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PODCAST: Ep. 98 – My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Vol. 1
The Mangasplaining gang venture into the world of 'other worldly' isekai stories with My Next Life as a Villainess, and take a few detours into explaining otome games, dating sims and much more!
Oh no! You died in the real world and woke up inside a video game world! Except you’re not the heroine of this dating-simulation, you’re the villainess who tries to take her down! You’ve got a bad end coming because the hero(ine) always wins… so what are you going to do? Well, you should PROBABLY check to see if they’ve got Mangasplaining in this new world, because we talk about a manga JUST LIKE THAT this week.
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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Vol. 1
By Nami Hidaka and Satoru Yamaguchi
Translated by Elina Ishikawa-Curran
Adaptation by Lora Gray
Edited by J.P. Sullivan
Lettering and retouch by Rina Mapa
Audio editing by David Brothers. Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki
ABOUT MY NEXT LIFE AS A VILLAINESS: ALL ROUTES LEAD TO DOOM!
When a woman is reborn into an otome video game as the villainess, how can she play to win? Based on the hit light novels and now an anime streaming on Crunchyroll! (And don’t miss the new manga spin-off and yuri anthology.)
At the age of eight, Katarina, a girl of noble birth in another world, has an accident that unlocks her memories–of playing an otome game that’s exactly like the life she’s living now. There’s one problem: she realizes that she’s playing the role of the villainess, and only bad endings await her! What will it take for her to “break the game” and live a happy life?
-Seven Seas Publishing
02:15 So what is "isekai," anyway? Basically, it's any story where someone from one world (almost always our world, the 'real' world) is transported--alive or dead--into another, usually fantastical world. It's a very popular genre in manga and anime, but it rules-the-roost when it comes to the medium of light novels.
We've mentioned light novels here on the podcast before (heh), but the long and the short is that light novels are basically modern day pulp novels. Genre fiction, by fans for fans (usually). isekai fantasy, romantic comedy, sci-fi, and a massive, massive amount of BL (boy's love) stories too. This is, I think, the first manga we've read that's been adapted from a light novel on the podcast.
Meanwhile, back to isekai for a second: It's not just popular in Japan. More and more isekai stories have started to be translated into English--check out this Isekai category page on Seven Seas' website for example, to see how many titles they've licensed in the genre.
Also, as we mention there are lots of manga (and webtoons) about villainesses, too. These are just the ones that Seven Seas has licensed, and only two of them are spin-offs of today's title. Being the villain/villainess in a story and getting away with it is... popular.
02:30 "Accountant in Lord of the Rings Times” is very, very good.
03:30 David mentions a few North American properties that qualify as isekai, where western children and teens are whisked away to another world. Titles like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, or, as I prefer to think of it, the Transformers episode where they get transported to King Arthur Times and invent Gunpowder, i.e.: Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court.
My other big touchstone for the genre is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, another popular one when I was growing up. I’m sure there are more. 🙂
[DEB:] Another early example of an isekai type story is Fushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play by Yuu Watase, about two high school girls who get sucked into a historical /quasi-Chinese fantasy novel. It’s also a ‘reverse harem’ story, where the lead character is surrounded by a bevvy of handsome men who protect her, teach her or vie for her affections.
4:00 Ah, the Dating Sim game. Where you are a guy, usually in high school, who is trying to maintain friendships and relationships with girls, and maybe get a girlfriend too. It’s usually possible to date and “win” all of the girls, but the different routes you take through the game and dating the girls leads to different endings, from best ending to worst ending.
The best ending of the game usually means you have to date the “best girl.” We talked a little about dating sims before, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to share (again) with you Tim Roger’s “Action Button Reviews Tokimeki Memorial” video, which will take you ALLLLLL the way through one of the most popular examples of the genre…
And of course, this sequence from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (covered on Mangasplaining in episode 18) where the genre is turned on its head, as Nozaki-kun realizes that sometimes in a dating sim, the “Best Girl” is actually your best bud…
So all of that said, when a dating sim is a dating sim, except for young women (or the girls’ point of view), they’re called “Otome Games”, or lit. Maiden Games. It’s the exact same thing, except you’re a girl and you’re trying to figure out which of the cool boys at school can be your boyfriend. There are good endings, where you get the “best guy,” and unlike male-oriented dating sims, otome games almost always have a RIVAL character (boys only have rivals in shonen manga), and the rival, or in today’s book, the Villainess, usually gets some kind of comeuppance… even in the routes where you get a band ending.
