Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 20

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

We have now reached the end of the 5th arc! That said, as the author notes, this is less of a resolution and more of a change of scenery. In terms of achievements, our heroes do not make out very well this time around. They do succeed in stopping the destruction of the city, and they capture one of the archbishops. But before this arc there were five “camps” for the Who Wants to Rule The Country?” sweepstakes, and two of them are decimated after it finishes. Even the fights here are bittersweet rather than satisfying, with the exception of Garfiel, who gets to unleash his inner shonen protagonist. Reinhard gets to finally tell his wife what he never managed to say, but it’s hard to call that happy or heartwarming. Al doesn’t win but merely survives. Otto is grievously injured. Crusch is still not healed. That said, I think the Anastasia Camp wins the prize for “Bad Things”. Oof.

The bulk of the book is fighting, as we basically get the fights that were happening while Subaru and Emilia were busy with the previous book. Garfiel is fighting (and losing, most of the time) to the eight-armed legend, but his fights run on pure shonen, as I said, so he’s good. We get a double dose of Gluttony, which goes very badly for many soldiers who get their names stolen, though Otto manages to figure out something about how their powers work. Wilhelm is forced to realize – again – that this is a fantasy world, and therefore hard work hardly works. Fortunately, Reinhard is there to finish off his grandmother. Unfortunately, their relationship is not magically healed. Al is fighting Lust, which mostly involves a lot of banter and a truly excessive amount of property damage. And then there’s Julius and Anastasia… let’s save that for the next paragraph.

This is one of those series I do tend to spoil myself on, given we’re still so far behind Japan (and also you never know when a short story volume may be relevant to the main series, cough), so I was aware something was going to happen with Anastasia. It’s not nearly as bad as Subaru or the reader feared, though that reveal is a killer. And at least this was done with Anastasia’s consent. But it’s still depressing, as I liked her, and I fear it will be a while before we see her again. Julius is a pure gutpunch, though, and meant to be the truly devastating consequence of this arc. At least he has Subaru, who (like Rem) can remember who he is. And , unlike Rem, he can at least walk and talk. In any case, we’re all now going to consult with the Great Sage to see how to solve everyone’s problems. I’m sure it will go fine.

Rem is, by the way, still in a coma and no one remembers her. We’ve now had far more books with Rem than without Rem. I fear the fans may have forgotten her. In any case, this is well-written, but intentionally leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

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