By Iota AIUE and Kuroyuki. Released in Japan as “Watashi, Tensei Akuyaku Reijōnanode, Meribaendo wa Soshi sa Sete Itadakimasu! !” by Berry’s Bunko. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Molly Lee.
By now we are so familiar with the Reincarnated As a Villainess genre that we start to look for differences or alternate takes that make this stand out from the pack. On that score, Happy-Bad Endings (as I’m going to call it) doesn’t hold up so well. This is almost textbook reincarnated villainess, down to the letter. Actually, it’s a good sign that, as I was reading along, I found myself thinking “I want to read the original VN the heroine was playing, it sounds ludicrously over the top. Iris as a heroine is not cheerful yet dim like Katarina, but she does possess a bit of the same “I cannot see this person as anything other than their character from the game”, which certainly frustrates her love interest, the prince. That said, I found this a very good book to read, mostly as it does the genre very well, and it has some individual scenes that are stellar set-pieces.
One morning, Iris du Chevalier wakes up from a horrible nightmare of the world burning to discover… she’s not in Japan playing her favorite otome, game, she’s in the game. And Iris is the villainess. And the game is notorious for even its happy endings being dark and twisted. Her twin brother chains up the love interest and brands her, the prince imprisons her in a tower forever, and the mage discovers that they’re really half-siblings and destroys the world. And, in ALL the endings, good or bad, Iris suffers. Death is not actually the worst thing. Now she has to a) make the three love interests less twisted, b) deal with the soilpox scars on her arm that cause her to be shunned, c) deal with going to the academy despite having literally zero magic, and d) avoid horrible fates. It’s harder than you think!
As I said, the plot itself is pretty much otome villainess 101, but it’s handled well. Iris searching for a way to beat soilpox (this world’s smallpox) is a compelling plot that has nothing to do with the game’s events. The world itself has several elements that weren’t present in the game at all, and finding out about them both gives Iris a huge leg up and also confuses the hell out of her. The heroine, Camille, is sweet as pie but also invites trouble – as you’d expect of an otome heroine. My favorite scene is near the end, where the cast approaches what, to Iris, is the final fate of the most dreaded of her bad ends. She’s long since made sure that this end is not going to happen, but it doesn’t matter – the fact that she is Iris, in the game world, and at THIS place causes her to have a tremendous stress reaction. It’s fantastically written.
So yes, once again, cliches can be defeated when the writing is good enough, which this certainly is. It’s also done-in-one, so you don’t need to worry about a cost sink. A must for Villainess fans, and a good read for shoujo light novel fans.
Also, please don’t name your otome game love interest de Sade. I beg of you.