So, for Katarina, all routes really do lead… to Doom!
04:27 And once a game mechanic is around for long enough, it starts working its way into other kinds of games that might not normally have them. The action/adventure game HADES has dating sim (or ‘relationship maintenance’) mechanics, as does the adventure/mystery game series Persona. It moves the games from whatever their traditional genre is to something that’s closer to an RPG. Even games like GTA or the new Spider-Man games have relationship maintenance mechanics in them now. So even if you think you haven’t played a dating sim… You kinda have. 🙂
06:30 As above with the wall of Villainess and Isekai titles just at Seven Seas, Deb mentions that most the of the online comic and webtoon portals also have Villainess-type games (not to mention scores of isekai). Deb’s specific recommendations are:
Villains are Destined to Die, by Gwon Gyeoeul (original novel) and adapted to webtoon/comics by SUOL, both available from Yen Press’s Ise Press imprint…
and Concubine Walkthrough by bongbong, published in English on Tapas.
08:41 Yup, this book has a yuri spin-off, and that’s in addition to an Alternate-Universe-version of this story. The yuri title is My Next Life as a Villainess: Side Story: Girls’ Patch, an anthology of shorts where all of the various girls in the series fall in love with Katarina and each other.
his begs the question, is Boys’ Patch coming any time soon?
09:00 Also, in the mighty Marvel tradition of “Every Episode is Somebody’s First”, Yuri manga is simply a genre of manga, usually romance (although other subgenres happen) which features lesbian relationships. Sometimes it’s written for all different audiences, from lesbians to straight women to straight dudes to everyone, with a wide variety of material now licensed for release in English.
Friend-of-the-Podcast Erica Friedman has been writing about Yuri manga for a good long while now on her website Okazu, and she’s written a WONDERFUL introduction to what, exactly, Yuri is! It’s in the info about her convention Yuricon.
09:45 We all agree that her inner monologue being represented by “The Inner Council of Katarinas” is a pretty good visual gag.
Also, "I already died young in my previous life..." Yeah. Literally 20 minutes ago.
We also take a moment to mention the "pocket snake" gag, which is very different than how it sounds.
15:20 I’m going on quite a bit here, so let me just sum up: There is nothing in this book that happens that is not specifically about her goal not to have a “bad route." Nothing that builds scene or character or interiority or… being a ‘person’ rather than just a protagonist in a book that isn’t written very well. She doesn’t develop as a character literally at all in 9 years.
18:07 The interiority of Garfield is immense. And that’s not a fat joke.
“This Ain’t Literature.”
19:20 I try not to use the show notes to ‘get the last word in’ but when Chip refuted the above by saying “Oh, I’m reading a video game.” But since I bit my tongue cuz I'd just talked for 5 continuous minutes, I want to take a second to say: Games are awesome! Whatever you think about GTAV, there are ton of missions, side-quests, and bits of environmental storytelling that build a world around the three main characters that is entirely absent in this manga. Many of the other games we've mentioned do this too, like Persona and Hades, which have great writing and characters. At the very least, this manga needed a few more side-quests.
Also, at 20:27, Chip compares this book to the plot and script of a porno in its one-note determination, so like, I’m gonna count my criticism as a W.
24:25 There are a ton, an absolute ton of manga that are adapted from light novels. It’s a way to start as a proof-of-concept for a lot of material.
David specifically mentions Dirty Pair, the classic novel series by Haruka Takachiho and illustrated by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko released beginning in 1980. We didn't get any of these in the west until many, many years after we got Adam Warren's take on these characters and stories in several Dirty Pair comic books published by Dark Horse beginning in 1988 (tragically out of print due to rights issues). THOSE happened thanks to the various Anime TV series and OVAs that ran from 1985-1990 or so. While I don't think that Dirty Pair was the very first Japanese property to arrive in the west based on novels/light novels, I do think it was maybe the one with the biggest impact, particularly for David and I.
Light novels are huge business in Japan too. For an article explaining the steady surge of Japanese light novels in translation onto American bookstore shelves, check out this article by none other than our very own Deb Aoki, a certified expert on the subject (despite not liking them very much!).
