Review: My Next Life as a Villainess – All Routes Lead to Doom! (Vol 2)

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Katarina Claes is now enrolled into the esteemed magic academy of Future Lover, along with her large group of friends (and potential romances, but she’s far too dense to realise). With it comes the looming threat she’s been preparing for all of this time—the protagonist, Maria Campbell, stealing the heart of someone and Katarina being slain or banished! The only problem is that none of the boys (Jeord, Alan, Keith and Nichol) seem to have any interest in the beautiful girl with powerful Light magic. Plus, more and more events are changing from the otome game routes that she’s familiar with—she never finished the game in her first life, so what happens when there’s a secret route? Will she be able to clear her first year at the academy alive, or is she destined for Bad Ends?

The second volume of My Next Life as a Villainess – All Routes Lead to Doom! (aka Bakarina) continues the story Satoru Yamaguchi started, and once again includes illustrations by Nami Hidaka. J-Novel Club’s English version was released Feb 8 2019,  with translation by Shirley Yeung. With this book, we reach the ‘main story’ that the previous book was building up to, paying off all of the various character interactions with its signature wackiness.

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Now a new student, Katarina Claes has entered the scenario of the Future Lover her previous life had been playing. At this Academy, each student is taught how to use their magic, and the vast majority of the student body is of noble blood. The exception to this is Maria Campbell, a commoner girl with the incredibly rare ability to wield Light magic. She is also, as Katarina remembers, the protagonist of Future Lover. Therefore, she’s also the reason Katarina’s been training the past seven years; hoping to survive independently after potentially being banished from the kingdom.

What she doesn’t realise though is that she’s far from the villainess character that she was in the game, and has a multitude of people surrounding her who love her. Along with the four boys, this also includes her friends Mary and Sophia, other romance rivals for the protagonist. The six all fight the same battle against her dense and straight-forward nature, still unable to make the young Baroness aware of their feelings.

Coincidentally, all of Katarina’s friends and Maria join the student council. It’s an important role and great honor within the school and only the best students with the highest magical aptitude can be members. Nichol and the current President, Sirius, are already members from the previous year—the only remnants left. Katarina, with her terrible magic abilities and her lacking grades, is the only one left out, as she expected, but not wanting her to be left out, her childhood friends, adopted brother and betrothed all campaign to give her access to the meeting room too; and it’s here that Katarina meets the girl she’s sure will cause her death.

Unsurprisingly, Katarina doesn’t actually dislike Maria at all—she sees why the other girl is deemed the protagonist, compared to her own villainess role, and once again all too easily captures her heart by being her likeable, dumb-but-earnest, genuine self. Things are definitely helped along by Katarina’s One True Love though: food. Thanks to her voracious appetite and relaxed personality, there’s no question that she’d eat all the homemade snacks that Maria made with a grin. Unlocking the traumatic past between Maria and her parents, her hatred for her magic, and the bullying she’s endured (being led by the not-Katarina rival, now that she’s changed destiny so much), Maria inevitably finds herself caught in Katarina’s spell. So we get yet another person vying for her affections, unsuccessfully.

I also appreciate how seriously (in as much as this series can be serious) both this and the previous book takes the female romance options. All of Katarina’s friends are treated equally, regardless of gender, and there never seems to be any conflict within the various members that a heteroromantic option is ‘better’ versus a homoromantic one. Sure, each teen is hoping the clueless Lady Claes will return their affections and reject the others, but Jeord, Alan, Kieth and Nichol all see Mary and Maria as true rival threats.

This book also introduces the idea of Sophia not quite being entirely of this world either—her dreams being filled with a previous life, including a rambunxious friend she’d play otome games with who died quite suddenly before finishing her last one. This element is a fairly obvious deus ex machina to give Katarina knowledge about the game she couldn’t have, and as an easy way to resolve both the main story and its secret route. It’s contrite, to say the least, but this series was never really meant to be complicated or serious anyway. It’s dumb, but stays in line with the rest of the dumbness. It also gives a little perspective to the Katarina of the past—not inherently necessary, but it’s closure to a life that we as an audience never saw, but rely on for the story.

Once again the otome and reverse harem aspect is done very well—following flags and events, unlocking secret characters, and the possibility of both a friendship end and a reverse harem end are staples of this type of game, and it’s obvious to the reader how things will develop—even if our protagonist Katarina doesn’t. The secret character has a suitably ‘dark’ but sympathetic situation, with the potential to be saved—again, par for the course in wish-fulfilment romance of this nature. Bakarina is an interesting mix of genuine homage and thick satire, although sometimes it has a hard time balancing both.

The final chapter is a side story completely from Jeord’s point of view. Chapters have always been broken into the switching perspectives, but this time we’re given a little more insight to the third Prince. As far as the romance options, he’s definitely the ‘endgame’ favorite of the bunch, considering the engagement, but it seems impossible that the series will wrap up so neatly.

If you’re a fan of the series or enjoyed the previous book, this second volume is the ‘payoff’ for what was built in the last. Considering the main events of the Fortune Lover game were the focus, it will be interesting to see how the series continues from here. With no more insight to future events, Katarina is blind to what her fate may be—and with one more year at the academy, anything could happen! Will romance blossom? Will Katarina have a fresh batch of vegetables? Will she finally get a handle on Earth Raiser? I guess we’ll have to see!!

Gee's Rating: Highly recommended

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