Reincarnated as the Piggy Duke: This Time I’m Gonna Tell Her How I Feel! is yet another novel in the isekai fantasy subgenre, more specifically the “reincarnated as the villain” sub-subgenre. This isn’t necessarily a problem; a story that adheres to an established framework with the exception of a unique twist—or even if it plays all the tropes straight—can still be captivating. Reincarnated as the Piggy Duke certainly has one such twist: its protagonist, Slowe, has deliberately made himself into the most reprehensible person possible.
Despite appearing to be a villain, he’s actually a tragic hero who is protecting the person he cares about most by making sure both he and she are shunned by society (and thus able to live in hiding). Adding to this twist, the person he’s protecting, his maid Charlotte, doesn’t know this is all an act for her sake, nor the fact that Slowe knows her true identity as the princess of a fallen kingdom.
This should have made for the perfect framework for drama, action, comedy, or a mixture of all three. However, the problems for this setup arise when the reincarnation aspect is brought into the story.
Now, it’s not the fact that Slowe knows the future that is the problem. In fact, this actually injects some additional momentum to the story. Knowing that all he has done is for naught—and that his current course won’t be enough to truly save Charlotte and will only lead him to an ignoble death—Slowe is forced to come up with a new plan and work on fixing not only the damage he has done to his reputation but to his physical health as well. It’s a great impetus to get the story moving and make us root for our hero despite all the bad things he has done.
The real problem is the way in which the knowledge of the future is granted to him: through memories of a past life. The idea is that, in his past life, Slowe watched (and was a fan of) the anime “Shuya Marrionette.” He is now in the world of that anime (about a year before the start of it) and thus knows the future.
However, suddenly gaining memories of a past life is a concept full of implications. While the soul may be the same, a modern Japanese person and the son of a western fantasy-style Duke should have had completely different lives and worldviews—not to mention personalities. However, none of this dissonance is addressed. Beyond occasional comments from the first-person narrator on liking the various main characters in the anime and infodumps about how the anime’s story went, this past incarnation of the protagonist might as well be a non-entity. We don’t know his name, when he lived, where he lived, or anything about his personal relationships. There is likewise little to imply Slowe’s personality has changed due to his new memories. All in all, our hero is still Slowe, the fantasy world Duke’s son—just with knowledge of the future.
So, all this begs the question: If the reincarnation angle doesn’t factor into the story, then why include it? Slowe could have gotten this knowledge through magic, a mysterious book, or even have it told to him by a shrouded stranger. Hell, the knowledge of the future could just appear in his mind, with the how and why being a mystery to be revealed as the story goes along.
The only reason for the reincarnation angle seems to be the inclusion of the play-within-a-play anime “Shuya Marrionette.” Basically, having this world be from a popular anime allows the narrator to handwave away the other issue with the novel: its cliché setting and supporting cast.
Reincarnated as the Piggy Duke takes place in your typical magical high school a la Harry Potter—right down to the long-bearded headmaster. On the character side of things, we have the gung-ho hero, the klutzy innocent, the tsundere princess, and the curvaceous commoner discriminated against in this magic school for nobles. Honestly, besides Slowe, the character who stands out the most is one of the teachers: the afro sportin’, southern drawl talkin’ Professor Loco Moco, who quit being an elite royal knight to become a teacher for mysterious reasons. (He, of course, is a background character who shows up a grand total of three times.)
In the end, Reincarnated as the Piggy Duke: This Time I’m Gonna Tell Her How I Feel! has an interesting concept but one it hamstrings by tacking on the “reincarnated in another world” trope when it has almost nothing to do with the story or characters. While the main character is likable and sympathetic, the romantic lead and rival characters are rather cliché. And to top it off, the novel lacks narrative cohesion: it feels more like a collection of events that happen to Slowe as he attempts to better himself rather than any kind of structured adventure. The action climax comes almost completely out of left field and the conclusion feels like an easy out rather than something that is genuinely earned. If reincarnated-as-the-villain or character-gains-knowledge-of-the-future stories are your jam, you might find this one worth reading. If not, you’d likely be better off giving Reincarnated as the Piggy Duke a pass.