28:53 Chris mentions Spice & Wolf, by Isuna Hasekura, a series of more than 24(!) light novels published in Japan by an imprint of Kadokawa, with English versions available from Yen Press' Yen On imprint.
It's about a merchant in a fictional world moving from town to town making money, and the immortal 600-year old deity in the form of a cute 15-year old girl with fox ears, and their conversations about how capitalism works. It has some explicit content and themes, and it was a hugely-requested license that actually surprised people when it was released. Of course. it got a manga, an anime, and a bunch of other spin-offs and adaptations. New novels are periodically being released in Japan.
Here's a funny article from CBR about how the economics lessons in Spice & Wolf were better than the romance.
29:45 Chip mentions Tony Lee, the New York Times Best-seller list author who has worked in a variety of media, but is best known (to us) for his work in comics back in the day.
In addition to his comics work, he publishes the Detective Inspector Declan Walsh series of procedural crime novels, under the pen-name Jack Gatland. It's a very tough name! :D But yeah he's got a list of credits as long as my arm, and self-publishes work that isn't that far away from "light novels" to great success. You can find out more about his work at tonylee.co.uk
32:05 Speaking of past episodes of Mangasplaining, David mentions that Grappler Baki got an isekai spin-off. It's name, like all good light novels, is a mouthful: Baki Gaiden Retsu Kaiō wa Isekai Tensei Shitemo Ikkō ni Kamawan!!; literally: "Baki Side Story: It Doesn’t Even Matter if Kaiou Retsu is Reincarnated into Another World!". In it, one of the characters of Baki is reincarnated to another world, and continues fighting. Except maybe these are real/famous people?
Deb then mentions the isekai series where eternal salaryman / executive Kosaku Shima (we covered him in episode 82) is thrown back in time (To Lord of the Rings times?). He and his salaryman cohort are knights in a castle? It's called The Knight Commander Kosaku Shima and there's three volumes out... and counting! Of course, there's also ANOTHER isekai spin-off of Kosaku Shima, where the the lead character of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is instead reincarnated as... Kosaku Shima. Bug Kodansha to localize these, lol. ;)
33:24 In order for you to get transported to another world in Japan... You must be visited by Truck-kun. Warning: This is the most anime thing we've ever posted to the blog. So like, NSFW, in poor taste, but an actual meme/bit of mangasplaining.
34:13 Sword Art Online by Reki Kawahara is one of the early big light novel/manga isekai properties that hit it really big in North America (IMHO). It was self-published almost simultaneously by the VERY similar .hack (dot hack) by Bandai, with Tokyopop licensing the novels and manga for simultaneous release. Both series' are about a virtual world that you login to using a sophisticated helmet that you stimulates all your senses, a fully immersive world. However, once users log in, they find that they can't log out! And if you die in the real world, you die in real life! And... well, it sounds kind of hackneyed now, but it was pretty cutting edge when it was originally released in 2002. Then .hack came out with the similar premise and captivated otaku here, and then when SAO went big-time (moving to Kadokawa) in 2009, it became a full-on revolutionary property, succeeding in a much bigger way than .hack did. But as Deb and David mention, it ran out of steam in the late 2010s but still kept going. It's still going to this day: 27+ novels, many spin-off novels, manga, many anime, games, and so much more. It's available in many iterations in English from Yen Press.
These days, much like Naruto (which everyone was ALSO into), it's used to make fun of "uncool" otaku, as opposed to cool otaku.
Couldn't write that without actually chuckling at the end.
35:45 David mentions Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? by Dachima Inaka with illustrations by Pochi Iida. It's a light novel series with a hilarious title where a teenager is isekai'd to a fantasy world inside an online game... With his mom. And his mom turns out to be way, way stronger and better at the game than him. 11 Volumes of novels, 5 manga, an anime, and an OVA. Also available in English from Yen Press.
41:00 Even Judy Garland/Dorothy wanted to go home from her isekai adventures in the Land of Oz...
42:20 There is a lot of same-face going on here, not gonna lie.
That said, Chip mentions that Page 169 has a nice bit of actual art going on.
Nice that she'd remember her friend in the real world... Still didn't get a name though.
44:09 I LOVE that Chip keeps referencing TRON. My biggest regret on relistening to this is not engaging him with TRON more. I feel like that was a bit he was doing that could've used more space to breathe.
