Oh man, this post is going to have a dozen disclaimers. Ok so first I should say that I’m only about halfway through season 2 of My Next Life as a Villainess all Roads lead to Doom! My observations may not hold through for the entire season.
Second, I’m watching the show with Karandi and Crow, both of whom think it’s amazing and do not share my opinions. Personally, I think it’s ok but I find that a lot of the elements I thought were charming in season 1, aren’t coming through this time around. And a lot of it can be attributed to Catarina herself.
Before I get into the specifics though, let me quickly talk about Flanderization in general. If you haven’t heard of the term, it actually comes from The Simpsons. Maybe I’m the only one that was surprised to learn that. Basically, it was coined to describe the way that the character of Ned Flanders became more or less a caricature of himself throughout the seasons.
This is hardly limited to The Simpsons though. It’s in fact fairly common in shows with multiple seasons or movies with a lot of instalments. Cough Pirates of the Caribbean, cough. When a character becomes popular with fans because of certain aspects, it can be very tempting to show more of those particular aspects. However, when it’s not done right, those aspects can overshadow the rest of the character’s personality and/or get exaggerated to the point of no longer making much sense.
I find that Flanderization is in fact much less frequent in anime than in other mediums. And when it does happen, it’s more subtle. I think part of the reason for that is that anime almost always follows an already established storyline from manga or light novels. And those are a bit less prone to Flandarization in the first place as it’s tougher to integrate audience feedback quickly. But it’s not impossible. And even anime based on manga can diverge from the source and evolve characters in some odd ways.
Caterina Claes isn’t the only example of anime Flanderization I can think of. She is not the worse either. In fact, it’s kind of subtle which is why I wanted to chose her as an example. I know the show has a lot of fans and a lot of you might disagree with this post. Even so, the idea does apply in general.
So in season 1, Catarina was an endearing protagonist to me. Sure, she adhered to a lot of the tropes but I liked the characterization they were going for. Catarina was your standard genki optimist. Full of energy and good intentions, kind to all those around her and a bit dense. In fact, she earned the nickname bakarina from the fanbase because the character was seen as a bit of an idiot.
However, there was a lot of nuance there. Catarina was very naive and is obviously not someone who had traditional book smarts. She doesn’t like studying and she tends to believe those around her even when she shouldn’t. But she was also someone who from childhood honestly believed she was doomed to exile or death and spend her entire time devising plans to avoid that fate. Not all of them were genius but a lot of them were creative. She even put together a plan B in case she did get exiled so that she could survive on her own. Independently teaching herself the basics of vegetable farming and cultivation.
That’s not someone who is a complete moron. She consistently showed out-of-the-box thinking and an ability for alternative problem solving that helped everyone out on several occasions. And she was hardworking and dedicated. Getting up before everyone else to tend to her garden and putting in a lot of time and energy towards her different pans to avoid the worse. She may not always have the most sturdy hold on logical reasoning but throughout season 1, we saw that she does indeed spend a lot of time thinking things through, even having an entire council in her head to analyze the different situations she found herself in.
As a harem heroine, Catarina was of course irresistible to all those around her as well. It’s a trope of the genre that harem protagonists are super boring and audiences wonder why anyone would be attracted to them. But in villainess, we did have some viable reasons. Since Catarina was not in fact born into her station in life, she never really acquired the rigidity of nobility. She doesn’t feel the need to hold herself back or censor herself due to her class, making her much more entertaining than the average noble. More importantly, she treats everyone with kindness and dignity regardless of who they are. That’s one of her defining traits and it’s one of the aspects that make her so loveable by both characters in the show and audiences alike.
In summary, Catarina Claes is impulsive, naive and lacks skill in traditional academia but she is hardworking, dedicated, open to those around her and persistent. She is a lady who knows what she wants and defends her friends. She may be an adorable ditz but she’s also a capable main character who inspires those around her.
Or at least she was. The Catarina of season 2 seems to be the same at first glance. She’s still full of energy and enthusiasm. She’s still a loveable airhead. But there are little things that sort of undo some of her admirable traits for me.
In the first half of the season, I don’t think we’ve seen Catarina work hard at anything. Her vegetable garden isn’t important anymore since she is seemingly out of danger and she no longer needs to make plans so she’s just sort of drifting along. It seems she sleeps in as much as possible as often as possible and even in dangerous situations is difficult to get out of bed before noon.
I mentioned this in one of my episode reviews with Karandi and Crow but there’s a scene where she explains that she never bothered to learn her family butler’s name and just calls him Sebastian cause she thinks he looks like one. It’s a joke. It’s not supposed to be character development or anything. But it still feels way off for someone like Catarina to be treating others this way. In fact, she also calls the butler in that episode Sebastian without asking for his name.
The entire kidnapping arc paints her as way more docile and sort of hollow than she was before. Catarina is naive and potentially kind to a fault. But despite the nickname, she’s not an idiot who would just accept getting kidnapped and not do anything to help herself. Even becoming close to her own kidnapper after hearing his stated intention of hurting her friends. It just doesn’t really seem to fit in with the girl I had gotten to know.
Heck, she even thinks that a kiss is an insect bite. Farmer Catarina who spend an entire season in the fields and taught all her friends how to grow vegetables, and an entire childhood climbing trees and catching bugs, can’t tell an insect bite apart from a kiss.
I understand that all of these are jokes. The sleeping in, the Sebastian bit, the insect bite. They are all just little silly moments and not revelations about Catarina’s character. But that’s sort of all that we got so far this season. The show has insisted on showing her carefree, ditzy, obliviously lovable naive side and there hasn’t been time for anything else. The Catarina who spends hours working by herself on her own plans to achieve her goals hasn’t made an appearance yet. The Catarina who is deeply kind to people who usually don’t get any consideration but who will rip you to shreds to defend her friends simply hasn’t shown up.
It’s a more subtle change but I would argue that it still definitely counts as Flanderization. The fans liked Bakarina a lot so now she’s more Bakarina than anything else and I think that’s a shame. I liked all the layers Catarina had, I think it made her more interesting and gave the series more options when it came to the relationships in the show, which are really the core of the series.
Like I said, there’s still an entire second half to go. Maybe the show will take the time to reestablish the character. I hope they do. Or that they will in future seasons.
I’m sure a lot of my readers will disagree with me. That’s ok. Feel free to let e know what I’m missing. Or maybe you can tell me if there’s a character you liked that got flanderized? Maybe there’s a character that got improved by Flanderization. I’m not sure I can think of one off the top of my head but that would be very interesting to hear about!
ED: The day after I wrote this episode 6 aired and Catarina was almost back to her season 1 self. It was a great episode and now I feel like my example is much weaker. There’s another episode tonight which may render this post pretty much irrelevant. But I’m going to publish it anyways. The ideas still make sense to me.