Return from Death: I Kicked the Bucket and Now I’m Back at Square One with a Girlfriend Who Doesn’t Remember Me, Vol. 2

By Eiko Mutsuhana and Yuki Nezozuki. Released in Japan as “Shi ni Modori no Mahou Gakkou Seikatsu wo, Moto Koibito to Prologue kara (※Tadashi Koukando wa Zero)” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Alyssa Niioka.

You’ll notice that the title has slightly changed between the first and second volume. The first volume was dedicated to Oriana trying her best to alter the present so that she can once again be together with the man she loves, and earning a hard-won victory (albeit for herself, not for everyone) that is promptly destroyed by a nasty little cliffhanger. And now it’s time to try again… only this time it’s Vincent who has the knowledge of Life #2, and Oriana who doesn’t remember Life #1 *or* #2. Needless to say, he’s a bit bummed out by this, especially since this Oriana, who is not really driven to study hard to be near her beloved, is in a different class. Still, he is here to try to win her love anew and also find out why they keep looping back in time. This particular volume focuses far more on the first part of that than the second.

To be fair, that’s probably because it’s a lot harder for him to pull off the first than it is the second. He rather handily discovers that there’s a curse associated with the Dragon Tree that explains (unsatisfactorily) why he and Oriana have now died twice and why they keep “starting over”. He’s even more of an academic in this life (due to a promise he made with his father), so I think he’s got this in the bag. Sadly, romancing the love of his life runs right up against being a teenage boy, and the fact that he’s doing it for the third time (though he does not remember the first) does not really help him, he’s still a bit clueless about girls. Things are not helped by the fact that he is a duke’s son and Oriana is the daughter of a merchant… albeit a very successful merchant with noble connections, thanks to Vincent’s machinations.

This is still cute and sweet, and has lots of teen romantic agita if that is your thing. As with the first book, I found the teen agita a but *too* realistic. I also appreciated getting a bit more backstory regarding Yana and Azraq, which helps explain a lot of what was happening in Volume 1 that we couldn’t quite wrap our minds around. The main issue with the book is the fact that it’s clearly Book 1 of 2 in this arc, and is no doubt based on a webnovel, so it does not remotely have the exciting cliffhanger of the first book, but simply comes to a stop. Presumably to pick up in the third and (I presume) final volume. What’s more, as noted, this is mostly all romance, so any “why is this happening?” is also left by the wayside.

So yes, if you want to see a teenager in love trying to get the girl he loves to overcome class consciousness and feel the same, this is a good book. If you want to figure out why they both died last volume, not so much.

Return from Death: I Kicked the Bucket and Now I’m Back at Square One with a Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Remember Me, Vol. 1

By Eiko Mutsuhana and Hiyori Asahikawa. Released in Japan as “Shi ni Modori no Mahou Gakkou Seikatsu wo, Moto Koibito to Prologue kara (※Tadashi Koukando wa Zero)” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Alyssa Niioka.

I must admit that I was expecting this book to be lighter fare than it turned out to be. And yes, I realize that’s on me, since the book being called “Return from Death” in English and having a variation on “Starting from Zero” in Japanese means that the author is likely very familiar with Re: Zero, but, I mean, look at the cute cover! There’s going to be wacky antics, surely! In fact, the start of the book did indeed promise these, but unfortunately for readers who prefer that sort of thing, they require a heroine who’s a bit less on the ball than Oriana is here. She’s not only gone back in time to try to stop the love of her life from dying mysteriously, but she’s also coming on far too strong, meaning he’s no longer the love of her life. So the solution is to wait, and be patient and a good friend, and deal with everything else.

Vince and Oriana were a lovely couple, and he was so sweet and kind to her. Then, a few days after their senior year ball, she finds him dead, seemingly with no cause… except she quickly succumbs to it as well. When she wakes, she’s back in her seven-year-old body. Fortunately for the narrative, we then immediately time skip six years to her entrance to the Academy where she first meets her true love. Sadly, he does NOT have memories of a previous go-round, and regards her excessive adoration and professions of love as extremely creepy and unwelcome. So, as I said above, the long game. She eventually does make friends with Vincent and Miguel, his bestie. She gets close to her roommate, foreign princess Yana and Yana’s bodyguard Azraq. And, like most teenagers, she proves to be very bad at recognizing when a guy is hiding his feelings out of stubbornness and embarrassment.

I haven’t read the author’s other CIW series, Hello, I Am a Witch and My Crush Wants Me to Make a Love Potion, but judging by this I may have to go check it out. The book is very much a teen melodrama, with hurt feelings at the forefront, and some of the pairings do not work out the way that Oriana (or, for that matter, the audience) would like. There’s a lot to negotiate here. Oriana is a commoner, even if she’s the daughter of a rich merchant, and Vincent is the son of a duke. Yana and Azraq have similar issues, only much much worse. There’s simply dealing with Vincent’s cold, sullen attitude every day, though that does improve as the book goes on. So yeah, the ending is kind of happy, but a bit bittersweet… well, until the cliffhanger. Yes, this is a multipart series, and the ending makes it very clear that saving Vince is not the solution to the original problem.

I tweeted that this book reminded me of all the things I hated about being a teenager, but that’s also good news for those who love that sort of thing. If you like YA novels, romances, or grumpy tsundere male leads, this is right up your alley.