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!