My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X
Having successfully passed the point of her "doom flags", Catarina Cales doesn't get much time to relax, especially when she is not only kidnapped (again), but also joins a magic school as well. She'll also learn about the life others live outside the noble/royal walls.
Take our review of season one of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. Remove all the good things we said about its story, characters, and fun, relaxing, refreshing atmosphere, and replace it with Mary Sue levels of praise near every minute to Catarina. That's My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X in a nutshell.
Tim: Usually when Stig and I do synchros, we tend to put the show we find the "weakest" of the four to start the week, with the best shows saved for Tuesday, with the last show of the week usually the best. We initially had Next Life X as the coveted last show slot of the week, but less than halfway through, we pushed it to our Sunday opener, and for good reason; this season suuuuuucks compared to season one.
Stig: Watching this season after having done the first makes me think of the first two reverse harem shows the two of us synchroed; namely Kamigami no Asobi and Neo Angelique Abyss. We synchroed the former last, but the point I'm trying to make is that the first season kinda felt like Kamigami no Asobi -- a generally fun show with some decent characters and a proactive female lead who weren't content with sitting on her ass and making the men in her life come to her -- while this season is more like Neo Angelique Abyss -- where the female lead is whisked away from her former life to be taken to a house and served cookies all day, and where the guys does most of the heavy lifting while she prays and wishes very hard for problems to take care of themselves... and somehow they do. (Partially out of the actions of said men.) As you can probably tell, I found one of these shows fun and encouraging and the other one admittedly harmless, but very self-indulgent. The thing is; those were two different shows, while My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! is one and the same, so this change in tone and attitude is more than a bit disheartening, to be honest.
You know your show is strained for ideas when you spend literally half of your season saving your main characters, but that's what My Next Life X does. And while My Next Life never gets as tedious as, say, Neo Angelique Abyss, it does share some of the latter's need for self indulgence. And the further the show gets in, the worse it gets with it.
First off is Catarina being kidnapped again, this time by a man in blue as part of a convoluted scheme to get Catarina's fiancee Prince Geordo off the throne. The man is the butler of Geordo's older brother Prince Geoffrey, Rufus, who really wants him to take it over despite Geoffrey not caring for the throne. Rufus instead ends up being badgered by Catarina, who takes advantage of her kidnapping by spending her time eating free food and talking to him in one of the most casual kidnappings in anime history. Rufus also has what you could call the best story of the season, where we learn he was a poor boy in the slums with little food or medicine, even resorting to stealing medicine to help out his only friend, an older man who taught him how to read. (You can guess what happens to him.) The hilarious thing about all of this is that Catarina's kidnappers basically just tell her she's not really in any danger; this was all done to rile up her team of haremites. But that only means that Rufus is the one who gets to be in the limelight, while Katarina gets to sit there with her tea and cookies and watch it all unfold. She's now as much a part of the audience as we are.
Near the end of the season we then spend three episodes on a storyline where Catarina's adopted brother Keith is kidnapped, that the show hilariously tries to make us think he ran away. A good chunk of those episodes are spent on just gathering information, seeing as the characters in the show actually believed the "runaway note". You'd think this would be a time to finally develop Keith and Catarina's characters and their bond as siblings, but nope. They don't get any closer, and we don't learn anything new about Keith that we didn't know before (that he was a bastard child, or that his step-siblings hated him). The very image of Keith being chained and beaten up in a dungeon is constantly interrupted by what's quite possibly the single biggest weakness of My Next Life X, and one that's a constant, constant problem the entire season; the filler. The one sole, weird exception occurs when Catarina spends some time in the middle of the rescue mission - you know, after they learn he's actually been kidnapped - to shop for a eux ex machine accessory for the end of the season. You can almost feel the writers thinking to themsleves how clever they were with this "scene".
It's not an exaggeration that you could reduce My Next Life X to half its length and barely miss a beat. There are whole episodes that add near nothing to the show, the most egreious example being the dollhouse episode. Remember back in season one, when most of the cast was trapped in a book, and had various fantasies of theirs come true? Well, My Next Life X decides to repeat that concept, but with a dollhouses. And aside from Maria's admittingly funny dream body (where she's a hulking muscular woman in the same clothes she always wears), most of them are either Catarina fantasies or just...weird. Like Keith's. And nothing in the end happens.
