This past season of anime started with me having about 6-7 different series I was planning to watch… and then COVID-19 hit and with postponements, that number dropped down to two. One of those was Fruits Basket Season 2, which is still ongoing, but the other was a new Isekai series based on a Light Novel, and one with a premise that really caught my interest – My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (or HameFura for short).

HameFura, like many other Isekai based on light novels, more or less spell out their premise in the title of the work – the protagonist is a teenage otaku (in this case a girl), who suffers a tragic end (not pictured but probably involving Truck-kun), and is reincarnated as a character in the Otome game she’d been playing before her unfortunate demise. Unfortunately for her, she’s not the protagonist. She’s not even a friend of the protagonist. She’s the antagonist, Catarina Clause, and one who in almost every route of the game where she’s featured ends up, at best exiled, at worst ends up dead.

Having just gotten a new opportunity on life, ending up deceased again is the last thing Catarina wants to do, so she sets out actively fighting her fate. However, she has one strong advantage that her game counterpart lacks, and it’s one that is not provided by some divine entity responsible for the reincarnation – it’s a trait she possessed on her own: she’s a really good person.

No, really, that’s basically it – Catarina has no OP hax abilities like your standard isekai power fantasy protagonist. The only things she has going for her is she has foreknowledge of the game’s plot, she’s a really good person, and in real life she was a tomboy with a green thumb – and with no knowledge of how to move in high society. With that, she’s able to overturn the tests set before her and is able to fight fate – and in the process ends up usurping the game protagonist’s spot as the center of a romantic harem.

In short, HameFura is a reverse harem comedy that works. None of the guys are creepers with any sort of rapey tenancies. Everyone is varying degrees of charming and endearing with their own favorable traits. While the series tends towards a harem ending, it’s not because the protagonist is wishy-washy and non-committal, and more that, well, she’s denser than a bag of lead.

Catarina, who has been nicknamed by the fans as “Bakarina”, is basically more emotionally invested with being nice to people and making sure her friends are happy to notice that all of them, both men and women, are in love with her. It’s not even the case of the protagonist being an ace person surrounded by non-ace people who are attracted to her. She’s just been so focused on avoiding her “doom flag” that evading death at the conclusion of the actual game to consider the idea that maybe she’s the protagonist now.

On top of all of that, the show is wonderfully fanservice light. Certainly, the character designs are attractive. But there’s no Gainax bounce to be seen, the gaze is generally neutral (neither female nor male), and everyone keeps their clothes on – even in the sleepover episode.

I absolutely enjoyed this show, and I’m definitely looking forward to the second season.

My Next Life As A Villainess is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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