44:20 David mentions the Kodansha manga Quality Assurance in Another World, by Masamichi Sato, which is... an original manga! For real! Manga first, not a light novel. Wild. You can read the first chapter over at the Kodansha website. 9 volumes, ongoing, with an anime coming out next summer.
Deb then mentions Saving 80,000 Gold In Another World for My Retirement, by Funa with art by Touzai. Both the light novel and the manga (adapted by Keisuke Motoe) are available in English from Vertical/Kodansha.
53:50 I know that they're almost antonyms, but these chapter titles with the handsome boys from the game ARE pretty generic illustrations, but ALSO pretty specific to otome games.
55:00 And as mentioned at the very end, this volume does include a 10-page short story with the same name, that I guess is a teaser for the novel series? It seems to be a complete short story though, or perhaps a prelude chapter or something. Anyway, a neat little addition.
And that's this episode! Thanks for listening!
58:45 THE BREAK
59:30 SHOUT OUTS!
CHRISTOPHER shouts out The Super Mario Bros. movie. Which is funny, because this episode was recorded in April(!) and is coming out in August(!), so late that there’s another MASSIVE children’s media tie-in movie out that also crossed a billion dollars, and so this seems so out of date. Sorry gang.
Rather than include a trailer for that movie like you don't know what it is, let me instead link to the "Simpsons Comic" I mentioned, Don't Cry For Me, I'm Already Dead, created by Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe (well before she created SU). I have no idea if she still wants this online so apologies for linking a fan-site hosting it, but this comic really, really hits.
Speaking of things I'm not sure if I should link to due to copyright reasons, Deb did get me this fanzine Bowuigi Zine by Ariel Ries. It's a very cute series of illustrations and short comics about an imagined relationship between the two mortal enemies.
For more, type #bowuigi into any social media.
CHIP shouts out a bunch of new seasons of TV, and please keep in mind that this happened well before the writer's strike. Support the WGA! Those series' btw are Barry and Seccession and BEEF.
DEB recommends Concubine Walkthrough which we covered up top. I can't find a print listing for this in English, just the online from Tapas, but I have to imagine Ize Press/Yen Press will eventually release it.
[DEB:] YES, PLEASE.
DAVID starts out recommending the classic and groundbreaking boxing manga Ashita no Joe, which just got a brand-new edition in Spanish and which looks really good.
But given the isekai theme of the episode, he also recommends the isekai light novel series Restaurant to Another World, by Junpei Inuzuka with illustrations by Katsumi Enami. There's 6 volumes of the novels, with a manga spin-off and a television anime. In it, an Japanese-style western food (called yōshoku) restaurant serves regular denizens of Tokyo during the week, but on Saturdays it opens a door to a "Lord of the Rings Times" fantasy world and serves elves and monsters and adventurers and the like. Available in English from Yen Press.
Deb and I got confused and thought David was talking about the manga and novel series Otherworldly Izakaya NOBU, written by Natsuya Semikawa with illustrations by Kururi. The manga adaptation by Virginia Nitohei is published in English by UDON Entertainment. We like this one! It's about a Japanese izakaya that simultaneously exists in a Lord of the Ring-esque walled castle city AND in present-day Tokyo! It's a lot of fun and has great food illustrations.
Conflict of Interest Note: Deb and I are working with UDON in various capacities. But we really do like this series!
I also mentioned Thermae Romae, the manga about a man from ancient Rome who gets sent to modern day Japan, where he discovers Japanese bathing culture. It’s by Mari Yamazaki, and it’s published in English by Yen Press (and now available in a 3-in-1 omnibus edition). It also got an anime and a live-action movie adaptation that was hugely popular in Japan.
Deb then mentions a series which, surprisingly, is NOT an Isekai! But, uh, it's not available in English. It's the manga, movie, and Netflix television series Midnight Diner (Shinya Shokudou). It's one of my favourites! Watch it on Netflix if you didn't cancel your account.
And that’s this week in Mangasplaining! This episode is also available wherever you get your podcasts, so please subscribe and leave a review, so others can discover our show.
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Next time on Mangasplaining:
The book you've been waiting for. Naoki Urasawa's PLUTO. Get ready.
Thanks so much for listening! Please support your local comic and manga specialty shop when purchasing these books, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. You can also check your local library for print and digital lending options, they have TONS of manga! Finally, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment for this episode.