Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 5

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

I admit that after four volumes of Re: Zero, and without having actually seen the anime (which, let’s remember, adapts the first NINE books), I wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was all about with Rem. I didn’t see why, aside from maybe general personality, she became basically the entire reason to watch the show for many fans. Having now read this 5th book, I think I’ve hit the point where I can say “Oh, yeah, that’s it”. Now that Emilia has broken off with Subaru and returned to the mansion, Rem gets her turn in the spotlight, showing a love and devotion to Subaru that almost goes to extremes. This can be heartwarming (as when she tries to get him to maybe stop hating himself a bit) and also disturbing (a lot of other times), but it’s hard to deny that Subaru transformed Rem’s life, and she’s never going to forget it.

It’s a good thing that someone’s in Subaru’s corner, because the reader certainly isn’t. Yes, it’s time to trawl through another book with the worst protagonist ever, as Subaru shows that after his epic beatdown from last time, he has not learned a single thing, assuring us that he will return to Emilia, save the day, and everything will be great again. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen. In fact, it doesn’t happen twice, as we’ve got another save point, meaning Subaru is free to start brutally dying again. It’s not just him or Emilia this time, though, as seemingly the entire village and mansion is slaughtered by our new enemies, the Witch Cult, led by Petelgeuse, a truly freaky nightmare who seems to revel in being insane because it’s over the top rather than any other reason. Subaru’s (feigned?) mental breakdown halfway through the book may give Rem some much needed spotlight, but it doesn’t do him much good. Even in the very end, we see his rage and fury and think: Yup, still hasn’t learned a goddamn thing.

That said, aside from Subaru I am still enjoying this series a great deal. The election continues apace, and we see once more just how hard it is for Emilia to get anywhere in it when even our grumpy abble seller and Rem show they have an instinctive fear and hatred towards her. Crusch remains an awesomely cool character, and we get some tantalizing background details of how she met Ferris that we want to hear more about. (If only there were a spinoff novel coming out in less than two weeks that would tell us that story!) There’s also a very interesting revelation about Subaru that Petelgeuse makes, which, combined with the witch miasma that pours through him whenever he resets to his save point, makes me wonder just how much of a typical “I am a normal Japanese man in another world” protagonist he is.

So my advice for this new volume of Re: Zero is the same as last time: try not to grind your teeth down to nubs as you read Subaru’s stubborn idiocy, but enjoy the rest of the worldbuilding, the scary villains, and Rem being pure and good and badass (I hope Emilia gets her turn next, but I have a feeling it may be a few more books.)

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  1. Joseph Miller says

    Having read ahead via fan-translations of the 4th Arc, I can say that Emilia takes a big spotlight in it.
    As for Subaru, I usually don’t like reading stories about characters as unlikeable as he gets, but there is something about his internal ugliness that I find compelling. He’s a character who is constantly being torn down and rebuilt… sometimes for the better, but also at times for the worse.

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