I Swear I Won’t Bother You Again!, Vol. 3

By Reina Soratani and Haru Harukawa. Released in Japan as “Kondo wa Zettai ni Jama Shimasen!” by Gentosha Comics. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Molly Lee. Adapted by T. Anne.

I remember when I read the first volume of this series, I was impressed at its ability to take a stock plot, “villainess goes back in time to try to avoid her fate”, and seriously examine what traumas they might actually carry back by doing so. In the second volume, I was impressed (but also a bit wary, as it’s clearly the end pairing) at showing how disturbing and obsessive Yulan’s love for Violette is, and also at how the series shows that even if you do have a “safe haven” at school, and make new friends, there’s still the abusive family at home. And now we have the third volume, and by the end of it I am reduced to begging the author to please make it stop. This is still an excellent, compelling read, provided you can get past, well, the entire plot. But let’s face it, at this point we’ve switched genres. It’s not a villainess book. It’s a horror novel.

In the first two-thirds of this book, things are looking relatively good for Violette. She manages to apologize to Claudia for her previous behavior, closing the book on that chapter in her life. She’s managed to make a good friend in Rosette, another noble who hides her true self behind a facade. Sure, Yulan tells her that he can’t study with her this round of exams because he has to study with Maryjune, but that’s… she can deal with that. She may not like it, but she can deal with it. Heck, she’s even having Marin come up with new hairstyles for her, which is a big, big change, because her hair is one of her triggers from her childhood abuse by her mother. Then even more good news: her abusive father is called away to her grandfather’s place for the week! Now mealtime will be peaceful… OR WILL IT?

There’s no sugarcoating this, the last third of this volume is straight up terrifying. We haven’t really seen much at all of Lady Elfa, Violette’s stepmother, in this book, and given how absolutely terrible Violette’s father was, and how innocently terrible her sister is, I wasn’t sure we needed another terrible person. Sadly, I proved to be incorrect. (Indeed, the author states that the head chef, named in this volume, is literally the only non-terrible adult in the series.) Elfa feels like a horror parody of all the smiling, “ara ara” moms that you see in anime, and her words and actions towards Violette come uncomfortably close to a line I really really do not want this series to cross. That said, the most terrifying parts of the book involve Marin, Violette’s maid. She’s not the heroine, so does not have plot immunity, and I am very, very worried that she will not live to the end of the series.

I can’t recommend this series for everyone anymore, as it’s just become far too harrowing. If you don’t care for emotional torment as a plot device, Tearmoon Empire would be a better “villainess goes back in time” book. But for those who love a good soap opera that’s not afraid to get dark as pitch, this is a nightmarish yet thrilling ride.

I Swear I Won’t Bother You Again!, Vol. 2

By Reina Soratani and Haru Harukawa. Released in Japan as “Kondo wa Zettai ni Jama Shimasen!” by Gentosha Comics. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Kimberly Chan. Adapted by T. Anne.

It’s been about a year and a half since the first volume of this came out (there were apparently behind-the-scenes difficulties), and I was worried, given that I’ve read 578 Villainess books in the interim, that I would have lost whatever made me really, really love the first volume. Having now read the second volume, I can state my worries were entirely unfounded. This is not a fun book to read. It may take you a while to crawl through it. But it’s an intensely powerful book. Most of the Villainess books either have the main character entirely unaware of how much everyone loves her, or they resolve the “bad end” part straight away and move on to happier, fluffier things. Not here. At the end of this second volume, I can’t think of a single thing that Violette can do to make this a happier, more joyous series. And that’s even including the epiphany she has at the end of the volume!

Most of this volume deals with exams. In her previous go around, Violette did all right, but maryjune got first place for her year, meaning her father yelled at her endlessly. She knows she can’t avoid that, but she wants to at least do well, but lacks any core friends that will help her study beyond Yulan. Fortunately, Yulan would do anything for her, and takes care of this. Then the exams come out, and she does quite well… but she accidentally triggers something new, and now has even more new, terrifying ways to worry about what Maryjune is going to do. On the bright side, she does gain a new friend in Rosette, a princess from a neighboring country who also tends to hide her real self. On the not-so-bright side… the entire rest of the book.

