Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World – Ex, Vol. 5

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

Last time I mentioned that the 4th side story volume was actually a setup for the 6th arc, which had not come out yet. It still hasn’t – expect it in 2023. Worse news, this volume is mostly a setup for the seventh arc of the series, so I’d say expect that in late 2024. Fortunately, this one can be read as a standalone relatively easily, mostly as it stars Priscilla, who we are already familiar with. That said, you might want to brush up on the 4th book in the Ex series, as several characters from that show up here, even though this book takes place a few years earlier. This book can basically be divided into two stories: 1) a throne war with 32 siblings trying to kill each other, and 2) a death battle stadium where the competitors take over, but one of them has an ulterior motive. That said, it’s a Priscilla book. So honestly, the real plot is “Priscilla is fabulous”. (Oh yes, and Al as well. Hi, Al. You sort of sound like Subaru, but less tsukkomi.)

In the first story (framed as Priscilla reading what might be her diary to Schult), we meet Prisca Benedict, age 10… who is immediately murdered by her servants. But it’s OK, that was just a body double! This should give you an idea of the sort of thing we have going on. It’s betrayal, backstabbing, and zero sibling affection, as Prisca tries to stay alive and become heir over her cunning older sister and powerful older brother. Who has the power of the previous book on his side, which shows he wins. The second story shows us Al, who has lost his arm but lacks his helmet. He’s spent ten years fighting death battles for an audience on an island devoted entirely to that purpose. Unfortunately for him, the other “sword-slaves” are rising up in rebellion, even if that’s a terrible idea. Will Al be able to talk them down? What about that ulterior motive? And what is Priscilla Pendleton, now on Marriage #1, doing there?

The biggest frustration with this volume is that it’s NOT how Priscilla and Al first meet – they spend the entire second story apart from each other, and never meet. We also don’t get a shot of Al’s face, though he’s there on the front cover and also one illustration seen from the back, showing off his ponytail. Priscilla has her intelligence and arrogance here, but is also ten years old, so is now quite the powerhouse we see in the main series. She’s helped by Arakiya, a dog girl who gains monstrous powers by “eating” spirits (and can somehow hold on to her sense of self), and one things I really like about the Re: Zero books is seeing characters who are otherwise terrible people and show the people that they like and respect. Priscilla may regard 95% of everyone around her as clowns, but she’s rarely WRONG about that either, and I enjoyed her scenes with Arakiya. Al shows that he has similar people-judging qualities, too.

I’m sure I will forget 95% of this book when we get to Book 26 and Arc 7. Oh well. It’s still a solid entry in the series, especially if you like Priscilla: The Early Years.

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