Books: My Next Life as a Villainess

by Jeannette Ng.

Probably one of the most successful of the fast-growing “reborn as a villainess” subgenre of stories, My Next Life as a Villainess by Satoru Yamaguchi follows the misadventures of Katarina Claes as she attempts to survive as the bad girl in a dating sim. Having regained the memories of her past life as a child, deep in the backstory of the game itself, she has both time and foreknowledge on her side.

What follows are a series of reversals as Katarina obliviously stumbles through trying to avoid conflict and thus accidentally derailing the pre-established script of the game. This is where much of the humour lies, as Katarina’s mental council debates stratagems and she remains perpetually surprised by the outcome of her dubious schemes. She takes up farming and tree-climbing; such deeply unladylike activities send her indomitable mother into a spiral of shame, culminating in a proposed divorce and thus bringing all the long simmering tensions between the two to the surface.

Unlike many other entries in the subgenre of being reborn into a dating sim, such as I’m in Love with the Villainess and Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter, there is basically only one joke here, and throughout, plot complications arise far more from basic repetition rather than the introduction of new elements. Which is to say every single character who falls into Katarina’s orbit eventually comes to love her, from dashing princely love interest to the beautiful romantic rivals. She hoards toy snakes in hopes of deploying them against her betrothed, Prince Jeord, but instead of inspiring fear, it only further endears her to him. She cleaves her way through locked doors to stop her brother from isolating himself. She bonds with Mary Hunt over their mutual love of gardening and giggles with Sophia Ascart over romance novels. She further embroils Prince Alan in an intense series of competitions over tree climbing.

Further along there are some secrets to both the game itself (despite appearances, Katarina did not, in fact, manage every single playthrough of it in her previous life and there are gaps to her knowledge) and the world itself (there may be more than one character in this strange world running around with memories from a past life), but the core of the first arc remains Katarina’s sheer obliviousness to her ever-growing coterie of admirers. The result is far less a love-triangle than a love-spider, and depending on which of her myriad suitors you favour, it can be both utterly delightful and completely infuriating.

Which is all to say Katarina Claes and Marie Campbell should just kiss already.

Jeannette Ng is the author of Under the Pendulum Sun. My Next Life as a Villainess is published by J-Novel Club. and available in the UK from Anime Limited.

Source: All The Anime


“If you’re not remembered, then you never existed.”

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