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!

Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 21

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.

As I said last time, this book starts off a new arc but is also a continuation of the previous one, which is both good news and bad news. The good news is that we don’t really get a huge new cast to remember like the previous arc’s start: all the main characters here are familiar faces with the only new person showing up at the very end. The bad news, of course, is that I don’t get a whole bunch of new faces to talk about in a review, just the old familiar ones, which is a problem as this book is very much “clearing an obstacle” as a plotline. There is a place our heroes have to get to, it’s considered impossible to get there, but they do get there thanks to some old familiar faces, some nice gossip from an innkeeper, and of course Subaru’s Return By Death, which comes back gloriously in this volume, featuring some of the goriest deaths to date.

Yes, yes, look at the cover’s Rem’s back. Except she’s not, she remains in a coma the entire volume, so don’t get too excited. But she’s one of the many things that Subaru is hoping the Sage of the Watchtower can fix, along with Julius and Anastasia (who Subaru now sometimes calls “Foxidna”, i.e. Echidna wearing a fox stole. Anastasia/Echidna is not fond of that). Unfortunately, this involves making a journey so impossible even Reinhardt couldn’t manage it. Towards that end, they go back to the mansion and grab Rem (and thus Ram as well) and also Melia, the minor villain who can control beasts from a prior arc, who agrees to help them as basically she’s reluctant to go back to the person who hired her and pay the price of her failure. Unfortunately, not only do they have to deal with sandstorms, twists in time and space, and terrible monsters, but the Sage of the Watchtower seems to want Subaru dead. And she has lasers.

Rem may be in a coma for the volume, but that does not mean that her presence does not influence the others. Subaru and Ram both have very complex feelings of love and loathing regarding her, and Ram’s are even more complex as she’s the one who can’t remember her. One of the “death” endings involves everyone losing control of their emotions and killing each other, and Subaru and Ram both scream at each other for not caring enough about Rem’s wellbeing. And then there’s Emilia, who is sure that she loves Subaru, but has not quite gotten the hang of what that kind of love is. Everyone boggles a bit when she suggests she’s 100% fine with her and Rem both being objects of Subaru’s affection… till she throws in every other close friend he has, and we realize she means as a big family. Hang in there, Subaru.

So yes, a good volume, but it’s basically a long prologue to what’s actually going to be happening, which will no doubt involve Shaula, the character introduced right at the end, who seems far more delighted to see Subaru than is reasonable under any circumstances. We’ll see what happens next.