Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta Season 2 Review

Title: Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta… / My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Season 2 / Bakarina Season 2
Length: 12 episodes
Genre: Comedy, drama, romance
Year of Release: 2021

Being trepidatious going into a second season is not a good thing to say. Bakarina’s first season was all laughs, but near the end it felt like it was beginning to outstay its welcome. It’s a wall that all harems hit eventually – the longer you keep your protagonist undeciding, the longer the plot doesn’t progress. And while Bakarina had a few ‘ahas’, a few funnies about that very indecision, it felt like any more would take it over the edge into ‘beating a dead horse’ territory. And there was no hook for the show to get it out of that rutt.

So the first couple episodes of Bakarina Season 2 seemed to be suggesting, anyway.

That feeling was somewhat concealed by the classic reintroductions to the cast that all season 2s go through, so I could forgive it a little.We got to see the gang go through a quick shenanigan reminding us firstly that they all love Bakarina in their own little way, and secondly, why they love her in the first place. It was nice, gentile and just as frustratingly laconic as I expected.

But then Bakarina found a new plot – separating Bakarina from her mixed-gender harem – and thus, giving us something fresh.

Kidnapping a dipshit harem protagonist like Catarina Claes sounds like either problematic with a capital P or comedy gold, and thankfully, it largely fell into the comedy gold territory. While all her friends were running around, calling on old friends and forming uneasy alliances with enemies to try and locate her, Catarina herself was… laying in bed, reading romance novels and eating sweets.

You can take the crew away from Bakarina, but some things just never change.

And indeed, Bakarina Season 2 plays out rather similarly to Season 1, just this time, she is adding the Butler who kidnapped her to her harem in just the same way she worked her wonders previously. Bakarina is kind, oblivious and always looking forward, and for the people around her, that is just what they need. She becomes like a shining light that they all aspire to be with, and come to love. And she also happens to be a moron. It comes as no surprise that she wins over the heart of Sora – that’s the series’ setup.

But Season 2 introduces us to many new aspects of Bakarina. Many for the better. Some for the worse. Ultimately, though, I can’t help but feel sorry for Bakarina – she’s got a lot of growing up to do, and quick.

While Maria, arguably the most important character besides Catarina, also doesn’t come from nobility, there wasn’t really much dwelling on that aspect in Season 1 – she’s just got a more level-head on her shoulders and is more aware of her privilege. Sora does not come from nobility. He comes from the most downtrodden part of the country, and understands more than anybody the meaning of ‘hierarchy’.

She suggests, quite simply, that she’d also like to go travelling around the world, and would join him if he ever went.There’s something incredibly sweet about Catarina leaping over that boundary, not to offer Sora pity, not to offer him an escape, but to offer him something to look forward to – which is exactly why Catarina is so beloved, and why the series works so well in the first place. Sora’s pipe-dream suddenly felt less like a dream and more like something tangible – and something worth turning away from antagonism for.

The distance between resolving the Catarina-kidnapping plot and the next major plot is a series of disconnected episodics, but they deepen the cast – and the newfound pushiness of Geordo.

Now, I’m gonna say it – Prince Geordo was a fucking asshole in Season 1, and he’s doubly so here… but near the end, while I still detest him, I actually began to understand him, and that really did come down to the series explaining the importance of privilege and perspectives of upbringing. Geordo seems, more than ever, to think that Catarina is soon to be his possession. His jealousy at her interactions with the rest of the cast, and his desire for her reach an ugly head where he forcibly kisses her. The scene isn’t rapey and it’s not like he’s doing it secretively – he literally does it in front of the rest of the cast.

Catarina can’t look him in the eye. She’s almost scared of him for the rest of the series. The show juggles the idea that she is either disgusted by the gesture or overtly nervous and unable to realise her feelings, but the fact of the matter is that she is uncomfortable around him. The supporting cast live up to their names and refuse to give Geordo any alone time with her. They actually escort her between classes.

There’s an episode where it seems like Catarina and Geordo are going to have a summer retreat… alone – but, surprise! The whole gang’s coming. Thank the lord.

