I am an elite leader in the evil league which battles every day to destroy humanity and claim Earth for our home world. That said… today is my day off.
He’s known as the General. He leads an evil organization planning to take over the world and destroy all humankind. Yet even an evil supervillain needs to take a day off from time to time. And on his days off, the General likes nothing better than to visit the zoo and look at pandas – because he’s totally smitten with pandas. Going incognito, looking like any other human, leaving behind the trappings of his evil self (the tail, the serrated-teeth grin, the cruel claws) allows him to quietly indulge in his obsession. And if it weren’t for the fact that the Dawn Red Ranger, one of the hero unit designated to protect the world from the Evil League, just happens to be at the zoo on the same day and recognizes him – he could have gotten away with it! However, as the Red Ranger just happens to have a terrible sense of direction – and the General calls for a truce, while helping his enemy to go in the direction he was trying to go in – all is well and the tranquil atmosphere at the zoo remains undisturbed.
Mr. Villain’s Day Off is the first manga by Yuu Morikawa to be published in English and Square Enix Manga have chosen well (yet again!) as a TV anime series has also been announced. Reading this first volume, it’s easy to see why as – in spite of its short chapter format – this manga has a very appealing premise, brought to life with humour and occasionally a nice little touch of insight into the main character. Each chapter begins with a version of the words quoted at the beginning of the review, then segues into Mr. Villain in ‘On’ then ‘Off mode’ as he sets out ‘incognito’ on Earth to go to the zoo. It could so easily have been a clichéd offering but Yuu Morikawa has a great sense of comic timing and offers a wonderful variety of panels and facial expressions to convey their story. Also, the underlying formula works well (Mr. Villain takes a day off and…) and far from becoming predictable, soon moves in different and unexpected directions. We’re already beginning to see a shift in Mr. Villain’s attitude to earth-domination (although he’d rather replace mankind with pandas) – could it be that he’s slowly changing… for the better?
A visit to a convenience store in search of his favourite sweet potato ice cream ends in disappointment: there’s none to be found because it’s been replaced by a winter special strawberry mochi ice cream bar! However, one of the assistants is only too eager to help out her disappointed customer and earnestly recommends the strawberry ice cream. A little mollified, the General takes it home and eats it. His verdict? “Not bad.” And the chapter ends, as many do, with him reflecting, “One day humanity will be completely wiped out. But… I think I might leave that store standing until the very end.” The ice cream experiment concludes well… but a mistakenly purchased Super Spicy Curry Roux almost results in the end of the Earth, with the timely broadcast of a documentary about pandas acting as a timely distraction for the furious Mr. Villain.
On this day cuteness saved the world.
However, when the peace of another day off is shattered by two small children who cling onto his coat, calling him, “Daddy!” and demanding ice cream, his instinct is to take them to the Centre for Lost Children where they’ll be safe. Along the way, there are more demands, for crepes, accompanied by cries of, “Mister Strange Man who’s not our dad!” provoking suspicious glances from passers-by and food sellers, much to Mr. Villain’s embarrassment. Yet who should come to pick up the children from the centre after Mr. Villain has gone…?
The translation by Julie Goniwich captures just the right tone of voice (deadpan and understated) and is well aided and abetted by Kelsey Denton’s excellent lettering choices. Mr. Villain’s Day Off has some similarities to Play It Cool, Guys by Nata Kokone and, hopefully, will get a similarly sympathetic adaptation to anime, with short episodes of ten minutes that suits the quirky yet well observed humour of the original manga so well.
Volume 2 is due out in November 2023 and the series is up to five volumes in Japan. In spite of the short chapter format which can sometimes not work well over a whole volume for some mangaka, this is – dare I say it? – a charming introduction to the potential destroyer of the world as we know it and his disarming passion for pandas. The delightful little sketches between chapters and the splash pages are an added bonus, as are the two colour pages. It’s difficult not to root for Mr. Villain to go on enjoying his days off for as long as possible because…
Evil villains need self-care too!
Read a free preview on the publisher’s website here.
Our review copy from Square Enix Manga was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).