In the sea of common isekai stories and tropes that have taken over the manga, novel and webtoon scene in recent years, one sub-genre stands out: villainess-themed stories. Usually written for female audiences, these stories usually fall under the manhwa umbrella – Korean content that usually starts off as a web novel and then later gets a webtoon adaptation. Often they contain otome game elements: to survive as a villainess, while also finding love.
So far, no Korean villainess story has gotten an anime adaptation. However, few Japanese manga adaptations have soared to popularity in recent years: you’ve probably heard of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! and perhaps the upcoming I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss, or the recently announced Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte. This is a small step, but it implies that there is a market for this genre and that it is no longer limited to obscure comics. With that said, let’s take a look at a few villainess novels, manhwa, or manga that are definitely worth checking out – for the story, characters, and in some cases, for the art.
Top Villainess Stories
Villains Are Destined to Die
Villains Are Destined to Die is a title we already talked about, as a webtoon that deserves an anime adaptation. The story was originally a web novel written by Gwon Gyeoeul and it gained quite an online following even before it got officially licensed under the current title, not only because of the engaging plot but also because of the wonderful art.
The webtoon, which was adapted and illustrated by SUOL, currently has 2 seasons out and is on hiatus, awaiting the continuation. Tapas is publishing it in English:
This game’s got me obsessed! It’s like it’s taken over my life… wait—HARD MODE ACTIVATED. No-no-no-no-no! It has literally taken me and thrown me into the part of Penelope Eckhart. Love is easy as the heroine, but as the hated villainess, I’m trying very hard not to die… at the hands of my brothers… the prince… a fork… every possible ending is death! This world is stacked against me, but can my wits and insider game knowledge score the affection of these male characters? Or the reset button???
A trailer is available:
What It Takes to be a Villainess
If you’re looking for a villainess story to binge-read then What It Takes to be a Villainess might be a good choice for you: both the webtoon and the novel are already done. The web novel was written by Haeon Ju and has 232 chapters. The webtoon adaptation was done by Min from REDICE STUDIO. The plot follows a girl who has to adapt to the world she got isekai’d to by being the cruelest version of herself; however, she falls in love.
TappyToon licensed the webtoon and describes the plot as:
With a broken heart, Hwayoung falls headfirst into the river by accident but wakes up as infamous villainess Satiana Altisee Kaylon. Coming to terms with her new life as sole daughter of House Kaylon, Satiana is soon chosen as a candidate for the next empress! In the palace full of schemers and liars, she must become a cold-blooded villainess to win her royal seat by the crown prince – or her new family will face grave danger! Will being perfectly evil really be enough? ‘Cause even villains need love!
Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter
Another villainess story that is originally a web novel, but this time from Japan. Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter is a light novel series written by Reia, with artwork by Futaba Hazuki. Although the light novel is finished, the manga adaptation by Suki Umemiya is currently ongoing. The story is about yet another girl who gets accused of being a villainess, but this one features more political elements and kingdom-building.
Seven Seas licensed the series and describes the plot as:
Iris Almeria, the daughter of a powerful duke, is arrested and forced to her knees in front of her fiancée. Her betrothed, Prince Edward, is rejecting her for another woman! As Iris’s life flashes before her eyes, she suddenly realizes she knows exactly what is coming next–because she has been reincarnated into her favorite otome game as its villainess. Quick thinking saves her from exile, but Iris can’t rest yet. If she wants to survive this world that sees her as wicked, she’ll have to change the world itself.
Beware the Villainess!
What carries Soda Ice’s Beware the Villainess! is definitely the main character. She is bossy, she is loud, but she is ultimately not evil even though she makes enemies and the comedy is well written. Blue Canna is working on the webtoon adaptation that is currently ongoing and it features some very visually pleasing art.
Tapas is publishing the webtoon in English and describes the plot as:
Sit back and take in this romantic tale of an angelic heroine and her devoted suitors as they vie for the depths of her love… or not. This story’s about to go through some edits! After an accident, a modern-day college student awakens as the story’s villainess, Melissa Foddebrat. She’s far from anyone’s favorite, but she IS the daughter of the duke. Determined to live it up, this new Melissa is doing things her way — antiquated society, be damned! All idiots, prepare to step aside or perish!
A trailer that gives a glimpse into Melissa’s charming personality is also available:
Kill the Villainess
Sawolsaeng’s Kill the Villainess is another web novel-turned-webtoon series and it features another unique main character. Eris spent her life working and being unhappy, but now much has changed once she became a fictional villainess. To save her future she embarks on a journey… Haegi is drawing the art for the webtoon adaptation – the web novel has already been completed.
Tapas is publishing it in English, although it is currently on hiatus before the second season begins. The plot is described as:
Eris Miserian just wants to die. Being overworked and underappreciated in the real world wasn’t great, but living as the villainess in a romance novel is even worse. If Eris can die in the novel, she might be able to return to reality, but the story won’t let her. Desperate to escape a life as the protagonist’s tormentor, she sets off on a journey with the help of a witch, a knight, and a high priest. Can she find her way back to her friends and family, or is Eris doomed to a fictional future?
Villainesses – Why Do We Love Them So Much?
There is something oddly relatable about an imperfect main character and most villainess stories feature one. Be it survival, redemption, finding love, or simply bringing order to a chaotic world – these stories manage to provide entertainment and strike a cord deep within. This sub-genre is reminiscent of the shojo era, but it is combined with what is popular these days: isekai.
After a decade of watching male protagonists fulfill their dreams in novels, games, alternate universes, fantasy worlds, and everywhere else it is nice to see a female main character who is not necessarily a hero but is easily accepted and can show growth that we all strive to achieve. The best part about the community is that these are equally accepted, meaning that they definitely have potential in years to come.