I have a blessing and a curse. No, not my good looks or charm, that’s just a blessing. Instead, my blurse (turns out this word is real! Crazy) is I can enjoy any type of genre of media. Be it a love story to a hardcore non-stop fight series. If a story is fun or good, it doesn’t matter the genre. Why be picky? Nowadays If I see something that interests me I grab it no matter the genre it lives in. So what interested me in Yen Press’ newest manga, Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, Vol. 1 (hereafter Cross-Dressing Villainess)? First off, the name, I mean, what’s not to love about it? Then, the art. Shino Akiyama’s art style is sharp and gorgeous, reminding me of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon. Makes sense as both can be considered Shojo.
Cross-Dressing Villainess VOL 1 already sets itself apart from other manga before you even open it with two unique differences. This series was originally a Light Novel written by Hiroro Akizakura. The second unique difference is that Cross-Dressing Villainess isn’t done by just one Mangaka doing story and art. Instead, the original creator Akizakura handles the written part and Akiyama the art. This isn’t insanely uncommon nowadays, but the idea that the creator of the Light Novel working on the manga is interesting.
Opening paragraphs aside let’s talk…
About That Time I Got Stuck In a Reverse Harem-Dating Sim.
The Isekai genre has seemed to take the world by storm in recent years, with mangas that have extremely long names that make you stop and say, “Now what the heck kind of title is that?” Seriously, some titles are paragraphs. That said, what sets Cross-Dressing Villainess apart from others in this genre? What is this title’s twist? One of the firsts is it functions more like an Otome game, which we don’t see too often. And the twist? Well, it’s in the title: the main character Cecilia Sylvie is the villainess of the Dating Sim she is in. Knowing that as the main villainess, she is destined for a bad ending she starts to cross-dress as a male, so she can survive. All that said and done, we have something unique in its flipping on storytelling norms of the genre.
Having prior knowledge of how the Visual Novel that she is in plays out, makes for a fun and unique experience. Especially when she forgets something because she originally skipped a part when playing in the real world. Normally stories in the Isekai are action-oriented and don’t have a plot that the person stuck in the world knows beat by beat and how it will playoff. But with Cross-Dressing Villainess being set in an Otome Visual Novel the plot device of knowing how everything plays out helps Cecilia. Then when stuff starts changing due to her messing with how it all plays out, we’re treated to some interesting story beats. That aside, Cross-Dressing Villainess’ characters are another aspect that shines.
In this first volume, we’re introduced to the main cast of love interests and some side characters. Albeit we don’t spend time with all of them, the few we do are just a blast to read, especially when interacting with others. The core cast of characters in Cross-Dressing Villainess thus far really does feel like the over-the-top characters you’d find in some Visual Novels. Which works quite well for the manga adaption.
Having not read the Light Novel, it’s hard to compare the two. But, there honestly is no reason to. A lot of people get worked up when a series goes from one medium to another usually saying, “Batlle Royale manga isn’t like the novel.” My response? Cool, go read the damned novel. I like all Battle Royale. Just because a series is in one form of media and then transitions to another don’t mean it has to be a 1 by 1 translation. It should change for that specific medium, and if they want to change stuff, why not?
Sadly, one of the negatives of Cross-Dressing Villainess is how it still feels like a Light Novel. At times I found myself wondering why I just don’t read the Light Novel instead. This is due to how heavy the word count is on some pages. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with wordy comics/manga. There just aren’t many panels that stop and breathe. At times it feels like a non-stop barrage of dialogue. With this being a visual medium the team behind Cross-Dressing Villainess should have used that element to its advantage more often.
Damn, Everyone Is Gorgeous In This Series
Honestly? I’m not surprised. With Cross-Dressing Villainess being based in an Otome game, it makes absolute sense that every character would be stupid gorgeous. That said, it’s all due to the team of Dangmill and Akiyama. It’s not stated anywhere if Dangmill did all of the designs, so to me that means they did all. And damn, Dangmill’s designs work quite well with each character standing out, all while looking phenomenal. Dangmill also did the illustrations for the Light Novel version of Cross-Dressing Villainess so comparing those with Akiyama’s art in the manga is interesting because they share a style that plays well with each other.
