Villains are Destined to Die Volume 1 Manhwa Review (TW Spoilers)

"All I want is for this poor villain to survive, to end up with someone and be happy." - Penelope

Villains are Destined to Die is a Korean web novel that has been adapted as a manhwa. The English version has been published on TappyToon and can still be read there. This series is ongoing.

Daughter of the Duke’s Super Love Project is the newest otome game with a Cinderella-like plot. After disappearing six years prior and with no memory of who she really is, Ivonne has been living as a peasant, not realizing she is the daughter of a Duke. Upon her 18th birthday, though, she is found and reunited with her father and two brothers. Strange events and interesting men keep intruding on Ivonne’s newfound life, and things are really looking up for the young girl. But not everyone wishes her well.

After an extensive search for Ivonne turns up empty, the Duke, in his depressive state, adopts a young girl around the same age and with similar looks to his daughter. For six years, Penelope has lived in the Duke’s home as his adopted daughter, and she’s not too happy with Ivonne’s sudden reappearance. Ivonne will need to put in some work to find her happily ever after.

But what happens to Penelope?

The game has two modes: easy and hard. In easy, players assume the role of Ivonne, and romancing the male leads to achieve one of the good endings is fairly easy. However, in hard mode, players control Penelope and are given severe handicaps throughout the route. Gaining affection is much more difficult with her, and losing affection is easy. With almost every choice leading to her death, it feels like the game has it out for her.

So when an unsuspecting player wakes up to realize she’s somehow ended up in the game as Penelope, she knows she’s in for one hell of a fight for her life.

Villains are Destined to Die Volume 1 cover. Penelope wearing a black and maroon dress is laying on a bed of white roses clutching a dark red rose.
Villains are Destined to Die Volume 1 Cover

The Good

As a lover of beautiful art, great stories, and practically all things otome, the recent surge of manhwa adaptations into full-color print books has been greatly appreciated, and Villains are Destined to Die does not disappoint.

The first thing that sticks out with this title is the vibrant colors across every page. Characters and scenes pop off the page, settings and environments are given a life of their own, and emotions are conveyed on a deeper level. Simply flipping through the pages gives so much insight to the story solely thanks to the shift in colors and saturation. All of this is without even mentioning the art style itself. With graceful and mature styling to go with the array of colors, the character designs are beautiful and unique, and all ikemen aficionados will be happy with their options of romanceable characters to stan.

Though I love otome games and novels, the genre is very oversaturated, especially in the otome-isekai department. My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, I Was Reincarnated as the Villainess in an Otome Game but the Boys Love Me Anyway!, 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy!, The Villainess Stans the Heroes: Playing the Antagonist to Support Her Faves! – the entries (and titles) go on and on. It’s come to the point where a story must stand out to keep my attention, and Villains are Destined to Die does just that.

The story is delightfully dark. Unlike titles like My Next Life as a Villainess, the main character doesn’t reincarnate as Penelope when she’s a child, but rather mere months before Ivonne makes her reappearance in the story. At this point in time, Penelope’s reputation amongst the house staff is horrid, her relationship with her father and brothers is abysmal at best, and the time she has been afforded to save her life from a gruesome end is too short and ticking away too fast. Nothing is looking good for Penelope’s chances of making it out unscathed, and the stakes are as high as they can be.

Similarly to Penelope’s story in the game, the MC’s original life wasn’t all rainbows and roses, and the story and art don’t shy away from this. While I think these aspects make the story more interesting, not everyone will feel the same way, and a light spoiler section can be found further down to include trigger warnings.

Another addition to Villains are Destined to Die that helps it stand out from the crowd is how like an otome game the story is. Penelope is given dialogue choices when interacting with characters and is unable to talk otherwise. Once an option is selected, her body automatically says and does everything depicted in the choice. This severely limits her ability to manipulate situations to better help her, so she has to rely on her memory of the game and her ability to see affection meters to suss out a way to avoid death. Pop-up menus will also appear before her just as in any video game, giving a tutorial or tips to explain mechanics, inform her of the completion status of quests, or alert her to significant events that can or have been triggered. I loved seeing these aspects of the story and how much it truly felt like Penelope was in an actual game and not simply reincarnated into the world of the game.

The Bad

Other than the basic premise being similar to dozens of other manga and manhwa released in recent years, Villains are Destined to Die has very few flaws in terms of story. That being said, there are mature topics depicting abuse that some readers may be triggered by.

Non-Spoiler Trigger Warnings: Physical, Mental, & Emotional Abuse, torture, needles, & blood. Read the spoilers below if you need more elaboration.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Both in her original life and after being reincarnated into the otome game, the MC experiences physical, mental, and emotional abuse at the hands of those around her, including family, peers, and house staff. There are scenes depicting this abuse and include things like: hurtful and abusive language directed at the MC, the MC being beaten and covered in bruises, the MC being tortured with a sewing needle, being fed molded and rotten food, and a scene involving a murder attempt with a slight amount of blood being depicted.

(End spoilers.)

The title is rated T for Teen, and in terms of content, there isn’t anything inappropriate or too mature for that age. However, anyone with triggers concerning the above content should take caution when reading.

The Verdict

Villains are Destined to Die is as beautifully written as it is illustrated. Penelope is a character that is easy to sympathize with, and readers will find themselves quickly rooting for this young woman to find her happily ever after. Unlike other otome isekai, this title does quite a bit to shake up the formula to stick out from the rest. Not resting on the laurels of the titles that did well before it and the inclusion of some grade A ikemen went a long way in heightening my opinion of this title. At the same time, anyone who enjoys the tried-and-true formula will find slipping into this story easy and enjoyable.

Villains are Destined to Die is available to purchase from Right Stuf, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble.

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Original Story by Gwon Gyeoeul
Art by SUOL
Translation by David Odell
Lettering by Chiho Christie
Published by Ize Press

The Good

  • Beautiful artwork and character designs
  • Story has a more authentic otome game setup than other similar titles
  • Plot is fairly dark compared to similar titles in the genre

The Bad

  • Deals with mature and triggering content that isn't suitable for all readers

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