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review 2019-08-25 03:30
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 2 by Satoru Yamaguchi, illustrations by Nami Hidaka, translated by Shirley Yeung
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 2 (light novel) - Satoru Yamaguchi,Nami Hidaka,Shirley Yeung

This volume covers, I'm pretty sure, Katarina's entire first year at the Academy of Magic, which is also the entirety of the otome game that Katarina played when she was a 17-year-old girl living in our world. She finally meets Maria Campbell, the commoner who can use Light magic, who happens to be the otome game's protagonist, and is convinced that Jeord, Alan, Keith, and/or Nicol will fall in love with her. After all, Maria's so sweet, beautiful, and kind, who wouldn't fall in love with her? Katarina is so focused on avoiding Maria-related Catastrophic Bad Ends that she doesn't notice some disturbing and possibly deadly developments at the school.

I had figured that Yamaguchi would milk the humor surrounding the mismatch between Katarina and the other characters' POVs for all it was worth, so it was surprising when this volume took a more serious and poignant turn. I was also surprised that the Catastrophic Bad Ends storyline was wrapped up so quickly - two volumes and that's it. I assume that the next few volumes either start a new story arc of some kind (focused on what?) or read like unnecessary filler. I'll hope for the former but expect it will be the latter.

At any rate, after finishing the first book, I was wary that this one would follow the same pattern of having a scene from Katarina's POV and then showing everything a second time from someone else's POV. Although Volume 2 still switched between Katarina's POV and others', the repetitiveness was drastically reduced - Yamaguchi made slightly more effective use of the new POVs and instead focused more on flashbacks to important times in those characters' lives.

The first POV switch was a shock, revealing something that caused me to question the series' setup and everything that was going on. Yamaguchi then did absolutely nothing with that massive revelation until close to the end of the book. It felt a bit like cheating on the author's part, even though it tied in with Katarina's past life in our world, the Fortune Lover game, and the book's friendship theme.

I liked the friendship that developed between Maria and Katarina and the effect it had on Maria's relationship with her mother. And the "hidden character" storyline was interesting and unexpected. Still, I missed seeing Katarina interact with the characters from the first volume. They were definitely there, but they didn't feature as prominently as I had hoped. That said, I loved Katarina's conclusions about her "Friendship Ending" - otome games in general could use more emotionally satisfying Friendship Endings that aren't treated like another sort of Bad Ending.

The writing/translation, while less repetitive and less riddled with typos, was still pretty bad. I was glad to only see one instance of the word "abode," but its status as most popular word in the translation was taken by the word "snack." Surely a more specific word, like "cookie" or "cake" or "tart," could have been used occasionally. By the end of the book, I could feel myself suffering from bad writing fatigue, so rather than starting the third book right away, I'm opting to take a break from the series for a bit.

This second volume wasn't quite what I expected (or, honestly, what I wanted), but it did wrap up the Catastrophic Bad Ends storyline pretty nicely, and I'm very much looking forward to reading the manga adaptation of this part of the story, considering how much of an improvement the first volume of the manga was over the source material. I expect I'll be reading Volume 3 in the near future, once I've had a little time to recover, but I'll be approaching it with some trepidation. How will the series continue when the main storyline has already been concluded?

Extras:

  • Side Story: She Who is Dearest to Me - A Jeord POV story focused on a particularly harrowing portion of the story, although with some lighter bits at the beginning and end. It felt a bit fan service-y, complete with one of those cliched "character using their own mouth to give an unconscious character a drink" scenes. Still, it had some of the character interactions I missed and had wanted to see more of.
  • An afterword written by the author. Apparently, this book was published only two months after the first, which could explain the issues with the writing.
  • Bonus Editor's Column - Aimee Zink writes about "katakana nightmares," the problems involved with translating katakana (Japanese syllabary that is used for non-Japanese words) into English. My favorite example was Sirius Dieke, whose name could easily have been Serious Dick (I admit, this possibility occurred to me even before I made it to this bonus section).
  • Several black-and-white illustrations.
  • A cute color illustration.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-08-19 02:23
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 1 by Satoru Yamaguchi, illustrations by Nami Hidaka, translated by Shirley Yeung
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 1 (light novel) - Satoru Yamaguchi,Nami Hidaka,Shirley Yeung

When Katarina is 8 years old, she bumps her head and suddenly recalls her past life as a 17-year-old girl in our world. What's more, she realizes that she is now living the life of the villainess in Fortune Lover, the otome game she was playing before she died. To her horror, she realizes that the Katarina of the game had absolutely no good endings. If the game's protagonist got a good ending, Katarina was usually exiled, and if she got a bad ending, Katarina was usually killed. Katarina would like very much not to die, so she comes up with new strategies to avert her bad endings each time she meets a person she recognizes from the game. What she doesn't realize is that she has managed to change the story enough that all these characters who were originally her enemies or neutral towards her now have begun to care for her.

If all of this sounds familiar, it's probably because I recently read and reviewed the first volume of the manga adaptation of this series. Now that I've read this light novel, I can say that the manga was an even better adaptation than I realized. It managed to cover the events of this entire first novel without feeling rushed or overly confusing.

It also neatly took care of one of this novel's biggest weaknesses: its repetition. This book really, really should have been written in the third person. Instead, the author opted to write parts of the story from Katarina's POV and then switch to the POV of (usually) whichever character from the game she'd just met, rehashing everything that just happened but with a few extra scenes, a more fleshed out backstory for the otome character, and all the subtext that Katarina missed or misinterpreted turned into text.

While I appreciated some of this - the bit where Alan and Jeord talked to each other was great, Jeord and Nicol's reactions in a few parts were suddenly much easier to understand, and a few details came up that were basically my romance catnip - it resulted in a lot of repeated dialogue. It got to the point where I was skimming for actual new and useful content. The manga cut out all of the otome game character POV sections, except for maybe a few lines here and there, and trusted readers to use the clues in characters' body language and dialogue to figure out what had been left out. For the most part, it did an excellent job.

Since I'd already read the manga, parts of this book felt like the "extended and bonus scenes" section of a DVD. Katarina's mother and father reconciled on-page (it was really pretty sweet), as opposed to the hasty and vague mention in the manga. And rather than having to guess that Mary

was in love with Katarina, I got confirmation that, yes, she absolutely was in love with her (and wanted to carry her off somewhere and marry her).

(spoiler show)

Sophia, on the other hand, was angling for a sister-in-law, which made sense considering her original storyline in the game.

I was surprised at how differently I felt about some of the characters in the manga vs. in the book. In the manga, Katarina was, hands down, my favorite character. In the book, my top favorites were Jeord (so amusingly frustrated with Katarina) and Mary (the scene where she verbally sparred with Jeord was fabulous). I also found that I liked Katarina's mother more in the manga.

I'm really looking forward to reading the next volume, which should feature all-new content for me. I'm just crossing my fingers that it's less repetitive (please, Yamaguchi, don't spend the entire book showing us a scene and then repeating the same scene from a different character's POV) and a lot fewer uses of the word "abode."

Translation-wise, it was smooth enough that I was able to finish the whole thing in less than 24 hours, but there were definitely some awkwardly phrased sentences and more typos than I expected.

Extras:

Several illustrations, an afterword written by the author, and an interview/Q&A with the translator (in which even the translator admitted "the repetition really does have a tendency to drive me insane" (150) - ouch).

 

Rating:

 

I probably shouldn't give this such a high rating considering how bad the writing was, but since it hooked me enough that I didn't want to stop reading, even though I technically already knew most of what was going to happen, eh, 4 stars it is. Consider it 4 "forgiving of enormous light novel flaws" stars.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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