You were just chasing your crush, Prince Gerald, when you suddenly tripped and hit your head on the pavement. A sharp pain and a flood of memories fill your mind…
In these memories, you’re a fairly typical 17-year old high school girl in modern-day Japan with a sweet tooth and an unusual talent for climbing trees. Lately, you’ve spent several long nights playing the otome game (a story-based, romance video game) Fortune Lover. Your best friend Atsuko has already played through all four of the game’s possible romance targets and you both enjoy discussing the game’s cast and in-story events after class. You remember your mother waking you up after yet another long night of playing Fortune Lover, getting dressed for school, riding your bicycle, the sound of screeching, a…crash…pain…dark…ness…
Was this your life from…before? Who…are…you…?
Waking up, you find yourself in your room in bed and see a concerned Prince Gerald sitting next to you. He tells you that he’s sorry causing the scar on your forehead. As you tell him that it’s alright and that you’re sorry for causing everyone to worry, you realize that something’s wrong! As the only daughter of a duke, you’ve been spoiled and arrogant all your life! With the return of your previous life’s memories, you just can’t bring yourself to be so selfish now.
As you contemplate this, you see Gerald leaving. How long were you lost in your own thoughts? Your maid Anne joyfully tells you that Gerald has just promised to be engaged to you in apology for your accident and your scar. Isn’t 8 years old too early for an engagement?
You look at yourself in the mirror and notice that you’re more beautiful than you were in your previous life. Your upwards-slanting eyebrows make your face a little intimidating, just like that of a villainess in an otome game. Villainess, huh? In Fortune Lover, Prince Gerald had been engaged to a villainess since childhood. Sigh, that woman was so much trouble…huh? Engaged since childhood? Wasn’t her name Duchess Katarina Claes? Isn’t that…YOUR NAME?! You think back to Katarina’s profile in Fortune Lover and there’s no doubt it…YOU’RE the villainess!
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (乙女ゲームの破滅フラグしかない悪役令嬢に転生してしまった…, Otome Gēmu no Hametsu Furagu Shika Nai Akuyaku Reijō ni Tensei Shiteshimatta…, lit. I Reincarnated into an Otome Game as a Villainess With Only Destruction Flags…) is a light novel series, manga and anime written by Satoru Yamaguchi (山口悟, Yamaguchi Satoru).
In a certain country ruled by a European-style monarchy, there is a Magic School where all those with the talent for magic must go at age 15 and attend classes for two years. In the story of Fortune Lover, the player must choose a potential romance target (Gerald, Keith, Alan or Nicole) at the School and win that man’s heart within two years’ time, at which point the player confesses her feelings during the graduation party. For each romance target, the player will encounter a rival character and get to either a good ending (marriage) or a bad ending (unrealized love).
Upon remembering this, Katarina also remembers that, as a jealous rival character, she is destined for either exile or death. She decides to take up gardening as a fallback in case of exile and spends more effort at improving her swordsmanship and magic skills. She also befriends other characters from the game to lessen the chance of a bad ending. Katarina’s efforts end up working a little too well and result in all four of the romance targets falling in love her. Even the other rival characters and Maria Campbell, the player character of the game, end up seeing her as their most beloved friend. Blissfully ignorant of all this, Katarina remains ever vigilant for her potentially bleak future…
In an alternate version of this story, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!…On the Verge of Doom! (乙女ゲームの破滅フラグ スピンオフ…絶体絶命！破滅寸前編, Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shite shimatta… Zettai Zetsumei! Hametsu Sunzen Hen), the 15-year old Katarina Claes hits her head and regains her past-life memories after slipping on one of Maria’s cupcakes. The problem here is that she only has a year until her destined exile or death!
Katarina Claes, the only daughter of Duke Claes and Prince Gerald’s fiancée. In the Fortune Lover game, Katarina was a haughty, spoiled noblewoman obsessed with her fiancé Prince Gerald, which led her to bully the Fortune Lover protagonist, Maria Campbell. As a reincarnated modern-day girl from Japan, Katarina is now a friendly, easygoing and somewhat eccentric girl. She makes friends with the rest of the cast of Fortune Lover and, in turn, they all develop romantic feelings for her. Unaware of this, Katarina is determined to avoid the exile or death foretold for her character in the game. Whenever she thinks about how to avoid her bad endings, Katarina’s thoughts take the form of a council that discusses possible solutions.