I worry I may be talking this book down by saying how goddamn depressing it is, and I want to reassure readers: this is really good. The author knows how to convey abuse and depression, the day to day grinding down that can happen to anyone forced to live with a family that belittles and hates them. At one point Violette has a panic attack, and it too is perfectly portrayed. The end of the book has her realize just how she feels about Yulan, and we also get several POV chapters showing how he feels about her. That said… I’m not a fan of them getting together. I think it would be bad for both of them. Yulan is not in love so much as obsessed, and that can easily turn out badly, especially with someone like Violette, who already has to deal with Daddy Dearest (you’ll really wish him dead by the end of this book). At least she has her maid Marin, who does not slaughter the entire family in a rage at the way they treat Violette, but certainly imagines doing it.

I’d wait till you’re in the right mood to experience this book. It’s heavy, and downbeat, and somewhat hopeless. But man, it is NOT the same old Villainess story we normally get. Can’t wait to suffer more.

I Swear I Won’t Bother You Again!, Vol. 1

By Reina Soratani and Haru Harukawa. Released in Japan as “Kondo wa Zettai ni Jama Shimasen!” by Gentosha Comics. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Kimberly Chan. Adapted by Jennifer Rawlinson.

One of the real joys of reading a large number of novels with the same sort of plot, characters, themes, and plot twists is that when something comes along that is surprising to me, I always enjoy it that much more. Let’s face it, we now have enough “villainess” novels out over here that it’s starting to become old hat. This book is not that, despite featuring many of the same beats you’ve seen before. Our heroine, Violette, is imprisoned after trying to murder her younger stepsister in a fit of rage. She’s filled with regrets and apologies, and swears that if she could only go back to when she and Maryjune were first introduced to each other, she’d do things differently, resolving to never bother her again. And then… she suddenly does return to that day. But she has no memories of a past life, this isn’t an otome game, and she can’t simply avoid conflict. As a result… she falls into depression.

Not to spoil too much about the book, but Violette is not your typical spoiled brat villainess we normally see, but a child of abuse, manipulated by her late mother, who forced her to live as a boy for several years, and then abandoned her when puberty made that impossible. Her father found a mistress he truly loved, and had a child with her, but as for Violette, he can’t stop seeing her mother in her, so is cool and unloving. As for Maryjune, she’s sweet and idealistic, but… she’s naive and VERY idealistic, and was raised as a commoner in a world where you can’t just say “nobility is wrong!” and expect to get away with it. All of this is filtered through Violette’s point of view, and frankly it’s not hard to see why Maryjune’s appearance made her snap. Here, on her second go-round, she just barely holds back, but this does not get rid of the rage, hurt, and loneliness that inhabits most of her being.

While not an “otome game” book per se, the plot certainly resembles that kind of genre, with Maryjune as the “protagonist” to Violette’s villainess. Violette has two allies; her childhood friend Yulan, who adores her but whom she sees as a younger brother type, and Marin, her maid (who was a dying orphan she found on the street as a child… I told you it hit all the standard plot beats), who is sometimes in tears as she sees just what Violette has to deal with every day. Violette tries to avoid the main things that led to her trying to kill Maryjune in her previous timeline, but she’s only gone back in time about a year, so it’s harder to prove that she’s changed. And, above everything else, she’s just so tired ALL the time. She’s resolved to become a nun after graduation, which I doubt will happen, but it does show that far from trying to find a happy life for herself, she’s almost given up from the start.

There’s a manga coming out next month, but I hear that this removes a majority of Violette’s inner monologue (as is common with adaptations), and thus she seems far less depressed and trying desperately to hold everything together. That said, I’m very happy we have this light novel, which shows why the Villainess genre has blown up lately – you can do a lot with it.