By Kazuki Karasawa and Masami. Released in Japan as “Maou-gun Shitennou no Saijaku Reijou wa Jiyuu ni Ikitai!” by the author on the Shosetsuka ni Naro website. Released in North America digitally by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Charis Messier.
This book does not want to be messing around with the heroine’s past life – Truck-kun is on Page 1. In fact, because Elle doesn’t remember anything about her past life except the manga she was obsessed with, it’s mostly irrelevant. This leads to what I think is the strongest reason that I enjoyed Weakest Manga Villainess so much: Elle, our heroine, is a selfish, overdramatic tsundere twintail brat before she gains memories of how she’s killed, and afterwards… she’s exactly the same, only her selfishness (which the narrative hints was never as big as all that) is shown to be slightly better. She’s mostly been busy researching her magic (good at huge spells, bad at fine tuning), loving the Demon Lord, and kidnapping people to be her servants. Now, though, she wants to avoid her death, which starts with confronting the Demon Lord himself. And this… opens up a whole new can of worms.
As I said before, Elle is a treat. The author’s afterword tells us to love her because she’s cute, but honestly I love her because she’s fun. Her brief guilt over kidnapping a bunch of foreigners and making them wait on her is assuaged by, seemingly by accident (but actually by instinct) the fact that all of those people had miserable lives when they were taken and consider Elle their savior. As such, any guilt about her past actions leaves town, and the rest of the book is made up of her planning how to escape the Demon Lord, set up her own town with her as the grand sorceress mayor of Elle Village, a fact the reader will soon learn because she repeats it over and over while posing. Unfortunately for her, it turns out that she is far more valuable to the Demon Lord than “killed off first as she was the weakest” would imply, so escaping may be hard.
The supporting cast is also fun. Because this story is done in one volume, the love interests are limited to two: Julius, the guy on the cover, one of her fellow villains who finds himself fascinated by Elle, and Laurent, a young teen she rescued from a barren village who now devotes himself to learning magic so he can help her. I was amused by the running gag (well, not ha ha funny) of Julius always being ready to use lethal force and attack at a moment’s notice simply as he has no experience with trusting anyone. Bakarina fans may find one thing familiar: Elle is still assuming that the pairings will go the way that they did in the manga, so is oblivious to the fact that Julius is over the moon for her.
The stakes end up being relatively low here, mostly due to Elle’s magic abilities and the shoujo manga heroine’s healing powers. Indeed, a few people I was sure would be bumped off end up fulfilling an entirely different manga cliche. I suspect Elle is voiced by Rie Kugimiya. Or possibly, given how much the heroine feels like a younger, red-headed Rin Tohsaka, by Kana Ueda. The series will not win any originality awards, which is not surprising give it’s part of the “villainess tries to change her fate” genre. But it’s fun, reads impressively fast given its length, and has a heroine that I really loved experiencing.