What’s it about? One day, young Princess Pride Royal Ivy suddenly regains the memories of her past life and realizes that she’s been reincarnated as the future evil queen and final boss of her favorite otome game. Determined to be a kinder person, and passing her knowledge of the game off as magical precognition abilities, Pride sets out to change the story for the better.
It would be flippant to say “this is literally just My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! but without the sense of humor” but… well, it sort of is My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! but without the sense of humor. Which, hey, is great news if you are looking for My Next Life as a Villainess again, but with a dourer tone.
This is not to say that From Villainess to Savior is a rip-off; it’s a consequence of these micro-genres that a lot of the works will be aiming for the same niche appeal and will end up sounding indistinguishable on paper. If the male-targeted market is saturated with extremely similar reincarnation isekai, maybe it’s fair enough that the female-targeted market is getting its own version of the trend. It’s equity, ya know?
It’s also not to say that From Villainess to Savior will automatically be bad or subpar. In terms of the way this premiere is put together, it’s pretty solid: vibrant character designs, nice-looking backgrounds, and an elegant mix of visual flourishes and resource-saving animation shortcuts. Even if her predicament feels a little unoriginal by now, it’s worth noting that I do like Princess Pride. Rather than simply trying to avoid her death flags, it seems like her central motivation is legitimately to just be kind and to try to create a better version of the story’s world through her actions, which is a potentially fun way to position a traditionally feminine-coded “passive” trait as the thing that saves the world.
As with all “reincarnated as the villainess” type stories, this has the potential to be a very interesting exploration of genre, gender roles, and fictional “what if?”s. What marks the villainess character as evil, and what would happen if those factors were altered or taken away? What if this often shallow, cackling rival figure was humanized, and could bond with the female protagonist she’s pitted against? What narrative effects result—and what commentary can they offer on the genre of fantasy otome games?
These are all genuinely intriguing queries, which I imagine is why writers keep returning to this subcategory of isekai. Whether any individual show will actually explore or answer these questions in an engaging way is, well, another question.
As for what From Villainess to Savior will do, it’s sort of too early to tell: everything feels so familiar that it’s hard to pinpoint what this series is bringing to the table. As I mentioned above, its tone skews darker and more serious than some of its genre siblings. It seems like it’s going for genuine fantasy melodrama rather than, say, Endo and Kobayashi Live!’s light-hearted and earnest fantasy romance. This could make the whole thing rather hit or miss, depending on whether or not the viewer gets hooked into the stakes.
Since there will inevitably be a romantic element, I’d also say a lot will depend on whether or not the viewer gets hooked on the love interests. Said love interests are also the area where there’s a couple of things to flag. One of the game’s main boys is Pride’s foster brother, a magically-talented commoner who joins the family as a political pawn and who Pride spends this episode cozying up to. The usual cringe-shrug of “well, they’re not literally siblings, but still…” goes here. I’m more concerned about Chancellor Gilbert, a member of the court apparently blessed with eternal youth, standing in the pretty boy lineup. Brace yourselves for some potential supernatural age-gap goings on, I suppose.
Like I said, From Villainess to Savior is far from bad—it’s decently put together. It just remains to be seen what this series will bring to the already laden table. I can’t help but hunger for something a bit more fresh, but I’m perfectly willing to stick with this for at least three episodes to see if it does something to make it stand out on its own merit.