Season 1 is great. Season 2 is fine. An anime film is set to premiere in 2023 and I'm looking forward to it.
It's a bisexual harem comedy with a female protagonist and an attention-grabbing premise. Unusually, the harem itself is relatively underwritten. The genre traditionally has an oblivious nice-guy protagonist and lots of lovestruck loons... but, here, the protagonist's the funniest character. She's called Catarina Claes and she's an idiot. This is traditional with harem protagonists, to some extent, but this show's planting its comedy star on that fact. This is brilliant. Catarina's great because her heart of gold is accompanied by social cluelessness, gluttony (for sweets), wildly unladylike behaviour and of course her inability to realise that all her friends are in love with her.
You see, she's the villain. She's an otaku who died and got reincarnated in the world of her computer game. So far, so conventional. Catarina, though, is trapped in an otome game, i.e. a romantic multiple-choice where the heroine can woo her choice of various hot-but-problematic hunks. This is weird already, but Catarina's the designated villain. Whoops. All the game's endings have her getting exiled or killed. Catarina is thus fixated on her foreknowledge of game events (since her life depends on it) and determined to avert them. She's hypersensitive when it comes to expected romantic indications... and so amusingly blind to the obvious results of her unexpectedly non-villainous behaviour.
("Otome game villainess" has since become a genre, with this series having so many imitators that some fans are getting a bit sick of it.)
Anyway, Catarina's great. She's been reborn into a noble family, but her hobbies include climbing trees, farming and growing vegetables. She likes wearing dungarees and a headscarf. She's intelligent, imaginative and resourceful, but she has game-induced tunnel vision when it comes to romance and personal relationships, i.e. she's often a comedy dork.
The supporting cast are mostly defined by their relationships with Catarina. They're not badly written and I'm fond of them, but you'd need to check the internet if you needed to remember the difference between everyone. (After a while, for instance, I couldn't remember Mary's background for the life of me.) Geordo is a prince and Catarina's fiance. Alan is Geordo's less talented brother and has an inferiority complex. Keith is Catarina's adopted brother and in the original game was a womanising playboy. Nicol Ascart is apparently emotionless. (He also has legions of admirers and is supposedly drop-dead gorgeous, but the art completely fails to convey this.)
The girls are slightly better, though. Mary is Catarina's most aggressive suitor. All the girls want Catarina, but Mary's the only one to say things like "why should my partner be male?" and "I can't think of anything I'd want to do with a boy". At one point, she even says she'd take poison if Catarina asked her to.
Sophia's an albino who used to be shunned as cursed. She's also the sister of Nicol, who has a bit of a sister complex. There's nothing wrong with any of that, but the really interesting thing about her only emerges in later episodes. Ep.11 was emotional and surprised me.
Then, finally, there's the game heroine, Maria. She's a commoner and something of a Cinderella, often bullied for not knowing her place. She's assumed to be a nobleman's love child. (Her father appears to have left her mother because of this. Illegitimate children of noblemen and their maids are common in this show, but sometimes the maids only had sex because they were ordered to. Ewwww.) Again, the show finds some genuine emotion in how Catarina stands up for Maria. I also loved Maria's closet-busting confession in ep.12, while I also laughed at Catarina's cluelessness in response.
This is a less enlightened society than it looks, incidentally. The tone's light and lovable, but it can be dark underneath. Noblemen extort sexual favours from their servants. Children might get engaged at eight, for the sake of political influence. Catarina demanding in ep.9 that Anne not get married would be shocking in a modern context, but here it makes sense and ultimately it's Anne herself who rejects the engagement. It's unclear how lesbians would go down in this noble society, but it doesn't seem unlikely that the couple would have had to abandon their position and possibly even their families.
I also like the theme song, by angela. Once again Atsuko Yamato's singing in three or four different voices in the same piece.
The show's less meta than I thought it might get at one point. Towards the end, I started wondering if the game itself might have been trying to correct the course of its own stories... but no, there's quite a good in-universe explanation. Fair enough.
It's not as good, but it's still okay. I loved Season 1. I quite liked this. Unfortunately, Catarina has already solved the "game villainess" thing, so the show's lost its gimmick and can't think of anything better to do than kidnap people (twice) and take the romantic angle further. Two of the boys tell Catarina that they're in love with her. The girls, unfortunately, are sidelined a bit. (I was cheering for the borderline yandere, Mary, but she's wallpaper most of the time this year.)
It's still okay, though. It made me laugh sometimes.
This is a funny show, e.g. Catarina's amusingly rubbish magic, or her ability to woo unintentionally. (She's aware that she keeps stealing romance events by saying the boys' lines, but she never puts two and two together.) At the same time, though, the show's capable of deeper emotion and tragic backstories that become heartwarming. Catarina meaningfully helps people, e.g. Anne the Maid in ep.9. I could completely believe that everyone loves her.
Season 2 ends by setting up a third season that looks like a reboot/sequel. I'll probably watch it, although I'm expecting posterity's verdict on this show to be that Season 1 struck gold and everything else thereafter was effectively the show jumping on its own bandwagon. It might be okay, though. I'm still fond of it.