When the young noble Caterina Claes accidentally hits her head she comes to a startling realisation – in her past life, she died at the age of 17 after a traffic accident. Now, she finds herself living in the last game she had played before her death, an otome game called Fortune Lover – where she has been reincarnated as the game’s primary villain! Knowing that her story ends in exile or death, Caterina resolves to avoid her fate by befriending the game’s main cast and teaching herself the skills she will need to survive. With her extensive knowledge of Fortune Lover, Caterina sets out to defy the odds and circumvent the red flags that could lead to her doom, all the while unsure of what will happen once the protagonist of the game appears and whether the game will allow her to deviate from her set path.
A reverse-harm isekai with a twist, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is exceedingly charming and delightfully absurd. The initial premise of Caterina attempting to avoid Fortune Lover’s multiple and grisly pre-determined endings by befriending those who may otherwise persecute her in the future, evolves into something genuinely sweet as she grows up alongside the main cast and develops genuine friendships. Along the way, she learns farming (a useful skill for survival if one is banished) and finds herself accidentally taking on the role and dialogue of other characters based on her extensive experience with the game in her previous life. The series is tongue-in cheek, sincere, and endlessly entertaining as Caterina attempts to out-otome the otome setting with her own system of managing social interactions to achieve the desired outcome.
There are a lot of classic anime/otome game character archetypes to enjoy in this self-aware setting – Prince Geordo and his jealous brother Alan, Caterina’s protective brother Keith, the mysterious and dark-haired noble Nicol, and Mary and Sophia, a couple of characters who are (like Caterina) rivals for the protagonist depending on the storyline pursued. This collection of characters is a lot of fun, with the My Next Life as a Villainess using their larger-than-life otome personalities to play around with its genre. Additionally, while the anime doesn’t call too much attention to it, there’s an interesting graduation between Caterina’s viewing of them as characters from a game she needs to charm to real people with their own internal thoughts and feelings which gives the series some depth.
Each of the characters also get their time to shine (and for the audience to pick their favourites – Mary steals the show I cannot be convinced otherwise) as My Next Life as a Villainess covers both Catarina’s childhood and her attendance at school, where Fortune Lover actually takes place. It’s fun seeing the cast as kids and then as teenagers, seeing how their interactions with Caterina in their childhood has changed them from their original archetypes as they begin to go to school. It means the audience gets a good sense of each of the characters before they become part of the inevitable harem and begin vying for Caterina’s affections – because Caterina literally seduces anyone she comes into contact with through a combination of kindness and confidence. Not that Caterina will ever notice this, as she is so consumed by her efforts to avoid a villain’s fate. The complete and utter cluelessness Caterina has regarding her friends’ affections for her is always groan-inducing and never not hilarious. I love her, she’s an idiot – and you’ll love her too.
I had a really good time with My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! – Catarina is forever dense, but in a way that is endlessly entertaining. Similarly, the characters vying for her affections and the manner they court the clueless Caterina while trying to stay ahead of her numerous other suitors is overly dramatic and engaging. An easy recommend for anyone looking for a romance, a comedy, or something a little bit different from the usual isekai fare.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.