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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
Episode 4

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 4 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ?

It is time for Catarina and Co. to start their new lives at the largest magical Academy in Sorcier, which gives our heroine plenty to fret over. This isn't just a huge step in Catarina growing up and becoming the refined young noblewoman her family wants her to be; the Academy is also where the story of Fortune Lover begins, which means the arrival of the humble young woman named Maria. In the original otome game, Maria was the one who stole the hearts of either Geordo, Keith, Alan or Nicol, and Catarina has spent the better part of her new life in Sorcier reflecting on how every one of those potential futures leads to her doom. You know, like it says in the title of the show.

Obviously, that doom is incredibly unlikely at this point, and in Episode 4 one of the main gags continues to be how oblivious Catarina is to the positive effect she's had on the men and women who she now calls her friends. Namely, Catarina doesn't realize that she's changed them all so much for the better that every one of them is being stupidly obvious in how much they wish they could me more than friends with her. Geordo might still be a wily nobleman with a penchant for brazen come-ons, but Catarina still doesn't understand that he is being very plain and honest when he says he has no intention of calling off their long engagement. Alan, no longer a rough rascal with an inferiority complex, is blossoming in his passion for music (and who do you think he wants to come to his recital most of all?) Keith may have grown up to be a frivolous playboy in the original Fortune Lover, but this version of Catarina's adopted brother is a soft and sweet boy who turns every shade of scarlet when Catarina suggests he might be trying to seduce Maria. Nicol…well, like Catarina's Inner Council, I still can't get much of a read on him, but I'm sure he's much the same, as are Mary and Sophia.

It's My Next Life as a Villainess' one joke: Catarina is obsessed with averting her doom, and she can't even see that she hasn't just altered the course of the dating sim she's living in; she inadvertently secured her throne as Queen of the Bisexual Harem before Maria even entered the story! High-concept anime like this live or die on the strength of their One Joke, and this is fortunately a pretty funny one. Like all good sitcoms, it doesn't matter if the gags and story beats get repeated and shuffled around all the time, because it's just so much fun to hang out with the characters while they all act like dumb goofballs.

Speaking of Maria, she looks to be another fine addition to the crew, which naturally means she falls completely in love with Catarina by the end of the episode. Given how prominent the Catarina and Maria pairing is in My Next Life as a Villainess' OP and marketing material, I'd love to get my hopes up and dream that this story will commit to the same-sex romance as its “canon” pairing, but I know better by now. The best I can hope for is that the show won't treat the possibility of Catarina ending up with any of her friends as a total joke, and there might even be a chance, given how unabashed Catarina is in admitting how striking Maria is every time they speak to each other. Plus, Catarina constantly misinterpreting the other boys' interest in Maria is bound to make for some shenanigans.

At the end of the day, though, the romantic pretext of this story is just that: A pretext. I don't actually figure that this story will give us any definitive answer for who Catarina will end up with romantically, and it doesn't really need to. We've gotten through a quarter of the season simply by virtue of these young gentlemen and gentlewomen being cute friends and making us laugh. Another eight episodes of that will suit me just fine.

Rating:

Odds and Ends

Shipping Wars: That said, now that the whole gang has been established, I will absolutely be speculating on who the best and worst lovers for our dear, dumb Catarina would be, because that's a part of the fun, isn't it? As of Episode 4, my personal pick for Best Partner would probably be either Sophia (I'm a sucker for bookworms, okay?), but the Cutest Partner might well be Keith. He's trying really hard, okay??

• I love that Catarina has just developed this habit of springing out of bushes or treetops to rescue her friends from bullies. Now, I'm just imagining all of the villains in the story getting spooked every time they pass by a shrub or something.

• Catarina, who is most definitely not a coward, immediately follows up her dashing rescue of Maria by stopping to the ground and shamelessly devouring Maria's dropped baked goods off of the grass. She seriously eats a whole basket of muffins in, like, five seconds, and you know what? Good for her. I'm not about to shame our girl for living her best life.

• We also meet the student council president this week, whose name is Sirius Dieke. The guy seems fine, but I really can't get over his name, and I am not going to feel bad about abusing it for the sake of every stupid and juvenile pun I can think of.

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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