By Tofuro Futsukaichi and Kei. Released in Japan as “Gendai Shakai de Otome Game no Akuyaku Reijou wo Suru no wa Chotto Taihen” by Overlap Novels. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.
Oooof. I’m starting to suspect that having villainess books with modern ties is a mistake. Give me a villainess who’s in fake nobility land with some magic and a few broken engagements and I’m golden. But I’m remembering Villainess Reloaded, the story of the young woman who decided to solve everything by bringing a bigger gun. I had to drop that one as I was starting to get the sense that the heroine was morally bankrupt. There’s far less doubt here – Runa is appalling. In the game her life was destroyed because of the modern economy that crashed in 2008. She’s decided to fix the economy… but she’s still not changing her villainess ways. Indeed, she’s doubling down on them. When your heroine decides to build a gated community to protect the rich folks, you start to wonder if reading this series is an ethical problem. It’s a shame, because other than that insurmountable problem, the series is otherwise excellent.
The book essentially divides itself into two alternating sections. Half the time we’re watching Runa the capitalist, still trying to solve all of Japan’s debt problems. She has a time limit as well – the current government that she has so many ties to is falling, and the new government, headed by real-life prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, is far less favorable to powerful families like hers. The other half of the book is Runa’s life at school with her friends, where she does things like the culture festival, a snowball fight, etc. She’s still in grade school here, something that she emphasizes a great deal, but that does not stop her from having to worry about a fiance or hiring a new group of servants-cum-bodyguards. No one thinks that she’s just a cute little girl anymore.
The author REALLY nails Runa’s colors to the mast here. She attends the Republican National Convention in 2000, clearly supporting George W. Bush. She also meets with Norman Schwarzkopf and then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton for one of her many money-making schemes (though I suspect the author may have been thinking of Colin Powell there). Note that, aside from Koizumi (who is mentioned but never seen), none of these people are actually named in the book, but you know who they are. The main problem is that I can’t tell whether we’re supposed to condemn her actions or not. There are several people, throughout the book, who tell her to slow down and stop buying up all this failed debt, including her own brother and several of her minders. She even admits at one point she’s completely forgotten about the value of actual money. I think the main issue, unstated for the most part, is that she can’t stop seeing herself as the bad guy of the game this comes from. And she doesn’t really want to.
As I said, the writing here is good, and I want to see what happens next. But, as noted above, it may be morally and ethically wrong to read this series. Let the buyer beware.