By 616th Special Information Battalion and Wuhuo. Released in Japan as “Doushitemo Hametsushitakunai Akuyaku Reijou ga Gendai Heiki wo Te ni Shita Kekka ga Kore desu” by K Lanove Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shaun Cook.
Fans of genres that have twenty billion books in said genre tend to fall into two distinct types: those who don’t just want to read the same old plotline and characters, and those who do, because it’s their comfort food. In most ways, Villainess Reloaded falls into Category Two. This is a magical academy series with villainess overtones, and so we get a lot of the usual staples: heroine tries to avoid her fate but doesn’t realize everyone loves her; lots of magic discussion and magic experimentation; a beach episode; and yes, for a brief moment, we meet the game’s heroine, who Astrid proceeds to try to avoid. There’s even a maid who seems cool and frosty but secretly cares about her charge! That said, there is one teeny, weeny problem with this being a comfort novel that’s more of the same: Astrid has no morals or ethics, and is turning more evil by the day as we read about her antics.
The book covers Astrid’s final year in elementary school and first year in middle school. She’s experimenting with new ways to fire guns, including howitzers, but is running into an issue: a lack of electricity won’t let her make the truly big guns. That said, she also has other things to worry about. Her father is against her doing much of anything. She meets Adolf’s younger brother, who immediately becomes infatuated with her. (He’s 6, she’s 10.) The Magic Research Club that already exists on campus is an excuse to hang out and eat cookies. And worst of all, she needs money to fund her magic experiments. This means sneaking out on weekends to become an adventurer, going on dragon-slaying quests, and meeting with a cabal of Witches who are holders of the lost magic… which was lost because it’s pretty much “magic you can use to torture or kill people”. Will Astrid join them?
She absolutely will. This should not surprise me, given that I dropped Her Majesty’s Swarm, by the same author, for having similar issues, but the heroine of this tale is morally bankrupt. That said, I will give it major points for thinking of “what if a villainess tried to avoid her fate by becoming MORE EVIL”, which is certainly *not* more of the same old stuff. Seeing Astrid experimenting with blood magic, first on animals and then on herself, to try to remove her conscience is creepy as hell, and the fact that it’s clearly the author’s intention to creep us out doesn’t really help. We do occasionally see her backing away from the darkness – she thinks about killing someone as part of an experiment but doesn’t because she’s not “quite that heartless”. Oh yes, and there’s also the fact that, like Katarina, she thinks of her fate as something that is inevitable unless she puts up a constant struggle… which also makes her a warmonger in terms of her politics.
I’m not sure I could describe this series as enjoyable. Fascinating, perhaps. I’ll be reading the next volume in the series. That said, if you enjoy villainess books in general, there are others that can scratch your itch far more than Little Miss Sociopath and Her Armory.