Seven Years Later button as quickly as it could once all of the characters had been given names and personality traits. I wouldn't have minded a softer transition, but hey, everyone's older now and the romantic tension has been cranked up to eleven. There isn't a whole lot to analyze or react to in this scene, as it simply consists of Catarina taking turns dancing with the rest of the cast at her fifteenth birthday ball. It's a funny and cute update on where the characters are at, which basically amounts to all of them vying for Catarina's attention in the same way they did as kids, but more: Geordo is downright aggressive with his horniness; Keith is very jealous and protective; Mary learned the boy and the girl parts to make sure she got her dance time; Sophia has been dying to reenact the romantic dance scene in one of her favorite romance novels; and Nicol is as ambiguous as ever.

A dating-game is only as strong as its characters, and My Next Life as a Villainess has delivered us a perfectly likable cast of goofs. Catarina is anxious about entering into Academy, because that is where her ostensible rival awaits her, along with all of those pesky Doom Flags, but I think we all know that Catarina's real challenges are going to come from all of the men and women in her life that are actively fighting to be her paramour. It's a good thing everyone is so accepting of how thick she can be, since she's too obsessed with her fate to see that she's become the center of everyone's world, and we haven't even met Fortune Lover's erstwhile protagonist yet…


Odds and Ends

• A particularly silly running gag is Catarina's total inability to attend even one party where she doesn't eat herself silly, only to end up running straight for the bathroom.

• Perfect evidence for Catarina's borderline superhuman obliviousness: Geordo straight-up plants a hickey on her neck at the ball, and a furious Keith rubs the spit off her neck, claiming it was a bug bite, and Catarina apparently buys that 100%.

• Geordo: “Catarina, I know I told you this before, but I have no intention of breaking off our engagement.” Catarina: “All right. But if anyone else ever catches your eye, just say so. I'll back off without putting up a fight.” Geordo, still smiling: “Right. I understand you don't understand at all.”

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

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

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