Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World – Ex, Vol. 2

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

In Japan, these two volumes came out slightly later than they did here – the first one came out after Book 6, and this second one after Book 7. It didn’t really matter with Crusch’s book, but I get the sense with this second volume that we’re missing the impetus as to why we’re suddenly getting a side story devoted to Wilhelm when he hasn’t really had a large role in these books to date. Of course, as fans will know, the cover of the next volume of Re: Zero out in North America prominently features Wilhelm. In any case, despite feeling as if I came in after the start of the movie, this was a very good volume of Re: Zero’s spinoff, showing us a moody young man who tries to shut himself off from everyone except his sword, and his meeting a lovely and teasing young woman in a construction site with a flower garden. It also manages to have another excellent message that we’ve seen before: war is an awful thing.

The start of the book doesn’t even has Wilhelm as the viewpoint character, though that changes about one-third of the way in. Grimm is his fellow soldier and a far more “normal” person, which is to say he has his doubts, wants to avoid combat and run away when things are bad, etc. Wilhelm seemingly finds him detestable, but the fact that he’s also the only person to repress those feelings and fight valiantly anyway says a lot in his favor. As Wilhelm gradually (very gradually) begins to open up to the reader and to others, Grimm is no longer needed, though I was annoyed that the narrative went so far as to remove his voice from it literally. We also meet what… I guess is meant to be Roswaal’s mother or grandmother? It’s not very clear, and the fact that they talk and act exactly the same makes me wary and suspicious. (If you know, don’t tell me in comments, I’m happy to be unspoiled.) And we also get a whole lot of dead soldiers, both humans and demi-humans, to show that, again, war is an awful thing.

There’s also Theresia, who for most of the book seems to be just an ordinary young girl who likes to hang out in the middle of deserted vacant lots in the poor sectio0n of town for fun, but who turns out to have a much bigger secret. A surprise to you all, I’m sure. Honestly, I wish I could have had more of her – this is a very male-oriented narrative, given that it’s mostly from Wilhelm’s POV, and both he and Carol, Theresia’s friend and retainer, think the same thing: she is made for peace and fluffy things, not as a maiden of war. Which is all very well and good, and I understand that in an anti-war book you want to have that sort of opinion, but a longer section from Theresia’s POV might have helped me not see it as “pretty girls shouldn’t fight!”, which is what it comes off as.

Fortunately, their story is not over yet. This comes as a surprise to me, as after the first Ex volume I came in assuming we’d see another awesome character getting killed off for tragic backstory. But no, the book ends on a triumphant note. And there’s a 3rd volume coming out soon in Japan that looks like it will continue the story. So this is definitely recommended, though readers may want to wait till after Vol. 7 is out before they give it a try.

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