Prison Life Is Easy for a Villainess, Vol. 2

By Hibiki Yamazaki and Tetsuhiro Nabeshima. Released in Japan as “Konyaku Haki kara Hajimaru Akuyaku Reijou no Kangoku Slow Life” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

While I did very much enjoy this second volume and the series, I want to emphasize once again that this is a bit of a mess. The entire cast is filled with terrible, terrible people. The resolution basically amounts to “the king and queen finally come home and stop everything”. And every time that we get a scene that wasn’t in the original webnovel (which is to say one that is not focusing on Rachel in prison) it’s well written but jars terribly with everything else. Margaret’s past as a child, selling flowers on the side of a road, avoiding pedophiles, and living with sex workers trying to marry into royalty, honestly makes me want a bit more for her. The author says in the afterword that Margaret has “gumption but nothing else”, but gumption can get you far. In the end, though I think accidentally, the books read more as “you can be the worst person imaginable and it’s fine as long as you’re rich”. Which, well, current mood of world.

The plot is the same as the first book, though honestly some of the events seem to strain… not disbelief, but I think they show the author was grasping at straws. Elliott and company try to torment Rachel with terrible music, but she merely grabs a trumpet and forces them to play to her own rhythm, in a metaphor so obvious it smacks you in the head. She also has her pet monkey arrive from home, which leads to as many shenanigans as you can imagine a monkey running around the royal palace can have. Meanwhile, Elliott’s allies are being cut down one by one… possibly literally in the case of Sykes, whose fiancee turns out to be one of the few times I will actually use the word yandere in a review. That said, this cannot last forever, and finally Rachel’s parents and the King and Queen arrive to stop Elliott. But can they get Rachel to leave her cell?

The best parts of the book are the ones that show us what Rachel is really like behind all her confidence and casual cruelty. We’ve seen the shallow selfishness of Elliott and Margaret… but honestly, Rachel’s not all that much better. She can plan things out very well in the moment, but does not bother to think of consequences. What’s more, we see more people that her schtick doesn’t actually work on here… though, in keeping with the theme of the book, they’re also terrible sadists. (Word of warning, there are spanking scenes here. More than one.) In the end, she whines like a child and refuses to come out of her cozy cell where she’s been able to avoid responsibility, and ends up having to be bribed with a toy. (The toy is Margaret. Honestly, terrible as they both are, in five years or so I can see them being quite a power couple with Raymond as the beard.) Prison life is easy for a villainess, but actual life does not go as she’d like.

In the end, this book has a very, very specific readership. If you love the idea of a bitch doing horrible things to pathetic men who deserve it, you’ll love this. Two volumes honestly is a bit too many, but nevertheless I had fun.

Prison Life Is Easy for a Villainess, Vol. 1

By Hibiki Yamazaki and Tetsuhiro Nabeshima. Released in Japan as “Konyaku Haki kara Hajimaru Akuyaku Reijou no Kangoku Slow Life” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.

We’ve seen enough villainess stories by now that we’re used to the subgenres and deconstructions. We’ve seen ditzy villainesses, crafty villainesses, fleeing villainesses, and depressed villainesses. We’ve seen women who are aghast at how the relationships have changed around them, and other women who have no idea that they’ve become a beloved and cherished young lady. That said, for the most part even the most excessive of the villainess books has had a similar theme, which is “I am a villainess and I want to stop being one”. But what if our heroine is in fact a terrible person? What if she has not awoken to her past memories but simply been holding back her true self naturally? What if the world she lives in is, in fact, a cartoon? This novel is here to answer those questions. If you’ve been dying for some gaslighting, gatekeeping, and girlbossing, Rachel Ferguson is here for you. Even if she’s also behind bars.

Despite the villainess tag, there’s no past life from Japan or otome game hijinks here; it just describes our protagonist. Rachel is the duke’s daughter and the fiancee of the prince… however, he accuses her of bullying his new love, Margaret, and (as the King and Queen are conveniently away) tosses her into a cell. A… strangely full cell. What are all those packing crates doing there? Why is Rachel sitting on a chair eating canned food and sipping wine? Why does she have a COUCH? Most of all, why is she not sobbing and begging for mercy? Unfortunately for Prince Elliott, it turns out that Rachel’s somewhat detached, doll-like demeanor was hiding her true self… which everyone but him (and the other men Margaret is manipulating) seems to know about. And now that the beast has been let loose, Rachel is going to destroy him. Peacefully. While enjoying her prison life.

As noted, this book works best if you think of it as a cartoon, with Rachel as Bugs Bunny and Elliott as Yosemite Sam. The main reason for this is that if you try to find sympathy for any of these people, the story will collapse. The author wants the reader to be delighted at Rachel torturing people for her own amusement. Fortunately, for the most part, I am. Rachel is a bitchy delight. Elliott is the perfect dumb clown villain the book needs (it would not work with anyone smart of likeable). Oddly, Margaret, the commoner-turned-baroness’ daughter who started all this, ends up coming off as oddly cute, possibly as she’s clearly meant to be an innocent teenage brat rather than a scheming vixen. The book expands a lot on the original webnovel, and the author freely admits in the afterword that when you have a scene that doesn’t star Rachel in prison, it’s new to the light novel. These scenes don’t work quite as well, but they’re also fine.

If the idea of a woman casually destroying her idiotic fiancee over the course of 240 pages makes you go “hrm, not sure”, I’d avoid this book. If, like me, it makes you say “OH GOD, YES PLEASE”, then this will delight you. Also, the next volume is the last, so Rachel won’t wear out her welcome.