The charming new isekai anime series My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom is two episodes in, and it’s already proven itself a smart and clever show, complete with rich symbolism for the main character.
Catarina isn’t just idling around in her wealthy family’s house; she’s ready to get her hands dirty, literally and otherwise. On the surface, Catarina is practicing earth magic, and if she hones her landscaping skills, she can more easily control it — that’s how this anime’s magic system works. We even get a demonstration of what earth golems are like.
But it’s not just about the soil in Catarina’s hands. As the “hero” of this otome game, she is planning ahead to escape the predetermined routes and create an endgame that will make everyone happy (and spare her exile or death). To make that happen, Catarina is rewiring how the characters around her think, such as her foster brother, Keith, or her fiance, Geordo, and putting new ideas in their heads. Catarina knows how the relationships are supposed to unfold in Fortune Lover, and she’s planting seeds in people’s minds to create new relationships and perspectives in everyone around her. She is like a gardener of people, investing in them now so they can develop in ways that she likes in the future.
Catarina has another talent, and a funny one at that: she’s like a monkey in a tree. In real-life Japan, she was a good climber, so she uses this skill in the otome game as well. She and Geordo’s brother, Alan, compete to see who can climb higher, and Catarina easily wins every time.
On one level, this shows that Catarina is a modern and independent person who isn’t confined to the trappings of noble girl life. But it also shows that Catarina, as a real-life person who’s in a game, is on a whole different plane than her peers since she knows the future. She can see how the future paths branch out, so to speak, and can climb anywhere she wants to go. The other characters are stuck on the rails, while Catarina has options.
Catarina is clearly set on using her knowledge of the branching paths of Fortune Lover to cultivate the desired results, like a gardener. And she’s already demonstrating how. She needs Alan’s self-esteem to be higher, and that means taking the seemingly perfect prince Geordo down a peg. She needs to know his weakness, and then she remembers his frightened reaction to a snake Catarina found while gardening.
She and Alan hide behind a hedge, and Catarina tosses a fake snake onto the dirt path where Geordo is walking. He’s alarmed at first, then realizes its a prank and gently confronts his fiancee over it. The symbolism is fairly straightforward here: in some cultures, snakes represent cunning and deceit, if not outright liars, and Catarina is trying to dishonestly boost Alan’s self-esteem with a prank. No harm done, really, but in a small way, she’s acting like the villainess after all by sabotaging someone she likes to help someone else (and, deep down, for selfish reasons).
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Catarina's cunning deceit in My Life as a Villainess is definitely evil, even if she means well.