Crunchyroll, which has long underpaid its employees, has currently declared its intent to recast the English dub of Mob Psycho 100 rather than even consider meeting with SAG-AFTRA representatives to discuss unionizing their dubs—this would help actors gain access to things like health insurance, and help make up for lack of residuals. People continue to pressure Crunchyroll to change their stance on social media; we encourage readers who are able to take part.
What’s it about? On the same night she’s publicly dumped by her fiancé Prince Cedric, wealthy heiress Aileen is suddenly struck with memories of her past life as an otome gamer. In order to avoid certain death as the villainess, Aileen sees only one option: she’ll go to the demon lord Claude and woo him, thus keeping him from becoming a rampaging dragon.
Taming the Final Boss is an extremely endearing premiere, with a great heroine and solid table-setting for its central romance. It’s also almost certain to get lost in the wave of Fall titles, for reasons that are not its fault.
Semi-untested series director? Yup!
Lots of pans over still frames in the premiere, which generally features a marked increase in polish and resources compared to subsequent episodes? Boy howdy.
We seem to keep on beating this drum at AniFem, but only because it keeps happening. Whether it’s stellar source works like Farewell, My Dear Cramer and Otherside Picnic getting far fewer resources than Liden Film’s other productions, Viz media gradually reducing its shoujo and josei licenses in English-language markets over the past several years, or the often frustrating choice of titles among the few shoujo/josei titles that do get adaptation, it often feels like one is fighting an uphill battle against the inherent assumption that women-targeted media is lesser.
On a purely technical level, Final Boss hovers in the land of competency. The designs are slightly simplified from their novel and manga counterparts, the scenes that use still images at least have engaging art direction rather than lingering on unmoving faces, and while movement is sometimes stiff there are some nice flourishes around Claude’s emotion-based powers. It’s probably never going to look more than okay, which is something fans of shojosei, BL and yuri are tragically used to.
Fortunately, the writing and acting are strong enough to compensate. While the Villainess subgenre of isekai is pretty populous in print, relatively few have made it to animation. Still, the series knows that this is a generally well-worn premise to anyone familiar with isekai as a whole, and it’s smart enough not to linger on explanations of how this is one of them there vidya games: Aileen gets her memories of the game but not until the story starts, and they augment rather than replace her personality; she’s pragmatic about what she’ll need to do to survive, but it’s framed more through navigating the politics around her than tripping event flags; and as early as the end of premiere, she’s fairly confident she’s begun altering the timeline. In some ways, it feels like the show is trojan-horsing a high fantasy romance inside an isekai premise, and I’m here for it.
Aileen and Claude have solid chemistry, and moments that could be tired and annoying (she’s plucky but gets herself in trouble! he puts her briefly in danger to get a rise out of her!) feel like part of early flirtation than a checklist of tropes. Claude is a nice breather from emotionally constipated love interests who cover their insecurity by being demeaning assholes; he just accidentally makes lightening strike when he’s shocked and flowers bloom when he’s happy. It’s a cute way to get around a character who doesn’t communicate well, and it plays nicely off the fact that Aileen is nominally more direct (in that she’s honest but kind of rude) but also somewhat oblivious to how she can come across.
Themes-wise, there’s a bit of commentary about gender roles in the framing of Aileen’s past, as she was given less support from her parents than her brothers and ostracized as snobby by her peers for focusing on her studies. And while I was initially nervous about how game-heroine Lilia would be treated, since Aileen’s former fiancé Cedric is pretty blatantly The Worst, she’s kind and sympathetic to Aileen’s situation. Which begs the question of how she ended up in this situation at all—something I very much hope the show goes on to explore, especially since Aileen and Lilia are currently the only female characters.
There’s a lot of room to grow here, as a rom-com and as a character piece. If you can deal with visuals that only occasionally fall to the level of “very embarrassing CGI horse,” then I highly encourage giving this one a look.