Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 19

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

First off, for fans of Subaru/Emilia, this book is a full-course meal with chocolate trifle for dessert. After worrying when Emilia ended up getting kidnapped and forcibly married off to the worst man in the world (who, we are reminded here, killed her mother and “father”), Emilia spends most of this book kicking ass eight ways from Sunday. She’s joined in this by Subaru, who has his handy whip but more importantly has a increasingly analytical mind, as he, Emilia, and Reinhard (who is occasionally sent off the state in order to allow Subaru and Emilia to be cooler) to try to figure out why Regulus is invulnerable and how to stop it. Over half the book is just this fight, and it’s well worth it. That said, I am a bit worried now, as past arcs have told me that I should expect Emilia to be absent from the 6th one, just because the author simply hates using the same heroine more than twice in a row. Who could be next? Well…

Summary of this volume: They fight. They fight. They fight and fight and fight. Some sights are merely teased and will play out in full in the next volume (Otto, Garfiel, Wilhelm), and one is left for the cliffhanger (Lust vs. Anastasia, Ferris, and Al), so we’re left with two major battles. Subaru and Reinhard break up the wedding just in time, but Regulus is not only seemingly impossible to kill, but also the single most annoying character in Re: Zero to date – and this is a series which includes Subaru himself! The other big battle we get here is Priscilla and Liliana taking on Sirius, which also serves to give us some Liliana backstory. Based on the rather abrupt ending, I’m not convinced Sirius is dead yet, whereas Regulus definitely is. Through it all, Priscilla is simply fabulous. As expected.

First of all, given that I have yelled at illustrators in the past for not drawing the really obvious scenes that should be drawn, bless you, Shinichirou Otsuka, for the two-page color spread of all of Regulus’ wives tearing him a new asshole. That was beautiful. Elsewhere, I really did enjoy Priscilla here, who does show off that a) she has her own limits and weaknesses, and b) she can be quite kind – in her own arrogant way – to those that she likes and respects. And if that happens to be an incredibly annoying bard, so be it. Liliana is much better here, mostly as she’s under threat of death, so we don’t get to see her be irritating. Instead, she pretty much helps save the day. And again, Subaru and Emilia are wonderful here, so trusting of each other. Particularly at the climax, where Subaru uses some very bad powers to do good things. That said… I think he may have gotten more bad powers as a reward.

The next volume wraps up this arc, and we’ll see if there’s any of the city left. Given the cover, I expect it will mostly focus on Wilhelm. Till then, enjoy another volume of one of the strongest light novel series for pure thrills.

Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 18

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

I always enjoy the books in this series that are more about rallying around the flag. The author in the afterword says that the series is always remembered for all the death and gore and terrible things, but that the hope and turning things around is just as important, and I agree with them. It does help that the plotline I was most worried about, Emilia being kidnapped, was handled in the best possible way. Certainly her would-be husband is a loathsome and terrible man, but she still manages to have agency, gaining valuable information and passing it off to allies before returning to her forced wedding because escaping would mean Regulus would take it out on his other wives. That said, for a series filled with Best Girls there are an awful lot of them this book. Crusch is mostly at death’s door, but manages to rally Subaru; Anastasia proves when it comes to actual administration she’s by far the best Royal candidate; and Priscilla… well, Priscilla just IS.

After the disaster of the City Hall assault last time, our forces regroup. Ironically, City Hall is now theirs, but there’s lots of bad things happening. Subaru’s leg… and Crusch’s entire body… are cursed. Emilia is, as I said, kidnapped. Wilhelm has figured out that one of the villains who attacked them was in fact someone he knows very well; heck, even Reinhard had a terrible time, though it was offscreen. What’s more, after Lust ups the demands (she now wants the Book of Knowledge (seemingly burned), an artificial spirit (i.e. Beatrice) and Regulus and Emilia’s wedding to go forward (that last one is obviously his addition). This means that all the citizens of this city are a bit scared and angry and upset. Can someone manage to win them over with a dramatic speech? And is that someone really Subaru?

As I said above; my God Priscilla’s presence in this book is just amazing. She’d be the worst person to interact with ever in real life, but her arrogance, confidence and strength here are just what the doctor ordered; her berating Liliana until she gives in and agrees to help is a thing of beauty. I would love to read some Re: Zero from her point of view. Speaking of points of view, it’s very amusing to see how everyone in the room reacts – particularly Julius and Al – when Subaru casually tells everyone that he loves Emilia. He may constantly regard himself as just this guy getting by, always scared and wanting to run away, but to everyone else he’s a tower of strength and confidence, saying things no one else has the courage to. He is topped, perhaps, only by Otto, who continues to be Best Boy, and unfortunately because he is Best Boy has to face the cliffhanger ending on his own.

The next book will be the counterattack against all the archbishops, and it promises to be a combat filled melee. Till then, enjoy a Re: Zero with no return by death by a whole lot of heartwarming moments.

Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 17

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

Well, we knew this was going to happen. Given that the previous book had, with the exception of the final scenes, been a delightful and mostly lighthearted volume showing off the entire main cast, it is no surprise to see that in this next volume, Everything is Terrible. This is not to say that Subaru is doing dumb things out of stubbornness – we’re long past that stage. Heck, he can even participate in battles now, wielding a whip he received training in (I suspect this training was in another unlicensed short story, ah well). But yeah, by the end of this book we have a ton of corpses, an even bigger ton of transformed monstrosities, and even those who are not dead or turned into something else tend to have wounds that constantly bleed and the like. If your idea of a fun Re: Zero book is seeing terrible people doing bad things to good people, well, good news! That said, there’s also a bit of non-violence here that’s fun to read.

When we left off, Subaru was having to deal with the shortest “return by death” he’s ever had to experience – he has fifteen minutes to figure out and fix things. Needless to say, this leads to quite a few Subaru deaths in the first quarter of the book, and he’s not alone. He tries solving the problem himself – he fails. He tries getting Reinhard to solve the problem – this fails. He tries asking Beatrice for help – this actually succeeds, but it doesn’t mean things so well, as we have not one, not two, but THREE Witch Cultists to deal with. Now Emilia is missing, Beatrice is in a coma, Subaru is heavily wounded, and a number of the cast are absent. Oh yes, and Capella, the Witch Cultist who has control of City Hall, says to get her “the Witch’s Bones” or the city is doomed. There is, as always, too much on Subaru’s plate.

I was at first vaguely annoyed when, halfway through the book, the focus shifted away from Subaru and focused on Garfiel. Don’t get me wrong, Garf is a fine supporting character, but given everything else that was going on I did not feel in the mood for “I’m not the strongest in the land woe is me”. And indeed we get that to start, but things quickly become FAR more interesting after Garfiel rescues some children from a potential boating accident. When returning him to their family, he runs into someone whose existence is impossible and yet is also the thing he wants more than anything in the world… but he just can’t actually reach out and take it, because, well, circumstances. Honestly, it’s really refreshing to see something that devastates a character that is a POSITIVE thing, and I really hope that this goes somewhere in future volumes.

As the book ends, everything is even more terrible than it was in the last book, as we deal with the worst of all possible enemies: an arrogant incel who only cares if girls are virgins. Hope he dies! Till then, enjoy the suffering that is this series’ bread and butter.