One Peace Books’ latest manga debut Villainess Level 99: I May Be the Hidden Boss But I’m Not the Demon Lord may be familiar to some of you already. The original light novel series is available in English through J-Novel Club and it’s set to get an anime adaptation in the Winter 2024 season. But does the manga prove a good gateway into the franchise? Let’s find out!
Our story follows Eumiella Dolkness, formally a college student from Japan reborn in the world of an Otome RPG she played in her last life. Eumiella is the daughter of a noble family and when she regains memories of her life in Japan at age 5, she realises that she is the hidden boss of the game!
Eumiella has had an unfortunate upbringing so far due to her black hair, which is considered a bad omen due to a Demon Lord having dark hair in the past. Because of this, she’s been left behind in the family domain with no one but the servants to interact with. Now that Eumiella has memories of her past life, she knows that the storyline of the game dictates that she’ll enrol in the Royal Academy once she hits 15 years’ old, so in the meantime, our heroine decides to go level grind in the nearby dungeon to pass the days.
Then we flash forward to Eumiella enrolling in the Royal Academy, where it’s revealed that all her grinding has led to her becoming level 99! Naturally, no one wants to believe that Eumiella could be so powerful especially as the only way to level up in this world is by defeating monsters, something a young child shouldn’t be capable of nor have interest in. Things go from bad to worse when Eumiella meets Alicia the original heroine of the game and her three love interests: Edward, Oswald and William!
Eumiella just wants to live a quiet life by herself and is using her prior knowledge of the game to help achieve that. Sadly, due to her high level and the fact she’s discriminated against for her hair colour, it’s not long before she’s known around the academy as the ‘demon lord’. The only way to regain her peaceful life might be to defeat the actual demon lord who has been reborn, but that means working with Alicia and convincing the three boys that she means no harm – which is easier said than done!
Villainess Level 99 is obviously cashing on the popular villainess trend, coupled with the overpowered main character stories that have exploded in popularity thanks to isekai. It’s not very original because of that, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had here if you like the genre. This is particularly true of Eumiella who has some wonderful deadpan and comical expressions that are brought to life by mangaka Nocomi. They’ve chosen to keep a lot of her inner monologues from the light novels (which isn’t always a given for a manga adaptation) and I think that makes a big difference in terms of making this enjoyable. There’s nothing better than watching the chaos unfold while Eumiella sighs and points out the stupidity of her situation to herself.
I will say that while the humour is good (and arguably the selling point of the manga), the cast outside of Eumiella is fairly one-note currently. Alicia and her group love interests in particular do little but act as antagonists, particularly after deciding Eumiella is the demon lord. This does show signs of getting better toward the end of the book, but I wouldn’t count on it. Thankfully Eumiella does make up for it and it’s nice to see an intelligent heroine lead the series, which again isn’t always the case for this genre. It’s comedic, but Eumiella has clearly thought through all her actions and that leaves you interested in seeing how her life will develop as the story goes on. Does that make it a must-have? Not really, but there’s definitely enjoyment to be had if you’re into these kinds of stories.
As mentioned Villainess Level 99 Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to One Peace Books and has been translated by Hengtee Lim. There are no translation notes of any kind, but by and large the text reads well and every character has a fairly distinct way of talking. We are unfortunately missing the colour pages from the Japanese release, which I thought was a shame.
However, one issue for me rests with Eumiella’s name. In the official light novel release by J-Novel Club, her name was translated as Yumiella instead of Eumiella and news articles surrounding the anime have also been using that romanization. In Japanese her name is rendered as ユメエラ, which can be translated either way so it’s not a problem with the translation so much as it was a preference. ‘Eumiella’ fits better with the other Western names in-universe, but given that our protagonist is discriminated against for her black hair and more Asian traits I personally feel that Yumiella fits better. But the bigger issue is that this has created a major inconsistency with the rest of the available media, which will serve to annoy readers. Especially when J-Novel Club have been releasing this series since the beginning of March, which gave One Peace Books ample time to align with it.
The other problem with this release is that there is a lot of text that’s not centred in speech bubbles. They’re often off to the right or left of a bubble and even if that’s not a problem there are quite a few instances of text not being within the dialogue boxes at all and instead spilling outside. Granted, some of it is understandable as there are a couple of sections where there’s too much text for the size of the box, but it still leaves you with a product that feels like it needs more QA time. These are not inexpensive releases and while an issue once or twice might be excusable, this was every few pages where there was something wrong with the presentation of the text.
As mentioned, the original light novel series is available in English through J-Novel Club which is up to Volume 3 of the 5 currently out in Japan. As far as the manga is concerned, One Peace Books has Volume 2 scheduled for an English release in January with #3 following in June, which gives readers ample material to read while the anime is airing.
Overall, Villainess Level 99 Volume 1 gets off to an entertaining start provided you’re interested in the subgenre. With the anime looming, it’s certainly a good time to get into this one, just beware of some production issues and underdeveloped side characters before you pick this up. It’s not perfect, but it is fun.
Our review copy from One Peace Books was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).