Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 10

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

As with my review of the 9th volume, I recommend that this review not be read by anyone who’s only seen the anime or manga versions of Re: Zero.

The first half of this book is merely good, as it has to set up the basics of what will be the next arc. Subaru and Emilia arrive back at the mansion only to find that the other half of the village – the one with Ram – is not there. Instead they’ve ended up at the Sanctuary, an area deep in the woods that is the home to demi-humans. Headed over there, Subaru quickly runs afoul of the Witch Echidna, who is able to wrap him around her little finger despite the obvious handicap of being dead. Her tomb is home to a trial that Emilia must take – and, it appears, Subaru is able to take it as well, as he quickly gets sucked into the first of the three tests it involves. Which is good for the reader, as it involves confronting and accepting his past… a past that we’ve been almost entirely ignorant of till now.

So yeah, as expected, Rem is still in a coma and no one remembers her, and it appears that this is going to be the case for the entire arc. I suspect that Rem fans are not going to be too happy with the bright side, which is that this will allow Emilia to get more character development that she didn’t get in the previous arc. Unfortunately, as with Subaru’s character development in the last few books, this is going to begin with a certain amount of frustration – while Subaru is pretty much able to pass the first test with flying colors, Emilia fails the “confront your past” part every single time. I expect a future book will tell us why, but till then, sobbing on the ground and calling out for Puck (who is also absent, for reasons we don’t yet know) is not a good look for her.

The main reason to read this book is the chapter where Subaru confronts his past, which means that we actually get to know his past. His parents are both fantastic in their own way, two people who you read about for ten seconds and immediately understand “yes, these are absolutely who his parents would be”. Subaru suffered as a kid from what a lot of us do, which is being above average in academics and athletics to a certain age, but then starting to fall behind others. Subaru, who was measuring himself by his “perfect” father and coming up short, overcompensated by being more boisterous and doing more crazy, dangerous things at school – something that eventually lost him his friends and made him decide to stop going to school altogether. The trial allows him to do something that he can’t do in real life – say goodbye to both his parents, and assure them that he’s stopped standing still and is moving forward. The entire sequence is terrific.

Unfortunately, Re: ZERO still has its main gimmick in play. And so at the end of the volume Subaru is brutally murdered, and we see a face that I’d honestly totally forgotten about doing the killing. I’m not sure how far back he’ll go, but I suspect we won’t be seeing the first stage of the trial all over again. Also, his idea to take the trial FOR Emilia as her knight is a bad one, and I hope it gets scrapped. In any case, this is a fantastic new volume of an excellent series. Man, remember when I hated Subaru? It seems so long ago now…

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