Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 2

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

I always enjoy it when the second volume of a new series is stronger than the first, and that’s exactly what we have here. Subaru has managed to finally defeat death and get out of that crossroads, thus proving he is better than Robert Johnson. Now he’s recovering at the castle of Emilia’s eccentric mentor, who is apart of a series of strong new characters, including sarcastic twin maids, a grumpy loli that Subaru promptly labels as such, and, sadly, a new save point, as about 1/3 of the way through the book, Subaru dies… again. Only this time he dies in his sleep, and now has a harder job: figuring out who’s killing him and why.


Of course, the book does still have its faults, chief among them still being Subaru. I mentioned while I was reading the series that he reminded me a bit of Bugs Bunny, mostly in the way that he enters a situation he knows very little about and responds with glib sarcasm and tsukkomi retorts. This makes the book a breezy, fun read, but at the expense of realism a bit – Subaru’s one-liners still feel overwritten, in a way that, say, the twins’ abuse does not. He’s doing much better when he’s emotionally stressed or panicking, which means the second half of the book is much stronger. Of course, this also means he’s failing downwards – he goes from blithely befriending everyone, to running away, to holing himself up in his room and avoiding everyone. Finally he even gets protection from a magic user, which saves him, but… at what cost?

We do learn a bit more about the world we’re now in here, though it’s a bit limited as the entire book remains right around the castle that the bizarre Roswaal lives in. His appearance and manner of speech scream out “I am secretly evil”, and while it would be refreshing if that proves not to be the case, I’m not holding my breath. Fandom, however, seems to have fallen in love with the two maids – well, to be more accurate, with one of the two maids. Ironically, Rem gets the lesser focus in this volume, as Subaru finds it far easier to bounce off the more outwardly vindictive Ram than her meeker, but just as vindictive sister. An afterword tells us that the two maids are based off Ran and Lum from Urusei Yatsura, redesigned for the modern age. Given much of this volume implies they are more than they seem, don’t be surprised if horns come up in the next book.

And there will be a next book to resolve this, as this has a cliffhanger ending – well, really, the opposite of a cliffhanger ending, but I meant metaphorically. I assume that Subaru will learn he can survive more than 3 deaths, and we’ve also found that even if he gets past the predestined time of his death, horrible things can still happen. We also learn, in the creepiest scene in the book, that he’s not allowed to tell anyone about his power. Basically, Subaru has his work cut out for him, but I suspect he will blunder into success somehow in the third volume. This is an excellent read, depending on your tolerance of the hero being flip every other line.

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