Review: My Next Life as a Villainess – All Routes Lead to Doom! (Vol 3)

It’s the start of the new school year after Katarina has successfully avoided any of the Bad Ends threatening her life—living her life to the fullest with all the friends (and delicious food) she could ask for! The rest of her close-knit group of friends have been busy though, with preparations for the school’s biannual festival, each manning a different stall. But even during these exciting days of fun, Katarina never fails to find herself in trouble—welcome back to My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom.

Written by Satoru Yamaguchi and once again translated by Shirley Yeung, J-Novel Club’s release of volume three continues the adventures of our plucky-but-clueless protagonist Katarina as she continues her second life having been reborn into her favourite otome game. Originally published in Japan in 2016, the English digital edition was made available on digital platforms May 2019.

The book starts with the school preparing for the festival held every two years. Katarina is incredibly excited, with thoughts of the variety of festival food she’d loved in her past life (yakisoba, takoyaki, shaved ice, cotton candy), but discovers that none of those familiar flavours can be found at any of the multitudes of food stalls. Instead are fancy and famous restaurants sharing their skills, catering to the refined palates of the high class student body. Between feasting upon the various new foods she’s found, the young lady Claes goes to visit each of her friends—sharing the snacks she had bought beforehand. As usual, each of them try their hardest to monopolise Katarina’s time, to no avail.

First on the roster is Katarina’s adoptive brother Kieth, and her aggressively efficient friend Mary Hunt, who take the time to share food with her during a break. Tensions rise though, after Mary discovers Katarina hand-feeding Keith, and as usual Katarina gets the wrong idea—vowing to support their forbidden love to keep them happy. Next is Sophia and Nicol Ascart, working backstage to the main play. Nicol’s graduation the year before means that he hasn’t seen Katarina for weeks, and the two practice some of the play’s lines together under Sophia’s insistence. This is followed by Maria and Raphael, two of Katarina’s most recent friends from the previous book, and the main protagonist of the Fortune Lover otome game. Maria’s homemade baked goods are a festival favourite, and Katarina is ecstatic that she was able to help boost sales through word of mouth (and that her vegetables were put to such good use). The two talk about the Magical Ministry and thier future plans, eager for Katarina to join them after graduation—seeing it as a possible way out of an engagement she doesn’t think she deserves, she agrees readily (of course, without consulting her fiancé).

Finally on her visits is that very same fiancé, Prince Jeord, and his twin brother Alan. When talking with the two of them, their older brothers—First Prince Jeffery and Second Prince Ian—as well as their fiancées come to visit. Katarina flails at remembering or recognising them, despite having previously met, and Jeord readily helps her. The two older women are Susanna Randall and Selena Berg; total opposites, but both attractive and ideal women. The two older princes are in a battle of succession for the crown, and the relationship between the four brothers is rocky at best. After the improptu meeting of her future in-laws, the student council has a stage play to perform. It’s an alternate-world version of Cinderella, and Katarina’s last-minute inclusion just makes her peers adore her even more.

The happy celebrations are cut short though, when Katarina manages to be kidnapped from backstage after the show, being stuck in confinement for days. As usual, Katarina is fairly nonplussed—sleeping easily and eating to her heart’s content. Her kidnappers aren’t asking for ransom, and they are treating her well despite the situation. In fact, it weighs much more heavily on her captor, and it’s not long before the guilt influences their perception of Katarina too. Yet another falling for Katarina’s straightforward, totally accepting personality.

Yamaguchi mentions in the afterword that this series was only ever planned for two volumes—understandable, as Katarina’s focus on the Fortune Lover Bad Ends was the main driving force for her character. With that now out of the way, it does call to question if this series needs any more added to it. Whilst this book was fun and grew the scope of potential for the story and characters going forward, as I reader I couldn’t help feeling that the plot was bloated in the first 2/3rds. New characters and conflicts were both introduced in the book as a whole, and I enjoyed the snippets of interactions we had between the new characters, but a lot of the book felt like it was rehashing the same things we already know about the main cast of Katarina’s friends (and unsuccessful suitors). Ultimately it left me feeling like not much happened within the book to warrant all the previous cast to be included, other than that they were in previous books. It’s hard to keep all the characters in a large (and growing) cast relevant to the story, and I think it would have been better if less time was spent at the festival, and instead those pages being dedicated to giving Katarina’s kidnapping and imprisonment more levity. It’s hard to take a major plot development or twist seriously when it feels like an afterthought. Overall there was some fun stuff in the latter half of this book, but you have to slog through the beginning to get there. This book didn’t convince me that it was a necessary continuation to the previous, but there is potential with its foreshadowing for future books.

Gee's Rating: Maybe

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