By Sarasa Nagase and Mai Murasaki. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijo Nanode Rasubosu o Katte Mimashita” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.
A lot of light novels, particularly in the Villainess genre, have trouble sometimes coming up with what comes next. Looking in particular at My Next Life As a Villainess, which one can argue has sort of been spinning its wheels since the start of Book 3. Fortunately, some authors are much better at coming up with compelling storylines, even if the storyline is “oh, there was another game”. It helps that we have Aileen, who of all the Villainess protagonists is probably the best at being a “villain” personality, i.e. a confident and dynamic young woman who does not take shit from anyone. Well, except perhaps her husband. That said, she gets help here from the “heroine”, Lilia, who is not exactly on her side but is not the antagonist this time, and whose gleeful fourth-wall breaking and sneering bitchiness make this book even more entertaining than it already is. They’re taking on the third game, which has an Arabian feel to it, but still involves the same old otome game tropes.
Aileen and Lilia, along with attendants Rachel and Serena, are headed on a boat trip to Hausel. A dragon went wild while Claude had amnesia, and they need to attend an inquiry to explain it. Unfortunately, on the voyage, the boat’s women are all kidnapped! They’re now in the Kingdom of Ashmael, and are part of the royal harem. Unfortunately, Aileen and Lilia both recognize this scenario: it’s the third game! The “heroine” is Sahra, a holy daughter of God who can repair the Holy Sword. The “villainess” is Roxane, a stoic and reserved woman who is Baal’s main consort. That said… certain aspects of the game seem to have already happened before Aileen and company arrive. Is someone else pulling the strings? Can Aileen avoid being unfaithful to her husband? And why haven’t they consummated their marriage anyway?!
Every time Aileen and Lilia are in the same scene it is a delight. Lilia is absolutely terrible in a way that would be excruciating in real life but is wonderful on the printed page. The fact that the two of them are forced to team up here makes it even better. As for Roxane, like the other villainesses in this series she turns out to be far more than she seems, and I hope we see more of her. We’re definitely going to be seeing more of Sahra… at least I hope we are, as her arc was rushed and lacking, the one part of this I didn’t enjoy. The implication near the end is that Cedric is going to take her in as sort of a way to keep Lilia interested, which I’m sure won’t rebound horribly on him in any way. And, of course, Aileen and Claude are adorable together. It is amusing that everyone – everyone – who knows Aileen thinks she’s cutest when she’s crying. (We also get some brief backstory drop, and wow, her family is very much “you will be awesome or you will die, no other options.”)
This is the first volume that won’t be animated by the current adaptation, and if you’re an anime-only fan it’s a great one to dive into. This remains one of the top-tier titles in the Villainess genre.