Aileen has the worst timing sometimes, like when she wishes that she had realized earlier that she has been reincarnated into an otome game she played in a previous life, not when her fiancé Cedric is dumping her for the game’s heroine! Aileen is especially miffed since she didn’t actually do all of the things accused of her, like bullying Cedric’s new fiancée Lilia, and now she needs to secure her own future before the “game” ends in three months. Since you see, Aileen remembers another part of the game: you can’t complete this romance on the first play-through, but by the second you can try and romance Cedric’s older brother, the demon king Claude, instead and through that route you can avoid him turning into a giant dragon and destroying the country.
So, for the sake of everyone, Aileen is switching gears and going after the final boss instead!
I was a bit confused when the light novel’s prelude began with Aileen talking in the first person but then largely switched to being in the third person for the rest of the volume. Translator Taylor Engel is a familiar name to me so I have to trust their judgement on this switch, but it was a strange one and I found myself wishing that the entire volume had stayed in the first person instead. It felt much clunkier in the third person and I think having the manga remain in the first person made it a more lively read at times, although the art helped there as well. Light novel illustrator Mai Murasaki’s illustrations and character designs are lovely but I found the expressiveness in manga artist Anko Yuzu’s interpretation more fun overall. Yuzu was able to retain a lot of the little details while simplifying the art, which makes it all the more shame that the anime character designs seem to have become more blobby (plus, that color palette feels like an odd choice as well).
My one complaint about the manga, that’s separate from any complaints that it shares with the light novel, was that sometimes the word bubbles on the outside edge of the page were spaced a little oddly, noticeably off-center and it was immediately obvious when compared to other word bubbles on the same page. It was as if the localization team wasn’t completely sure where the bleed/trim/safe zones were. I’m more used to seeing Yen Press titles having trouble making word bubbles along the gutter readable, not the ones on the outside edges.
As for the actual story, I’m definitely pickier these days about starting new “reincarnated as a villainess” series (since there are so many out there) and I did enjoy this one, but I do have a quibble in so far as Aileen doesn’t really seem to be a “villainess”. It sounds as if she was in the original game but even before regaining her past life memories, Aileen says that she wasn’t bullying Lilia at all and was engaged in several ventures to improve the lives of commoners for fairly altruistic reasons! These actions, which Aileen notes weren’t in the game, does serve to give her a base of allies that she knows she can trust (especially since it’s going to take some effort to woo the demon king) but at the same time it feels like a bit of a cop-out for her to have been rather un-villainous all along. This is an issue I have with many “reincarnated as a villainess” stories, as although Aileen is a particularly “saintly villainess,” I do wish more stories would touch on this supposed change in personality (The Weakest Manga Villainess Wants Her Freedom! did it in a funny fashion which, while flippant, was more than most stories!).
I am a little puzzled that the light novel isn’t a one and done deal since at this point the title of the series has been fulfilled and more. Looking at the summary for the second novel, it appears that there was a sequel game that Aileen now has to deal with (don’t you just hate it when developers just milk sequels instead of coming up with something new?) and while I’m certainly interested in checking it out, I’m a little concerned about sequel bloat. At this point I wouldn’t strongly recommend the light novel over the manga or vice-versa, both work perfectly well and I’d choose whatever tradeoff interests you more (the manga’s more expressive art and smoother point of view versus the light novel wrapping up an entire arc in one volume). I’ll certainly be checking out the anime in the fall, and I think people who haven’t been as inundated with “reincarnated as a villainous” stories will find it pretty fun.