During this time, I actually began to take notice of how good Bakarina could be when it just let its cast breathe. There’s this episode of Nicol enduring marriage proposals and suiting and finding it awful (because he’d rather be with Bakarina but is trying to accept not being able to win her since she’s engaged). In this episode, Nicol, who I previously found bland as cardboard, won me over as a good and kind person. More than that, the storyboarding of that episode was a cut above, so I think somebody in direction got to push for their favourite.

Episode 8 was, frankly, one of the most tenderly directed episodes I’ve seen over the past year. The series’ storyboarding has always been acceptable and occasionally brilliant like in Season 1’s opening episode, but this is the highest point of artistry the show has achieved.
More episodes like this are needed, focusing on the characters’ simple but deep emotions, and handled so lovingly.

There’s a brief episodic plot with the girls talking about their time as children, and they get to make Maria feel even more included – and, as a hardcore Catarina/Maria shipper, the way Catarina’s going out of her way to make Maria feel special is noted. Squee, squee, cute, cute, so cute.

But anyway, there’s a plot upcoming. Keith gets kidnapped. You begin to really question the security of Catarina’s world, huh?

Suddenly, we’re back to privilege. Keith is adopted, remember? It’s not been particularly dwelled upon how he is a lovechild from a maid and became a favourite of a lord, but it’s suddenly becoming more important. The themes of Season 2 – of privilege, of perspective imbued from upbringing, and being a good person despite – are really well handled, it’s just annoying that lame plot beats like kidnapping (this is the third kidnapping of the franchise now!) have to move them along.

Obviously, the gang get him back. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’, and really, ‘what Catarina learns along the way’. She learns even moreso how much the people around her love her, and also… what she wants to do.

She doesn’t want to get married. The thought of marriage, of living a dull trophy-wife life, terrifies her. Because of her affinity for dark magic, she’s invited along to the Department of Magic (in a bid of almost-nepotism I would normally despise seeing), and knowing she’ll have a friend going there in Maria, she decides to take the offer up. She really can’t be around Geordo that much, who – ever the misogynistic fucktard – says ‘this is only until we get married, right?’

I seriously hate Geordo. Bakarina is a show that’s so close to wholesome harem goodness, but the writing just had to get in on the possessive-streak craze. Big fucking yikes. He singlehandedly brings the series down. I’ve had to scrub the C word out of this review multiple times because he gives me strong, strong, strong feelings. I almost forgave him, too, with the series’ main focus on the differing perspectives that we’re imbued with because of our upbringing and how Catarina just sort-of sidesteps that. There were actually some allusions to Geordo’s home-lie and how he might not be quite the detestable fucking cun-. Whoops.

I just…. feel so, so, so bad for Catarina. While there are two other characters this season that attempt to make physical moves on her, they don’t actively oppress her, and they both show some remorse over it. While it’s not great to see characters I quite like become almost antagonistic to their desires, they do it in a sort-of sympathetic way; they’re trying to push her away but can’t help themselves. But from her perspective, she’s got all this to deal with, and her fiancee is leading the charge in making her feel other’d by how own attractive, good qualities.

By the end of the series, the feeling Catarina loves… being able to live her days happily with her friends… is scrubbed out by them making her feel uncomfortable and even somewhat guilty that it’s her fault. She is quickly running out of outlets of support. This is no longer feeling like a harem fantasy, but a harem nightmare, and if it goes on much longer… God, I sure hope she can realise that she’s bi/gay sooner or later, because it’s feeling like Maria is the only one left with her best interests at heart.

No really, Maria loves her unconditionally and this is the cutest romance the show could do. I suppose Alan and Bakarina are acceptable too. I just can’t bring myself to dislike Keith, and while Nicol is, given a great leg-up from a certain episode, he ultimately has no chemistry whatsoever with Catarina. If there’s one thing that’s clear with the finale – where Catarina goes to work at the Department of Magic alongside Maria – it’s that Maria is the clear favourite to win this race. And please, let her be the one.

Ah yes, Season 3 is coming and it’s preparing to be a movie with a whole new cast of boys (+ Maria). It’s a solid foundation for the series going onwards, because it felt like Series 2 had written itself into a corner of Bad Feelings. Bring on Season 3, and please, somebody, show her that girls can be together with girls. Do it before Catarina winds up terrified of an abusive husband.

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