What’s it about? When Duchess Rishe Irmgard Weitzner’s fiance tries to humiliate her in front of dozens of other nobles by publicly dumping her at a ball, she doesn’t care. After all, she’s lived through this six times before! In one life, she joined a band of merchants; in another, she became an herbalist, then a doctor in the next. Every time, she explored a different path and found fulfillment through making her own choices; every time, five years into her new life, she has died in a war. This time, taking a different route has her run right into the man who ended her life six times over, and instead of stabbing her, he proposes!
Series like 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy! are always a good reminder of why I’m so resistant to the idea of rubber-stamping things as “feminist” or “not feminist.” I feel like I could spend two thousand words wrestling with whether or not Rishe’s choices are empowering or disempowering. Should the narrative have spent more time on her lives where she was making active choices, or is it enough to know that they existed before she decided that she wanted to find a way to take it easy in her seventh loop? Is it sending a bad message that she will (presumably) break the cycle of violence by sleeping with the enemy, so to speak, and healing him instead of fighting him as a lady knight, like she did in the prologue?
I’m sure there’ll be time to talk about that later, when more episodes are out and we actually see their arc instead of speculating. What I do know is that I have a heroine addiction, and as of the first episode, Rishe is a hit of the good stuff. She’s proactive and resourceful, and it’s easy to see how she learns from each life. The first time, she’s lost and depressed after being humiliated and disowned by her parents. She fortunately gets picked up by a band of altruistic merchants, and learns there are more valuable experiences in the world than life as a noble lady. In her second loop, she tries to repeat the previous one, but different choices cut her off from joining the merchants again, so she becomes an herbalist. Thus, she finds every new life is a chance to try something different and gain new experiences and knowledge.
I loved this. I loved how, in such a short span of the episode, Rishe’s growth comes through loud and clear. I love how she finds value and satisfaction in many different life paths, whether she’s a wealthy merchant, a hard-working maid, or a brave knight. Nothing is above or below her, and all types of work have dignity. Each life path comes with a cute boy attached as well, but they receive little emphasis compared to her accomplishments. All these lives have given her confidence and competence far beyond her apparent years, and it shows.
Well, except this time around. The crown prince of the Hyne Empire, Arnold Hein, stabbed her when she tried to face him as a knight; this time, he wants to marry her. This comes about because he sees her break off her heels, jump out a second-story window, and land on her feet. To be honest, I can’t say I wouldn’t feel the same way in his situation. The fact that he was so smitten by this is a big point in his favor, even. It also points, perhaps, to future developments where she’s still cool and skilled, even if she’s trying for a more chill life than her last few.
Here’s the downside, though: the show is pretty ugly. The characters’ faces are stiff and unexpressive, the ballgowns are garish, and their hair has a weird coloring style that I can only describe as “off-putting.” For some reason, Rishe has way bigger boobs than she did in the novel illustrations. These choices are particularly puzzling because the character designer, Ōnuki Kenichi, is an industry veteran. This is one of those productions that, since more anime is being made than the major studios can handle even by abusing their staff members, got punted to smaller studios that usually handle in-between animation. Sadly, this happens most commonly for joseimuke series. I’m not surprised, just disappointed.
All in all, unless you’re picky about visual presentation (which is fine, I know I’ve passed up on plenty of otherwise fine series because they had underwhelming direction), 7th Time Loop has a promising start. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but the first episode felt a bit like an otome version of the video game God Save the Queen, if the protagonist had memories of past runs, with the basic structure of a villainess series. I don’t know if it’ll keep up the energy of this episode, but if it does, I can guarantee it’ll be a ride and a half.