The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess is a shojo isekai manga by Akiharu Touka and it’s one of the series that I’ve been most looking forward to checking out in 2021. I’m quite partial to shojo isekai (a genre where young ladies are either transported to or reborn into magical worlds) and I find the stories where the main characters are reborn in the role of the villainess, instead of the heroine, to be the juiciest. The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess throws in the added twist that the fantasy world that the lead finds herself reborn into is actually from a story she wrote as a teen! As it happens, I’m very familiar with the special brand of awkward yarn that young and inexperienced writers can spin, having penned more then a few in my day, and I was looking forward to seeing how the lead character in this manga dealt with living through the weird scenarios she herself had concocted as a teen.
When she was young, Konoha was convinced that she would one day be summoned to a fantasy world where she would go on many adventures, becoming a powerful heroine who is beloved by all. While she waited for her destiny to arrive, Konoha devoted countless hours to writing an “epic” tale where she was reborn in a magical land as a kind and gorgeous girl who overcomes every hardship and saves the world. But, no matter how much she dreamed about this scenario, her life remained ordinary.
Years later, Konoha is killed in a traffic accident and is reborn in the body of Lady Iana, the villainous younger sister of the heroine of her old story! Iana was a jealous and spiteful character who had attempted to murder her sister because she wanted her fiancée for herself. Konoha, unfortunately, awakens in her body after Iana has already committed her many misdeeds and will now be placed under house arrest as punishment for her crimes. What’s worse, in the original story, Lady Iana is killed by a servant, who’s in love with her sister, while she’s serving out her sentence! Can our heroine use her knowledge of the story to convince everyone that she’s turned over a new leaf and is no longer a threat? Or will she share the fictional Iana’s terrible fate?
The story that Konoha wrote as a teen was a clumsily melodramatic, self-insertion story where she had named the lovely lead-character after herself. So, to avoid confusion, I’ll be referring to the main-character of this manga as Iana going forward and to her sister – the one who is meant to be the heroine of this fantasy adventure – as Konoha.
Iana has written herself into quite the pickle. Iana has been cartoonishly wicked up until this point and, while sweet and saintly Konoha may be eager to forgive her and believe that she’s changed, her fiancée, Lord Ginoford, isn’t going to be so easily convinced. More importantly, Sol, a butler whom Konoha had rescued from slavery and who remains completely loyal to her, is very suspicious of Iana’s sudden personality change and, since he’s the one who’s supposed to kill Iana, she needs to stay on her toes in order to avoid an untimely demise. Luckily, as the original author, she has the advantage of fore-sight. Using her insider knowledge of the story, Iana manages to thwart an attack on Konoha and Ginoford, restoring her to their good graces and causing Sol to put off murdering her, at least until he can suss out her true motives.
Iana’s troubles aren’t over, however. In her previous life, Iana had come up with a series of harrowing hardships that befall Konoha before she’s able to reach her happy ending and, if Iana wants to avoid getting blamed for them, she’ll have to find a way to prevent them all from happening!
Her efforts aren’t just about self-preservation, though. Having created Konoha and the other characters, Iana is deeply fond of them and, while tragedy might make for exciting drama in a book, allowing someone to suffer through the messed-up scenarios she cooked up as a teen in real-life is another matter all together. Iana is just as determined to save Konoha from pain as she is to save her own life, and she makes full use of all of her wits and pluck in order to accomplish these goals. Iana winds up being pretty resourceful and I enjoyed watching her trying to work out the best way to protect everyone and keep herself from being suspected of evil-doing at the same time.
While I quite enjoyed the story, the world of The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess really does feel like something that was thought up by an inexperienced writer. Konoha is a too-perfect-to-exist character and, since teen-Iana was working through some stuff relating to her own sexuality when she wrote the story in her previous life, Iana has to save Konoha from multiple rape attempts over the course of this volume. Fortunately, teen-Iana also had no real understanding of trauma, so, no matter what awful things happen to her, Konoha always seems to bounce back immediately with little to no lasting effects to her psyche.
Rather then finding this annoying, however, this actually sold me on the concept that this manga is about someone being forced to live in the world of their own, badly written, self-insertion fic. I don’t know if everyone will get as much of a kick out of this setup as I did, but I found Iana’s embarrassment at the things she had written to be pretty funny and it made me fondly remember some of the dumb stuff my friends and I used to write in our youth.
Sol, is another character who feels ripped from an adolescent fantasy. He’s handsome, stoic, fiercely devoted and only shows his softer side to the person he loves. Since the main hero is already taken, Sol is being set up as Iana’s main love interest, though he still doesn’t entirely trust her. Regardless, he comes to Iana’s rescue multiple times in this volume and, given that she designed him to appeal to her fantasies, Iana seems to already be pretty smitten with him. I’ll admit to being a bit of a sucker for the kind of character trope that Sol represents, so I am digging this romance so far.
While I found the story to be fun, the art in The Dark History of the Reincarnated Villainess is on the simple side and, while it’s not especially bad, it’s nothing to write home about either. This might just be me, but it also felt a little dated, like an art-style I would find in older shojo manga series, despite the fact that this is a pretty recent release.
All in all, I found this manga to be entertaining and I’m glad I decided to give it a try. Some of the story elements that I found nostalgic, because they reminded me of my own bad fan-fiction, might be frustrating to some readers, but I think this manga will appeal to the writers out there who have a terrible novel or two from their teen-years saved on their hard drives or stashed in a sock door where, hopefully, no one will ever see it.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.
What did you think of this manga? What cringe-inducing tropes would I find in the stories you wrote as a teen? Let me know in the comments. Mine were full of annoying pop-culture references and jokes that I straight up lifted from other works. I also wrote my fair share of bad, self-insertion stories where I made myself way more bad-ass then I am in real life and absurdly over-powered.
For more information on this manga, visit Yen Press’ website.
Looking for more shojo isekai? Check out my reviews of some other isekai manga that star heroines instead of heroes:
- The White Cat’s Revenge as Plotted from the Dragon King’s Lap Vol 1 Review
- Fiancée of the Wizard Vol 1 Review
- Ascendance of a Bookworm (manga) Vol 1 Review
- My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom (Manga) Vol 1 Review
- I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss (manga) Vol 1 Review
- I Was Reincarnated as the Villainess of an Otome Game but the Boys Love Me Anyway! Vol 1 Review
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