By this point we’re all familiar with several permutations of the isekai genre, and while reincarnated villainesses and overpowered young men remain the most prevalent subgenres, the yarinaoshi loop, where a character dies and has their life reset to a point where they can still change their outcome, is also fairly prominent. Tearmoon Empire is this third subgenre of isekai, but despite that, it manages to distinguish itself from its siblings in one very distinct way: Mia is motivated by an entirely selfish goal.
It may seem like this isn’t a fair statement to make; after all, even heroines in the decidedly darker I Swear I Won’t Bother You Again! and Reset! The Imprisoned Princess Dreams of Another Chance! are arguably about heroines trying their damnedest not to be executed a second time. But where Annabel and Violette are killed because of things outside of their ostensible control, Mia actually is the author of her own misfortune – because she’s exactly the spoiled, self-centered princess everyone makes her out to be. In her first go-round, which is modeled loosely after myths about Marie-Antoinette (she tells the peasants to eat meat if there’s no bread), Mia thinks that the empire exists only to serve her, paving the way for famine, plague, and economic downfall. This is all totally inescapable knowledge for her once she revives, because she kept a very detailed diary of her transgressions…and she’s not entirely aware of the fact that they all were transgressions. Newly revived Mia is determined to change things, yes, but not because she believes that she was wrong before – she just doesn’t want to go into Madame la Guillotine’s painful embrace a second time.
The narration, which carries over from the source light novels in the form of text boxes written with dry humor, makes it abundantly clear that while everyone is busy attributing Mia’s sudden shift from hellish brat to genius princess to her own brilliant intellect, she’s actually just trying to do the opposite of what she did the last time. That doesn’t mean that she’s not doing good things, however, something even she’s at least tangentially aware of – it’s just that she’s doing good with a selfish motive. For example, she sets out to build a hospital in the slums not because she’s desperate to stop the incoming pandemic, but because she’s aware that her maid Anne’s younger sister Elise will die in it and never finish writing the novel Anne was reading to Mia. Since she wants to know the end of the story, she has to make sure that Elise survives. Similarly, she begins to pursue Prince Abel because he’s the second prince of a militarily-strong kingdom, so if she marries him, she’ll have backup if the two people who fomented the revolution in her first life do so again this time, although of course she’s trying to avoid interacting with Sion and Tiona as much as she possibly can.
Much of the joy of these two volumes, which adapt roughly the first light novel, is in watching Mia flail around trying to prevent terrible things while inadvertently convincing everyone that she’s basically a living saint. Mia’s only tangentially aware of this; she knows that she’s being given credit she probably doesn’t deserve, but she has no idea how the mere thought of her supposed genius and goodness is working behind the scenes to win hearts and minds, which are then put to good use in her name. Anne is the best example on this front; it’s true that Mia feels very obliged to her, because Anne (and Ludwig, one of her ministers) was one of the only people to stand by Mia up until the end the last time, but Anne just thinks that Mia is being kind to her because she’s a kind person. And while Mia isn’t perhaps a bad person, she’s also not necessarily naturally sweet, so when Anne runs around doing good in Mia’s name and interpreting Mia’s gestures as a directive to do so, she’s acting without a full set of information.
It works, though – Mia, we can see, is definitely making real, solid changes to her world and her future. The fear of execution curbs her worst impulses, and without being aware of it, she’s changing lives for the better, including her own. One of the best examples of this is her interactions with Prince Abel, someone she barely spoke to in her previous timeline. Mia’s reasons for targeting him may come from pure self-interest, but that doesn’t change the fact that she completely turns his life around, showing him that someone does care about him and that he can be better than he assumed of himself. It’s genuinely touching, and the manga actually does a bit better with this element of the story than the novels simply by virtue of giving us his facial expressions and body language more clearly. That goes for Sion as well; while the novels are a lot of fun to read, the manga’s art facilitates a different, and in some ways better, understanding of his emotions as they play out on his face.
While the art is generally very nice, it does still inexplicably make the school uniforms, particularly the girls’, look like modern Japanese uniforms. Given that the rest of the outfits are firmly rooted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it’s very jarring and risks taking readers out of the story. The art does, however, deserve credit for making the many, many pages spent in the school bathhouse largely devoid of fanservice; Mia’s just taking a bath and is comfortable with her nudity and that really comes across clearly.
Tearmoon Empire‘s manga adaptation is a lot of fun. The story sets itself apart from its brethren just enough to feel fun and different, and Mia’s unwitting actions as a force for good are very entertaining. It has its issues and definitely leaves out a lot of the detail from the novels, but on the whole reading these two volumes is simply a good time.