My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ?
If My Next Life as a Villainess has any kind of moral at its center, it would have to be this: Maria is a precious angel, and her smile must be protected at all costs. If it has any other life lessons to be learned, though, then an easy one to pick out would be “never underestimate the power of kindness.” This episode is the kind that is so devoid of traditional conflict that the title of the episode tells you everything you have to know about the plot: “I Visited the Heroine's Parent's House…” After deciding that she and Maria absolutely need to be best friends, Catarina drags Keith along on a little adventure to see Maria in her hometown, and things mostly go perfectly fine. Outside of Catarina once again rescuing Maria from some school bullies, that's the only other major event of the episode, really, and the closest thing we get to a “conflict” is that Maria's mother feels distant from her daughter, until she doesn't just a little later on.
That's totally okay, though, because that's all the conflict this episode needs. After all, this is a story about how an absurdly friendly and sweet young woman named Catarina is just so very sweet to everyone around her, she's basically ensured their undying love for life…even if she's a bit too dense to notice it herself. After all, Catarina doesn't do anything extraordinary for Maria this week: She stands up to some of the Academy's Mean Girls, she compliments Maria's baking and takes an interest in her personal life, and then she goes out of her way to pay a house visit and help out in Maria's family garden.
It's basic friend stuff, at the end of the day — even if it's becoming increasingly clear that Maria probably wouldn't mind being more than friends with her new schoolmate. In the episode's funniest and cutest moment, Catarina tries to casually ask if Maria “likes” anyone, since she believes that any one of Maria's love routes will spell nothing but doom. Blushing to high heaven, Maria doesn't even hesitate when she says “Well, I'm awfully fond of you”, with Mary and Sophia both immediately chiming in that they also like Catarina most of all. Catarina thinks the girls are just confusing the kind of “like” she meant, but we're not so thick. I'm happy to see that the show isn't exactly playing its yuri potential with any subtlety, but that only means there's less of an excuse to settle for lame queer-baiting down the road.
Either way, what warms my heart about an episode like this is how much mileage it gets out of Catarina and her friends just being nice to one another. Keith is the first one to point out how Catarina just dropping by Maria's place uninvited could be a bad idea, but he's also the first to put the townspeople's harsh rumors about Maria's parentage on ice, and he's out there helping in the garden just as much as Catarina. The whole root of Maria's inner-conflict is the isolation she's felt ever since she, a lowly commoner, developed healing magic, as it caused her whole village to write her off as a freak to be avoided. All Maria ever wanted was to feel seen again, and to know that she is being seen for who she is, and not what she can do when she casts a spell. Catarina provided just that, and sure, some of Catarina's affections come from her unholy addiction to dessert food, but who could blame her? Besides, our heroine is terribly eager just to spend more time with Maria this whole episode, and to genuinely be a good friend.
That's enough to get Maria's mother to recognize the harm her own distance and selfishness must have done to her daughter, and while the character isn't as finely drawn as she could have been, she serves her purpose well enough. When she gives Catarina her “blessing” to be her daughter's “totally platonic friend”, she squeezes Maria's shoulder with that anxious kind of love that feels so particular to parenthood. It's a small change, but a powerful one. Catarina simply wanting to be nice to her friend is the kind of seed that will blossom into who knows how many treasured memories down the road. Kindness is the catalyst for all sorts of life changing transformations, and that's a lesson we could all stand to remember these days.
Odds and Ends
• Shipping Wars: If you couldn't tell, I'm about as smitten with Maria as Catarina was this week, and I can definitely see the argument to be made for her and Catarina as the newest candidates for Best and Cutest Couple. It's really a neck-and-neck race between Maria and Keith at this point, though a lot of that probably owes to the relatively large amount of screen-time they've received, since every other love interest has only gotten a smattering of lines over the last two episodes.
• Catarina's years of magical training have given her the spell “Earth Bump”, which allows her to summon a tiny mound of earth from the ground that can be mildly inconvenient to would-be bullies and passersby. It's adorable.
• Sirius Dieke is back again this week, and I still couldn't tell you why he's here, but I really enjoyed the episode's joke about how surprised Catarina was that such an unimportant side-character from Fortune Lover could lead such an interesting life. He's apparently got a large enougy flock of ladies adoring him to rival Nicol's, and one has to wonder why….
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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