REVIEW: ‘Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie,’ Volume 1

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Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie Volume 1

Gender-bent shenanigans in the isekai genre with reverse harem vibes? Count me in! Yen Press continues to flesh out their other isekai offerings by releasing Volume 1 of the manga version of Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie. With the original story by Hiroro Akizakura, character design by Dangmill, and art by Shino Akiyama, the rest of the publishing credits include Julie Goniwich as translator and Rachel Pierce as letterer. This manga details the story of a yet another reincarnated girl who wakes up in the body of a villainess character in a dating sim game. Her big plan to avoid the bad ending is to enter the academy as a man to hide her identity as the hated villainess.

Cecilia is a young girl in a noble household when one day she remembers that this isn’t the first time she’s been alive. No, in her previous life she was a teen girl who lived for playing otome games with a particular love for the spicy reverse harem ones. Now at five years old she despairs and swears to herself to live differently to avoid the messy deaths of each route that she found for the villainess character Cecilla  Sylvie whose body she is now inhabiting. She finds herself on the struggle bus as she encounters certain events, like gaining an adopted younger brother and being engaged to the prince, that she can not avoid. Terrified that the script can’t be changed, she makes a possibly brilliant decision to make a wig out of her own hair and then plans to enter the academy as Cecil, not Cecilla.

The lineup of characters in Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie Volume 1 is worth getting to know because they’re a well-crafted group of characters that play off each other well. First, you have Cecilia’s best ally from the start, who is attending academy with her knowing her disguise as Cecil is Gil, her adopted brother who may harbor other feelings for her. Next up is the intimidating prince that Cecilla is actually engaged to, Oscar. Finally, the other men of the harem round out with Dante, Prince Oscar’s closest friend, and Jade, a young commoner with an entrepreneurial background.

The art in this manga gives me very shojo vibes with all the super exaggerated faces and chibi characters. I laughed so hard at the scenes of Cecil’s over-the-top interactions with the female students at the academy that paint her as a princely character. The hilarious back and forth between certain characters like the Prince and Cecil’s brother emulate rival characters from your favorite reality TV show or drama. I really adored the attention to detail in the action scenes and even the glimpse of a creepy stalker in a window and a misshapen stitched handkerchief that someone holds dear.

Isekai as a genre has plenty of titles to offer. When I read this first volume of Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, I wanted to pinpoint how it stood out in the sea of isekai, especially the releases from Yen Press which is publishing more and more each month. This manga successfully takes several tropes and settings that we know, love, and even dislike from other isekai titles and plays a fun and entertaining tune. A story with a character, a female one in disguise, cross-dressing? We have that here. The manhwa world has several examples of this, but fans of older shojo classics like  Hana Kimi and Ouran High School Host Club will have a ball. What about a level-headed, good-natured young woman waking up in the body of a hated villainess character? Check. Again, there are several titles with this trope, but I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss comes to mind first. A foster or adopted brother who just may be in love with his sister? Check. Check out My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

All these tropes make for fun twists that crank out a really over-the-top first volume that does not fail to make a huge first impression and hints at a deeper story just under the surface. Even after just the first volume, I can tell this will be just a really, really fun story. Furthermore, the main cast of characters in this isekai feels a bit more active than most; on their own, Cecilla, Gil, and Oscar push the story along well. Lastly, the added layer of pressures brought upon our villainess character by way of a prophecy (her Holy Maiden Candidacy) ups the ante on this manga’s narrative on destiny and how Cecilia is striving to make her own.

Like I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss Volume, this manga series also has a light series by Yen Press for readers who want the full experience with this piece of the isekai genre. Lastly, this first volume has some bonus content that makes owning it a real treat: included are a few pages of additional context about dating game simulators from Japan and notes on shipping, aka paring characters up in fandom, that will be redundant for fans in the know and some needed homework for those uninitiated.

Isekai as a genre has plenty of titles to offer. But Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie Volume 1 successfully takes several of the tropes and settings that we know, love, and even dislike from the genre and plays a fun and entertaining tune.

Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.

 


Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie Volume 1
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TL;DR

Isekai as a genre has plenty of titles to offer. But Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie Volume 1 successfully takes several of the tropes and settings that we know, love, and even dislike from the genre and plays a fun and entertaining tune.