Gerald Stuart, the third prince of the Kingdom. He is extremely talented at almost everything he does without even trying, from magic to gardening. Because of this, Gerald was often bored with life. He sees Katarina’s friendly eccentricity as a refreshing ray of light, allowing him to feel true happiness. Gerald is somewhat possessive of Katarina and uses their engagement to try to keep others away from her, to no avail. His one known weakness is his fear of snakes.
Keith Claes, Katarina’s younger stepbrother. The son of a cousin of the Claes family and a prostitute, Keith was taken in by Duke Claes after an incident in which he accidentally injured several of his siblings with a conjured earth golem. Possessing an exceptional talent for earth magic at a young age, he restrains himself to prevent his magic from hurting others, believing himself to be a monster. Katarina becomes close to him and he grows into a mature, considerate gentleman.
Alan Stuart, Gerald’s younger twin brother and the fourth prince of the Kingdom. As a toddler, he was sickly and got more attention than usual from his family, becoming somewhat spoiled afterwards. People often compared Alan to his talented brother Gerald, resulting in him becoming rather competitive. When Katarina tells him that he’s fine as he is and encourages him to find his own talents (in his case, music), Alan is eventually able to grow out of his inferiority complex.
Nicole Ascart, the son of the Prime Minister and a childhood friend of Gerald and Alan. Despite being happy with his family, Nicole was often pitied by others who saw his sister Sophia as cursed. As a result, he grew frustrated with people outside his family and developed something of a sister complex. When Katarina expressed her genuine liking of Sophia as a person and a friend, Nicole also learned to be at ease with her.
Mary Hunt, the youngest of Duke Hunt’s four daughters and Prince Alan’s fiancée. As the only child of her father’s now-deceased second wife, Mary was sometimes bullied by her older half-sisters during her early years. She has a talent for caring for plants, leading Katarina and Alan to comment that she has “green fingers”. Growing close to Katarina over their shared interest in gardening, Mary has strong romantic feelings for Katarina and tends to get jealous when others get close to her.
Sophia Ascart, Nicole’s younger sister. Born with white hair and eyes with crimson irises, Sophia was considered cursed by most people. Because of this, she trusted only her own family, especially her brother Nicole. Katarina becomes the first person she trusts apart from family because she was not put off by her unusual appearance. Although she doesn’t realize it, Sophia is the reincarnation of Atsuko, Katarina’s best friend in Japan. Unlike Katarina, Sophia’s memories as Atsuko only occur as vague dreams.
Maria Campbell, the original protagonist of the Fortune Lover otome game. Hardworking, humble and considerate, Maria is a top-notch student who enjoys baking sweets in her spare time. As a commoner born with the rare ability to use light magic, Maria is the first non-aristocrat to attend the Magic School in over 10 years. Because most magicians are nobles, Maria’s father suspected her mother of being unfaithful and left the family. Maria’s childhood friends distanced themselves from her and even her own mother avoided her. At the Magic School, she was bullied by several noble ladies for her commoner background. After Katarina and the others befriend her, Maria’s relationship with her mother improves.
In the isekai genre, a girl reincarnating as a story’s supposed villainess isn’t an unusual occurrence. Being familiar with the story’s outcome, they do whatever they can to prevent the unpleasant fate in store for their characters. In Katarina’s case, she basically became the new heroine of the Fortune Lover story by reaching out to the cast before the player character can do so. As a result, these people become better adjusted and more confident earlier in life, along with the bonus of them becoming Katarina’s intimate childhood friends. The player character Maria Campbell wasn’t without her own issues either and became close to Katarina after she protected her from bullies.
In the original Fortune Lover story, Katarina was a spoiled brat who bullied the player character mercilessly. As a result, she had no real friends and no one really missed her when she was either exiled or killed, not even her stepbrother Keith. While neither particularly smart nor talented at magic, the new Katarina was able to win over others through friendship and encouraging their particular strengths. To me, this is an example of how kindness can improve people’s outlook, when it is both given and received. It’s a case of reaping what you sow: cruelty for cruelty and kindness for kindness.
A little kindness can go a long way.