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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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review 2019-08-08 16:44
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (manga, vol. 1) by Satoru Yamaguchi, art by Nami Hidaka, translated by Elina Ishikawa-Curran
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (Manga) Vol. 1 - Satoru Yamaguchi

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! stars Katarina Claes, the rich and spoiled daughter of Duke Claes. Or at least we're told she was spoiled - at the start of the volume, Katarina is 8 years old and has just hit her head, prompting her to remember her past life as a 17-year-old otome game fan from our world. She was somehow reincarnated as the daughter of a duke in a world where magic exists.

As the story progresses, she gradually remembers other important details...like the fact that the world she's living in is actually the world of the otome game she was playing before she died, and that Katarina was a villainess in the game. Not only that, but the Katarina of the game had absolutely no good endings. If the player achieved a good ending with one of the game's guys, Katarina usually ended up exiled. If the player achieved a bad ending, Katarina was usually killed. Katarina would like very much not to die. She'd also prefer not to be exiled, but if that's going to happen, she figures she needs to learn skills that will help her earn a living.

This first volume deals primarily with the years prior to Katarina turning 15, her age when the otome game officially began. Every male child she meets turns out to be the child version of a romanceable character from the game, and every female child is a character who acts as one of the player's rivals for the romanceable characters' love. As Katarina meets them, she makes friends and does her best to avert the terrible endings she knows lurk in her future.

In the days since I finished reading this volume, I've found myself going back to it again and again to reread my favorite parts. And this is only the introduction. Almost all of it is devoted to child Katarina meeting the child versions of characters from the game and trying to nudge them onto a path that won't result in her death or exile. Usually this involves doing something she'd happily do anyway, like befriend the characters. A misunderstanding also results in her picking up a new hobby, gardening.

If I'm having this much fun with the series now, I can only imagine how much I'm going to enjoy the next volume. Katarina was delightful. Every time she met a new character from the game, versions of herself held mini meetings inside her head to discuss strategies for dealing with the potential bad endings the characters might bring her. I loved that so many of her strategies basically involved befriending people and having fun with them. I was not expecting this series to be so sweet.

Although Katarina didn't realize it since she was way too busy making friends and trying to ensure her own survival, her behavior basically set her on the path of being the heroine of a reverse harem romance story. Jeord, the "wicked prince" she accidentally ended up betrothed to, seemed to have genuinely fallen in love with Katarina by the time she reached the dreaded age of 15. Katarina, for her part, still figured he'd somehow do a complete 180 and ditch her when he met the game's heroine - I'm looking forward to the heroine's appearance, which I'm assuming will happen in the next volume.

The other characters (possibly the girls as well?) also seemed to have fallen for Katarina during her attempts to avoid her future bad endings. It'll be interesting to see whether Yamaguchi actually plans to have Katarina end up with one of them, or if she'll just be oblivious throughout the entire series. At this point, Jeord has a leg up on everyone, what with him being Katarina's fiance and refusing to let anyone talk him out of it. Like Katarina, I'm still rooting for Alan and Mary to somehow end up together (hey, it could still happen). The Keith storyline isn't my thing, but I'm looking forward to watching Alan and Nicol lurk on the sidelines.

I had considered and rejected getting a J-Novel Club membership in the past, but I think this series is going to force me to break down. The next manga volume isn't coming out until November, and there are only so many times I can reread my favorite bits in this volume. I really want to read the original light novels, and a J-Novel Club membership would let me do that, possibly even without breaking my "no DRM" rule for e-book purchases, if I understand their FAQs correctly.

Extras:

  • 1 full-color illustration
  • A 10-page short story featuring a glimpse of what could happen if Katarina doesn't avoid her bad endings. I ended up skimming it - it wasn't that interesting.
  • A 1-page afterword by the author.
  • A short comic showing the steps involved in drawing Katarina's hairstyle.
  • 4 extra pages of...something. A couple of them are like fake pages in a school newspaper, and a couple look like they're maybe a modern day AU version of the story.

 

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

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