Harem anime has a large cast of either girls or guys who in some way or form fall in love with the protagonist. It seems like a relatively simple formula; however, the main issue with this genre is that it is the one everyone usually ignores. Most of the anime created from the genre is either boring or a cash grab. Most of the series are fanservice, and if you are looking for an actual story, this is not the route to take.
There are exceptions to this, however, such as “Ouran High School Host Club” and “The World God Only Knows,” which not only have great casts of loveable girls or guys, but also feature protagonists that are not just blank slates of cardboard. But there still are some missing elements here; not everyone wants to watch an anime where the main cast is a bunch of girls or guys pining for a character. This is where “My Next Life as a Villainess” comes into play.
“My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!” is a Japanese light novel series written by Satoru Yamaguchi and illustrated by Nami Hidaka. There are two manga adaptations of the series, one being a spin-off, and an anime adaptation made by Silver Link that aired from April to June 2020.
Catarina Claes is the daughter of a noble family. As a child, she was a spoiled girl until she falls and bumps her head. Catarina ends up remembering her past life as an otaku teenager and realizes that she has been reborn into her favorite otome game, Fortune Lover. She also realizes that she has been reincarnated as the main villainess of the game, wherein almost every route, she is either killed or exiled. Catarina actively plans and tries to avoid the things that lead to her doom and in doing so, she ends up changing the events in the world — especially her relationships with herself and others.
“My Next Life as a Villainess” is a perfectly balanced harem anime; the group is filled with girls and guys who are romantic rivals as well as friends. Geordo Stuart is a prince who is also Catarina’s fiancé. He hides a cold-blooded demeanor under a princely nature due to his distaste for Catarina. However, thanks to Catarina’s weird mannerisms and kindness, unlike other nobles, Geordo eventually falls for her and is now more determined to keep his engagement with her.
Keith Claes is Catarina’s adoptive brother who was a playboy due to his awful childhood, where he ends up injuring his brothers after witnessing them hurting a bird.
Originally in the game, Catarina bullies Keith and he becomes a playboy as result. In the current timeline, however, she gives him as much sisterly love as she can, and as a result, Keith becomes the perfect gentlemen and the perfect wall to keep Geordo away from Catarina as much as possible.
Catarina eventually meets Mary Hunt in their childhood. After Catarina praises her garden, they become fast friends unlike in the original game where Mary is instead one of the protagonist’s rivals. Mary ends up falling for Catarina because Catarina praised her garden before Mary’s fiancé, Alan, had the opportunity to. Now Mary wants to make sure that Alan does not realize his feelings for Catarina so she can have Catarina for herself.
Alan Stuart is not only Mary’s fiancé but is also Geordo’s twin brother, wherein the game, he was jealous of him and became a bratty introvert who is the main character’s academic rival. However, Alan instead becomes Catarina’s rival after being fed up with Mary obsessing over Catarina. Later on, he and Catarina become friends, and he realizes his talent as a pianist and reconciles with his brother. The only downside is that he has yet to figure out his feelings with Catarina, thanks to Mary.
Nicol Ascart is the last suitor of the Fortune Lover game and is also considered the most dangerous due to how handsome he is to women and men. Although not much is known about him because Catarina never played his route, his route has a rival: his sister Sophia Ascart who Nicol is very overprotective of. He may not emote much, but around Catarina, he ends up smiling a bit more. On the other hand, Sophia shows a lot more emotions, especially for romance novels that Catarina adores as well, and they become friends because of their shared interest. She was mainly isolated due to her uncommon features, but thanks to Catarina, Sophia was able to open up more and does her best to pair Nicol with Catarina.
Lastly, there’s the main character of Fortune Lover, Maria Campbell. In the game, Catarina is both her bully and the one who all the male suitors fall for. Maria is gifted with light magic that is rare for a commoner such as herself, and she becomes isolated as a result. Eventually, she and Catarina meet, but Maria falls for Catarina quickly because of Catarina’s kind and charming nature.
All of these characters have their stories turned upside down, all thanks to Catarina. You can’t help but fall for her as she is almost everything you could hope for in a main character. She’s sweet, caring and has five versions of herself in her head to help maintain the idiocy of Catarina. Catarina’s ignorance is her main feature, and it is not a negative trait at all. On the contrary, it is both adorable to the harem, and they are not overly offended by her density. Even the fans nicknamed her Bakarina for her obliviousness.
The cast themselves is not all knives at each other’s throats either. Thanks to Catarina, they become friends, although they do poke and prod the moment one of them tries to get Catarina alone with them (Geordo mainly). They even joke about how ditzy Catarina is and would do anything for her. It is rare to see a harem anime like this, and it is a delightful sight to see. The anime itself is heart-warming, with funny moments along with some drama as well.
After a year, the anime is finally getting a second season in July 2021. “My Next Life as a Villainess” is worth watching as it breaks away from the tropes of the harem and the isekai genres. The characters are dynamic. The plot is exciting and not just hanging in the wind, while the focus is on the love plots going on with the characters. There’s action and drama, which again creates this perfect balance for a harem anime. “My Next Life as a Villainess” is a beautiful gem that is buried in the dirt, waiting for you to pick it up and give it a try. If you don’t want to wait for the second season, the light novel and manga are also available online as well on sites like Amazon, BookWalker and Barnes and Noble.
Ready to play Fortune Lover? Press play on “My Next Life as a Villainess.”