My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! ?
“Things Go Crazy At a Slumber Party” asks a question that was inevitable for My Next Life as a Villainess: Just how many times can we see yet another character fall hopelessly in love with Catarina Claes before the formula becomes stale? The titular slumber party in the episode's title is more of an afterthought than anything as it turns out, and the brief vignette that Geordo gets at the end of the story is really just there to fill time. The real focus of the episode is on Anne, the maid who has been by Catarina's side all these years. As we see Catarina's life and friendships through Anne's perspective, we also learn why Anne has also devoted her life to the always expanding Cult of Catarina.
Interestingly, a portion of the episode feels almost like a recap, with Anne standing by and reflecting on all of the different paramours Catarina has unwittingly cultivated ever since her body and soul were stolen by a dead teenager from another dimension (there's a real existential horror vibe to all of these isekai plots that just begs to be explored, now that I think of it). It's a bit redundant for anyone that isn't for some reason starting the series on Episode 9, since all of these points are literally what the whole show is about every week. I will say that it's nice to see that other characters in this world are not only completely aware that both the men and the women in Catarina's harem are in love with her, but that it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal.
Later, when the girls all get together for their pajama party, they have their prerequisite Love Talks, and Mary isn't even trying to hide that she's only really interested in women, and Catarina more specifically. Catarina is a little surprised when her assumption that all of her friends would exclusively be into men is challenged, but she isn't grossed out or anything…though she is still too dense to pick up on Mary's signals, which couldn't possibly be more obvious at this point. Granted, we have yet to meet a significant character in this series that isn't in love with Catarina, so I don't know how much this assumed tolerance for other sexualities is actually worth, but the bar for queer representation and acceptance in anime is so damned low that I'll take what I can get.
As for Anne, when the girls ask about whether she has any romantic prospects lined up that might marry her out of a life of servitude, she makes it very clear that she doesn't plan on ever getting married…specifically so she can devote her life to serving Catarina. You see, Anne was born as the illegitimate child of Baron Shelley, and she bears a large scar on her left arm from a fire she barely survived years ago. That fire also took Anne's mother away, and the Baron was quick to dispose of a daughter who now stood no chance of being married by a noble, so Anne was sent to live an empty and aimless life as a maid for the Claes family. That is, until that knock on Catarina's head transformed her into the idiot-savant of goodness and generosity that she is today, which totally turned Anne's life around. When Anne's father up and decided one day to marry her off after all, young Catarina was the one who barged in and demanded that Anne stay. Anne only ever wanted to be loved and needed, and making people feel loved and needed is Catarina's specialty, even if it is sometimes because she can literally be too absurd to function on her own.
I would be lying if I said the whole dynamic wasn't utterly adorable, though the age gap between the characters and the fact that Anne basically helped raise Catarina would make a romantic framing of their relationship a bit trickier. Then again, Catarina was nearly an adult when she got body swapped into Fortune Lover, which kind of makes her older than most every character by almost a decade. The show did go out of its way to emphasize that she was decidedly not attracted to any of her potential love interests when they were kids, it's still strange to consider someone with the mental age of a person in their 20s to fall in love with a teenager that they've known since they were a child…
You know what? Maybe it's best if we just don't overthink that stuff. Anne's love for Catarina is heartwarming and novel enough that I don't mind My Next Life as a Villainess going back to a familiar well yet again. Catarina herself is so naïve and innately good that I'm also willing to give the whole fundamental concept of this series the benefit of the doubt, which is definitely good, seeing as we're already reaching the tail end of the season. Catarina and the audience both can take comfort in one thing: No matter how the War for Catarina's Heart concludes, we know she'll always have Anne around to look out for her.
Odds and Ends
• Shipping Wars: I think the jury is still out on whether Anne's love for Catarina is romantic in the same way that the other competitors' are, so I'll award her the perennial Best Maid award for now and see where things go. Mary is still gunning hard for the top Best Girl spot, and I have nothing but respect for the lengths she is trying to go to express her feelings. Not much action to report on the male side of things, except for…
• …the scene at the end where Geordo gets a romantic looking invitation from Catarina, and buys her a pair of engraved golden shears as proof of his love, only to arrive at one of Catarina's surprise gardening parties. The gag is that everyone else also thought Catarina wanted to confess her love for them, and each of them also bought some ridiculously expensive shears as a romantic token. It's a filler bit, though I did end up appreciating Geordo just a tiny bit more.
• One of the best lines of the week shockingly goes to Nicol! When Catarina suggests that all the boys have a pajama party of their own, Keith and Geordo scoff at the idea, though Alan thinks it sounds fun. Nicol's eyes are positively glistening with wonder, however, as he imagines the possibility of spending “The whole night…talking about boy stuff?”
• The other best line> Mary's proclamations of all the things she would do if a “boy” fell in love with her: “I'd want to eat meals with them, bathe with them…And we could comb each other's hair…Oh, and we could style each other's hair…And we could trade dresses!”
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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