What is it about 2021 and sequels? Is there some kind of curse over the anime industry at the moment that means all sequels have to lose what made the original season so entertaining? Then again, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with sequels not measuring up for one reason or another so it is no surprise really that a story focused on comedy, such as the isekai My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X didn’t quite end up hitting the same sweet spot as the original.
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That isn’t to say that the charm is entirely gone from Catarina’s life as this isekai female lead meanders obliviously over her harem’s emotions, gets kidnapped, eats a lot of food, rescues her brother from being kidnapped and then eats more food. However, season one of My Next Life as a Villainess felt like there was a purpose in Catarina avoiding the death flags from the game she had played. No matter how loose the plot got, there was always the basic premise to fall back on to hold things together.
So what went wrong for My Next Life as a Villainess Season 2?
Season two lacks that and it isn’t until the final episode that we even really get directed back to the game in a sequel or movie bait moment that actually kind of made me interested in watching more even though I had more or less decided not to continue with this franchise after this season. Given the best part of this season was discussing each episode with both Crow and Irina despite having gone in excited for more of Catarina’s story, I came to the conclusion that more was not necessarily better.
That isn’t to say that My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X is actually bad. It really isn’t. But nor is it infectiously charming and silly in the way season one was. Instead we’re left with an anime that has short arcs where the stakes might seem high but they aren’t, plots that could be dark but will be resolved too swiftly to be taken seriously, and a cast that is actually suffering from bloat because while each character is charming none of them get enough time to really sell their charm to the audience.
Its a bit of a shame when there are some delightful moments along the way.
Early on we were introduced to a ‘villain’ who had kidnapped Catarina. He was a fun character (you know despite being a kidnapper and all) as he verbally sparred with Catarina, sat and ate cakes and had tea with her, delivered a heart-wrenching back story that really went nowhere, but he had a bit of spice as a character and the glasses and butler outfit kind of worked for me.
While he wasn’t toppling Nicol as my favourite in the harem, Sora’s introduction had the potential to shake up a group that had fallen into fairly predictable patterns and routine repeats of jokes we’d seen before. There’s only so many confessions, acts of jealousy, and friendly verbal sparring you can watch before it all feels like you’ve seen and heard it all before.
Instead My Next Life as a Villainess has Sora’s character ending up working at the department of magic with Raphael. Fine. However, the next few times we see him there’s no spice or entertainment to be had. He’s just another generic nice guy who kind of crushes on Catarina. Instead of mixing things up and giving us some new beats, Sora just eats up screen time from other cast members but contributed nothing particularly new.
It didn’t help that he ditched the glasses and went for a more casual and forgettable wardrobe in the final arc. Ultimately, Sora just blends in to the background of My Next Life as a Villainess and I couldn’t help but feel it was a waste of a character introduction. He had the potential to be so much more.
And while we’re on the topic of wasted potential, we had not one but two kidnapping plots this season. How often do nobles in this kingdom get kidnapped that both Catarina and Keith from the same family can be kidnapped in two separate incidents?
Catarina’s abduction was definitely never intended to be taken seriously as she uses it as an excuse to enjoy not having to get up on time, to eat as much as she wants, and generally be quite lazy. It also did bring Sora into the story and seemed like a decent enough arc. Furthermore, this arc did some solid heavy lifting in world-building as it introduced anime viewers to the complex political relationship between the four princes when really they just want to get along.
As always though, the conflict is resolved pretty easily and Catarina is rescued without ever really being in danger.
Keith isn’t so lucky as he doesn’t have protagonist plot armour in My Next Life as a Villainess and his kidnapping is actually quite a painful ordeal, not that the follow-up episode would in anyway support that. Despite being tortured for days, Keith seems entirely mentally fine and not at all traumatised by the experience, because you wouldn’t want reality to be a downer on a rom-com (which makes you wonder why bother putting the sub-plot in at all if you aren’t doing anything with it).
There are some solid moments of entertainment sprinkled around the messy plot. The play the characters put on early in the season is a delightful return to the world of My Next Life as a Villainess. Also, Gerald finally just telling Catarina straight out how he feels and kissing her was a pretty show-stopping way to end an episode, but then Catarina just plays it super dense so this also goes nowhere fast.
Perhaps my favourite stand-alone plot point was Nicol’s episode where he decided to actually have some marriage interviews. In terms of characters actually being entertaining and charming, this was the episode highlight of the whole season. It felt like it was moving Nicol’s character forward, deepening our understanding of him, and just giving him and his potential matched partner space to really shine. That there were so few other moments like this for the rest of the cast is a little bit sad as Mary and Sophia more or less become background chorus for the majority of the season.
Visually, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X is still the same bright and bubbly affair that season one was with some nice contrasting colours, great character costumes, and some beautiful anime food (oh, the food). It isn’t exceptional in terms of the animation, nor does it need to be when a lot of the time that characters are being pretty still, but it does enough in the few action sequences throughout.
The opening theme wasn’t quite as entertaining as season one’s, but the ending theme for episodes 1-11 “give me ♡ me” was one of my season highlights. I didn’t ever stop the episode without watching the ending which is kind of rare for me with anime as I usually get hooked on openings but find most endings fairly skippable.
Overall thoughts on My Next Life as a Villainess:
All Routes Lead to Doom! X
Honestly, I didn’t hate this follow up season to My Next Life as a Villainess, I just kind of found it a little lacking and there were so many moments where it felt like it didn’t make the most of particular opportunities. The end result is it becomes pleasant enough watching characters you like going through the motions of a ho-hum plot with a lot less humour but it also isn’t something you could recommend as a must watch.
Images from: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X. Dir. K Inoue. Silver Link. 2021
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