Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 12

By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Borque.

Subaru is much improved as a protagonist in these newer volumes of Re: Zero, to the point where I find I barely have to yell at him in my head at all. Most of the times that he dies and has to return by death are the fault of external forces or things he doesn’t know about, rather than his being a stubborn dumbass. And he gets two points here where he shows that his love for Emilia and Rem (still in that order, sorry Rem fans) is more than just saying it – he can tell when their own responses are either distorted or out-and-out falsified. That said, the last third of this book did a great job of reminding me just how flawed a protagonist Subaru can be. After all, every time he dies and starts again at his save point… he leaves behind a dead Subaru. And those who cared about him. Something he learns all too well when he gets to take the Second Test.

The cover art features our villains of the book, one very familiar to us, one not so much. Unfortunately, despite returning to the mansion in record time, I think Subaru is going to have to come up with another plan, because time is not on his side no matter what. It does, however, given us another very emotional confrontation with Beatrice. I knew going in that this fourth Arc would give some time to Emilia, but it must be back-loaded, as so far there’s been very little. Beatrice, though, also gets an incredible amount of attention and care, showing us how much she is suffering and also showing how little Subaru can seemingly do about it. It also throws into stark relief the end of the book, where Echidna offers to make a pact with him – the fact that he’s desperate enough to accept it despite EVERY OTHER WITCH saying it’s a bad idea shows he’s still very, very fallible.

Speaking of the other witches, Echidna, who had been nice, police and helpful so far this arc, is starting to show her true colors and her stunning lack of empathy – well, no, it’s not really that stunning, we knew this was coming. I will give kudos to the author for making the Witch of Lust a crybaby moe sort of girl, and the Witch of Sloth the one who has the Red Hot Mama vibe you’d normally give to Lust. The cliffhanger ending shows the 7th and final witch showing up at the tea Party, which may end up being as bloody as Umineko’s sometimes were. On the bright side, she’s probably come as herself this time – the earlier parts of the book features a Satella who had literally possessed Emilia, and it was not a pretty sight. (That said, the prize for creepiest moment of the book easily goes to the scene where Emilia, her mind utterly broken by the tests, gives Subaru a lap pillow and a kiss – a kiss that he gets right as he dies. Brr.)

We’re now halfway through this arc, and I get the feeling, revelations about Roswaal aside, we’re not much closer to getting a happy ending. Still, fans of the series will definitely enjoy what they get here, though as always it can be difficult to read. Everyone suffers: The Novel.

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