Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 7

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

There is apparently something of an argument among Re: Zero fans about whether the overall story is meant to be a deconstruction of the typical “light novel” hero. I can see why people would come to this conclusion. Subaru frequently acts like he can glide through every situation based on guts and gumption, and the series is very quick to put him in his place over and over again. It shows what might actually happen in a situation like that. And, much as I get very, very frustrated with Subaru, this is an excellent way to handle his character. That said, I think it’s a great character idea, but I don’t think the book is a deconstruction in general. And the reason for that is books like this, where Subaru takes everything he’s learned from previous books where he was a giant dumbass and uses it to save the day, becoming the light novel hero whether he wants it or not. If you think it’s a deconstruction, you’re likely annoyed. As for me, I’m saying ABOUT DAMN TIME.

Subaru, knowing he needs help from everyone and also knowing that “let’s rescue Emilia!” is not going to get him jack, works with what he already knows from prior loops of failure: he knows when and where the White Whale will show up. This is big news, especially for Wilhelm, whose backstory we finally get here for those who didn’t already read it in the 2nd EX novel which came out earlier in North America. He lost his beloved wife to the Whale years ago, and is bent on revenge. And Crusch is there to help him, having mobilized tons of resources (something Subaru had been quietly noticing before) in an effort to try to best it. Subaru’s “here is the exact time it will be here” is, therefore, a blue-chip piece of info. What follows, for the rest of the volume, is that battle against the whale, who proves to be amazingly difficult to do anything about, as you’d expect.

Throughout this battle, we see Subaru doing exactly what he can/ As a combatist, he’s worse than useless. But he can exude the Witch’s scent to lure the whale to him, he can come up with a final plajn that takes it out once and for all, mostly as he has no qualms about destroying a centuries old legend, and most importantly his “never give up, give it GUTS and GUMPTION!” is finally appropriate for the situation. We see it when he gives the order to Rem to start the battle while Crusch is still boggling at the whale’s full glory, and we see it after many casualties (who, the whale’s attack being what it is, are now forgotten) when he rallies everyone to not give up and never say die. He’s finally learning when it’s best to be a light novel hero and when it isn’t. And yes, this means he finally finds it in him to apologize to Julius as well.

We’re still in the middle of the arc – after all, the Whale may be taken care of but the Witch Cult lives on. But if Subaru keeps this up, I may actually grow to respect him has a character. He’s learning to be a real hero, rather than just thinking good things wwill happen because of who he is. Well done.

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