Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, Vol. 1

By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan by Media Factory. Released in North America by Yen On.

Given the sheer number of ‘person goes to a world based on a game’ light novel plots out in Japan, a genre so oversaturated that some competitions have banned the premise, it’s not a surprise that we’re starting to see the genre poked fun at a bit. Re: Zero begins with our hero, who went out to get snacks, suddenly in a busy intersection of a fantasy world, complete with anthropomorphic creatures, noble princesses, and sneaky thieves. The joke is that this is exactly the sort of thing that he’s read about constantly, and (given that he’s sort of become an ungraduating loser NEET in our world, albeit a buff one who keeps in shape) he is absolutely ready to gain cool new powers and save the world through the power of being awesome. Thankfully, this is not that series.


In fact, Subaru himself may be the weak point in the book – deliberately, to be fair. He’s meant to be the sort of character you want to give a swift kicking to for being so stupid, but that’s always a high wire act, particularly if it’s your protagonist. Subaru is a smartass, and not really in a good way – he’s there with a snarky response most of the time, but it almost feels overscripted, as if it’s a default he drops into when he’s not really sure how to act in a situation. When things get more dire and serious, as they inevitably do, he gets more interesting, though not necessarily more competent. Because his powers are the main title of the series: when he dies, he resets to zero, which is to say he returns back to the start of the day to try to avoid dying. He’s not particularly good at avoiding this.

The rest of the cast fares better than Subaru, as they merely have to be fairly standard fantasy types that will get development later. There’s the overearnest princess, who can’t help but worry about Subaru even though there’s no good reason to do so; the aforementioned sneak thief Felt, who the epilogue shows us is more than she seems (my money’s on missing royalty); and Reinhard, who is perfect in every way, and basically is the character that WOULD normally be our hero in most works – the best part of the book is when we figure out that the way Subaru saved the day and avoided getting himself killed is to call for help rather than fight, which indirectly lets Reinhard come in and save the day, something Subaru is simply ill-equipped to do.

I’m not sure where this will go in the future – I assume if he dies in Book 2 he’s not going to go back to that intersection, as that would quickly grow tedious. I do hope that he matures and acts a bit less of a doofus, though I have zero hopes of that coming true. That said, this is a fun series with a premise that can go in many different directions, and I want to see where it takes me.

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