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.

Re: ZERO ~Starting Life in Another World~, Vol. 16

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

Fans of this series have been reading it for a long time now, and know that this is the first book in a new arc. As such, we keep wondering when things are going to turn terrible again and when nightmarish, hideous things are going to start happening to Subaru. And, I’m not gonna lie, that does indeed happen. By the end of the book, we’re back in familiar territory. The wonderful news is that it’s the END of the book – which means we get an entire volume of everything simply being fun and relaxing. Now that all of Camp Emilia are on the same page, and we’ve had a timeskip (it’s been a year since the prior volume ended), the book can lean hard on what the main cast does best: Subaru being the tsukkomi, Beatrice snarking, Emilia being so earnest you want to look away, Garfiel looking for a good fight, and Otto stressing out. Almost all of those things happen in this book. Sorry, Garfiel. There’s always someone better.

As noted, it’s a year later, and Emilia’s group (minus Ram and Roswaal, who it seems sit this arc out) are invited to Pristella, the City of Water. They’re invited by Anastasia, and it turns out that invitations have been made to (almost) all the other factions as well. This allows the entire cast of the third arc to finally meet up again, and in what is essentially a bizarre combination of Venice (the city) and Japan (the inn they’re staying at – which is deliberately Japanese to such an obvious degree that Subaru is certain that someone else isekai’d into this world before him is responsible.) Now Subaru can try to make nice with Julius (semi-success), we can mete up with Crusch (still awesome, but in a 100% different way than how she used to be) and Felt (still kicking against the pricks). We might EVEN get a grandfather and grandson to reach towards reconciliation… or we would if a very uninvited guest didn’t drop by.

So basically we have a bunch of fun setup and scenes with characters interacting in either a) hilarious, b) heartwarming, or c) infuriating ways, and it’s bliss. (This does not count the final few scenes in the book, which are appropriately horror-filled and ghastly.) Subaru is confident now and so is Emilia, and everyone can see the change. We also meet up again with Liliana, the minstrel whose stay at the manor and subsequent chaos everyone remembers from the first short story collection… hang on, I’m getting something in my ear… what? Still unlicensed? Oh well, the author tries to describe what happened. Erm, you had to be there, I guess. It’s also nice to see the five candidates battling it out again after so long – what with the fight against the White Whale, and ALL of Arc 4, I would not blame readers for needing a refresher. And then there’s the villain – they’re on the cover, on the right – who is seriously screwed up and evil and I really hope something can be done about them next time.

That may be tough, though – Subaru’s not going back a leisurely couple hours or day or so as before. That said, till the next book, enjoy one of the best light novel series out there, with everyone being really happy and confident, including the author.