My Next Life As a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 8

By Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka. Released in Japan as “Otome Game no Hametsu Flag Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei Shite Shimatta…” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Marco Godano.

As always with Bakarina, it’s one step forward, two steps back. This volume is perfectly enjoyable, and I had a lot of fun reading it. But as for actual forward plot development, it’s pretty much “the pick of the best of some recently repeated Katarina hits again, Vol. II”, as most of the book has Katarina being incredibly kind and empathetic almost on reflex, followed by a different POV showing the affected person realizing how wonderful she is and far behind her they are in comparison. This is particularly true of Maria and Jeord, who get the bulk of the serious things happening to them… or because of them. Not everyone is as well characterized as I’d like (Mary and Sophia in particular suffer here, with Mary literally getting a nosebleed that forces her to be put to bed because she is thinking of Katarina naked), but if your goal is “pleasant silliness”, this will do nicely.

The subject of this volume is an International Assembly, an event that happens every two years, and this year Sorcie is hosting it. It’s a huge gathering of the higher nobles from many countries. Katarina cannot get out of it. What’s more, everyone is panicked that she will embarrass herself and everyone around her. So it’s time for history lessons, dance lessons, etiquette lessons, most of which she knows but it can’t hurt to be sure, right? That said, as readers know well, the issue is rarely Katarina when she has a prearranged agenda, it’s when she wanders off the agenda. That happens here when she’s caught lying on the grass one day by a dark-skinned young man. They bond very quickly, though Katarina has to pretend she’s a servant. Is *he* a servant? What’s more, why are Maria and Sora at the Assembly and what are they investigating?

There are many interesting things happening here beyond the surface of “Katarina charms everyone, they all love her”. She does gain a new love interest here, but he’s not making any moves while she’s engaged to Jeord, and he’s also from another country. He makes a cool new addition. There’s also a darker plot of slavery and kidnappings going on behind the scenes, leading to Maria almost getting assaulted at one point (Katarina climbs a tree – ruining her ballgown – to stop this) and a cliffhanger which implies a lot more action-packed thriller stuff next time. Perhaps most interesting is Jeord, a character who has not had a fun time of it with Western fandom, despite – indeed, because – being the primary love interest. His reaction to seeing Katarina besmirched, and near homicide he commits, horrifies him, and the fact that Katarina is not really all that appalled by it doesn’t really help matters. Please remember that you can burn people, Prince.

So it’s mostly fluff, but lovable fluff, much like our heroine. Next time might be more serious. Till then, hope you like Katarina making everyone’s life better by being an amazingly dense ball of sunshine.

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