Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 4

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

It took me far longer than I’d expected to finish this volume of Re: Zero, mostly because I had to pause and stop reading every time Subaru was an absolute idiot. Now, one might argue that the entire premise of the series is that Subaru is an idiot and grows and learns through a series of bitter, horrible experiences, and they’d be right. But this book in particular was filled with (mostly) well-meaning, decent people trying to help Subaru, and his ignoring and steamrollering through them because, deep down, he’s sure that he’s meant to be the protagonist of a story starring him. And in the end it all comes crashing down around him. He’s not dead, but he’s lost Emilia, and to him that may well be worse than death. Fighting against the injustice of the worst is very gritty and shonen, but it does help if you are something other than just this schlub in a tracksuit.

I’ve often said that the fourth book in a series is usually where you can tell the difference in writing between “maybe this will be a success” and “this is a success”, and Re: Zero is no exception. The cast, which had by design been small and intimate in the first three books, grows exponentially, as we’re introduced to all the various factions that are presenting themselves to lead the country – including Emilia, of course, who is understandably worries and upset and really does not need her pet loose cannon dropping in. As expected, Emilia is getting the cold shoulder for her heritage and her looks. That said, the other four candidates each have something that also makes the committee to help choose them want to scream and shout,l so she’s in with a better chance than you’d expect. Oh yes, and we see the reintroduction of Felt, the backalley thief from Book One who was spirited away. Spoiler: she’s a long-lost princess! Luckily, she’s still the Artful Dodger at heart.

In this mess we have Subaru, who was told by Emilia to stay behind and get healed while she deals with this alone, which he agrees to and then promptly disobeys the second she leaves. She knows that if he watches the ceremony at the palace, he’d only get really upset and make a scene. Then he ends up at the ceremony, gets very upset and makes a scene. To be fair to Subaru, he is kicking against the right people here. The knights are arrogant and elitist. They’re also badasses, and he is not. His ending fight with Julius is ridiculous and pathetic, showing that grim determination can only take you so far, and serving to destroy his bond with Emilia once and for all (or at least till a future book).

The book is well-written, and I genuinely want to see m ore, especially as it’s now been two whole books since Subaru last died. And I also want to see more from Rem, who is still far and away the most popular character in the series but is barely in this volume. So I’d call the book a success. But read it in small stages, and you may need to see your dentist afterwards. Let’s hope Subaru gains wisdom next book, though I’m not holding my breath.

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  1. Michelle Gauthier says

    Pride comes before a fall…

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