Modern Villainess: It’s Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash, Vol. 3

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 Airship. Translated by Emma Schumacker. Adapted by Jack Hamm.

I want to be more mad at this series than I am. It’s ludicrously pro-capitalism and pro-cop. Our heroine builds gated communities for people in the previous book, then in this one seems to be absolutely shocked that racism exists in the United States. The bulk of the middle third of this volume involves her trying to prevent 9/11 from happening. She fails. But then you also see that 9/11 has been enhanced by a deadly nuclear train almost wiping out Denver, and you think to yourself, “Wasn’t that the movie Atomic Train?”, and you realize that the author really does not have a hidden message or meaning to this book at all. It’s not trying to use its heroine to show you that right-wing politics is good, actually. It’s an author playing with toys, and when there’s a section of the plot where, say, you can work in a Tom Clancy book’s plot, in it goes. It’s hard to get mad at a Tinkertoy novel.

Even the author admits that this volume’s “plot” is scattered. It’s basically events that happen before and after Runa’s 10th birthday. This includes the aforementioned 9/11, which happens DURING Runa’s birthday party. We get school adventures, like Runa doing sports and club activities, and also a mountain climb and a trip to Kyoto. We also get more of Runa being the hidden power behind most of Japan, and start to see the beginnings of a rift between her and Prime Minister Koizumi. But other people are finally beginning to realize that this little girl has her fingers in a LOT of pies, and they’re trying to stop her. Not necessarily for reasons of “I want to control what she has”, but also for upright reasons like “this 10-year-old girl is killing herself trying to do everything”. How much longer can Runa get away with this?

I was very amused at the new character in this book, a “high roller” type who, like most of the capable people in this world, ends up becoming one of Runa’s employees. Unlike the rest of her staff, who likely realize something is wrong but don’t say anything out of politeness, he straight up asks Runa how the hell she is doing this. Runa still has not quite admitted “I’ve been reincarnated into an otome game”, but there’s just no way to accept any of her decisions without thinking that she has supernatural powers. Hell, her friend Hotaru has them, why not Runa? As for Runa herself, I think the book’s weak point remains her “villainess” part of it. She seems torn to the point of tears about whether she can change her fate, but she’s not trying to make herself a better person, she’s just trying to make sure her financial empire is not ruined. She’s still sort of evil. Work on that.

I don’t really recommend this series to anyone but economics majors, but I still find it rather fascinating in a morbid way. The webnovel version of this has 11+ books of material, but the 4th volume is the latest published in Japan, so we’re mostly caught up.

Modern Villainess: It’s Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash, Vol. 2

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.

Modern Villainess: It’s Not Easy Building a Corporate Empire Before the Crash, Vol. 1

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.

One of the most common afterwords in light novels, particularly when a book was originally published on the web, is the author talking about how they were only writing this book to amuse themselves and they had no idea it would get fans, or get published, or get an anime, etc. Usually I take this with a grain of salt, particularly when the book ends up having all the most popular cliches that are currently selling. With Modern Villainess, though, I 100% believe the author was not writing this for anyone but themselves, because it really does not seem to care about the common cliches. Our reincarnated-as-a-child heroine does not bother to act childish except to occasionally say “yay, pudding!”. About the only cliche that remains in place is the heroine believing that, no matter what changes she makes, she is doomed. But the answer in this case is not to learn magic and swordplay (non-existent), or make friends (though she does do that). It’s to become a tycoon.

As you’d expect by now, our heroine has been reborn into the life of a villainess from an otome game. Only this otome game is set in an alternate-world modern Japan, and she ends up ruined by the bubble bursting in 2008. In order to avoid that, she’ll need to invest wisely. Shame that she’s just a little kid. Also, both her parents are dead. And she’s sort of exiled from the family due to various scandals. Oh, and she might be descended from Russian royalty. And, yes, her family’s finances are in danger. Fortunately, she has a savvy butler who simply accepts that this girl is a genius, and so she sets out to fix her life via mergers, investments, buying up debt, and making herself a Very Important Person to the government of Japan. Unfortunately, that also attracts the attention of other countries.

The goal here was to write a villainess book that was not like others, which this mostly manages to do. She still has a mini-harem of young, brilliant boys, all of whom are set to “betray her” at the end of the otome game. But for the most part, this book is about economics. So much economics. The glossary at the end of each chapter, when added up, runs to about 25-30 pages. It can be difficult to keep track of the bankers, lenders, oil barons, and politicians who come into Runa’s life, but it’s also a lot of fun seeing her managing to outflummox everyone with the power of her Swiss bank account. (Those who don’t like capitalism will want to skip this, trust me.) Despite essentially being the star of Monopoly, Runa is surprisingly likeable, and we do occasionally see her making mistakes, which is refreshing. It’s a lot of fun if you can get through the pages and pages of money, power, and the combination therein.

Our heroine is still in elementary school at the end of this volume, so we’ve got a ways to go before we get to the ominous prologue (where we also see the heroine, who otherwise doesn’t show up). If you want something different in your villainess books, give this a shot.

(Also, kudos to her friend Hotaru, who actually does seem to have magic powers in an otherwise magicless book. And also looks exactly like Hotaru from Sailor Moon.)