ANN’s coverage of Anime NYC 2023 sponsored by Yen Press and Ize Press!
This is the definition of a filler anime movie. That doesn’t make it bad but it’s disappointing—especially following a second season that already lacked narrative urgency and mostly coasted on goodwill towards the characters. Those hoping for any follow-through on the Fortune Lover II tease from the end of Season 2 will have to keep waiting for a potential Season 3.
It’s a strange task to make a movie with a big enough scale to feel worthy of the big screen while also knowing it can’t be important to a series’ broader continuity. It’s easier to do this with shonen action anime, where you can simply have the characters fight a new, bigger monster of the week. For a rom-com built upon character relationships, introducing BIG new events that also aren’t meaningful ones is more challenging. The My Next Life as a Villainess movie almost makes it work before screwing up badly in the final stretch.
One clear unambiguous positive about the movie: this is the best My Next Life as a Villainess has ever looked in terms of art and animation. The watercolor backgrounds, already the strongest aspect of the TV show’s visuals, are given multiplane depth. The characters are drawn better than before, with great lighting effects and moments of sakuga fluidity. Only some roughly integrated CG effects knock the film down on this front.
As filler movies tend to do which is introducing several new characters to charm you in the moment before they’re never heard again. First is a cute little bird, adopted by Catarina and given the name Piyo. Between this, the Sasaki and Peeps premiere, and the giant model of Filo from Shield Hero on display, one of the clear takeaways from Anime NYC 2023 is that bird mascot characters are in.
There’s the circus caravan coming from Mutrac, a country coded with Middle Eastern/North African vibes. Aaqil, a magically gifted animal tamer, who connects more easily with his creature companions than with people, is the main figure of interest in terms of both his individual character development and potential as a love interest. The other caravan member who stands out the most is Aaqil’s femboy best friend Gerudo Link—I mean, Qumiit. The movie is as refreshingly positive about his gender nonconformity as the franchise is about queerness. Sophia’s interactions with Qumiit are the film’s comedic highlight.
I wish the series’ regular supporting characters had more moments to shine in the film but getting to know the new characters is fun. Aaqil’s story has a lot of heartwarming friendship/found family themes—and, after a somewhat contrived but logical revelation at the film’s midpoint, the first real risk since Season 1 that all roads could lead to doom.
The raised stakes allow for what up to this point has mostly been a hangout movie to build in excitement. If this wasn’t a filler movie, this could be something special. Heck, even if it was a more cleverly handled filler movie, it would probably be a solid recommendation. I can’t say where the film goes wrong without spoilers. At a certain point towards the end of the film, my brain was filled with profanities. The final moments are so crass and awkward due to the movie’s status as filler. For all its entertainment value up until that point, I can’t blame any fans for skipping this movie entirely.
Overall grade: C+
+: The best the series has ever looked, new characters are charming enough
-: Botches the conclusion so badly that it becomes insulting