By Kanata Satsuki and Mitsuya Fuji. Released in Japan as “Watashi wa Teki ni Narimasen!” by PASH! Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Molly Lee.
Despite the fact that, if you look at forums and message boards, you’d think “otome game villainess” novels were the new vampire or Alice trend, we haven’t actually had too many legally licensed over here yet. My Next Life As a Villainess, aka Bakarina, it a very broad comedy, almost a parody, of the genre. Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter just has the manga so far, and seems more interested in the politics and worldbuilding than it does in anything else. This new series, though, may be the purest form of the genre I’ve heard of. It’s not subverting anything – in fact, the opposite, it’s almost painfully earnest throughout. Our heroine knows she’s going to be a villainess (actually, not even that – a mid-boss) and get killed by the hero, and does her damndest to avoid that in every possible way. All this while falling in love. Light novel fans might be a little disappointed. Romance fans should be quite happy – it’s right up their street.
Kiara has had a rough life. The daughter of a Baronet (the lowest rung of nobility), her mother died early, and her father sold her off to the family of a count. There she was fed odd potions, trained in poisons and knifework (for some odd reason) and shipped off to boarding school. What’s more, she’s been having these odd dreams where she lives in a different world as a schoolgirl playing an RPG… whose plot sounds a lot like the world she lives in! What’s more, she remembers from the dream that she (with a different, married name) is not only a spellcaster, but is brutally murdered by the heroes. So when a letter comes from the count telling her to come home and marry the guy whose last name she now recognizes, she very quickly runs away. Fortunately, she ends up hiding in the wagons of a group of young men who are sympathetic to her story… and one of them is more than he seems. Now she has to find a way to stop the fate she’s familiar with from the game from happening.
As you might guess, this is an isekai of sorts, but it’s handled in an interesting way. Kiara never loses her sense of “self” to whoever the Japanese girl whose memories she has, which the memories remaining “dreamlike”. As such, it feels a lot more realistic, even when she brings up RPG terms. On the down side, her character can be highly variable depending on the nature of the plot – she was bad at school, so has to have a few things explained to her (and the reader), but by the end of the book she’s putting her RPG memories to use as a real-time strategist, and seems to get far too good at spellcasting far too quickly. The better parts of the book are her interactions with Reggie, her love interest (yes, besides the presence of two other obvious candidates, there seems to only be one love interest here), and her “I must be mistaken no one could be interested in me” thought process is both frustrating and adorable.
The book ends on a cliffhanger, which is a bit annoying as it felt like if it had gone 10 pages more, we could have ended the series with the first volume. But there are five more. In the meantime, this is pretty solid, if a bit humorless. It’s serious romantic fantasy, with everyone acting the roles as straight as they can.