Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Another dimension of twists

Daniel Lim

Around the early 2010s, the Japanese anime scene saw a rise in a genre known as Isekai or otherworld.

Typically referring to a plot line that centres around a main character or a group of characters being transported to another world or universe, which is usually depicted as a world that is not the same as the one known by the characters.

Be it fantasy or sci-fi, the Isekai genre is so synonymous with it that it has become somewhat of a meme.

One such anime that has taken the initial plot line of the Isekai genre and built a creative twist to it is My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, which sometimes just referred to as HameFura, being a shorten acronym for the title in Japanese.

Initially released as a novel and light novel in July 2014 and August 2015 respectively before being adapted to a manga in 2017, HameFura was recently adapted into an anime with two complete seasons at the time of writing, with season one released in the middle of 2020, while the second season was released the next year in 2021.

Like many Isekai anime as well as other anime in recent times, the title literally tells the main plot line of the story where it follows the unnamed protagonist getting reincarnated as Catarina Claes, following a deadly incident, into the fantasy world of a fictional game called
‘Fortune Lover’.

‘HameFura’ follows the unnamed protagonist getting reincarnated as Catarina Claes following a deadly incident, into the fantasy world of a fictional game ‘Fortune Lover’. PHOTO: SILVER LINK

As the title suggests, the main plot line follows the main character as Catarina, who is the villainess of Fortune Lover, as they try to avert all routes that lead to the demise or exile of the antagonist that are meant to happen in the original iteration of the fictional game.

While some Isekai anime adopt their own tropes, from being an overpowered protagonist to ones that use more brains than brawn, HameFura takes a different approach in a sense that the main character Catarina is neither smart nor strong but simply makes up her decisions in the spur of the moment, in a happy-go-lucky fashion.

This results in many contrasting situations where the main character’s efforts defy the logic set by others, which can lead to amusing outcomes and is further accentuated by the performance by Uchida Maaya who voiced the main character of the series.

Her voice acting also extends to internal monologues that frequently occur within the mind of the main character, where five separate but similar representations of the main character debate about the story and situation unfolding, and despite all of them being voiced by a single voice actress, they are differentiated enough and captivating in the its tone that viewers are led to believe that they are entirely different characters.

This quirky and happy-go-lucky nature of the main character forms the basis of the story progression, with many of the story beats starting with a character of the story meeting with the main character, getting to know her quirks and random nature.

The main genre that HameFura follows is that of a romantic comedy which, while not a genre made for everyone, mostly takes a backseat in many of the plot lines as the happy-go-lucky nature of the main character also means that she is an airhead and dense when it comes to romantic approaches made by the characters, that further plays into the comedy aspect of the series.

From the fictional game’s main capture targets of princes comprising of all archetype personalities to even the supposed main character of Fortune Lover, Maria Campbell, who is now one of the main supporting characters, each are now connected to Catarina as they would not otherwise be in the original iteration, which helps to paint a slightly different story of being an antagonist but just living life to the fullest in another world.

This plot of living and avoiding the death route, which is mostly known by the main character due to her prior knowledge of the game, is played out over the course of the story, with the main as well as supporting characters having their time to shine and develop as they overcome their own personal problems made trivial by the protagonist.

One gripe of the series is that in both the first and second seasons, this development does taper off somewhat in the latter half, where a majority of the latter episodes comprise mostly filler episodes that do nothing to advance the story.

But each season does end on a high note with tensions high in the final few episodes, where the characters are going through sometime death-threatening situations, along with the overplayed kidnapped scenarios.

Even with a few gripes and clichés floating around, HameFura is still an entertaining watch, if not for the romantic comedy, for the stellar voice acting performances as well as overall enjoyable story for viewers looking to watch absurd but amusing situations unfold.