This review was written before the release of the My Next Life as a Villainess movie. If necessary, this review will be updated to reflect current information when the movie comes out.
#1 Unwillingly reincarnated as the villain
When the daughter of an influential duke one day injures her head in a fall, she comes to a shocking realization. She used to be normal, everyday girl in a previous life, living in a different world in the country of Japan. In that life she was a passionate fan of a video game that suspiciously resembles her current life, down to the exact same characters. Classic isekai shenanigans, you might say. Except this Japanese girl didn’t reincarnate as the hero of the story or even as a new character, but as the villain Catarina Claes.
Recalling all the terrible fates that would befall Catarina throughout the game’s storyline, she opts to turn her life around completely. She becomes obsessed with fighting her destiny by becoming a better Catarina and avoiding the “doom flags” that would set her down the path to failure.
Though she has the benefit of her existing knowledge of the game’s plot, attempting to break free from it proves to be harder than expected. Catarina becomes kind-hearted and attempts to establish good relationships with the other main characters, but some plot points appear to be unavoidable even when their context is changed. For example, when Catarina attempts to avert her adopted brother’s loneliness by befriending him, something even worse happens that makes him clamp up completely.
Can Catarina Claes change her predestined future or was her next life as a villainess doomed from the start?
#2 Bisexual harem
Over the course of My Next Life as a Villainess, Catarina forges strong bonds with various other characters. She becomes a friendly, lovable person with an energetic personality; a complete turn-around from the stuck-up noble girl she used to be. Not only does this change make her actual friends, it also earns her the affection of several people.
Catarina is incredibly selfless, yet also unaware of just how much of an impact her words and actions have on people. Helping others and treating them fairly, regardless of social standing, is just natural to her. She treats everybody like a friend, but this also causes her to be oblivious when people desire more than friendship from her.
A harem soon forms around Catarina, all of whom are competing to see who can get through her denseness first. This harem is really more of a circle friends, however, as all these characters have interesting personalities and well-developed relationships with each other. At least, up until Catarina becomes involved, at which point competitiveness tends to trump friendship.
A nice detail is that Catarina’s harem includes both men and women, both of which are treated seriously as romantic options. Every character, regardless of gender, gets a detailed backstory with Catarina that explains their affection for her and the storylines that bloom from this harem make sure to distribute the spotlight fairly.
#3 Gorgeous character designs
Befitting of an anime themed after otome games, the designs of the characters is very appealing indeed. It manages to somehow strike an amazing middle ground where the designs incorporate iconic touches for shoujo romance stories, while remaining appealing to a general audience that would be drawn to the anime’s fantasy & comedy.
The men are dashing and look cool, without going into full bishounen mode. The girls are cute and look nice without overly relying on fanservice or sex appeal. You’d think that the anime would suffer for not committing to any one demographic, but in My Next Life as a Villainess handles this excellently.
Adding to the appealing designs of the characters are the beautiful, aristocratic clothes they get to wear. There’s some gorgeous fantasy fashion going on here, with lots of strong colors and intricately-designed outfits.
#4 Renaissance era fantasy
My Next Life as a Villainess is set in a type of fantasy world that you really get to see. Rather than being straight-up medieval fantasy, it’s more of a late-renaissance setting with some strikingly modern influences.
You still got the castles, cozy villages, endless farmlands, and paved cities that make fantasy feel so deliciously old-timey. At the same time, the world has hints of overseas exploration & advanced technologies. Nothing that takes away too much from the fantastical setting, but enough to set it apart from even the late-medieval period.
This difference is also reflected in the setting’s society. There is still an emphasis on social classes, with much of the story revolving around the upper-class aristocracy. However, the middle and lower classes are more emancipated than you’d find in medieval fantasy. Even the prestigious magical academy that much of My Next as a Villainess is set in accepts students from poor families, which is something that would be unthinkable in an anime like The Familiar of Zero.
#5 Painterly backgrounds
Matching the great design of the characters, I found similar enjoyment in the artistry of the backgrounds. Those fantasy landscapes and beautiful castles are presented in a gorgeous, painterly style. In fact, many of these backgrounds feel almost like paintings that the cast gets to interact in.
Somehow these backgrounds manage to be both super colorful and highly detailed, while at the same time being quite common. They just keep throwing in new, amazing backgrounds multiple times per episode, some of which were just outright draw-dropping in their beauty. They might have recycled a few of these backgrounds, but if that’s the case then we absolutely couldn’t tell for certain.