Light Novel Comedy「はめふら」(Bakarina)

乙女ゲームの破滅フラグしかない悪役令嬢に転生してしまった… is a Japanese light novel from 2015 which also has a manga release and just got an anime (which is airing Spring 2020).

 

First off, let me clarify the names for this series:

  • Japanese official title: 乙女ゲームの破滅フラグしかない悪役令嬢に転生してしまった…
  • Japanese unofficial title: はめふら
  • English official title: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
  • English unofficial title: Bakarina

As we’re talking about the Japanese novel, which even the author’s editor said had one of the longest titles ever, I’ll be referring to it as はめふら.

Light Novel Comedy はめふら (Bakarina) – Japanese Book Recommendations

Author: Satoru Yamaguchi
Genre: light novel, comedy, isekai, reverse-harem, romance, otome games
Great for: Intermediate (JLPT N3~N2)
Length: 298 pages

Amazon Japan (physical and Kindle): 乙女ゲームの破滅フラグしかない悪役令嬢に転生してしまった…: 1 (一迅社文庫アイリス)
Bookwalker (digital): 乙女ゲームの破滅フラグしかない悪役令嬢に転生してしまった…: 1 

 

Japanese Synopsis (from Amazon Japan)

頭をぶつけて前世の記憶を取り戻したら、公爵令嬢に生まれ変わっていた私。え、待って!ここって前世でプレイした乙女ゲームの世界じゃない?しかも、私、ヒロインの邪魔をする悪役令嬢カタリナなんですけど!?結末は国外追放か死亡の二択のみ!?破滅エンドを回避しようと、まずは王子様との円満婚約解消をめざすことにしたけれど……。悪役令嬢、美形だらけの逆ハーレムルートに突入する!?恋愛フラグ立てまくりの破滅回避ラブコメディ★

 

English Synopsis (from the official English on Global Bookwalker)

After hitting her head particularly hard one day, Duke Claes’ daughter, Katarina, suddenly recalls all the memories of her past life: that of a teenage Japanese girl. Just before her untimely death, this girl recalls playing an otome game… that is exactly like the world she’s living in now!

She is now Katarina Claes, the antagonist of the otome game, who nastily hounded the protagonist until the end. Knowing all the possible outcomes of the game, she realizes that every single possible route ends with Katarina being murdered or exiled! In order to avoid these Catastrophic Bad Ends, she has to use her knowledge of the game and her own wiles, starting with breaking off this engagement with the prince…

Will Katarina survive while making her way through this world, where bad flags trip at every turn? Find out in this reverse-harem rom-com, led by everybody’s favorite villainess!

 

Why You Should Read はめふら

First of this, はめふら is a hilarious, well-structured and well-written light novel! So often I come across light novels that don’t seem to have a plan. Like they’re just word vomit across 300 pages. I find myself dropping a number of light novels because the overarching story never kicks off until volume three!

However, with はめふら each chapter has a point, and the protagonist, Katarina, has an end-goal; prepare herself for magic school (when the “dating game” she’s in “starts”) so she doesn’t get killed.

 

This is described as a reverse-harem, but it really is not a traditional harem comedy. All the characters fall in love with Katarina. It is a bisexual reverse-harem where it makes sense that when the characters fall for her. Again, so often harem and reverse-harems have everyone chasing after the protagonist for seemingly no reason. But not here. Everyone is drawn to Karatina’s innocence, confidence, density, and pure nice-person charm.

I saw the first part of the anime before I started reading the light novel, and I really wish I had read the novel first! The anime does not stray far from the book so events and dialogue is pretty much the same.

However, whether or not you’ve read the manga or watched the anime already, I highly recommend you read this novel! (Whether in Japanese or the official English translation.)

Light Novel Comedy はめふら (Bakarina) – Japanese Book Recommendations

 

Why Japanese Learners Should Read はめふら

Great for N3+ Learners

I would recommend this series for intermediate level Japanese learners (JLPT N3+) for a few reasons; There is a wide-ranging mixture of informal and formal Japanese, including keigo. So knowing casual Japanese and keigo is a must to get more out of this novel as a Japanese learner.

Also, although a romantic comedy, this is a fantasy series so includes a number of uncommon words often found in fantasy settings. (Such as 公爵 (こうしゅく) “duke”.) Luckily these more uncommon words, as well as advanced Japanese words (N2+) have furigana, which makes it easier to look up words you don’t know.

 

Great for People New to Japanese Novels

はめふら is also a great series for people who are inexperienced with reading Japanese light novels. The chapters are fairly short and concise. Each chapter has the story from Katarina’s perspective then re-told from the perspective of another character. This means there is a lot of repetition of words, sentences, and dialogue.

Repetition is good because the more exposure to the same vocabulary, the more likely you’ll remember it. So if you find a new word or kanji you didn’t know at the start of the novel, you’ll probably remember it by the end.

The repetition of story and character descriptions is also good because it re-affirms the events in your mind. When starting out you might find your reading speed in Japanese is quite slow, which can lead to forgetting what is happening. Repetition helps you keep track of events and will help speed up your reading and you’ve already read the same even, just re-worded slightly.

If you find yourself struggling with understanding what is happening in a scene, you can also go off and watch some of the anime or read some of the manga. The anime pretty much assigns one episode to each chapter. E.g Chapter one is episode one of the anime.

