By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Borque.
I was sort of expecting this volume of Re: ZERO to be a lot of dying and repeating, and that’s what it is, but we have the added factor, which is good for the reader but bad for Subaru, that things are not repeating in the same way. Due to the nature of Subaru’s Return by Death, every time he dies and comes back the people he needs to convince distrust him more and more as a possible Witch Cultist. Also concerning (and thankfully pointed out by the text) is that Subaru is getting perhaps a little too used to his Return by Death, to the point that his normal emotions are getting a bit flattened. Now, admittedly, the end of the book shows this is not necessarily the case, but if Subaru is going to be a pragmatist I would like him to be one who shouts and waves his hands and is sarcastic to people he dislikes. Grimdark Subaru is not a thing I want.
Having been ignominiously killed by a familiar face at the end of last book, Subaru wakes up in the Tomb, having just completed the first task. He now informs the reader that the one who killed him was Elsa. Remember Elsa? From Book 1? She’s back, and as he finds out when he returns to the mansion again, this time with Ram, she’s there for slaughter and not much else. Even when he can escape her he’s eaten by some sort of beast creature. And things aren’t much better back at the Sanctuary. As I said earlier, Garf is disliking him more and more due to the “witch smell” he gives off the more he returns by death, Roswaal is being very cagey and suspicious (Subaru asks him point blank at one time “are you the enemy?”), and Emilia is sadly still not passing her trial – in fact, she’s barely in this book, much to the annoyance of fans who would like to see her at least try to pull even with Rem.
A lot of this series relies on really good scenes that stick with you long after you’ve finished reading, and here the best of those is at the end of another Bad End in the mansion where Elsa is killing everyone. Subaru is already near death’s door from wounds and missing limbs when he happens upon the door to Beatrice’s library. Unfortunately, he was trying to rescue Rem at the time, so she’s toast. And Beatrice heals him, making it harder for him to go back and die. The ensuing temper tantrum that comes from him is understandable but also awful, and Beatrice’s hurt reaction, and then her enraged response, not only makes the reader feel horrible but also provides very important plot details. I suspect it may be Beatrice who gets development before Emilia here. Also nice to see Petra here again. Let’s give her a hand, people. (Sorry.)
So this was very much still a setup book, being Book 2 of 6 in this arc. There’s a lot of witches I didn’t really get into, including one familiar one who shows up right at the cliffhanger ending. Fans of the series will find a lot to sink their teeth into, though. Just… Subaru, are you OK?