The Webcomic Weekly is back in your life, for the final time in 2022! That’s right folks. We’re going to be taking a bit of a break in December to recharge and come back strong. But that doesn’t mean we’re gone yet. You’ve still got THIS one to read, which is a bit of an advanced review for a new series from Manta Comics: “I’ve Become a True Villainess.” That’s also why we’re a day late. I promise. Catch you all in the new year!
I’ve Become a True Villainess
‘Prologue’ – ‘Chapter 3’
Original Story by Flowing HonEy
Adapted by Bokyung Kong
Storyboarded by Gyeranppang
Line Art by bumho
Colored by SERU & HaeWon
Background Art by Woo
Translated by Katherine Stuchlik
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
This is a first for me here. A true blue advanced review, courtesy of Manta Comics. And it’s an adaptation of an isekai novel, which is another first. Because I only have three chapters and a teaser prologue to go off of, I’m going to try to minimize spoilers but probably will have to talk about everything I’ve read to give a full picture. You have been forewarned.
“I’ve Become a True Villainess” is an adaptation of a novel, a fantasy romance centering on Seria, the titular villainess of this story, and her attempts to change her fate – death at the hands of the two male leads – by becoming, well, less of a villainess. How does she have knowledge of this fate? Funny you ask. “Villainess” isn’t just a fantasy romance, it’s also an isekai. Seria is actually a grad student who got got by Truck-kun and is now inhabiting the body of the primary antagonist of a cheap romance novel she was reading before being killed.
Normally, this isn’t the kind of thing I would have sought out. While I am a fan of romance comics, I’m not so hot for isekai. Although “Villainess” hasn’t changed my mind much on that, it does have a clever twist on the formula. For one, the frame for the story being a novel rather than a video game or generic fantasy world allows for an entirely different approach to predestination. For another, having our main character inhabit the space of a very specific character with a past in this world rather than as some schmoe with powers is a far more interesting space to explore. Having said that, there is still a lot about “Villainess” that had me going, “haven’t I seen this before,” a feeling that was particularly strong during the first two chapters.
Side note: I’m not counting the prologue because it’s really more of a teaser for the series than an important chapter in its own right. It’s a lot of foreshadowing, contains the same structural problems as the subsequent chapters and doesn’t do much to properly establish the events of chapter 1. You can skip it, as all the relevant details are in chapter 1, though it does make reading that chapter just a touch less jarring.
Anyway, have you heard about the light novel turned anime & manga called My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!? It’s got the exact same premise, only that one is an otome game and a comedy while this is a novel and a drama. Because “Villainess” doesn’t do much to differentiate itself during its opening chapters, concerned instead with setting up a status quo and laying out all the romantic novel tropes it’s going to play with or indulge in, it neither grabs you with its originality nor, sadly, its technical execution of those familiar tropes.
It’s a really bog-standard isekai AND romance story to start! Everyone is a paper-thin archetype, including Seria, and we’re inundated with a lot of tell, not show, set-up for them & the world. Thankfully it doesn’t stay this way, and by the end of chapter three you start to get the feel for where the comic is actually going, but it takes a lot to get there. It’s also not helped by the clarity issues present in chapter 1.Continued below
It took me a couple read-throughs of the initial chapter to figure out the timeline of its events. Basically, everything before the title is “present” but before Seria first meets The Saint, the original protag, whose presence ends up leading to Seria’s death. Most of what happens after is flashback and exposition for us, before cutting back to the present and jumping forward to the meeting with The Saint that Seria had been trying to avoid. Why was this confusing? Well, we get references, both visually and via narration, of how the story is “supposed” to play out but no clear distinction as to what Seria changed or even WHEN the grad student first became Seria.
The implication is that she only recently appeared, that she became Seria around the same time Lina, The Saint, appeared. The breakneck pace of this chapter doesn’t help either since we barely know the characters, undercutting any emotional investment we might have in the development of her relationship and the anticipation of the appearance of her first major obstacle to surviving: Lina.
I get the feeling that when adapting the novel, “Villainess’s” team decided that getting to the interesting bits – namely that the grad student’s presence has warped the novel’s structure and it’s fighting back, 11/22/63-style – as fast as possible was the way to go. On the one hand, it’s good that we don’t have to see an extended chapter of pre-romance-world set-up and we don’t have to sit through lengthy scenes of the grad student adjusting to being Seria. On the other hand, as I said before, it jettisons all potential characterization for the grad student pre-Seria, compresses the time we spend with her in the world before Lina’s appearance, and thus robs the events of this chapter of their proper weight.
It’s a shame because I think the pacing is otherwise quite good. Chapters 2 & 3 really fix the opener’s speed and clarity problem, crafting a nice rhythm. There are plenty of pretty establishing panels, moments of character expressed through posing, and you get the sense that the team is putting more thought into angles and flow instead of going for just what’s the most clear.
Moreover, the art is very sleek and clear. True, it looks pretty standard for a webtoon like this – there’s quite a lot of bloom in backgrounds and everyone is shiny. It’s not a style everyone likes but I think it’s fitting for the story. Characters are mostly on model – only once did I wonder why someone’s head was 3 sizes too small for their body – expressive, and despite getting the Duke & Callis confused all the time because of unfamiliarity, they’re visually distinct. They’re still two flavors of pretty boy but at least it’s more like Strawberry and Rocky Road rather than French Vanilla and Vanilla Bean.
After all that, can I recommend “I’ve Become a True Villainess?” As it is now, “I’ve Become a True Villainess” might be a hard sell for anyone but die-hard fans of the genre on initial impressions alone. It isn’t bad by any measure but that first chapter is a real mess. I think I would need a few more chapters to really see if it has the chops to execute its true, darker premise and really dig into what it means for Seria to be a new person. Chapter 3 gives me hope and for a story about struggling to fix past impressions, I think that’s pretty fitting.