Readers may have heard about The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor thanks to the announcement of its forthcoming anime adaptation, or simply having come across the original light novel series available from Cross Infinite World. Today I’m here to check out the manga adaptation from Yen Press to find out more about this fantasy series. Is it worth a read? Let’s take a look.
The story follows Jill Cervel, the gifted noble daughter who is engaged to Prince Gerald der Kratos, with whom she fell in love at first sight. Jill knew their marriage was arranged as a political move, due to the Cervel domain standing on the border between the Kingdom of Kratos and their enemy, the Rave Empire. War is looming and Prince Gerald is aware that Jill’s talents will prove important in turning the tide on their foe. So our protagonist throws her childhood and early teenage years away, instead, spending day in and day out training and quickly rising through the ranks in the army. All in the hopes of being useful to Gerald (whom she thinks loves her) and the kingdom she calls home.
Unfortunately for Jill, Gerald is simply using her as cover for his incestuous relationship with his sister Faris. When Jill happens to stumble upon the two in bed together, Gerald sets about framing her for crimes she didn’t commit and has her confined to a keep. As Jill fights to escape, she takes a mortal wound and wishes desperately for a chance to do her life over. If only she could avoid getting engaged to Gerald, surely her life would go so much better…?
Well, luckily for Jill, she is granted this second chance and awakens at the same ball where she first met Gerald. With only moments before she lays eyes on the prince once more, Jill runs away and tries to pull together a plan. But when the prince follows her, Jill is forced to grab onto a nearby stranger and declare that she’s fallen in love with him and plans to marry him! And this person just happens to be the Dragon Emperor Hades from the Rave Empire! Now Jill is in over her head for a second time, but perhaps Hades might not be as bad as Gerald…?
The Do-Over Damsel has a lot in common with Villainess novels, a genre which has taken the industry by storm, thanks to titles like My Next Life as a Villainess and Tearmoon Empire. But while this work shares a lot of similar tropes, it is outside that genre. Second chances are nothing unusual for these maidens who find themselves meeting bad ends and that’s no different for Jill who has to avoid Gerald but is now stuck with Hades, who was a cruel emperor in her last life. But the man before her now is nothing like that, he’s excited by her declaration of love and quickly whisks her off her feet and onto a boat headed back home where he sets about baking sweets for her.
The big problem here is that when Jill returns for her second chance in life, she’s only 10 years old (she was 16 when she died in her first life), whereas Hades is already 19 and keeps talking about how he wanted a bride under the age of 14. This is understandably going to set off alarm bells for readers immediately, but to the credit of author Sarasa Nagase (I’m The Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss; The Disowned Queen’s Consulting Detective Agency) this is something the characters are very self-aware about.
Jill is under no illusion that this gap is inappropriate, even if her internal self is 16. Hades doesn’t seem to understand but, to put it bluntly, he’s fairly airheaded and doesn’t even understand what a romantic relationship is (partly because he’s read really generic books on the subject). He thinks he can just provide Jill with sweets and flowers and that is all that matters. Clearly, there’s a relevant reason that his bride has to be so young and the story does hint at Jill being needed for something important to the Rave Empire (perhaps a sacrifice of some sort?), but we never quite get to that reveal within this first volume.
On the whole, The Do-Over Damsel does a good job of juggling the past and present lives of Jill, giving us relevant flashbacks to her past life when needed and focusing on the present otherwise. As our protagonist spends more time with Hades it becomes increasingly obvious both to her and us readers that not everything was as it first seemed back then. Hades may have been a brutal leader, but something made him that way as opposed to it being his original personality. How that happened is something I’m sure we’ll find out about as the series goes on. More than that, I find myself incredibly fond of the cast already. Jill is a strong female lead who doesn’t easily swoon over Hades and is more than capable of looking after herself. Hades, meanwhile, is a dork, even despite his borderline obsession with his new bride-to-be, and you’ll find yourself with a smile on your face as you watch over his antics.
The original light novel series is still ongoing at six volumes while the manga has been brought to life by artist Anko Yuzu who also adapted I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss. Just like that series, Yuzu’s work here really nails the comedy angle, thanks to the characters’ expressions and exchanges, which help take the edge off of the more problematic subjects (such as the age gap or Gerald being in love with his sister). It’s a lot of fun to flip through the pages and watch the cast come to life. Unlike most light novels turned manga it’s not overwhelmed by dialogue either. As someone who hasn’t read the original work, I didn’t feel like I was losing out on anything and that’s the most important thing.
The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by John Neal with lettering by Adnazeer Macalangcom. There are no translation notes but the release reads well, with no issues to report. The book opens with colour pages and included at the end is a short story written by the original author, so this is a real treat for existing fans.
This manga adaptation is ongoing in Japan with five volumes. In English, Volume 2 is scheduled for a release in December but nothing beyond that is scheduled as of yet. As mentioned earlier, the original light novels are available through Cross Infinite World which are currently at Volume 3. The anime adaptation is set to debut in 2024, so not too long to wait for that.
Overall, The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor Volume 1 proves an interesting debut. While there is a problematic age-gap situation, I think the strength of the cast and the artwork overcomes that. Certainly, if you’re a fan of Sarasa Nagase’s previous works, you’ll know what to expect here and won’t be left disappointed.
Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.