It’s been three years since you looked at me, kicked me into hell and weren’t even sorry.
In volume one, which I read in January and will not be going back to review, an internet denizen going by the nom de plume Peerless Cucumber found himself regrettably reincarnated in the very web novel which killed him (because he didn’t have enough sense to stop rage-reading). And, not simply reincarnated, but reincarnated as the villainous teacher, Shen Qingqiu, who threw the hero, Luo Binghe, into hell… and then got torn into thousands of pieces, very unpleasantly, when the hero managed to crawl out of hell. Unfortunate! Shen resolved to prevent all this from happening by ceasing to abuse Luo Binghe, but then kicked him into hell anyway, a plan that couldn’t possibly fail… and as volume two begins, finds himself shocked when his erstwhile pupil surfaces two years ahead of schedule. And while Binghe’s obsession with Shen is not itself shocking, the tenor of it just seems a bit off.
As noted above, I read the first volume of this series earlier in the year, but I’d also like to comment that I did so a decent bit after I had read the opening volumes of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s two other danmei series, Heaven Official’s Blessing and The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation. This was as, quite frankly, Scum Villain’s a bit of a hard sell for an anglophone audience, as it is parodying a genre of webnovel (the stallion novel) that doesn’t exist in English. And starting three different series at once from an author I’ve never read before? Bit of a leap of faith. But with the wait between first and second volumes of the other MXTX series being what it was, and having really enjoyed Grandmaster, I gave in. And was pleasantly surprised, so, here I am in April, having read the second volume.
Despite lack of familiarity with stallion novels, the barrier to entry is borderline nonexistent for anyone who has borne witness to the ongoing isekai boom, as it turns out stallion novels sure have a lot in common with the hordes of self-insert isekai targeted at male audiences. And in this parody we’ve got, when you get down to it, a villainess series, albeit one in which the original hero has progressed to the point of being consumed by the conflicting desires of wanting to both destroy *and* fuck the villain. The villain is clueless past the point at which anyone else would’ve figured that one out.
Volume one is the stronger of the two, as the humor works a bit better; Shen totally missing the tenor of acolyte Binghe’s adoration is simultaneously funnier and sweeter than an imprisoned Shen not realizing that others assume he’s been sexually assaulted by Binghe following an absurd scene involving a wardrobe malfunction. This volume also steps firmly into the doggy doo that is the problem the other two MXTX series suffer from, in that, despite booksellers classifying these all as LGBT, not only are they not, they absolutely espouse some regressive homophobic ideas. There are several discordant moments of Shen howling away about how he’s heterosexual and could never go gay, and Shen also frames Binghe’s apparent sexual orientation as being a result of having been “turned” gay. Even as I liked this volume overall, this is all pretty ugly stuff! Felt like reading yaoi circa 2001, ugh. (And this isn’t even getting into the underlying conflation of same-sex attraction with unhealthy obsession, although I’ll grant that MXTX’s other two series make this a bit less problematic, as neither features that vibe.)
Even setting aside the “humorous” content that is very much not, this volume is simply more serious, as is perhaps fitting for a book which has as its opening story an incident involving people rotting to death because some demons enjoying living but rotten meat. And while Shen largely managed to avoid having a bad reputation in volume one (mostly by just… not doing shitty things his character did in the webnovel he’s reincarnated in!), things go sideways very rapidly for him this time, with the story around him happy to furnish rumors and allegations in the absence of Shen behaving badly. Also adding to the tonal shift is Shen’s realization that the people around him are… people. He may’ve read this story as a webnovel, but these aren’t just fictional characters anymore, they’re full-fledged people who have their own feelings and ideas, and they can’t be expected to just behave in certain ways because they were written in a given way once upon a time.
Seven Seas has gone the distance on producing a pretty fantastic release, both as a physical object and as a reading experience. The print edition is an oversized volume, and has a good bit of heft to it (although I could certainly understand people wishing it weighed a bit less). There are copious notes in the back, to include character guide, glossary, and pronunciation guide. I’d read some discouraging things when galleys had gone around regarding the transliteration, but either folks were being too harsh or revisions were made before publication, because this reads smoothly and imparts of a distinct tone from our lead.
Realizing that I put the biggest issue with this volume front and center, I do want to emphasize again that I mostly enjoyed this volume. The humor isn’t wholly absent, and most of the time it hits rather than misses. The move toward being more serious matches to having members of the cast outside of the lead become more human and fleshed-out. Even Binghe’s crush turning twisted is part of this, as he’s gone from being a sweet but kind of bland creature to contending with some pretty unhealthy confluence of feelings. Looking forward to volume three coming out in July.