Mr. Villain’s Day Off by Yuu Morikawa can be found in between Too Cute Crisis and Love After World Domination. It’s almost a perfect combination of those other two titles: our nameless villain (his subordinates refer to him as The General because he is too afraid to speak his name) may work for the destruction of humanity during the week, but in his spare time he enjoys going to the zoo to look at cute pandas and bunnies, and in the course of his relaxation, he frequently runs into the Rangers’ leader, Dawn Red. This tiny volume, fluffy and humorous, is a pleasant addition to what looks to be a developing genre of not-so-bad bad men.
Although not written in a four-panel format, each chapter is brief and self-contained. They all follow the same basic format and frequently begin with the same lines – our wicked protagonist says that he is the alien commander of the Evil League, but on his days off, he performs ordinary Earth things. This almost immediately brings up an intriguing aspect of the story: he advises others that they need to take time off to recharge, and he expressly instructs one of his overeager subordinates to cease working overtime at Evil League headquarters. He delivers similar advise to Dawn Red, the red ranger in the group fighting the Evil League, implying that he is instructing his adversary on how to practice greater self-care before they fight. The irony is thick, hinting that villains are more sensitive to the concept of work/life balance, and given the abundance of stories in which someone dies from overwork or eagerly awaits the zombie apocalypse as a new lease on life, it is almost certainly intended. Mr. Villain is a lot nicer boss than we’re used to seeing in manga.
Even when it isn’t making a thinly veiled statement about Japanese work ethic, the image of Mr. Villain leading a decent life with ample downtime is a source of part of the book’s humor. We can see him attempting to reconcile his sympathies toward human children, for example, with his professed purpose of annihilating humanity. Several chapters involve him assisting children, the most notable of which is when he encounters a young boy at the zoo twice. Mr. Villain is only looking to see if pandas’ tails are white (he believes they should be black), and after standing at the panda exhibit for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time, he and a boy next to him both gasp in excitement at finally seeing a panda’s buttocks. Later in the chapter, when he sees the same boy in the petting zoo, he learns that the child is very educated about rabbits and aspires to be a veterinarian. Mr. Villain soon opposes the boy’s mother’s assertion that he cannot be a veterinarian, and he pushes the boy to teach him about animals and outright refers to him as a veterinarian. This scene, more than any other in the novel, reveals Mr. Villain for who he is: a kind guy who is having second thoughts about his objective. He even considers possibly sparing this particular individual later on.
Of course, in his thinking, he’d be doing it to aid the pandas. The more we witness Mr. Villain interact with animals, the more it appears that he is eager to destroy humans in order to let Earth’s creatures thrive. At one point, he even says, “Once humanity is wiped out, I’ll breed more pandas,” and he fantasizes about a human-free, panda-filled planet where he may play with the cuddly creatures. His short inclination to keep the tiny vet around implies that he may have a problem with adult people rather than all humans. He appears to believe that children can be transformed.
Even if that’s not the case, he’s clearly a young enthusiast. His exploits rescuing (or perhaps “rescuing”) two missing children at the mall indicate a great deal of generosity and concern, and the chapter where he encounters a little girl who is probably surely the spirit of a sakura tree also demonstrates his eagerness to help those in need. (In both chapters, he expresses his astonishment that no one is educating these kids not to take food from strangers.) In a charming wordless chapter, he sees and replicates youngsters building snow bunnies, and his anguish at it melting in his fridge reflects a youthful delight in his personality. These chapters imply that Mr. Villain’s evil side is an act.
Despite the fact that the book is only 128 pages long, it appears to be a reasonable investment. Mr. Villain is a wonderful character to follow, and the stories manage to be both warm and humorous at the same time, thanks to his inability to leave people in danger alone (particularly Dawn Red with his awful sense of direction) and his pleasure of such earthly joys as seasonal ice cream. It’s a fun book that combines the greatest qualities of the two works I mentioned earlier, so if you like less-than-villainous villains, pick this one.