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Thursday, November 03, 2022 

Why reincarnation and villainesses have become big themes in recent manga/anime

Sora News 24 interviewed a manga editor who explains why reincarnations in the isekai genre have become common themes, along with stories spotlighting villainesses (akuyaku reijo), which is decidedly less appealing:
Isekai, or alternate world stories, have become one of the most popular anime/manga genres, so much so that there are now a number of recognizable isekai subgenres.

For example, there’s the tensei (“reincarnation”) genre, where someone from our world doesn’t just get whisked off to another one, but dies and is reborn there as a different person, but with their real-world memories intact. There’s also the akuyaku reijo (“high-class young villainess”) category, itself a subgenre of tensei, where the main character is reborn as a powerful figure in the alternate world who’d usually be an isekai story’s antagonist.
But why must a woman be a villainess in such a story? The given answer:
Mariko: What about villainess reincarnation stories? I notice a lot of comics aimed at women recently where the main character was a timid person in the real world, and I can understand the desire to be reborn as a more powerful person, but why a villainess?

Y-san: Well, for a long time, the standard pattern in shojo manga has been that the main character is eventually rewarded for being purehearted and earnest. But with the advancement of social media, I think that messier, more realistic emotions and romance have become more visible, and that some people are tired of such purehearted main characters.

Mariko: I think there aren’t many people who can live their lives like a pure, earnest shojo heroine.

Y-san: But in contrast, a powerful villainess can be forcefully bold and tell off people she doesn’t like. I think that’s something people find appealing. Stories where the villainess breaks off an engagement are popular too. It might be a result of empathizing with that desire to be free of a man’s control.

Mariko: Oh, I get it now! A rich, powerful villainess can do what she wants, and doesn’t have to mince words talking with male characters. She’s basically unstoppable.
For heaven's sake, is it really impossible for a heroine to do the same? This is awfully exaggerated, and hardly provides women with an ideal role model. I'm sure there's manga stories where a girl can learn to be courageous and stand up to scummy men. The idea they have to become a criminal to reach that point is nonsense, and the role doesn't make one invincible in real life.

At least this does offer an example for how reincarnation is a vital part and parcel of science fiction and fantasy, and anybody working in mainstream superhero comics back in the USA who can't understand that is really missing the boat.

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