MANGA REVIEW | "Villainess Level 99" - Volume One
Once an author strikes originality gold, many others try to emulate them. I’ve noticed that since Satoru Yamaguchi’s My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! first arrived, many others have done their best to tell similar stories. From Sarasa Nagase’s I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss to Tenichi’s The Most Heretical Last Boss Queen, these tales have the same formula, but with different ingredients. Tanabata Satoru’s Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss But I’m Not the Demon Lord also falls into this category, with its content a mixture of good and, alas, predictable.
Adapted into a manga by nocomi, Villainess Level 99 begins with our protagonist’s new life awakening. In the form of Eumiella Dolkness, she realizes quickly that she’s been transported into her favorite otome RPG series. However, while she’s not the demon lord reincarnated, she is a secret boss that can wipe out the hero’s party easily due to her high level of power. Knowing full well what her fate could be, Eumiella instead decides to live a life outside of the spotlight and in the background.
Of course, her plan backfires spectacularly. Because she used up her spare time battling monsters, making green, and conquering dungeons, Eumiella’s high school debut plants a fat target on her back. On top of her black hair making her stand out (the same color as the demon lord’s), her power level is at an unspeakable Level 99, something impossible for a fifteen year-old to have. And now everyone — including the main otome heroine Alicia Enlight — has their eyes on her, for mostly bad reasons.
Thus begins her life forcibly in the spotlight, as noblemen’s sons and daughters try to cast her out of the school. It’s a mixture of fear and jealousy behind their actions, with Eumiella doing her best to make her conversations and interactions as short as possible. After all, she only wants a peaceful and quiet life, something that the impending demon lord might muck up when they arrive in two years. Balancing between having everyone’s attention to being completely isolated, the latter fits with Eumiella’s plans to take the easy road of life.
There are some good moments in Villainess Level 99, especially when it comes to Eumiella’s thought process. It’s apparent that she wants nothing to do with the main plot of the otome RPG, and she does her best to avoid any conflict that may occur. From dealing with the game’s love interests to Alicia constantly sticking her nose in her business, Eumiella says the right things and makes the right moves to make any possible foe as quiet as possible. However, only in these moments does this manga showcase a solid dose of originality.
The rest of the debut volume feels like a paint-by-numbers approach to the villainess isekai formula. Power demonstrations, threatening girl talks that result in misunderstandings, and even the “true” heroine acting suspicious are all tropes that have been done far too many times. Seeing these elements in both manga and light novels constantly gives me just as much burnout as the time I submitted myself to one too many shojo romance manga with the same damn story beats. To put it bluntly, it kind of makes my head hurt.
With that being said, there is some potential found in Villainess Level 99. Volume One does a decent job with setting up the world and the overall plot, and Eumiella is a pretty fun character to watch in action. However, it’s the rest of the cast that could use a big dose of originality to make this story a lot better. Hopefully the people around Eumiella will showcase such a uniqueness later on, but until then, Villainess Level 99 is an OP warrior trapped in a starter town.
Promotional consideration provided by Robert McGuire of One Peace Books.