Somewhere between anime“>Too Cute Crisis and anime“>Love After World Domination is a cozy little spot for Yuu Morikawa‘s anime“>Mr. Villain’s Day Off. It’s almost a perfect combination of those other two titles: our nameless villain (his subordinates call him The General, being too afraid to speak his name) may work for the destruction of humanity during the week, but in his down time he enjoys going to the zoo to look at adorable pandas and bunnies, and in the course of his relaxation, he often bumps into the leader of the Rangers, Dawn Red. Fluffy and funny, this slim volume makes for a welcome addition to what appears to be a growing genre of not-so-bad bad guys.
Although it isn’t written as a four-panel series, each chapter here is short and self-contained. They all follow a basic formula, and often open with the same words – our villainous protagonist remarks that he’s the alien leader of the Evil League, but on his days off, he does normal Earth stuff. This almost immediately raises an interesting element of the story: at various times, he tells other people that they need to take time off to recharge, and he specifically instructs one of his overeager subordinates to stop working overtime at Evil League headquarters. He gives similar advice to Dawn Red, the red ranger in the group working against the Evil League, which means that he’s telling his enemy how to practice better self-care before they fight. The irony is thick, implying that villains are better attuned to the idea of a work/life balance, and given the abundance of stories where someone dies from overwork or gleefully welcomes the zombie apocalypse as a new lease on life, it is almost definitely intentional. Mr. Villain is a much kinder boss than we typically see in manga.
This idea of Mr. Villain leading a good life with adequate downtime is a source of some of the book’s humor even when it isn’t making a thinly veiled statement about Japanese work culture. We can see him trying to reconcile his feelings about human children, for example, with his stated goal of wiping out humanity. Several chapters feature him helping kids, and the most striking is when he meets a little boy at the zoo, twice. The first time, Mr. Villain is simply on a quest to see if pandas’ tails are white (he feels they ought to be black), and after standing at the panda exhibit for a truly uncomfortable amount of time, he and a boy next to him both exclaim in delight at finally seeing a panda’s butt. Later, in another chapter, he meets the same boy at the petting zoo, he discovers that the child is very knowledgeable about rabbits and wants to be a vet. The boy confides that his mother has told him that he can’t be one, and Mr. Villain quickly challenges that – he encourages the boy to teach him about animals and flat-out calls him a veterinarian. This, more than any other scene in the book, shows who Mr. Villain really is: a pretty nice guy who may be having some second thoughts about his mission. He even comes close to wondering if he might spare this particular human later on.
Of course, he’d be doing that to help the pandas, at least in his mind. The more we see Mr. Villain interact with animals, the more it looks like he’s keen on destroying humans for his own goal of helping Earth’s animals to flourish. At one point he even remarks that “Once humanity’s wiped out, I’ll breed more pandas,” and he daydreams about a human-free, panda-filled planet where he can frolic with the fuzzy darlings. His fleeting thought to keep the little vet around suggests that it may not be all humans he has an issue with, however, but simply adult humans. Children, he seems to think, might be changed.
Even if that’s not the case, he’s at least a low-key kid fan. His adventures rescuing (or maybe “rescuing”) two lost children at the mall shows a lot of kindness and concern, and the chapter where he meets a little girl who is almost certainly the spirit of a sakura tree also demonstrates his willingness to help those he sees as in trouble. (Both chapters also allow him to voice his horror that no one is teaching these kids not to take food from strangers.) In a lovely wordless chapter, he observes children making bunnies out of snow and copies them, and his sadness at it melting in his fridge indicates a bit of childlike wonder in his personality. Mr. Villain’s evil side, these chapters suggest, may be an act.
Although the book is a scant 128 pages, it feels like a worthwhile purchase. Between his inability to leave people in trouble alone (including Dawn Red and his miserable sense of direction) and his enjoyment of such earthly delights as seasonal ice cream, Mr. Villain is a fun character to follow, and the stories manage to be both cozy and funny at the same time. It’s an enjoyable read, combining the best elements of those two titles I mentioned at the beginning, so if less-than-villainous villains are something you enjoy, definitely pick this up.