Below is Dangmill’s cover for the Light Novel version of Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, Vol. 1 for comparison sake. And because it’s so fucking hard to find pictures for some manga, I used that picture for comparisons. Also, I mean, who wants to read a wall of text in a review, we need pictures of Spider-Man (J. Jonah Jameson quote) to break it up! I mean of the Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, Vol. 1 manga.
Above I mentioned how wordy Cross-Dressing Villainess can get. This means Akiyama sometimes didn’t have so much wiggle room on panels and pages, having to be wary of big chunks of dialogue. Most times they do their best and make the panels work with how much is in them, yet other times it does feel cluttered. Be that as it may, they do the best job they can with what they get. Nonetheless, when the art does get a chance to breathe (albeit not often) you see just how well the series works as a manga.
Some of the character interactions are the highlight of why the transition to manga is so enjoyable. During these Akiyama seems to be having a blast just playing around with the facial reactions and making them chibi. Akiyama easily makes conversations engaging and just exhilarating to read with the constant change of style and emotions on display. This alone makes it lively and worth reading the manga version. However, our next section livens it up even more.
A Visual Novel Needs Words And A Translator
The team behind the words of Cross-Dressing Villainess had a damn tough and intense job ahead of them. This being the case, Rachel J. Pierce’s lettering gives me life. A lot of Vol 1 is good, but Pierce’s lettering job stands out immensely. Their work here makes the manga shine compared to just a Light Novel. They make you realize what the medium can do with how many different font styles they use (well over 4 different types). Not only that, but with how wordy some panels can get, Pierce has to maneuver around a lot that’s going on. Some panels do get way too busy, but Pierce makes do with the amount of room they are given. Nevertheless, their work shows just how damn important a good letterer is, as they matched Akiyama’s art and change of emotions flawlessly, making each character exchange invigorating to read. Honestly, a hell of high praise for Pierce’s lettering job here!
That said, where would we be without Julie Goniwich’s translation? Well, not reading Cross-Dressing Villainess for sure. Since my last manga review (shameless plug) I’ve been scouring the web to learn more about translators. Sadly, much like letterers, they aren’t talked about often or have books on how to do it. A total shame as we’d not be reading if we did not have either job. Having said all of this, not knowing the original language, it’s hard for one to talk about how “well” the translation is. However, we can speak about a few things here.
First, Goniwich’s work makes sense. I know that when translating you can’t always do a literal translation because that wouldn’t always make sense. So what we have in Cross-Dressing Villainess reads quite well and is fluid. Another aspect is when choosing words that may or may not fit in a word bubble. A great case of words that are contractions in small bubbles (a quick fantastic read here). At no time does it feel like they chose an Ill-fitting word.
Finally, the team does another thing I absolutely love, here quoted from my Run on Your New Legs review. “The original Japanese sound effects are kept, which always makes the manga feel more authentic, plus they have the English and Japanese words underneath which I love.”
Cross-Dressing Reviewer Jason Jeffords Jr Final Thoughts
I’ll start this section with two interesting facts. The Light Novel translator of Cross-Dressing Villainess isn’t the same as the manga translator. On the back of the manga and in the synopsis on differing websites, Sylvie is written incorrectly as Sylive.
Now, what we’re looking for, my final thoughts. Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, Vol. 1 is a fun read that will keep you thoroughly entertained throughout the page count. Akizakura’s story is a blast to read because of the twists it takes on the well-established genre, and its unique cast of characters and their interactions. One of the few downsides is just how wordy it can get. Sometimes you’ll feel as if you’re reading the Light Novel itself. That said, Pierce’s lettering and Goniwich’s translation really help this manga adaption stand out. The same goes for Akiyama’s phenomenal art style and Dangmill’s character designs. Put all of these together and you have an entertaining first volume that although feels like a marathon to get through is an enjoyable time. If you’re looking for something that plays with the genres of Isekai, Otome, and Shojo in an interesting way, then Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, Vol. 1 is right up your alley.
Cross-Dressing Villainess Cecilia Sylvie, Vol. 1
Memorable Quote: “That’s because sister you’re a nitwit.” – Gilbert. With how many great characters there are, Gilbert still stands out!
Published by: Yen Press
Original Story By: Hiroro Akizakura
Drawn by: Shino Akiyama
Character Design: Dangmill
Translated by: Julie Goniwich
Lettering by: Rachel J. Pierce