REVIEW: ‘The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess

There is a fair share of isekai in the market these days, as well as publishers taking note of shojo isekai more. Such is the case with Yen Press‘ latest shojo debut: The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 by Akiharu Touka. It follows adult Konoha Satou who is reincarnated into the teen of a fantasy story. However, instead of the heroine, she is reincarnated into the villainess who is prewritten to die. Antics ensue as she is determined to change her fate. At first glance, it may seem similar to My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! But aside from the base premise, the similarities stop pretty early. The release is translated into English by Lisa Coffman and is lettered by Kimberly Pham.

The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 is comically relatable. Konoha isn’t reborn into just any story; it is the wish-fulfillment fantasy she wrote back in middle school, in which she originally wrote herself as the main character. Instead, she is now little sister Iana and supports the Konoha of this world, who represents every ideal of girlhood she had as a child. Iana must be careful, as she is watched over by Sol, the butler/assassin who she originally wrote as Iana’s killer. Sol is dedicated to the Konoha of this world, and is suspicious of Iana’s sudden change of heart.

It is the equivalent of being forced to reread your diary of crushes decades later. It immediately sets up a compelling dynamic for Iana. Initially, her actions are selfishly motivated (although quite reasonably) by her desire not to die. However, soon they take a different shape. While all of these characters are clichéd to the nines, it is mangaka Touka’s initial intent. This is the heroine’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. She wrote her ideal hero’s journey in middle school. Now, as an adult, she realizes that in this world, these characters are real people. She knows the trauma they are meant to endure for the sake of what she thought was a good story as a kid and doesn’t want to force them through it.

The relationship between art and artist—especially now that the art isn’t a work of fantasy but real, live people even if they are larger than life—is what keeps The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 interesting, even if the execution doesn’t quite hold up. Past the first, the chapters are relatively predictable. That isn’t necessarily bad, but with all the excitement, readers never really sit with the characters for more than a few pages. It makes the relationship development feel rushed, as though it is checking off boxes rather than actually being earned.

The comedy execution is where The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 really shines. There is a nod to modern isekai tropes (Hi, Truck-kun!) and playful jabs anyone who has read or written fan fiction can relate to. What sells it is the fact that Iana has long since forgotten everything she wrote out of embarrassment. This reviewer laughed out loud when Iana reached the chapter of her novel that middle school Konoha wrote to explore sexual fantasies she was just awakening to in puberty. It’s okay, Konoha; many have paused to consider monster lovers.

Mangaka Akiharu Touka does a good job of making sure the artwork fills the panel space. Sometimes it can get a bit busy, and can be hard to make out exactly what is happening in smaller action panels. Really the only main issue for this reviewer was likely more of a personal preference: every character has long, slightly messy bangs that cover their eyes. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in shojo where up-close shots and eye expressions are prominent, it became a noticeable distraction to have lots of hair covering every characters’ expression. A big round of applause also goes to letterer Kimberly Pham. This series is just as chaotic as it sounds. Big sound effects, reactions, and multiple different fonts grace the pages to differentiate tone. The fact that many different fonts can be used in one volume and still feel cohesive is impressive.

The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 isn’t likely to break any boundaries or expectations. However, it nails the comedy and relatability of wish-fulfillment that many who have dived into fan fiction experience. It is quite empathetic to the relationship between art and artist as well. Those who want to start a new shojo fantasy will likely have lots of fun here.

The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.

The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess, Volume 1
3

TL;DR

The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess Volume 1 isn’t likely to break any boundaries or expectations. However, it nails the comedy and relatability of wish-fulfillment that many who have dived into fan fiction experience. It is quite empathetic to the relationship between art and artist as well. Those who want to start a new shojo fantasy will likely have lots of fun here.