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by Rebecca Silverman,

The Villainess Stans the Heroes

GN 1

The Villainess Stans the Heroes GN 1

After she dies in a merch-related incident, an average Japanese woman finds herself reborn as the antagonist of the mobile RPG she was obsessed with. She's okay with that, though, because all she wants to do is watch her favs in real-time, and she sets about ensuring that the story can unfold exactly as it should. But the thing about characters in the real world is that they become people, which may have some unforeseen consequences for the woman who is now Eldea Euclair!

The Villainess Stans the Heroes is translated by Leighann Harvey and lettered by Rochelle Gancio.


Is it even possible to develop twists to the villainess isekai formula anymore? Probably, but the majority of series are more than content to tweak it rather than attempting to make something new. That's both perfectly okay and completely understandable – as with any form of genre fiction, it's popular because of the basic tropes, and to fiddle with them is to risk upsetting, or at least failing to gain the attention of, the fanbase. We read mysteries because we know and like the rules of the genre, we consume romance because we like the happy endings, and we indulge in villainess isekai because we want to buy into the fantasy of being able to live in the world of our favorite game and influence it – or whatever your personal reason is. Genre fiction works because it is, to a degree, proscribed.

All of that is to say that if you aren't (still) a fan of a story where someone gets reborn in the world of their favorite game as the lady antagonist, The Villainess Stans the Heroes isn't likely to change your mind. It is at its heart the same thing we've seen before: our protagonist was a Japanese woman in her twenties in her past life, dies, and discovers that she's been reborn into the body (or at least awakened in the body at age seven) of the villainess of her favorite game. It's a mobile RPG rather than an otome game, and she died when her shelves of game merchandise collapsed on her, but it really is very similar to what we've seen before. Where things differ is in Eldea's boundless enthusiasm for making sure that things play out exactly as they did when her new world was just a game, because Eldea didn't buy all that stuff because she was a half-hearted fan. As far as she's concerned, this is her chance to experience everything up close and personal, and she's totally fine with doing that from the evil seat.

It helps that the original Eldea was only the inciting element of the main story, essentially a prologue character charged with getting the heroes on their way. This means that she's not at risk of gruesome death; therefore, she only has to disappear as she did in the original at the right time. She's fine with it and spends most of her off-screen moments ensuring that everything can precisely follow the game's route. This is where the story makes its successful tweaks to the formula: Eldea is modernizing the original RPG's pseudo-Medieval world. She creates and strengthens the publishing industry, and she creates and popularizes modern bathing suits…if it existed in a secret or special bit of extra content for the game, she's damn well going to make sure it can do so in her new reality. Needless to say, this makes for some of the book's best moments because she can't help using these inventions for her own purposes. Getting the hero hooked on yuri dojinshi is not something she saw coming.

Eldea also accidentally meddles with a few characters' feelings, which is much more par for the course. Dhampir Albert is the clearest example; when she inadvertently rescues him during his tragic backstory (she thought she was giving him temporary shelter), she completely rewrites his role in the story. In a more thoughtful book, this would allow Eldea to fully understand that she's dealing with people with their own agency rather than characters. In this book, she frets a bit before more or less shrugging and moving on. This distillate the larger issues with the volume: it sets itself up to do more and then brushes past that setup. The story certainly isn't under any obligation to be thoughtful or deep, but the consistency with which it eschews those possibilities gets a little frustrating, starting to feel like the story is deliberately trying not to be anything beyond total fluff.

Again, fluff is not bad. Neither is this introductory volume. But something about the devotion to remaining surface-level is annoying, and that mars the book to a degree. The fact that the art is very busy can be a detriment, too, although it never becomes so busy as to make reading difficult. The same goes for the world-building, albeit in a different sense; it feels as if we're missing major chunks of information that were present in the original light novels, and while it's possible to understand and follow the plot, it's like there are gaps someone forgot to fill. Mostly there's just a sense that this could have been, and should be, better.

The Villainess Stans the Heroes has a good premise. Eldea is a decent character, and the inadvertent results of her attempts to keep the game on track can be very funny. It simply doesn't come together as well as it ought, leaving this volume feeling somehow less than the sum of its parts. There's enough potential that it may be worth a second volume, but this isn't likely to hold your interest unless you're deeply invested in the villainess isekai genre.

Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B-

+ Some good, funny moments and art.
Doesn't quite do enough to distinguish itself from the herd, can be too busy in both plot and art while simultaneously feeling like things have been left out.

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Production Info:
Story: Yamori Mitikusa
Original Character Design: Kaoru Harugano
Art: Tsubasa Takamatsu
Licensed by: Yen Press

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Villainess Stans the Heroes (manga)

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