Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 24

By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan as “Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

I had assumed, since the end of the last volume was one of those “I have been a dumbass for a while but now I have turned the corner and am fighting back” endings, that there might be a bit less Return by Death in this book. Hardly. All that means is that the deaths are not “Subaru dies by being an idiot” but are instead “Subaru dies as he tries to figure out how to escape a damn near impossible situation”. Which means going through everything bit by bit and breaking it down into manageable chunks. but it does mean that this book is pretty exhausting, and features a lot of the cast getting their asses handed to them, as well as a lot of supposed allies turning out to be secret antagonists – though honestly, the latter should not be too surprising to a reader who is paying attention. This book is all the detective work, and the payoff will presumably be next time.

Subaru, now determined to fight back, goes back to square one and confesses to all that he’s lost his memories. He’s already worked out how he died the first time, by being pushed off the staircase, and solves that fairly quickly. The next step is to try to find Reid Astrea’s book in the Library, so that they can read his memories in hopes of finding a weakness – what killed him, for a start. Unfortunately, that ends up going badly, as when Subaru goes into Reid’s book he instead finds… another Gluttony. This one is named Louis (pronounced the French way), and she almost manages to break Subaru entirely before he’s saved by the least likely savior out there… and also the most likely, let’s face it. Unfortunately, they now have multiple Gluttonies running around, Reid running amuck, and that pesky killer scorpion. What’s up with that, anyway?

There are many amazing fight scenes in this, which the author has started to specialize in. This arc in particular continues to be a gift for Emilia fans, and that’s despite the fact that she (in one loop) gets her identity eaten by Gluttony. A fight that ends with her sneaking up behind Lye (Gluttony #2) and hitting him with a giant ice hammer while yelling “Sneak Up And WHAM” is possibly in my top five moments in the entire series. There’s also Subaru doing what he does best, which is rallying the troops and getting them to do what they do best… though sometimes even that isn’t enough. It all comes to a head in the final scene of the book, when he confronts Shaula and gets her to admit what she’s been hiding and why. It’s a very sympathetic reason – tearjerking, even – but honestly, I suspect that she’s absolutely correct and knows it. And that’s why she’s breaking down.

The next book is the final book in this arc, and I suspect it will need to be a much longer volume in order to fix everything up. Till then, this was a solid volume, and had a minimal amount of Subaru being a dumbass, which is always my measuring stick for how enjoyable it is.

Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 23

By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan as “Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

Do you enjoy Re: Zero but feel that it’s gotten a bit too complacent? Are you upset that everyone now tends to get along and talk through their problems like reasonable adults? Do you miss the early volumes when flipping each page felt like crawling through broken glass? I have terrific news for you! Subaru’s lost his memories, and we’re starting all over from zero! , Now, to be fair to Subaru, he actually IS pretty good about things, at first. My worry was that he would immediately try to hide that he’ lost his memory and try to fake it, which absolutely would not work with this crowd. So he confesses right away. Sadly, he is unaware of Return by Death, but he very quickly finds out, and also very quickly leads to him realizing that someone keeps killing him. So he DOES then try to hide that he’s lost his memory. Which does not go well, because see above.

So yes, going back to the start of the book, Subaru has lost his entire memory of this world, thinking he just got here from Japan. He tells Emilia and Beatrice, who are clearly upset but are used to bullshit, so they cope as best they can. And Subaru is not the only one confessing secrets. “Anastasia” finally comes clean and decides to admit that she’s Echidna (no, not that Echidna, the other Echidna) and that she’s trying to save Anastasia before her life runs out. Unfortunately, as he wanders around trying to figure out what to do next, Subaru is pushed off a staircase to his death. At first thinking this was some sort of dream precognition, he makes another attempt to wobble through the same events… and suddenly finds half the cast also dead. As he realizes that this book just became a locked room mystery, Subaru reacts in a nostalgic way: by completely losing his shit and being 100% paranoid.

I admit, this book hurt to read and I wanted it to be over with as fast as possible. (It does help that it’s one of the shorter Re: Zero volumes to date.) I appreciate everyone’s character development, and seeing it removed it not ironic, it’s just mean. That said, this is very well done. Julius’s frustration, Rem’s furious disbelief, and Emilia’s unwavering love are all done incredibly well. The final scene with Emilia and Subaru is like a reward for the rest of the volume, and it will touch your heart. (Also, thank goodness that Re: Zero is one of those books that uses honorifics, because the moment Subaru says “Emilia-chan” when he’s trying to hide his memory loss you can see everyone go “WTF”.) And then there’s Meili, who spends half the book as a corpse but might get the most development of all, and whose backstory is both grotesque and a bit heartwarming, like most of the cast.

We end the volume with another death, but at least this time Subaru has decided, memories or no, to start fighting back. Which is good, as the culprit is clearly inside the house, and is also not any of the cast we see in this book. A great Re: Zero volume, despite the pain.

Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 22

By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan as “Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

When I was reading this book, I mentioned on Twitter that if you removed all scenes where Subaru is essentially acting as the “tsukkomi” to every else that the book would be 100 pages shorter. That said, I know that one of the reasons we enjoy Subaru so much is that this is how he copes with things. He’s always had three ways of dealing: overcompensating, trauma response, and sarcasm, and he’s gotten much better on the first two but the third is ingrained. You’d think this would make him very one-note, but it doesn’t, because each of the characters that he reacts this way to is so different. The way Subaru responds to Emilia, mocking her while also acknowledging his adoration, is very different from how he has to deal with Shaula, the new character, which is a mix of disgust and “what the hell is going on?”. He has a type, but the range is larger than you’d think… until the cliffhanger, which promises to upend this a lot.

Having finally arrived at the tower, and gotten the comatose Rem and the injured Patlash to the medical bay, our heroes now have to deal with the fact that the Sage they’ve been seeking is… probably NOT the sage. And also a bit of an airhead. They also have to pass a test to get access to the upper floors of the tower at all. The first no one is able to pass until Subaru, who is from Japan and suspects the creator of this test is as well, finds a solution to. Unfortunately, the floor they get to has a bunch of “book of someone’s life” books, and they’re in random order. So they need to get to the next floor… which requires another test. Unfortunately, not only is this one much harder, but they all have to pass it individually. Bad news, since the test giver is an insanely powerful swordsman.

This has the feel of a book that is a time-marker, to be honest. I never felt bored, but there’s a sense that we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, and since it doesn’t drop till about page 280, that’s a lot of waiting. There are some very nice scenes between Subaru and Julius, which shows off their friendship (Julius is kind of put through the wringer in this book), and EMT fans will be eating very well, as the relationship between her and Subaru has never been more romantic, even as she wins a fight by letting her opponent grope her tits, not understanding why she should feel offended at that. (Emilia’s “sexual innocence” continues to be at 120%.) And we’re also getting more of an idea about what Anastasia/Echidna is really after, and trusting them a wee bit more. Not much plot happens here, but a lot of good character stuff occurs.

Next book, judging by that cliffhanger, should be far more plot-driven, though I suspect it will also remain inside the tower. And hey, no death loops this book!