My Next Life As a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 10

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 this series goes from a quick two-volume story to a double digit franchise, it’s perhaps a very good time to take a look at exactly who Katarina Claes is now. I still tend to call the series Bakarina out of habit, and certainly when it comes to not picking up romantic clues there’s still no one who can touch her, but the earlier books showed off how difficult it was to imagine Katarina as an adult out in the world. That’s not really the case anymore, and it almost sneaks up on you. While she can’t read the room in regards to anyone’s love for her (and her offhand “love, maybe I’ll try that one day” really will delight the ‘Katarina is asexual/aromantic’ faction), her empathy and desire to help others is off the charts, and, when told to start learning black magic, she develops a power that is literally cleansing the evil out. With a magic wand.

Back at the Ministry after the events of the last book, Katarina has discovered that the books that she and Maria are trying to decipher also turn out to be very user-specific – Maria can’t teach anything that she learns from her book, and Katarina would no doubt be the same. But Maria is a light magic expert. So, much as she worries it will lead to her doom, Katarina is told to learn dark magic. Still, she also has time to go with Cyrus and Maria (and everyone else in the cast, because this is a Bakarina novel) to an orphanage, where she learns what she can and can’t do with little kids and tries to help a particularly stubborn orphan. Unfortunately, we also see the return of a villain who hasn’t been seen since Book Four – Sarah is back, and still trying to find troubled folks she can do dark magic experiments on. Can even she be helped by our all-loving heroine?

I’ve talked before about how I think this series is LGBT “by accident” – that is to say it’s because the premise has everyone fall for Katarina, not because of any desire by the author to have the girls end up with other girls. That said, particularly in the case of Maria Campbell, it’s becoming hard to try to drag things back to the normal romance novel mode. Cyrus has amazed us by being one of those rare main characters not in love with Katarina Claes, and she spends much of this book trying to get the awkward lug to get closer to Maria – and failing, because of course Maria is over the moon for Katarina herself. Even the bonding activities that they’re doing with his teaching her martial arts comes down to her desire to protect Katarina rather than needing to be the one who is protected. If Cyrus does end up being a love interest for Maria in future books, we’ve got a LONG way to go. Then again, the same could be said about Katarina and Jeord.

From what I hear, the next volume may do something about that. Till then, enjoy this series and its all-loving heroine, who may be impulsive but is also a very good person. And now she has a magic wand.

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