 

Great for Listening and Reading Practice

The anime also makes this a great series for intermediate Japanese learners to improve their listening, as well as reading. If you read the novel, then watch the anime without English subtitles (or with Japanese subtitles), you’ll probably find yourself picking up words and phrases that you just read.

Again, lots of casual and formal Japanese is used. So, exposing both your eyes and ears to the wide variety of Japanese is great. Pay extra attention to who is speaking which to which person! For example, Katarina uses casual Japanese with her maid but switches to very formal Japanese when she meets someone for the first time.

There is also a lot of great kanji and words you will probably see in other novels. Some of the vocabulary might be N2~N1 level, but this is a great way to expose yourself to these advanced but frequently used terms!

Light Novel Comedy はめふら (Bakarina) – Japanese Book Recommendations

 

The Fun Doesn’t Stop After One Volume!

As of now there are nine volumes of the light novel out in Japanese! If you enjoyed the first volume and want more, then there’s plenty to get your teeth sunk into.

Reading the sequels is also great for Japanese learners because you’ll probably find the same vocabulary coming up again, and again, and again.

I’ve noticed certain authors tend to favor certain words and turns of phrase. (I noticed Yamaguch-sensei, the author for はめふら particularly likes the word 優雅(ゆうが)which means “elegant, refined”, and 贔屓(ひいき)which means “favor, patronage”.)

If you can, create a vocabulary list as you read each novel and study that list before starting the next volume (or chapter), then you’ll highly likely find those kanji/words appearing again. And because you’ve studied them, you’ll be able to remember them better long term!

 

Summary

This is a hilarious story that has me hooked on the novels, anime, and manga. Even if you don’t want to read this in Japanese at least the official English translation is worth picking up!

If you do want to practice your Japanese, however, then this is a great series for JLPT N3 level learners. There is a wide variety of formal and informal Japanese and lots of great kanji and vocabulary that you will see in other novels.

There is also the manga, anime, and nine volumes of the light novel, so your Japanese practice doesn’t have to end after volume one!

 

Useful Vocabulary

Here’s some of the more uncommon terminology I made note of from my read through. I highly recommend making your own vocabulary list too to study from.

Kanji Kana English
拍子 ひょうし moment; tempo, beat
我儘 わがまま selfish
送還 そうかん (to) send home
強制送還 きょうせいそうかん deportation
挙句 あげく in the end
野猿 やえん wild monkey
野山 のやま hills and dales
揺さぶる ゆさぶる to shake, jolt, rock
王妃 おうひ queen
絶叫 ぜっきょう (to) scream, exclaim
聡明 そうめい wisdom
幼少 ようしょう childhood, infancy
防波堤 ぼうはてい breakwater (structure)
稀有 けう rare
剥奪 はくだつ (to) strip (rights), deprive
血走る ちばしる to become bloodshot
被る こうむる to suffer
ご免被る ごめんこうむる to be excused from
彷彿 ほうふつ close resemblance, vivid reminder (of past)
対話 たいわ (to) interact, converse
耕す たがやす to plow, till
前世 ぜんせ previous existence
くわ hoe
不躾 ぶしつけ bad manners
斡旋 あっせん through the (services of) (oft. get a job)
派閥 はばつ clique, faction
気圧 きあつ atmospheric pressure
気圧される けおされる to be overpowered
義弟 ぎてい younger brother-in-law
果敢 かかん determined, bold
修羅場 しゅらば scene of carnage (battle, bloodshed)
抱擁 ほうよう embrace, hug
贔屓 ひいき favor, patronage
腑抜け ふぬけ fool, coward
腑抜ける ふぬける to be cowardly
般若 はんにゃ wisdom
弁明 べんめい explanation, excuse, apology
順風満帆 じゅんぷうまんぱん smooth sailing
遮る さえぎる to interrupt
うなぎ上り うなぎのぼり go through the roof
自嘲 じちょう self-deprecation
颯爽 さっそう gallant
萎縮 いしゅく withering, atrophy
萎える なえる to wither, droop
萎びる しなびる to wilt, fade
萎れる しおれる to wither
誑かす たぶらかす to trick, deceive
見栄っ張り みえっぱり a vain person, show-off
狼狽える うりたえる to be flustered, confused
狼狽 ろうばい confusion, dismay
劣等感 れっとうかん inferiority complex
肩透かし かたすかし to dodge, parry (questions)
肩透かしを食わせる かたすかしをくわせる to dodge
優劣 ゆうれつ quality, (relative) merits
優劣つけがたい ゆうれつつけがたい it’s hard to choose (because both are excellent)
ちまた the public; street, district
曰く いわく to say, to reason
膀胱 ぼうこう urinary bladder
宰相 さいしょう prime minister
折角 せっかく at great pains, long-awaited
優雅 ゆうが elegance, grace
完膚 かんぷ unwounded skin
完膚なきまで かんぷなきまで completely, thoroughly, without exception
曲者 くせもの ruffian, villain
骨抜き ほねぬき lack integrity; watered down; boned (fish)
惚気 のろけ speak fondly of loved one
舞踏会 ぶとうかい ball, dance
怪訝 けげん dubious
感嘆 かんたん admiration
伯叔 はくしゅく brothers
見目麗しい みめうるわしい beautiful, good-looking
無自覚 むじかく unaware of
無粋 ぶすい no refinement, boorish
不埒 ふらち rude, breach etiquette
払拭 ふっしょく (to) wipe, sweep away

 

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