Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 16

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

Fans of this series have been reading it for a long time now, and know that this is the first book in a new arc. As such, we keep wondering when things are going to turn terrible again and when nightmarish, hideous things are going to start happening to Subaru. And, I’m not gonna lie, that does indeed happen. By the end of the book, we’re back in familiar territory. The wonderful news is that it’s the END of the book – which means we get an entire volume of everything simply being fun and relaxing. Now that all of Camp Emilia are on the same page, and we’ve had a timeskip (it’s been a year since the prior volume ended), the book can lean hard on what the main cast does best: Subaru being the tsukkomi, Beatrice snarking, Emilia being so earnest you want to look away, Garfiel looking for a good fight, and Otto stressing out. Almost all of those things happen in this book. Sorry, Garfiel. There’s always someone better.

As noted, it’s a year later, and Emilia’s group (minus Ram and Roswaal, who it seems sit this arc out) are invited to Pristella, the City of Water. They’re invited by Anastasia, and it turns out that invitations have been made to (almost) all the other factions as well. This allows the entire cast of the third arc to finally meet up again, and in what is essentially a bizarre combination of Venice (the city) and Japan (the inn they’re staying at – which is deliberately Japanese to such an obvious degree that Subaru is certain that someone else isekai’d into this world before him is responsible.) Now Subaru can try to make nice with Julius (semi-success), we can mete up with Crusch (still awesome, but in a 100% different way than how she used to be) and Felt (still kicking against the pricks). We might EVEN get a grandfather and grandson to reach towards reconciliation… or we would if a very uninvited guest didn’t drop by.

So basically we have a bunch of fun setup and scenes with characters interacting in either a) hilarious, b) heartwarming, or c) infuriating ways, and it’s bliss. (This does not count the final few scenes in the book, which are appropriately horror-filled and ghastly.) Subaru is confident now and so is Emilia, and everyone can see the change. We also meet up again with Liliana, the minstrel whose stay at the manor and subsequent chaos everyone remembers from the first short story collection… hang on, I’m getting something in my ear… what? Still unlicensed? Oh well, the author tries to describe what happened. Erm, you had to be there, I guess. It’s also nice to see the five candidates battling it out again after so long – what with the fight against the White Whale, and ALL of Arc 4, I would not blame readers for needing a refresher. And then there’s the villain – they’re on the cover, on the right – who is seriously screwed up and evil and I really hope something can be done about them next time.

That may be tough, though – Subaru’s not going back a leisurely couple hours or day or so as before. That said, till the next book, enjoy one of the best light novel series out there, with everyone being really happy and confident, including the author.

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