We guess we should talk about the other elephant in the room that hampered our enjoyment of My Next Life X; the Catarina worship. It was definitely there in season one, but season two pushes it way harder, short of the entire cast asking Catarina to marry them, and her being almost aggressively clueless about it. There are whole segments of episodes that stop everything in their tracks to talk about how amazing Catarina is and how she improved her friends' lives. For example, there's an entire episode where moody pretty boy Nicol is trying to find a potential bride among dozens of girls, but shoots all of them down because they're not Catarina. The final episode of the show is basically the entire core eight characters save Alan and Maria fawning over Catarina, including her own adopted brother. And they are far more aggessive about this than last season. The nadir of this pushiness shows with Catarina's fiancee Prince Geordo, who forces a kiss on Catarina after her kidnapping arc, and then continues being pushy, selfish, and possessive of her for the rest of the season. Even during the Keith rescue mission he does not drop this. Time and place, show! Time and place!
And as if Next Life's first season didn't have enough characters with eight main ones, now we have a half-dozen or so more. Catarina and Maria going to a magic school also introduces to a new slew of characters who, with one exception, barely add anything to the show. Like Catarina's two magic classmates Fray and Ginger: one a generic admirer, the other a textbook tsundere. The only one who adds anything to the show is Suzanna, Prince Geoffrey's fiancee who joins Catarina, Geordo, Maria, and Rufus in the season finale to find Keith. And with Suzanna comes her walking stuffed bear Alexander, whose only purpose in the show seems to be to annoy both Catarina and whoever is watching this show. He likes to pull the "cute and innocent to everyone but the main character" trope a lot of little cute characters do in these comedies, and similar to those comedies, it sucks here, too. While Alexander thankfully doesn't talk, his comical rivalry towards Catarina serves as annoying mood whiplash in the final episodes, where Catarina is trying to, oh, find her adopted brother Keith after he disappears. Again not the time.
And when My Next Life X isn't annoying you with its cast, it's boring you instead. Even a flashback episode to child Catarina and her friends exploring a house in the woods is slow and boring. (And we liked the childhood episodes a lot in season one. Remember when these characters were funny and charming as kids?) And throwing two brand-new characters in the last minutes of the seasons as an attempt at a season hook just adds more annoyance. (I hate, hate, hate this trope in anime, and will always do so. - Tim) More than anything, the two new potential harem members feel like a tacit admission that without someone's life to improve, Catarina doesn't really add much to the show once her doom flag arc ended back last season.
So was there anything we liked in My Next Life X? Well, episode two has a story where Catarina is forced to play the villain in a school play, ironically enough. But sadly even that ends with Geordo and Keith fighting over her, because Heaven forbid everyone's lives aen't revolved around Catarina 24/7, or putting her on a pedestal 24/7.
Tim: To say I didn't like My Next Life X would still be giving it praise. The only reason it isn't a single star like Himegoto and Dragon Crisis! is that I still liked the cast enough to not completely hate it. But it's just baaaaaarely above bottom-tier isekai sludge like In Another World With My Smartphone. And if that's the best I can say about your show, that's not a good sign. Don't expect me to review the movie whenever it comes to the U.S.
Stig: If you've ever experienced that situation where you basically start something with a complete sense of excitement, only to slowly lose that smile as you go, you should know how I feel about all of this. I know we mentioned the Catarina worship got kind of annoying, but I don't want any of our readers to think that it means Catarina doesn't deserve to be loved for what she did, because she certainly does. Women have long complained about being put on a pedestal, and after having had such a strong first season, it feels like such a betrayal that this is what My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X decides to do to (and with) its main character.
Recommended Audience: Teens and up. Fan service and violence are almost non-existant, but Rufus' childhood story does not have a happy ending, and the last episodes feature Keith tied and beaten up.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, English dub (Stig), Japanese with English subtitles (Tim)
Review Status: Full (12/12)
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X © 2021 Satoru Yamaguchi/ Ichijinsha/ Hamefura X Production Committee / MBS
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